Guidance counseling master's degree programs, which are often called school counseling programs, are sometimes offered in an online format. While coursework may be taken at home, students do typically need to complete in-person training. For example, students may need to attend campus for short residencies and complete an internship at a local school. Students who are looking for a fully online alternative may consider a master's degree in psychology. Not all of these programs require on-campus training; instead, they can be completed entirely through online classes and a practicum at a local facility. To apply to any master's degree program, prospective students must have a bachelor's degree.
Guidance counselors need to be licensed or certified by the state where they work. Requirements typically include a master's degree and 2,000-3,000 hours of supervised practical training. Prospective online students should inquire if certain online programs can prepare them to earn professional credentials in their state. They can find out their state's requirements through the American School Counselors Association.
Master's Degree - School Guidance Counseling
Online master's degree programs in school guidance counseling are designed for individuals who wish to assume leadership roles and become advocates for students within K-12 educational settings. Students learn how to manage and deliver various school counseling programs in order to meet the needs of their student population. Courses discuss counseling principles, early identification practices, and prevention techniques for helping children and adolescents achieve optimal development.
An online guidance counseling degree consists of approximately 36-72 credit hours and includes coursework in theoretical, clinical and professional concepts pertaining to the practice of guidance counseling. In addition to the required coursework, most online programs require students to gain hands-on experience through the completion of a practicum or internship. The field experience components are performed under the supervision of a licensed guidance counselor in a local educational setting. Many of the available online programs also include one or two short residency periods that require students to visit campus for approximately 4-6 days.
Common Coursework for a Master's Degree in School Guidance Counseling
Topics discussed in online courses prepare individuals for success in culturally, geographically and socially diverse educational settings. Areas of study may include ethical practices, counseling principles, crisis management and coping strategies.
Students study the many factors that play a role in occupational choices, such as goal setting and career development. Specific topics include assessment procedures, diversity issues and sources of information.
Multicultural Counseling and Psychology
Lessons examine how the theoretical background of major cultures around the world can impact the psychological functioning of different client populations. Topics discussed include contemporary issues, methodologies and research in cross-cultural psychology.
This course includes instruction in the principles and theories of resistance, group climate, transference and stages of development. Students are asked to play an active role in various group counseling exercises.
Employment opportunities for guidance counselors are available in both public and private school settings. Qualified guidance counselors are needed at the elementary, middle and secondary school levels of education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual wage for educational, vocational, guidance and school counselors was $62,320 in May of 2020 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also projected employment opportunities with the profession to increase by 8% between 2019 and 2029.
Although requirements vary by state, most require school guidance counselors to be certified in order to gain employment within the educational system. Common requirements include a master's degree in school counseling and completion of continuing education credits in regular intervals. Some states require guidance counselors practicing in public schools to hold a teaching certificate with several years of teaching experience.
Over the course of an online master's degree program, aspiring guidance counselors can study advanced topics in psychology and improve their individual and group counseling skills. When they finish, they may seek state licensure so that they can start working in schools.