Most Affordable Masters Degree In School Counseling

Last Updated on January 16, 2022 by

The field of counseling has undergone enormous changes over recent decades. With advancements in technology, the counseling profession is now more accessible to school counselors than ever before. Here’s an overview of the most affordable Masters Degree In School Counseling.

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Affordable Master's in School Counseling Degrees | GradSchoolHub

A master’s degree in counseling is a must-have on your path to becoming licensed or certified as a counselor in most states. Although the profession is enormously diverse and open to different practitioners, in most cases the doors to professional, independent practice are only open if you hold a master’s – and there are many to choose from.

If you’re aiming for a career in counseling, you’re probably looking at those programs, weighing the benefits of your online options, and wondering how you’re going to decide which one is right for you. Whether or not the kind of position you’re trying to get into requires a license, a master’s offers a big-time brain dump of the most up-to-date tools and techniques in the field.

But you’re not made of money, and counseling isn’t a field you go into to get rich. You need to find a master’s program that isn’t going to pile on a mountain of debt that you’ll end up spending your entire career working off.

Just because you need to find an affordable program doesn’t mean you want a cheap one, though. The key is to get the best education you can at a price you can afford. This might mean taking a look at more affordable online options at schools based in other states… and it definitely means taking a careful look at academic standards no matter how the program is delivered or where it’s located.

It’s important to note that we’re looking at value here, not just cost. The difference is crucial: the cheapest counseling program in the state may save you a bundle of money, but if you get laughed out of the office everywhere you apply when they see it on your resume, those dollars saved won’t amount to much.

Value comes with combining real results with a reasonable price.


Lamar University is a public research university located in Beaumont, Texas. Their forty-eight credit hour Master’s in Education degree includes a concentration in School Counseling. Specifically for certified teachers who are interested in becoming part of the larger educational support services, this program prepares students to become school counselors as determined by the Texas State Board for Educator Certification standards. Though the coursework can be completed online, Lamar requires students to attend one residency during their studies.

Fort Hays State University’s Master of Science in Counseling program offers a School Counseling track. Though most of the degree can be completed online, Fort Hays does require residency for three, four-day, on-campus courses: Counseling Skills Development, Group Counseling: Theories and Procedures, and Professional and Ethical Issues in Counseling. Marked by flexibility, convenience, and quality, Fort Hays has designed a program with working professionals in mind.

Regent University is a private Christian research university located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Their Master of Arts in School Counseling combines traditional techniques and theory with a Christian approach to counseling. Accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), at Regent students learn how to diagnosis and treat, become leaders of ethical clinical practices, promote self-awareness and understanding among clients, and how to cultivate personal development. All courses are heavily guided by biblical principles and values.

The Master’s of Science in Professional School Counseling program at University of Central Arkansas is forty-eight credit hours, which includes both practicum and internship field experiences. The curriculum is in alignment with the American School Counselor Association, National Model, and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education Standards. Though offered online, there are some required visits to the Conway, Arkansas campus. Finally, the University of Central Arkansas stands apart from other programs in that it offers two tracks. The Initial Licensure Track is for those who don’t have a teaching license and the Add-On Licensure Track is for those who do and are looking for further licensure in school counseling.

The University of West Alabama (UWA), located in Livingston, Alabama, offers a Master of Science in Adult Continuing Education degree with an option of specializing in Guidance and Counseling. For those planning to teach or counsel outside of the state of Alabama, they should check with their states’ requirements to see if UWA meets their standards. The curriculum is broken into two sections—professional courses and concentration courses—and requires forty-eight credit hours for completion.

Texas A&M University (TAMU) is a research university located in College Station, Texas. Through their College of Education and Human Development, they offer a fully online Master of Education degree with a concentration in School Counseling. Only thirty-six credit hours and no residency requirements, this program can be completed in two years. At TAMU students are prepared to work as personal, academic, or career counselors or as consultants to teachers.

