Many schools offer online programs that lead to a master's degree in school guidance counseling. These programs can usually be completed in approximately two years. Most of these programs follow a hybrid format, requiring extensive field experiences; these may involve internships in schools, practicums and possibly brief on-campus residency requirements.
In this degree program, students learn about human development, the role of a school counselor, counseling principles and ethical and legal issues. Group counseling, career development and counseling with diverse populations are covered. A course in research methodology may be included, and students might be required to produce a research project.
Public school counselors must be licensed by the states where they work. Most states require that a school counselor have at least a master's degree in school counseling or a similar field.
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Master's Degree in School Guidance Counseling
Online school guidance counseling programs prepare individuals to administer school counseling programs to advise and meet students' needs in collaboration with teachers, parents and other school personnel. The master's-level curriculum provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the educational, social and personal needs of K-12 students by providing quality prevention, identification and counseling services. Areas of study include coping strategies, career planning, academic achievement, crisis management and disaster response. Graduates of an online master's program are prepared to pursue professional certification as a school guidance counselor.
Program Information and Requirements
Typically requiring about two years to complete, an online master's program in school guidance counseling requires approximately 36-72 credit hours. The program is structured to include online coursework that is accompanied by supervised field experiences that may be completed in local schools. Most programs require students to complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship under the direct supervision of a licensed school counselor and program faculty. Some school guidance programs may also require one or two short residency periods on-campus that can range from 4-6 days in length.
Online coursework for this degree provides students with foundations in counseling principles, ethical practices and psychological theories. Study topics help prepare students to be successful in culturally, socially and geographically diverse educational settings.
Child and Adolescent Counseling
This course focuses on the counseling processes unique to the development and emotional growth of children and adolescents. Students gain a theoretical and practical understanding of the major theories in child psychotherapy. Emphasis is placed on cognitive, developmental, multicultural, behavioral and educational issues through a multidimensional view of intervention.
Life Planning and Career Development
Online instruction provides an overview of the many factors that can play a role in occupational choices and career development. Diversity issues, sources of information, assessment procedures and the impact of technology are all discussed.
Through a variety of structured group training exercises, students learn to play an active role in the group counseling process. Topics covered include group climate, stages of development, resistance and transference.
Qualified school guidance counselors are needed in a variety of educational settings, including public and private elementary, middle and secondary schools. Employment opportunities for school and career counselors are projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, the median annual wage for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors was $53,660 as of May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Although requirements may vary by state, most states require school guidance counselors to be certified. Counseling candidates are usually required to have a master's degree in school guidance counseling accompanied by practicum or internship experience. To maintain certification, counselors are typically required to complete a certain number of continuing education credits to refresh their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and practices within the field. Some states require school guidance counselors working in the public school system to also be certified teachers with several years of teaching experience in addition to their counseling certification.
Online master's degree programs in guidance counseling can be found mostly in hybrid formats. Coursework can typically be completed entirely online and involve youth and group counseling training. These are supplemented by in-person practicums, internships and possible residencies.