How You can Advance Your Career with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling

Kelly Muic
Kelly Muic
Grade school principal; Ed.D. in Leadership and Administration, Point Park University, PA
Teacher sitting with a student talking.

If you are reading this, then perhaps you are considering obtaining a master’s degree. A master’s degree in school counseling is a degree that is pursued by individuals desiring to become a school-based counselor. The primary goal of a school counselor is to facilitate student wellbeing and achievement by supporting and assisting the development of students’ skills and knowledge within three specific domains: academic, social/emotional and career. This type of graduate degree can be pursued by individuals with an undergraduate degree in any major. This degree is usually pursued by individuals who have a bachelor’s degree (whether B.A. or B.S.) in education, psychology, or social work.

While most people with a school counseling master’s degree desire a future career working within a school setting, this degree also allows you the flexibility to pursue other counseling careers and opportunities such as opening a private counseling practice. However, the ability to choose other career paths with a school counseling master’s degree is dependent upon what type of school counseling graduate program you choose. As you know, school counseling graduate programs are similar to other graduate programs which will vary in terms of affordability, accessibility, and academic quality. It is important to know that school counseling graduate programs can also differ in major ways such as the credentials you can acquire upon graduation, number of course credit totals, type of program formats offered, admission procedures, and even application items that are required.

What is a Master’s Degree in School Counseling?

A school counseling master’s degree is actually a master’s degree of education (also known as M.Ed.). This degree represents the completion of comprehensive coursework and counselor training. This means that a person graduating with a master’s degree of education in school counseling will also possess the credentials to become a certified school counselor. For instance, some school counseling graduate programs may also contain program requirements that will qualify you as a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and allow you to be eligible to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) within the state that the program is located.

Most school counseling graduate programs will vary to accommodate the lifestyles and careers of all people with various program delivery formats. Many programs will offer on-campus day and evening classes as well as virtual asynchronous classes. School counseling graduate programs will require you to obtain 48-54 credits which equates to full-time enrollment of 5 semesters. The increased amount of credits required is due to the required clinical experience hours you must obtain in addition to coursework and skill development preparation. School counseling programs require completion of 100 practicum hours (40 hours of direct service contact with students) and 600 internship hours (250 hours of direct service contact with students).

The clinical experience is supervised by qualified faculty and site supervisors. Practicum and internship hours are required of graduate degree programs that have been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). In addition, some programs may also be accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or its successor organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which may have different or additional requirements.

School counseling graduate programs will also differ in their admission requirements. Most commonly required graduate school admissions exams for school counseling graduate programs are either the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) – General Test. In addition, each graduate program may require you to pass an admissions exam in accordance with their own specific passing score range. Rest assured, there are programs that may not require you to take any graduate admissions exam. But be mindful that school counseling graduate programs will require a specific undergraduate G.P.A. but this requirement may also vary in the accepted undergraduate G.P.A. they seek for acceptance into the program.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Although the primary career that this type of degree prepares you for is a school counselor, there are other careers that can be pursued with this degree and its associated credentials due to the knowledge and required clinical experience. Most commonly, the other career paths seen in individuals with this degree are child and adolescent mental health therapists, behavioral specialists, and mobile therapists employed by a community agency where settings may vary considerably.

With the rise of schools offering mental health services during the school day, graduates may also pursue a career as a school-based therapist employed through a community agency. Also, a person can become a therapeutic day treatment counselor employed through a community youth service.

Other Benefits

In addition to possessing a graduate degree, there are other benefits gained upon completion of a school counseling graduate program. You will have an understanding of ethical and professional considerations of counseling, possess clinical counseling skills, be able to conduct assessments and evaluations, and understand how educational systems impact students’ academic, social/emotional, and career development. However, a school counselor will also develop necessary leadership qualities.

School counselors, employed by a school or school district, possess unique positions. School counselors are regarded as a faculty member and receive the same benefits of a teacher such as salary, health insurance, and retirement benefits. However, school counselors serve as the lead advocate of students. A school counselor may mediate concerns with students and their teachers, parents, administrators, and peers. A school counselor is also viewed as a pseudo-administrator because the work of school counselors does involve administrative-type tasks. School counselors do have daily interactions with administrators. School counselors handle many issues that may encompass consultation with or direct involvement with administrators.

In sum, the primary goal of a school counselor’s work is to facilitate student wellbeing and achievement by supporting and assisting the development of students’ skills and knowledge within academic, social/emotional, and/or career development domains. School counselors are able to complete the complex work due to the comprehensive preparation that is provided by school counseling graduate programs. This comprehensive preparation allows individuals to work in other settings than just schools. For more information about school counseling careers, please visit the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).

Ready to take the next step in your career and pursue your master’s degree? Explore our available programs here and get started today!

*Updated December, 2020
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