Schools offering online school counseling graduate degrees typically award Master of Arts or Master of Education degrees, although Master of Science degrees are available as well. Some programs may feature an option for those holding a teaching license or certification, since some states require school counselors to have teaching experience. Most distance learning options for a master's degree in school counseling require at least two years of full-time study and have some on-site requirements (internship or practicum).
The majority of states require that school counselors have a master's degree, so completing a graduate degree program in this area of study is considered a standard component for state licensure and public school employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Online master's degree programs in school counseling train graduate students in the methods and theories necessary to maximize the academic and social development of students. These programs make use of online learning tools and interactive media to deliver the coursework.
Core online courses typically introduce topics such as counseling theories, school counseling methods and counseling appraisal. Distance students may also take courses that cover:
- Group counseling
- Child counseling
- Behavioral counseling
- Principles of vocational assessment
- Psychological aspects of disabilities
Web-based learning systems deliver online lectures, either through live Web conferences or pre-recorded videos and readings, while peer and instructor interaction is completed with e-mail, discussion boards and instant messaging. Distance learners upload assignments via special platforms or e-mail. Accessing online programs typically requires students to meet computer and Internet standards. Although online students can complete their coursework when it is convenient for them any time of day, instructors still usually have a strict course schedule with due dates for students to follow.
School counselors provide services directly to students, including those that are dealing with various learning, emotional or social challenges. For this reason, on-site supervised practice in the field is an important part of master's degree programs -- even those that offer all required coursework online. Internships or practicums at approved schools typically require a weekly commitment and last a semester. Schools may also require online students to attend short-term residencies on campus.
Licensure and Certification Information
Certification or licensure, regulated by individual states, often requires prospective school counselors to complete a master's degree program and supervised clinical hours. Online learners must complete continuing education hours to maintain licensure or certification. Specialized national certification is available through the National Board of Certified Counselors by completing a national application and exam.
Master's degree programs in school counseling are available fully online but there is an on-site requirement. Topics cover areas such as counseling theory, methods, and appraisal, and most states require certification.