Our students need school counselors, it’s that simple. There is no “typical” day in the life of a school counselor–every day is different. What you will spend the majority of your time doing depends on what level you’re in. For example, elementary school counselors will spend a lot of time doing classroom guidance, whereas a high school counselor will do a lot of career and college planning. And if you’re a K-12 counselor, you get to do it all! But first, you need to learn about online school counseling degrees.
About Online School Counseling Degrees
School counseling degrees are always the Master’s level. Upon completion of your coursework and internship experience(s), you will either have an M.A. or M.Ed. in school counseling. Which one you get depends on which program you choose.
Licensure for teachers vs non-teachers
You do not have to have a Bachelor’s in Education to be a school counselor (in most states). But if you hold a current teaching license, you can tack on endorsements in school counseling at the different levels.
For those without teaching licenses. you can apply for a professional services license (or some variation of that) which is the same thing school psychologists, school social workers, speech-language pathologists, etc. hold.
Elementary and Secondary Certifications
Again, the program you choose will determine which levels you are certified to counsel at. Most states have a K-8 and 6-12 (give or take a grade) designation. Some programs will lead to being dual-certified (i.e., K-12), others will allow you to choose one or the other.
Online School Counseling Programming and General Plan of Studies
How the program is accredited and which state is it “located” in will affect which classes you are required to take. As a general rule, you should expect to take at least one class in the following subject areas.
Counseling Micro skills
This class is where you learn the essential skills for your counseling toolbox. Techniques such as paraphrasing, reflecting, summarizing, and open-ended questions are practiced in this class. This is also a great time to practice applying techniques from different theories (e.g., solution-focused, Rogerian, Adlerian, CBT, etc.).
This is your foundation–and it’s exactly what it sounds like. You should have an entire class devoted to counseling theories, which means you’ll be doing some reading. Prepare yourself for studying old white dudes’ ideas about life. We’re talking Freud, Rogers, Adler, Gestalt, Existentialism, Cognitive, Behavioral, Cognitive-Behavioral, Feminism, and more!
While the majority of this class is dedicated to learning about others, a large portion is also spent reflecting on your own beliefs. Be okay with challenging your own assumptions and biases. This course lends itself very well to dialogue and discussion.
Career Counseling Theories
Another theory class! But this one is really interesting–you’re learning how people decide what they want to do for work. Taking social influences, personal expectations, and one’s past into account makes for a complicated combination of variables, and no two people have the same experience.
Group counseling can be an effective way to address student needs. And the best part is, you can work with 8 students as a group instead of spending 15 minutes with each of them one-on-one about the same topic. Students learn from each other, but group dynamics can be tricky. Not all students and not all student issues are appropriate for group work. This class walks you through the whole process from identifying students to closing in the last session.
Other classes you might take are: classroom management, school counseling program development, action research, crisis management, characteristics of disabilities, ethics, counseling gifted students, or research and statistics in education.
What to Look For in an Online Program
When choosing an online school counseling program there are a few factors you need to take into consideration.
Always, always, always make sure your program is accredited. The education world has strict standards, and spending your time and money on a program that is not accredited will do you no good.
The best school counseling programs will be CACREP accredited. You know you’ll be receiving a high standard of education and going through a great program if it’s CACREP accredited.
Each program might vary slightly in the number of credits they require for graduation. The number of credits might be dictated by the accrediting board or the state.
Similarly to the variance in credit hours, the number of internship hours required can also vary depending on the program. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. You might not be able to work full time while getting your Master’s–is that okay with you?
The more contact time you have with students, other school counselors, and your professors, the better off you’ll be when you get your first school counseling position. Required internship hours can range anywhere from 300-800 hours. Again, this will depend on whether you’re shooting for single or dual certification.
You will also want to have supervision time with a professor and a practicing school counselor. The collaboration and reflection that takes place during these meetings is invaluable.
When choosing a program, look at the class structure. If it’s is 100% online, are there set times for discussion with your classmates and/or professors? Taking a group counseling class, for example, might be kind of difficult if you’re working by yourself all the time. That doesn’t lend itself well to practicing techniques.
State Licensure Requirements
If you know which state you want to be licensed in, make sure you know what their requirements are. Some states (though not many) still require school counselors to have a teaching license. Others require a different number of internship and supervision hours. And some states require PRAXIS scores.
Before enrolling in an online school counseling program, take a minute to think about how you learn best and what you want to get out of these online school counselor degrees.
When researching programs, find out how their classes are structured, how many classes you have to take, how many hours of internship you’ll be required to complete, and how all of that compares to the licensure requirements in your state.