School Counseling Graduate Programs: Masters & Phd Degrees

What is a School Counseling Graduate Degree?

A school counseling graduate degree is often found as a Masters in School Counseling. This type of program may prep learners to apply counseling methods to students of all ages. It is the most common degree since school counselors need It to pursue a state license.

Another option at this level is a Masters in Education with a school counseling focus. Rather than behavioral health, this angle explores academic counseling and advising.

For post-master’s licensed counselors, there are PhD in school counseling degree programs. These often build research and administrative skills. They might also be a pathway for those who want to teach or supervise other school counselors.

School Counseling Graduate Degree Program written by Rana Waxman

What Can I do with a School Counseling Graduate Degree?

It's an exciting time to pursue a school counseling graduate degree. Rising enrollments and staff turnovers mean faster than average growth in this industry. In fact, per the, employment of school counselors is growing at a rate of 13 percent.

Most (44%) of school counselors work in elementary and secondary schools. In these roles they often help students develop skills or overcome problems. Others (34%) work with college students where the focus might include career prep.

Outside the school systems, school counselors may find jobs in educational services. Some also work in healthcare, social assistance and on their own.

What Can I Do with a Masters Degree in School Counseling?

A masters in school counseling is the entry-level education needed to begin a career. It allows you to pursue a state-issued credential which you'll need for jobs in public schools.

Jobs with a Masters in School Counseling

School counselors may work one-to-one or in groups. As advisors, they help students identify and solve issues that affect their performance. Sometimes these are behavioral, like skipping class. But they can also be academic such as helping students to adopt better study habits.

Another aspect of the role involves teaching school staff and students. For instance, they might speak to problems like bullying and drug abuse. Or about finishing high school and going to college. With college students, they often speak about career plans.

School Counselor Employment and Salary


Average Salary


School Counselor (elementary and secondary schools)



School Counselor (colleges and universities)



School Counselors (junior colleges)



School Counselors (vocational rehabilitation services)



Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top States for Employment: School Counselors



Annual Mean Wage







New York









Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
Salinas, CA$117,850Not Reported
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$117,760340
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA$110,010230
Napa, CA$109,850Not Reported
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA$106,160240

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Popular School Counselor Graduate Programs

School counseling graduate degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of Counselor education/school counseling and guidance services.

In fact, in the most recent update of the data (2013), across the U.S, there were 14,272 degrees awarded to graduate students. The majority (91%) of these programs were at the master’s degree level.

ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
Guidance and CounselingBowie State UniversityMS
Counselor EducationHenderson State UniversityMS
Educating and Counseling and Healing With NatureInstitute of Global EducationMS
School CounselingAugusta State UniversityMEd
Master of Science in School CounselingAustin Peay State UniversityMS
M.S. in School Counseling - General ProgramWalden UniversityN/A
M.Ed. in School Counseling (ITL)Grand Canyon UniversityMEd
Ph.D. Counselor Education and SupervisionThe Chicago School of Professional PsychologyPhD
M.A. in Education in School Guideance Counseling (P-12)Campbellsville UniversityN/A
MED: School Counseling: Teacher LicensureLiberty University OnlineN/A
Education, MSEd - School CounselingKeiser UniversityMEd
School Mental Health Advanced Practice CertificateLoyola University ChicagoN/A
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What is the Difference Between a Master of Education in School Counseling or PhD in Counselor Education?

There are two main ways a MEd in School Counseling differs from a PhD in Counselor Education. One of these speaks to what you are likely to study. The other, to the kind of career each degree might prep you for.

Master of Education in School Counseling (MEd)

A MEd in school counseling may appeal to currents professionals with experience in teaching or counseling. They may be ready to pursue their credential as school counselor to grow in their career.

Because of this, the curriculum often focuses on connecting theory to practice. As a result, a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling program includes extensive fieldwork.

This supervised practice may prepare learners to work in schools. Depending on one’s career goals, this may be K-12 or college settings. Either way, the program focuses on academic and guidance counseling.

PhD in Counselor Education

A PhD in Counselor Education is a terminal degree for professional counselors. It may ready learners to pursue leadership roles. These may be in areas like supervision, advanced counseling practice, and research.

Because it targets post-master’s licensed counselors, the curriculum often focuses on counseling. It may discuss a range of mental health issues, diagnosis and treatment. Other elements include teaching other counselors, consulting and research.