Located near downtown Philadelphia, Gwynedd Mercy University is a Catholic University that has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Colleges.” They offer an online Master of Science in School Counseling that aligns with the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) National Model. The curriculum is broken into three segments—core educational knowledge, core counseling knowledge, and school counseling practicum—and includes classes that cover both the theoretical and practical aspects of educational counseling: human development, individual and group counseling, effective communication, intervention, research, advocacy, leadership, and more.

University of the Southwest is a private school located in Hobbs, New Mexico. They offer a Master of Education in School Counseling that can be completed fully online and prepares students for licensure. However, out of state residents should contact their state’s department of education to ensure this program meets their state’s licensing and certification regulations. With a curriculum that includes classes on ethics, theory and technique, career development, adolescent counseling, and more, students leave the University of the Southwest prepared to counsel at the primary, elementary, middle, and high school levels.

The University of Texas at Tyler (UT Tyler) offers an online Master of Arts in School Counseling degree. While many of the programs on this list require at least forty credit hours to graduate, and some even sixty, UT Tyler requires only thirty-six credit hours to complete the degree. Meaning, students can graduate in as little as eighteen months. UT Tyler also boasts a 100 percent pass rate on the TExES (Texas Examinations of Educator Standards) professional school counselors’ certification examination for those looking to practice in Texas. Students at UT Tyler also have the opportunity to become a member of the American School Counselor Association, through which they can network with professional counselors and stay apprised of developments in their respective fields.

Liberty University is a private, Christian college with a broad e-campus platform. Their Master of Education–School Counselor program is accredited by the NCATE and is a state-approved program for advance licensure. Liberty stands apart from the others in that they have reciprocity with other states. So, students can attain licensure through Liberty’s online program and (mostly) practice outside of Virginia, where the university is based. Students should still check in with their state’s requirements. Like other programs on this list, Liberty requires residencies, but unlike the others, they require four on-campus intensives. Finally, Liberty University emphasizes an ethical approach in preparing students to work in Christian, public, or private schools.

Most Affordable Online Master's in Counseling Degrees | Grad School Hub

Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

The higher education experts at BestColleges have evaluated the most affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling programs. With tuition on the rise, it’s crucial to find a good value. Read on to better understand your potential options.

A master’s degree in school counseling prepares graduates to pursue a rewarding professional career in an important and growing field. Across the country, aspiring counselors can find a variety of school counseling programs offering competitive tuition. Increasingly, students are pursuing their master’s degree in school counseling online, a convenient and affordable option for students from all backgrounds.

What are the most affordable school counseling programs? Here are our top 10:

1North Carolina State UniversityRaleigh, NC
2Vanderbilt UniversityNashville, TN
3University of Massachusetts BostonBoston, MA
4Wake Forest UniversityWinston-Salem, NC
5University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CA
6University of St. ThomasHouston, TX
7University of MississippiUniversity, MS
8East Carolina UniversityGreenville, NC
9New York UniversityNew York, NY
10Oregon State UniversityCorvallis, OR

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

While searching for schools, it is important to separate affordable programs from cheap schools. Affordability is a key concern for students, and to be sure, distance learners should avoid colleges that charge too much in tuition or fees. But it’s just as important to find a quality program. Prospective students must do their homework, and avoid diploma mills selling the cheapest online master’s in school counseling degree you can find: these schools offer poor instruction and carry little credibility on the job market.

Below, we’ve ranked the most affordable online master’s in school counseling programs in the country. We built the list with help from our “College Affordability Score” algorithm, which measures how student-friendly schools are financially. We considered a variety of factors, including return on investment, the amount of financial aid awarded to students, the amount of students entering loan agreements, and the number of students who are able to repay their loans. The following colleges offer the best blend of academic quality and affordability.

Most Affordable Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs


North Carolina State University

LocationRaleigh, NC2

Vanderbilt University

LocationNashville, TN3

University of Massachusetts Boston

LocationBoston, MA4

Wake Forest University

LocationWinston-Salem, NC5

University of Southern California

LocationLos Angeles, CA6

University of St. Thomas

LocationHouston, TX7

University of Mississippi

LocationUniversity, MS8

East Carolina University

LocationGreenville, NC9

New York University

LocationNew York, NY10

Oregon State University

LocationCorvallis, OR

School Counseling | Fresno Pacific University

Best Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

We’ve ranked the top online master’s in school counseling programs. Compare schools by cost and convenience. Earn your master’s in school counseling online.

