Online degree programs in guidance counseling are available at the master's level and require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree, with specific undergrad coursework in sociology and psychology needed for some programs. The coursework may be fully online or include a blend of distance and on-campus classes, depending on the program. Students can also expect to complete an in-person field experience or practicum at a school or related facility. Look for programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); these programs meet the certification regulations in most states.
Guidance Counseling Degree
Master's degree programs in guidance counseling provide educators with enhanced skills for dealing with students in school and community environments. Students use data analysis, research and social science theories to address issues such as crisis intervention, life planning and educational development. Most programs are accredited by the CACREP to ensure they are compliant for most state requirements.
Applicants typically must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Many institutions require students to have completed prerequisite coursework in areas such as sociology and psychology. Some schools may require students to be licensed educators in order to be enrolled into a degree program. A number of programs are offered completely online; however, some include a mix of distance education and on-campus classes. Online courses are viewed using online learning management systems, such as Blackboard, where students can interact with their professors and fellow students via message boards and chat rooms. A practicum or field experience is generally required to complete the curriculum.
Master's students examine current issues in school counseling. They gain advanced knowledge of the philosophies and theories that guide the counseling of students in elementary and secondary schools.
Fundamentals of School Counseling
Students are introduced to the roles and responsibilities of the guidance counselor in the K-12 environment. They analyze current trends in school counseling and are tasked with developing strategies to enhance and improve school settings. Topics of discussion include community and institutional factors in a student's school and family life.
Child and Adolescent Counseling
In this online course, students focus on developing skills used to intervene on behalf of children with developmental, behavioral and educational issues. Emphasis is placed on theoretical and practical understanding of accepted principles of child psychotherapy.
Field Experience in School Guidance Counseling
Students are assigned a professor and professional mentor for this experience. Under their supervision, students practice individual and group counseling methods in a school setting.
Graduates of a master's degree program are qualified for guidance counseling positions in elementary and secondary schools. Guidance counselors in these institutions earned an average salary of $63,760 in May 2015, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
Experienced guidance counselors can gain greater perspectives and learn new skills from online professional development programs such as the ones offered by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). Courses are available in topics including legal and ethical issues, classroom guidance, and methods for assisting children who are dealing with change and crisis. These classes are delivered via live and archived webinars and downloadable video formats.
Fully online programs in guidance counseling can be found at the master's degree level. They prepare students for certification as elementary and secondary school guidance counselors through online coursework and in-person practicums.