School counselors provide students of all ages guidance on social and emotional development, career paths, educational focus and life skills. Many colleges offer online training to prepare students for this career and certification, which often requires at least a master's degree. Coursework for these programs can be completed online, though in-person requirements may include a practicum in a K-12 school.
School Counseling Certification Requirements
The certification requirements for school counselors vary, and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) provides state-specific information on certification, continuing education requirements and more (www.schoolcounselor.org). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, counselors working in public schools must have a state license, endorsement or certification and usually need to complete a master's degree program that includes a practicum (www.bls.gov).
School Counseling Training Programs
Online school counseling programs differ in many aspects. While most schools offer a Master of Arts in School Counseling, others offer a Master of Science or a Master of Education. These degree programs are usually available through the human services, counseling or education departments and can be completed with approximately 48 credit hours. For those who already hold a master's degree in a related field, such as psychology, counseling or education, online post-graduate certificates in school counseling, which require the completion of 12-24 credit hours, are available.
Students can find distance learning graduate programs in this field from several four-year universities and colleges. While in many cases the coursework can be completed fully online, a practicum in a local K-12 school is typically required to help students meet licensure requirements. Some schools also require a few short on-campus residencies. Admission to a master's program requires a bachelor's degree and commonly GRE scores and references. In some cases, teaching certification and experience is a prerequisite.
Online programs follow the same faculty-led curriculum as on-campus programs. Although some online courses allow students to participate at their own leisure, others have set meeting times each week for online lectures; however, those are often scheduled during the evenings for the convenience of most participants. The curriculum trains students to deal with developmental and social issues in children. Students also explore the creation and design of school counseling programs. The following course topics are offered online:
- Counseling theories
- Career counseling
- Lifespan development
- Appraisal, assessment and evaluation
- Group dynamics and process
- Multicultural counseling
- Family systems
Students who would like to earn school counseling certification can enroll in an online counseling master's degree or post-master's certificate program in order to meet their state's education requirements. Courses that students can take online include family systems, career counseling and lifespan development.