Master of Arts (MA): Guidance Counseling Degree Overview

Apr 27, 2021

Essential Information

M.A. programs in guidance counseling teach a wide range of counseling techniques, theories and applications through research, group work, a practicum and internships. These programs generally last two to three years, and some schools offer this degree online or in a hybrid format.

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and meet minimum GPA requirements. Although a background in psychology, education or child development is recommended, some schools don't prohibit other majors. However, undergraduate coursework in educational psychology or teacher training might be required.

Master of Arts in Guidance Counseling

According to the Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a school counseling program should meet several standards, such as lessons in counseling roles, diversity training, behavioral growth and career development. This means that an accredited M.A. program typically offers courses that discuss the following topics:

  • Student assessment
  • Career and academic counseling
  • Child development
  • Cultural considerations
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Addictions and substance abuse

Career Options and Salary Info

Guidance counselors have the important task of guiding and shaping a child's educational and vocational direction during a pivotal part of that child's life. They might help students with academic issues, personal problems, career planning or other types of challenges. They sometimes advocate for a student or tap into other support systems to meet a need. A M.A. degree program typically covers skills that could apply to counseling jobs in many settings, including colleges, career placement organizations or mental health facilities. For education-specific careers, graduates could work in public or private elementary, middle or high schools. At the university level, they might qualify for positions as academic advisers or career counselors.

Employment of school and career counselors is predicted to increase by 8% from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported that the average salary of educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors was $62,320 as of May 2020.

Licensing and Continuing Education

State requirements for licensing vary in terms of the required degree, teacher licensing, exams and experience. Most states require a master's degree and some form of licensure through examination. Continuing education requirements are common, and many states have reciprocity agreements with other states. Counselors have further educational options, such as a Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Education with a school counseling focus.

Students interested in gaining the education and experience needed to help students make decisions, succeed in school and develop social skills may consider enrolling in a guidance counseling master's degree program. These programs help graduates to meet the education requirements to become licensed as school counselors in different states.

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