In a master’s in school counseling program, learners study challenges many children and students face. They work to develop skills so they can help these youths manage and potentially overcome their challenges.

The school counseling program typically features a blend of specialization and applicability. Graduates can go on to pursue advanced school counselor positions. They also have the option to move into other related fields.

Offered by many of the top online schools, these two-year programs can help prepare learners for many community and social service occupations, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects will add nearly 350,000 new jobs from 2020-30. As more schools invest in student support and mental health services, the demand should grow even more.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost for graduate tuition and required fees was just over $19,300 in 2018-19. According to PayScale, school counselors reported making an average annual salary of around $51,330, as of October 2021. With experience, these professionals may be able to pursue leadership positions with even higher earning potential.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program?

The typical master’s in school counseling program requires 30-60 credits and takes students about two years to complete. Degree-seekers should have interpersonal and analytical skills. Compassionate and caring demeanors also are beneficial in this field.

Learners can earn different types of master’s degrees in school counseling. These include a master of arts (MA), a master of science (MS), and a master of education (M.Ed.). While all three can lead to similar careers, there are differences. M.Ed. programs tend to focus on educational psychology and helping students in a school setting. MA programs lean more heavily into research and academia. MS programs offer a blend of research and clinical preparation and may feature more statistics and psychological testing courses.

In a master’s in school counseling program, students typically choose concentrations for more focused training in an area of interest. It may lead to improved employment opportunities after graduation. Some schools offer specializations in areas like guidance counseling, career counseling, and youth or college student counseling. Additionally, aspiring school counselors often take the PRAXIS exam like teachers do.

Prospective students can expect a substantial practicum requirement. Most master’s in school counseling programs require hundreds of supervised clinical hours at an approved location. Online learners should find out where and when they can complete those hours — students may not be able to earn these hours over the summer when school isn’t in session. Participants also need to know if there are on-campus requirements.eget felis eget. Tristique nulla aliquet enim tortor at auctor urna nunc id. Vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Tellus elementum sagittis vitae et leo duis ut. Pellentesque adipiscing commodo elit at imperdiet. Amet purus gravida quis blandit. Velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti nullam ac tortor.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program?

School Counseling Techniques

Students can learn the best strategies for a counseling session. This includes learning the role of the counselor and how to evaluate their own performance. They also focus on how to adapt their strategies and techniques depending on the situation and the client.

Multicultural Counseling

A client’s age, race, cultural background, and other factors can influence a counselor’s approach and communication strategy. Learners also study what affects a client’s self-identity.

Lifespan Development

In this course, students can learn more about how people grow throughout the different stages of their life. Intelligence, identity, and personality development are among the characteristics studied.

Academic and Career Counseling

Learners explore the role of the career and academic counselor in schools. They can learn how to assess a student’s needs, address their concerns, and help them overcome challenges.

Professional Issues and Ethics

This course looks at the leading challenges school counselors face. The training helps students learn to lean on their own personal ethics while also incorporating professional standards and expectations.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program?

For admission into an online master’s in school counseling program, prospective students need to submit their applications directly to their school of choice.

Applications for online learners do not typically differ from those of on-campus students. Depending on the school and program, an application may include a number of components.

In addition to the following items, prospective students also may be asked to complete an interview.


A graduate school application includes the applicant’s personal and contact information. Most college application systems work specifically for undergraduate applicants. So graduate students typically must submit their applications directly to any school they are considering.

Test Scores

Test scores usually play a big role in the admission process. Due to the pandemic, many schools have offered temporary GRE and GMAT waivers to applicants. However, some schools still may require that applicants submit their test scores. Prospective students may want to explore GRE prep courses to help get their scores in the 75th percentile or higher.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation from former teachers and employers can provide insight about an applicant. Most applications require a minimum of three letters from relevant sources. Prospective students should begin asking for letters of recommendation as early as possible to ensure they give their referrals plenty of time to meet school deadlines.

