Those seeking an online degree program in guidance counseling - better known today as school counseling - can find graduate-level options at many four-year universities and colleges. A master's degree in school counseling is the common education requirement for state licensure in this field. There are also some distance learning doctoral programs that, while not specifically in guidance counseling, could be pursued by experienced school counselors who want to advance into leadership roles, such as counseling educator or supervisor. Students will have to complete an internship or practicum.
To be eligible for admission to a distance learning master's degree program in school counseling, students must have a bachelor's degree and may have to submit GRE scores and recommendation letters. Additionally, some universities require applicants to have teaching experience and valid teacher certification. For those interested in entering a doctoral program, a counseling master's degree and professional experience are typical requirements.
Learning & Coursework
Prospective distance learners should keep in mind that to meet state regulations, guidance or school counseling students must complete some on-site requirements. Distance learning programs may offer all or most of the coursework online, but some schools require scheduled on-campus sessions at various points.
In any case, students must complete an internship or practicum in a K-12 school, which can usually be arranged in their local area. As for the online coursework, students log in to a virtual classroom to retrieve lectures and assignments; message boards, web conferencing and chat rooms may be used for class discussions.
Common Master's Degree Courses
Many master's degree programs for guidance counselors are based on a model offered by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). These programs prepare students to manage and deliver contemporary school counseling programs and act as school leaders to advocate for the educational, social and personal needs of students. Typical course topics include the following:
- Human Development and Behavior
- Survey of Research Methodology
- Assessment, Tests and Measures
- Group Counseling and Psychotherapy
- Life Planning and Career Development
- Ethnic and Cultural Awareness
- School Counseling Practicum
Common Ph.D. Courses
Professionals seeking a higher credential in guidance counseling might consider an online Ph.D. program, which will allow them to continue their work obligations while completing a doctoral degree in their spare time. Those pursuing this degree program aim to expand their career opportunities while contributing to the field of counseling through research. Like many master's degree programs, online Ph.D. programs may require in-person field training or residencies. Online Ph.D. programs typically require students to complete advanced research and a dissertation. Common courses in an online Ph.D. in Guidance Counseling program include the following:
- Psychopathology Assessment and Treatment
- Life Planning and Career Development
- Social Science Research
- Advanced Qualitative Methods
- The Family in Social Context
- Child and Adolescent Counseling
Students completing online master's degree and Ph.D. programs in guidance counseling typically pursue careers in academic or research settings. The most common job sought is that of school counselor, an occupation expected to experience 8% employment growth in the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The agency also reported that the average salary for guidance or school counselors was $56,490 as of May 2015.
Individuals can pursue a master's or doctoral degree program entirely online, with the exception of an internship or practicum. Students in these programs learn about managing and delivering counseling programs which normally take place in schools.