To earn their PhD, candidates write a final dissertation. The research for it goes on at the same time as their own practicum and may help to test a hypothesis. As such, it is one way to develop as a thought leader and expert in the field.

School Counseling Graduate Degree Guide

Master of Education in School Counseling

PhD Counselor Education

Master of Education (MEd) In School Counseling*

PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision*

Length of Program: 2-3 years, 49 units

Length of Program: 28 quarters, 72 quarter credits

This program is for persons who want to launch a career as a school counselor in K-12 settings. It focuses on the well-being of children on emotional, social and academic levels.  

This program melds research and courses with a direct-client contact and supervision. It is for counselors who want to lead, teach and mentor other counselors.

  • Learning and Individual Differences
  • Theories in Counseling
  • Intro to School Counseling
  • Human Development Theory in School Counseling
  • Counseling College and Career Readiness
  • Counselor Supervision
  • Advanced Counseling Practice
  • Leadership and Advocacy in Counseling
  • Advanced Research in Human Development
  • Advanced Social Science Research and Design

School of Education accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Program accreditation through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)



In sum, a MEd is for those with a bachelor’s degree. It may help them to pursue a career as a school guidance counselor and seek certification. The PhD may prepare post-master’s professionals to advance their career.

What Courses Are Needed for a Master’s in School Counseling?

Courses offered by master's in school counseling program vary by school. Yet most programs cover human growth, counseling methods and ethics. They also include a supervised practice in a setting related to an area of interest.

Many programs start with a core of counseling theories and therapeutic techniques. Then, they'll move onto a handful of school counseling courses and fieldwork.

The focus of these classes is to assist students of all ages to get the most out of their education. This may involve knowing how to assess common behavior and learning problems. Then, meeting them with solutions that promote mental health.

Yet other topics may cover administrative topics. They may touch on the ways to develop, install and maintain a school counseling program in a PK-12 setting. You may also learn the basics of career development planning.

Intro to School Counseling

This class introduces the field of professional school counseling. It may include some history, theories and points of view. At the same time, you may learn about current issues, advocacy and ethics.

Development Through Childhood and Adolescence

This class usually touches on theories of how humans develop. It also involves learning what factors can impact personal development.

Professional School Counseling

This class may expose you to various models of professional school counseling like the TEA and AMCA models. It might also cover responsive services and guidance.

School Counseling Accreditation

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs is the agency is a CHEA-recognized accreditor in the U.S. CACREP accredits:

  • Entry-level masters degrees in counseling
  • Doctoral degrees in counselor education and supervision

When the CACREP accredits a program, it must provide two things. An industry-standard mix of knowledge and real-world skills.

Enrolling in one may give you a reasonable sense of the program’s quality. This may be an asset when it comes time to taking the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).

Because schools must recertify, they must maintain or improve on the set standards. This means teaching you about issues that are relevant to your career. You can check the status of your school on their database for extra surety.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Masters Degree in School Counseling?

A full-time student might need from 2 to 2 1/2 years to earn a master's degree in school counseling. Students pursuing a PhD in Counselor Education may need from 3 to 6 years.

University # of Credits Required Start Dates Minimum Months to Complete
Grand Canyon University

60 credits


50 months

Our Lady of the Lake University

48 credits


30 months

University of Southern California

49 credits


24 - 36 months

How Much Does It Cost to Get A Masters’ Degree in School Counseling?

The average cost of a of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.

To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with School Counseling Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also as reported by NCES.

$9,684 /$24,116 Florida State University
$11,617 Average Public Institution University
$14,784 Average Private For Profit Institution Tuition
$26,551 Average Private Nonprofit Institution Tuition

What are the Costs per Credit for a Master’s in School Counseling?

Cost per credit of course is different at every College or University. State Universities are also likely to have in state costs vs out of state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by each one of these institutions.

University # of Credits Required Cost Per Credit Tuition Cost

Our Lady of the Lake University

48 credits



University of Southern California

39 credits



Grand Canyon University

60 credits



Loyola University Chicago

48 credits



Find Top 28 School Counseling Graduate Programs Below:

GCU offers a variety of M.A. and M.Ed. education programs designed for current educators looking to take the next step in their career. Earn your degree from an accredited non-profit university. No Application Fee!

  • Accredited online university.
  • Capella University offers doctoral programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession.
  • Competency-based curriculum delivers both foundation knowledge and real-world skills, so that what you’re learning in your courses is immediately applicable to your career goals.
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