Graduate school counseling programs, such as master's degrees, provide theoretical training in promoting social, academic and career development, as well as methods for promoting positive learning environments for K-12 students. Online learners can choose thesis and non-thesis tracks to match their career plans; students often select a thesis option if they intend to pursue further graduate study and a non-thesis track if they intend to advance their career without additional academic credentials. Practical experiences, residencies and internships are also completed.
A bachelor's degree in education or psychology is typically required to gain admission into online master's degree programs in school counseling. GPA requirements vary by school.
Courses cover research methodology, group counseling and counseling methods. Thesis options include more research courses, while non-thesis options fill out the curriculum with additional classroom electives in school counseling. Online learners also take courses in the following areas:
- Crisis intervention
- Counseling assessment
- Developmental school counseling
- Theories of counseling and development
- Multicultural counseling
Both thesis and non-thesis graduate students complete several short on-campus residencies, typically offered in the summer. They also complete practicum and internship hours at local schools to gain hands-on experience for licensure and certification.
Universities offering online school counseling programs present lectures and assignments through online learning systems, such as WebCT or Blackboard. Communication with instructors or peers is achieved via e-mail and discussion boards. Conferences and workshops may also be included in the online curriculum. Access to courses typically requires students to meet computer hardware and software specifications and have a reliable broadband Internet connection.
Certification or Licensure
Graduates, with the appropriate supervised clinical and internship hours, qualify for state certification and licensure examinations. School counselors may also become nationally certified through the National Board of Certified Counselors by submitting an application and completing an exam (www.nbcc.org).
School counselors are qualified for positions in elementary, middle and secondary schools. Licensed or certified professionals may also qualify for part-time positions in community colleges and universities with advanced training in the field, according to the American School Counselors Association (www.schoolcounselors.org).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted average growth for school and career counselors, at 8% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, the annual mean salary for school counselors in elementary and secondary schools was $63,760 in May 2015; the salary was $49,770 for postsecondary school counselors in the same time frame.
Online degree programs in school counseling are available in the form of master's programs. After graduating, students can seek state certification and licensure.