Counselors have a significant impact on students, their families and the communities they live in. They are vital members of the education team and play a critical role in helping students develop into productive, well-adjusted adults. Sadly, there aren’t enough counselors in the United States to deliver the services students need.
The American School Counselor Association recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250:1; as of 2015, the national ratio was 482:1. Although you don’t need an advanced degree to be a school counselor in all states, the majority of states do require a master’s degree or higher. Even in states where you can become a licensed school counselor with a bachelor’s degree, completing a Master of School Counseling program will likely better prepare you to meet the academic, social, psychological and emotional needs of children in K-12 environments.
Thanks to the growing number of distance learning programs, you can earn a Master of School Counseling without putting your life on hold. Online school counseling programs are designed for busy adults who want to go back to school but might have work and/or family responsibilities that make it difficult to earn a traditional degree.
An online Master of School Counseling from a reputable institution is just as prestigious and provides the same opportunities as a traditionally-earned master’s degree. This means that if you enroll in the online Master of School Counseling program from our partner New York University, for example, it’s the same as earning your degree from NYU’s campus in New York City. Note: There may be some on-campus opportunities not offered online.
Although there can be subtle differences in course content and practicum experiences, an online Master of School Counseling with high-quality, interactive features is no different than a master’s degree earned by attending classes in person. Here’s a look at what you can expect:
- Online classes – Online classes may be synchronous (the instructor and the students are present at the same time) or asynchronous (students can proceed at their own pace). Most online Master of School Counseling programs follow the synchronous model, or are “hybrid” programs with synchronous and asynchronous components. Online students may participate in group discussions, Q&A sessions and guided learning to better understand the concepts being taught.
- On-campus immersions – Students enrolled in an online Master of School Counseling program may be required to attend one or more on-campus immersions before graduation. These events bring together online students and their professors to participate in collaborative, hands-on projects that help develop mastery of subject matter related to school counseling.
- Placement experiences – Online students also gain hands-on experience by completing practicum and internship requirements in the field. These experiences provide students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned while at the same time developing their personal approach to human development counseling.
Online school counseling graduate programs may confer either a Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Education (MEd) in School Counseling. The differences between MS, MA and MEd programs are minor, but it’s important that you understand these differences so you can decide which type of school counseling degree program is right for you.
- Master of Science degree programs promote mastery of counseling psychology through research projects, thesis presentations and fieldwork experiences. As a scholarly-focused degree, the MS in School Counseling may be ideal for students interested in continuing their education with a doctorate degree.
- Master of Arts degrees are almost identical to MS programs in terms of coursework and practicum/internship experiences and requirements. If you have an undergraduate degree in a field other than psychology, it may be easier to be admitted to an MA program.
- Master of Education degree programs may focus more on pedagogy and educational theory than MS and MA programs. To apply to a Master of Education in School Counseling degree program, you may need an undergraduate degree in education or experience working as an educator.
Although specific course titles and content may vary, all online Master of School Counseling degree programs are designed around curriculum that will prepare students to provide personal, social, developmental, academic and career counseling to K-12 students.
The curriculum should also align with the professional competencies of school counseling. According to the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) School Counselor Competencies, school counselors should possess the knowledge, abilities, skills and attitudes necessary to “plan, organize, implement and evaluate a comprehensive, developmental, results-based school counseling program.”
To demonstrate the types of classes you may take as a Master of School Counseling student, here is a sample of the curriculum from Vanderbilt University’s Master of Education in human development counseling with a specialization in school counseling. This online M.Ed. program provides a rigorous and humanistic training model that prepares students to become effective K-12 school counselors.
|Theories of Counseling||The primary focus of this course is on the prevailing theories of counseling and psychology. The theories presented in this course are examined in terms of their psychological assumptions, theoretical tenets and various techniques.|
|Research in Counseling||This course examines various approaches to research methodology, statistical analysis and program evaluation in counseling. Topics covers include opportunities, challenges, ethics and legal issues in research and evaluation.|
|Developmental Counseling Psychology||This course provides a broad overview of human nature and behavior through the study of life-span developmental theory, personality development and learning theory.|
|Counseling Diverse Populations||This course teaches students how to effectively serve the needs of diverse populations. Students review the value systems and behavior patterns of diverse populations, as well as variables related to age, gender, lifestyle, language, religion, social class and developmental stage.|
Note: The sample curriculum contains general guidelines; students’ actual curriculum in Vanderbilt University’s Master of Education in human development counseling with a specialization in school counseling program may vary.
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