Resume and Work Experience

Few master’s in school counseling programs require applicants to have professional experience for admission. However, schools can use resumes and any previous work experience to better understand candidates. Work history can provide insight into a potential student’s direction, drive, and professional history. Prospective students should use their resume and cover letter to bolster their applications and admission chances.


Graduate school essays differ from undergraduate essays. Graduate school application essays typically focus more on the applicant’s educational and professional goals rather than their personal journey.

Official Transcripts

Official transcripts help schools identify which prerequisites applicants have. They also show how an applicant did in their undergraduate studies. Transcripts also can help determine which transfer credits a graduate program may accept.

What Can I Do With an Online Master’s in School Counseling Degree?

Career Outlook

An online master’s in school counseling can offer professional benefits, including a strong career outlook and flexibility. As schools invest more in academic and developmental support for their students, the field should grow.

The BLS projects 11% job growth for school and career counselors and advisors from 2020-30. That’s faster than the 8% projected job growth for all U.S. occupations.

Graduates with a master’s in this field also may go on to pursue other counseling disciplines, careers in community service, or doctoral degrees.

Uncover what a master’s in school counseling can do for you. Learn more about counseling careers.

Career Paths

School and Career Counselors

School counselors support and work with students, helping with social development and addressing behavioral issues. These professionals may meet with family members to address personal challenges a child is facing. They may consult with teachers and administrators to address a child’s academic needs. School counselors may work with families and teachers to set up continuation plans in the classroom and at home.

Career counselors help guide learners through their education and preparation for college and careers after graduation. They support students with academic challenges, identify any reasons for problems, and explore different postgraduate pathways with them.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $58,120

Marriage and Family Therapist

With a master’s in school counseling, graduates may decide to pursue other counseling disciplines, such as marriage and family therapy. These therapists work with individuals, couples, and families to help them overcome issues at home. They may examine common conflicts and use counseling strategies they’ve learned to help minimize the problems. They also can recommend other specialists for a collaborative approach.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $51,340

Community Services Managers

Someone with a counseling degree may decide to work with a group or the community as a whole. Community services managers oversee programs and organizations that serve the community in various ways. They may develop programs and awareness campaigns. They also work in community outreach, advocacy, and campaigns to help organizations and programs get the support they need. They may focus on certain demographics — children, for example — and help with their challenges.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $69,600

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

These counselors help individuals and families with mental health conditions and other issues. They may offer education, treatment, and coping strategies. These counselors also may work with other health professionals to ensure the client receives adequate support. School counseling graduates may require additional training for this career path.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $47,660

School Principals

Principals oversee the operations of a school, such as handling the budgeting, staffing, and security protocols. They also may take charge of developing and implementing curriculums, managing the faculty and staff, and evaluating overall school and student performances. Principals often meet with students and families as well. A master’s in school counseling may help principals in their dealings with students, families, and staff. Those with a school counseling degree may require additional specialized training to pursue a career as a school principal.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $98,490

Continuing Education

Many with a master’s in school counseling enter the workforce after graduation. Others decide to continue their education and training in a doctorate in school counseling program. With a doctoral degree, these professionals may go into research and academia or pursue advanced clinical counseling positions.

Many graduates also pursue related fields, such as psychology. Many psychology doctoral programs accept applicants from psychology-adjacent disciplines, such as counseling. There also are various certifications available to clinical counselors and specialists that may require additional training after graduation.

For some positions, workers may also be required to obtain state licensure. Accruing clinical hours and continuing education credits after graduation may be a requirement for maintaining licensure.

How Do I Choose an Online Master’s in School Counseling Program?


To get the most accurate numbers, prospective students need to look at the true cost of an online program. This includes travel, books, materials, and any loss of income. They also should compare online and on-campus costs, private and public colleges, and in-state and out-of-state schools.

Program Format

Program formats can have a major impact on a student’s educational experience. Prospective learners must decide on part-time vs. full-time schedules and asynchronous vs. synchronous delivery. They also should see if accelerated program options are available.


