Many colleges and universities offer master's programs in school counseling that can be completed primarily through online studies. These programs have extensive internship and practicum requirements which can usually be fulfilled at a school convenient to the student. Some programs also require short on-campus residencies.
Students in a master's degree program in school counseling gain an understanding of the counselor's role and the fundamental principles of school counseling. Students explore the legal and ethical issues of counseling and learn about working with families and handling crisis situations.
Every state requires that public school counselors be licensed. In most states, this calls for a master's degree in counseling from an accredited program. The training must include an internship supervised by a licensed counselor. In some states, counselors must be licensed teachers or have teaching experience.
Master's Degree in School Counseling
Online graduate programs in school counseling provide the knowledge and skills needed to manage and administer counseling programs that address the educational, personal and social needs of students at K-12 schools. The curriculum includes courses in prevention services, counseling and early identification. Students also study coping strategies, crisis management and disaster response counseling. Through required coursework, students gain an in-depth understanding of the counseling principles and concepts that are needed to pursue certification as a professional school counselor.
Program Information and Requirements
Most online school counseling programs are designed so the majority of coursework can be completed online. However, in addition to the required coursework, most online graduate programs require students to complete a 100-hour practicum accompanied by a 600-hour internship under the supervision of a licensed school counselor in a school setting local to the student's residence.
Some programs also require short residency periods on campus that can last anywhere from 4-6 days per semester. Online graduate programs in school counseling usually require two years to complete.
Online coursework combines theoretical, clinical and professional instruction to fully prepare students for certification. Courses cover a variety of topics, including ethical practices, counseling principles and psychological foundations.
Multicultural Counseling and Psychology
Students are asked to examine the theoretical backgrounds of major cultures and apply their knowledge to the psychological functioning of various client populations in this class. Additional topics include issues in cross-cultural psychology, research methods and counseling methodology.
Through class participation exercises, students learn to play an active role in the group therapy process. Students study the theories and principles of resistance, group climate, transference and stages of development.
Life Planning and Career Development
Lessons in this class include an overview of the many factors that can play a role in career development and future occupational choices. Students examine the impact of technology, diversity issues, assessment procedures and sources of information.
Graduates who have completed an online master's degree program in school counseling have the training needed to pursue employment opportunities with both private and public K-12 school systems. Employment of school and career counselors was projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that as of May 2014, the median annual wage for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors was $53,660.
Continuing Education Information
Although requirements for certification may vary, almost all states require school counselors to be certified. Typical requirements include a master's degree in the field and participation in continuing education on an ongoing basis. Some states require school counselors within the public school systems to have a teaching certificate and several years of teaching experience prior to becoming certified as a counselor.
Over the duration of a master's degree program in school counseling, students gain the skills required to provide effective counseling to children in educational settings. This course of study can largely be completed online, though there will likely be an in-person component due to internship or residency requirements.