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Online Guidance Counseling Degree: Accredited Programs and Admission Requirements

04 Mar
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As you consider earning a school counseling degree, give serious consideration to online master's programs. In addition to the experience and expertise you'll gain, online guidance counseling programs provide flexibility and convenience: You can advance your educational journey and career readiness on your schedule, studying from anywhere, while keeping your current job. When you look for online school counseling degree programs, you’re not limited by geographic location. Researching different programs will help you select one that gives you the best value for your investment and is the strongest match for your needs.

This post will explore online guidance counseling degree programs, including the role of accreditation in career outcomes and common admission requirements.

The Importance of Program Accreditation

Accreditation is a quality-control measure for counseling education programs. Accrediting bodies examine a program's curriculum, faculty qualifications, institutional support and student resources to determine if it adheres to high industry standards.1 A degree from an accredited program is often a prerequisite for professional licensure. You’ll have professional recognition and credibility that comes from receiving a quality education that meets the established standards of the profession.2

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits master’s and doctoral degree programs in counseling and other specialties that are offered by colleges and universities in the United States and throughout the world.1 Other accrediting bodies include the Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC), which accredits advanced academic programs in psychology and counseling,3 and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), which accredits graduate programs that provide comprehensive training in both psychology and education.4

Choosing the Right Online Program

In addition to accreditation, there are other factors you should consider when deciding on an online counseling program. The faculty will have a significant impact on your experience. Look for programs with faculty who are experts in their fields and who will mentor and guide you through the master’s program and the licensure process.

You should also consider the faculty-to-student ratio, the specialties and/or concentrations the program offers, scholarships or financial aid opportunities and the amount of time it will take to complete the program. You can discover a lot of this information by visiting the universities’ websites and comparing programs based on your highest-priority factors.5

Admission Requirements for Online Counseling Programs

The admission process and requirements for an online counseling program can vary depending on the school, but you can expect to submit the following:

  • A completed online application
  • An application fee
  • Official academic transcripts from all institutions attended
  • Three letters of recommendation from professional and academic references
  • A personal essay detailing the reasons for your interest in the program, the strengths you bring to it, the challenges you foresee experiencing in it, and the ways in which the program will help you reach your professional goals
  • A resume detailing your full employment history

Application Process and Timelines

When you apply to a program, you’ll be notified of the application deadline. The program may have several deadlines, such as a priority deadline and a final deadline for you to complete the application. You’ll also be informed of when the acceptance decisions will be released.

While the durations of online programs vary,6 you can complete the William & Mary Online M.Ed. in Counseling with a concentration in School Counseling in as few as three years. In addition to coursework, you’ll complete an internship and a supervised practicum. The program is offered on a part-time basis so you can continue working while earning the degree, although you may carry a full-time load during your internship and practicum.

Curriculum Requirements and Course Structure

The course structure and exact curriculum will depend on the program. All accredited programs will provide a well-rounded foundation in counseling; the concentration in school counseling will include specialized courses.7

Foundational, core courses will provide a broad understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of counseling practice. These include various counseling theories, such as psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic and multicultural counseling. Courses in human growth and development focus on the psychological, social and physical development of individuals throughout their lifespan.7 You’ll also study the legal considerations and ethical standards relevant to the counseling profession, including confidentiality, professional conduct and ethical decision-making.

According to the American School Counselor Association, most American public school systems require that their guidance counselors have advanced-degree education in the following areas:8

  • Human growth and development
  • Theories
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Testing/appraisal
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Professional orientation
  • Career development
  • Supervised practicum
  • Supervised internship

Courses in the School Counseling concentration will cover theories and strategies for counseling students in elementary and secondary schools. They'll also address topics such as substance abuse, prevention and intervention, and other advanced issues in professional school counseling.8 Coursework and the practicum and internship experiences will prepare you to help students with academic planning, career exploration and decision-making. Most importantly for students in crisis, you’ll be equipped to provide social-emotional support, address behavioral concerns and collaborate in creating a positive school climate.

Graduation and Licensure Preparation

Licensure is a requirement to work as a guidance counselor. Each state has its own requirements and procedures, but an online guidance counseling degree should prepare you to become certified. In addition to earning a master’s degree in counseling, you’ll need to complete the following:8

Supervised Clinical Experience

Postgraduate supervised clinical experience is a common requirement for licensure. The number of required hours varies by state.

Licensing Examinations

Most states require you to pass a licensing examination to confirm your counseling skills and knowledge. The National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) are common exams.

License Application

After you meet the educational and experiential requirements and pass the necessary exams, you can apply for licensure with your state's counseling board. This process usually involves submitting examination scores and proof of education and experience, and completing any additional state-specific requirements.

Continuing Education

Licensed school counselors are required to engage in continuing education in order to maintain licensure. This will help you stay updated with the latest developments in the field.

Transform Your Career and Your Students’ Lives

William & Mary’s highly-ranked, CACREP-accredited Online Master of Education in Counseling program with a concentration in School Counseling will prepare you to become a licensed school guidance counselor in as little as three years. Led by world-class faculty, this robust curriculum will develop your ability to guide the mental, emotional and physical development of students of all ages. With emphasis on social justice, cultural responsiveness, program planning and evaluation practices, the flexible online program provides the knowledge and insight you need to become a transformative influence in students’ lives. It includes two three-day residences that will help prepare you for your internship and practicum experience.

Help your students maximize their ability to learn, engage with peers, navigate early-life decisions and become more resilient. Don’t make them wait for your expert guidance. Schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor today.