The minimum educational requirement for aspiring guidance counselors is a master's degree from an accredited university. From there, individuals must pass the school licensure exam offered by their state's department of education.
Top Guidance Counseling Schools
The following schools are listed as having the best student counseling programs, according to U.S. World and News Report's 2016 rankings.
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Tuition (2015-2016)*|
|University of Maryland-College Park||College Park, MD||4-year, public||$11,376 in-state, $24,534 out-of-state|
|University of North Carolina-Greensboro||Greensboro, NC||4-year, public||$4,873 in-state, $18,322 out-of-state|
|University of Georgia||Athens, GA||4-year, public||$8,492 in-state, $24,090 out-of-state|
|University of Missouri||Columbia, MO||4-year, public||$8,402 in-state, $22,498 out-of-state|
|Pennsylvania State University-University Park||University Park, PA||4-year, public||$19,328 in-state, $33,142 out-of-state|
|University of Florida||Gainesville, FL||4-year, public||$10,770 in-state, $27,335 out-of-state|
|Ohio State University||Columbus, OH||4-year, public||$11,560 in-state, $31,032 out-of-state|
|University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL||4-year, public||$6,916 in-state, $25,759 out-of-state|
|University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||Minneapolis, MN||4-year, public||$15,844 in-state, $24,508 out-of-state|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics
University Selection Criteria
When choosing between master's degree programs in guidance counseling, it can be helpful to keep state educational and licensure requirements in mind. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking at different schools:
- Students who plan to pursue state licensure may want to limit their search to schools accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
- Students who are not certified as teachers may need to consider whether or not a school's guidance counselor program offers additional education classes, such as classroom management or cognitive development, which are needed to meet some states' licensure requirements.
- Students who want to work at schools with diverse populations may look for programs that include classes in bilingual education, cross-cultural counseling theory or a relevant foreign language.
- Some programs allow students to choose an emphasis in either elementary or secondary school counseling; students who want to work with students of a certain age may look for schools that offer a concentration option.
Master's Degree in Guidance Counseling
Aspiring school counselors can earn a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Education (MEd) degree; the MA is usually for students without a background in education, while the MEd is generally intended for certified teachers. At some schools, students can major specifically in school counseling, while at others, the topic is available as a concentration within a general counseling program. Over the course of these programs, students take advanced psychology courses and get clinical experience in school settings through required practicums. Some programs also include independent research opportunities. Upon graduation, students will usually have fulfilled the educational requirements and practical experience hours necessary for eligibility to take the state licensure exam so that they can start practicing.
There are numerous highly ranked schools that offer master's degree programs in guidance counseling. These programs can provide students with the necessary training needed for state licensure and future work in the field.