When choosing online or on-campus programs, prospective learners should look into the differences in tuition. Some distance learners pay the same rate as on-campus students. Travel costs and schedules also must be considered. Online learners need to know what, if any, on-campus or in-person requirements exist. Many online schools require a residency component during a student’s practicum or internship.


College accreditation can tell students, employers, and institutions that a school and program meet appropriate industry or regional standards. Schools should have regional accreditation. For a master’s in school counseling, students can look for program accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Student Support

Available student support can be a strong indicator of school quality. Prospective students should look at the available student services, both on campus and in online programs. These include college mentor programs and college internships. Other services like tutoring, wellness services, and industry events also can benefit learners.

Best Accredited Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

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North Carolina State University at Raleigh

LocationRaleigh, NC

A public university located in Raleigh, NC State offers a mostly online master of education in school counseling. The program helps students develop the skills needed to support K-12 students, alongside an opportunity to explore clinical counseling.

The 60-credit online program follows a part-time cohort model where students take courses throughout the year. Course topics include multicultural counseling, gender issues in counseling, and crisis counseling.

All students must complete a 12-credit internship and a three-credit practicum experience. Graduating students qualify to sit for a professional licensure exam in the state of North Carolina. During their final year, students must attend some weekend classes on campus.

NC State holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This school counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Education in School Counseling
School Status: Public
Tuition: $462 per credit (in-state); $1,311 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online with some on-campus class requirements

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT required (waived through fall 2022)

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.View School Profile2

University of Southern California

LocationLos Angeles, CA

A private university located in Los Angeles, USC offers an online master of education in school counseling. Key focus areas of the curriculum include college and career readiness, restorative justice, and trauma-informed practice. The program helps students achieve the pupil personnel services: school counseling credential in California.

The 49-credit program includes courses that cover topics like learning and individual differences, theories in counseling, and cross-cultural counseling. Students must also complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship.

USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Education in School Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,995 per credit
Credit Requirements: 49 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum recommended
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.View School Profile3

Wake Forest University

LocationWinston-Salem, NC

A private university located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest offers an online master’s in school counseling. The 60-credit program requires students to complete 30 credits of foundational and core courses and 30 credits in the school counseling speciality.

Core course topics include advanced counseling skills and crisis management, group procedures in counseling, and family counseling, while speciality courses cover topics like appraisal procedures for counselors. Students must also complete a practicum, an internship experience, and a capstone course.

Wake Forest is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This school counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master’s in School Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,510 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Minimum GRE score of 300 required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.View School Profile4

University of Louisiana at Monroe

LocationMonroe, LA

A public university in northern Louisiana, ULM offers an online master of science in counseling with a school counseling track. Graduating students qualify for school counseling certification and licensed professional counselor licensure.

The 60-credit program offers courses in law and ethics in counseling, diagnostics in counseling, lifespan development, and multicultural counseling. To qualify for graduation, students must also complete a 100-hour practicum and 600 hours of internship experience. The program also includes nine credits of electives, which students can use to pursue one of two focus areas: marriage and family or pediatric.

ULM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Counseling With a School Counseling Track
School Status: Public
Tuition: $500 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.View School Profile5

Concordia University-Nebraska

LocationSeward, NE

Based in Seward, Concordia offers an online master of arts in school counseling program. Students can choose from two tracks: a track for certified teachers (50 credits) and a track for those without a teaching license (62 credits).

Course topics include foundations of school counseling, trauma and crisis intervention, and ethical and legal issues in school counseling. The program also requires students to complete a 100-hour practicum, 450 hours of supervised internship, and a capstone course.

The program culminates with professional PK-12 certification in Nebraska and follows guidelines established by the American School Counselor Association. Concordia is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in School Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $425 per credit
Credit Requirements: 50 or 62 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.View School Profile6

Harding University

LocationSearcy, AR7

University of North Dakota

LocationGrand Forks, ND8

University of Missouri-Columbia

LocationColumbia, MO9

University of St Thomas

LocationHouston, TX10

Seton Hall University

LocationSouth Orange, NJ

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