High School Counselor Degree Program Overviews

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

There are many types of master's degree programs for school counselors, but all include classes and seminars in legal issues, ethics, counseling theory and educational psychology. Students must complete a counseling practicum in a high school. Most programs require 48 credit hours of study. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, and many programs require they hold a current teaching certificate. An Ed.S. program allows working school counselors to study an area of particular interest, culminating in the presentation of a major research project. Courses cover educational statistics, cross-cultural counseling and group counseling. Internships are required. It takes four or more years to complete this degree program, and many schools offer summer classes to coincide with school breaks.

Most programs require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores and a personal statement; some require a resume. A master's degree in counseling or another related area is necessary for acceptance into an Ed.S. program. Students need to have already worked in school counseling. GRE or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores have to be submitted, along with a resume. Possible prerequisite courses include counseling theory, research methods and group counseling.

Master's Degree in School Counseling

A master's degree such as a Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Arts or Master of Science in Counseling is considered the minimum requirement for a position as a counselor in a secondary school. Some graduate programs focus specifically on the K-12 level. Programs include lectures and seminars in human development. Master's degrees in school counseling take 2-3 years to complete. Coursework includes:

  • Educational psychology
  • Principles and practices of counseling
  • School counseling law and ethics
  • Research in counseling with adolescents
  • Leadership skills

Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in School Counseling

The Ed.S. degree in school counseling is a post-master's degree designed for practicing school counselors. The programs include a final project designed to hone the knowledge and skills of the student; a high school counselor chooses a research project focusing on the issues of the demographic group with which he or she works. Some schools offer programs with the bulk of the coursework occurring during the summer months, to accommodate working counselors. Internships are part of the curriculum. Coursework covers:

  • Cross-cultural counseling
  • Ethics in counseling
  • Group counseling facilitation
  • Educational statistics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected employment for school and career counselors to increase by 8% between 2019 and 2029 ( The expected growth is due to an increase in student enrollment. The BLS reported an annual mean wage of $62,320 for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors working in elementary and secondary schools in May 2020.

Continuing Education

People interested in furthering their education may investigate the Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) with an emphasis in secondary school counseling. Most Ed.S. programs can be completed in 1-2 years.

High school counselors can transition into becoming school psychologists with a Ph.D. in Psychology. In addition to providing counseling, school psychologists conduct testing and assessments and confer with parents, teachers, administrators and other professionals. Ph.D. curriculum includes assessment of children and adolescents, behavioral interventions and practical experience counseling students. This degree program can take four years or longer to complete.

It is required that high school counselors obtain at least a master's degree in an Ed.S. program or school counseling. States have different licensing requirements so it is important to be aware of them.

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