How to Get a Masters in School Counseling

If you are thinking about becoming a school counselor, you are going to be entering an exciting and growing career. Guidance counselors and school counselors have many important duties in elementary, middle and high schools, and those roles are more important than ever.

You will be helping students with their academic and emotional needs, mediating social issues and helping students to plan for college and their career. As a school counselor, you also will be working with your students every day of the school week helping them to schedule classes, fill out college applications, and counseling students about behavioral and emotional issues in some cases.

School Counselors Are Vital

Being a school counselor is an intensely important and rewarding career choice. If this sounds like it is for you, you will want to think about earning your master’s degree in school counseling. A master’s degree in this type of counseling takes two years to earn, and you will be qualified after graduation to work as a school counselor.

You will help your young or adolescent students to develop the academic and social skills to get the most out of their education. You may give students aptitude tests, interview them, and work with them on their future academic plans. Also, some students will need your help emotionally as they are dealing with problems in school and at home.

You may work as a school counselor in these roles:

  • Elementary school: You will focus on teaching young children to develop desirable skills, such as studying and making good decisions, which they will need to be successful in school and in life. You may need to meet with parents regularly to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the child, and any special needs that they have.
  • Middle school: School counselors at this age will work with staff, parents and the community to generate a caring and supportive atmosphere for all students in the early adolescent years to be academically successful. You will play an important role for students to develop skills that are needed to fit in well socially and succeed in school.
  • High school: This type of school counselor is focused largely on helping these students to determine what their future academic and career plans are. Some may need to help students to deal with emotional issues that can interfere with their academics.

Why Earn a Master’s in School Counseling?

There are many reasons that becoming a school counselor today is a good career choice. In addition to there being a strong and growing demand for school counselors across the country, the following reasons are commonly why people opt to get a master’s in school counseling:

  1. Watching students mature and grow. Counseling students gives you a chance to observe and work with students over time. Many counselors find it very interesting to work with students who are mere children in 9th grade, and walk out of high school four years later as mature, young adults.
  2. Unique role. Being a school counselor is an unusual and unique role in education. You are not a teacher and you are not an administrator either. A school counselor is often a buffer between school administration, teachers and parents. School counselors often can be called upon to solve problems without the principal getting involved in a disciplinary situation.
  3. Offering support to students. Many students value receiving the regular support that school counselors give them. Some students may not get the support they need at home, and the guidance and acknowledgement that they get from counselors can make a big difference.
  4. It’s a community position. As a school counselor, you will be interacting with virtually every teacher and administrator in a school. This offers the counselor more exposure to many different people than is typical for a regular teacher.

Admission Requirements

To be admitted into a master’s program for school counseling, a strong application is required. Your application will typically have the following minimum standards to be considered for admission:

  • Official college transcripts
  • GRE scores
  • Writing sample
  • Updated resume
  • Bachelor’s in psychology or sociology preferred
  • 75 GPA or higher
  • Personal interview may be required

Curriculum and Courses

The University of Iowa offers a highly regarded Master of Arts in School Counseling that will prepare you to provide counseling to individuals and small groups in a variety of school settings. You also will become skilled in offering classroom guidance and consulting services to parents, families, teachers and other educational professionals.

The University of Iowa’s program was ranked #14 in the US by US News and World Report for 2016. It is the very first school counselor program in the US to provide a concentration designed for gifted students.

This master’s program won an award in 2007 for being the most innovative counselor education program in the North Central Association region.

This Master of Arts program has been designed to create skilled school counselors that can provide expert counseling to individuals and small groups; practical classroom guidance; effective educational and career planning services; and compassionate and effective consulting services to parents, teachers and families.

Your required courses will include:

  • Foundations of Education
  • Foundations of Special Education
  • Educational Psychology
  • School Culture and Classroom Management
  • Applied Microcounseling
  • Professional School Counselor
  • Introduction to Group Counseling
  • Career Development
  • Introduction to Educating Gifted Students
  • Theories of Counseling and Human Development Across the Lifespan

Career Outcomes and Job Titles

With this master’s degree, you will be qualified to hold these types of positions:

  • Elementary school counselor
  • High school counselor
  • Guidance counselor
  • Middle school counselor
  • Student life counselor
  • Student advisor

Job and Salary Outlook

  • School Counselor –Job demand in this field will increase by 8% by 2024. