Diploma programs in guidance or school counseling aren't available, but many schools -- including public universities and private online institutions -- offer distance learning graduate-level programs in the field. A master's degree is the standard requirement for those seeking licensure as a school counselor, and some graduate certificates are available to those who already have relevant master's degrees but need to meet additional requirements to get a state license. These education programs in guidance counseling may deliver all or most of the courses online, but internships are required to get experience.
Degree levels available include a Master of Education, Master of Arts, and graduate certificate. Programs blend online courses with in-person internships or residencies due to the hands-on training needed for this profession. Important prerequisites for a master's and graduate certificate program include a bachelor's degree.
Open to students with bachelor's degrees, distance learning and traditional on-campus master's degree programs in school counseling can culminate in a Master of Education or Master of Arts. Online master's degree programs in this field, which take about 1-2 years to finish, may require short on-campus residencies. Usually lasting a semester, internships can be arranged in a K-12 school in the graduate student's area and require weekly participation. Online coursework in these programs may include the following:
- Developmental psychology
- Counseling methods
- Multicultural counseling
- Elementary school counseling
- Middle school/junior high school counseling
- High school counseling
- Personality and development
- Career counseling
- Ethics in counseling
Graduate certificate programs in guidance counseling or school counseling are designed for students who already hold a master's degree in counseling and who wish to become licensed school counselors in a specific state. These programs prepare students for state licensure exams and require an internship. They typically contain four to six courses and can be completed within one year. Online graduate certificate programs may offer the following courses:
- School counseling principles
- Family systems
- Program development
- Child and adolescent counseling
- Administration of school counseling services
- Case management
Some online courses are taught through live Web lectures, while others may use recorded videos or text files to present lecture material. Professors upload course material onto Blackboard or another course management system so students can view class documents, complete assignments and take part in class discussions. Message boards, chat rooms and Web conferencing may be used to foster interaction among classmates and instructors.
An online guidance counseling diploma program does not exist, but online degree and certificate programs do exist. These programs cover courses such as family systems, case management, and child and adolescent counseling.