School counseling degree programs prepare graduates for careers in curriculum design, career guidance and student therapy. While a limited number of relevant degrees are offered at the bachelor's level, mainly in fields like psychology, most students gain the expertise and education required for school counseling licensure through master's degree programs.
Bachelor's Degree in Psychology
Undergraduates interested in school counseling often earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology. These degree programs teach students theories of motivation, thought and behavior. Students learn the methods of researching and statistically analyzing psychological phenomena. While the coursework doesn't specifically emphasize school counseling, counseling theory courses lay the foundation for advanced school counseling degree programs.
Applicants submit official high school transcripts along with their scores on either the ACT or the SAT Reasoning test. High school English coursework prepares students for the amount of reading required to study psychology in college.
The coursework in psychology bachelor's degree programs covers theories and methods used to treat mental disorders. Students learn to diagnose and treat stress disorders, neuroses and other mental conditions. The courses listed below are usually offered:
- Counseling theory
- Psychoanalytical theory
- Humanistic psychology
- Crisis intervention
- Psychology statistics
Master's Degree in School Counseling
Most states require professional counselors to hold either a Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree in school counseling. These programs cover child development, educational assessment, career counseling and therapeutic counseling. Students learn to work in educational settings, from primary schools to postsecondary institutions. Most programs require students to complete several hundred hours of supervised clinical work.
Some school counseling master's degree programs require incoming students to already have valid teaching certification and some previous experience in education or counseling. Generally, students must have an undergraduate degree in a subject relevant to education or psychology. Most programs require students to submit a personal statement detailing their interest in school counseling, along with letters of recommendation.
These programs emphasize courses specific to the theory, practice and culture of school counseling. Programs cover the vocational planning, academic and mental health aspects of school counseling. Students usually learn about the topics noted below:
- Multicultural counseling
- Career development
- Academic assessment
- Vocational assessment
- Mental health counseling theory
Popular Career Options
People who earn a bachelor's degree in psychology need to obtain further training to work as school counselors, but they do qualify for several other careers in educational, clinical or hospital settings. Many graduates choose the careers noted below:
- School counselor assistant
- Addiction counselor
- Direct care staff
While working directly with students is the most common career option, graduates with a master's degree in school counseling can also work as consultants or administrators. The careers noted below are popular choices:
- School counselor
- Curriculum design expert
- Special education program coordinator
Continuing Education Options
A limited number of schools offer Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in school counseling. These programs focus on the research methodologies and statistical analyses of school psychology and prepare graduates for academic careers. The coursework is usually combined with classes in developmental psychology or general counseling.
Every state has unique licensing requirements that school counselors must meet. School counselors usually need to hold a master's degree in the subject and must pass a written exam. Some states also require school counselors to take continuing education classes to remain licensed.
School counseling is typically studied at the master's level, though undergraduate programs in related fields like psychology may address some school counseling topics. Becoming a full school counselor requires a master's degree and licensure, though bachelor's degree-holders may find positions as assistant counselors.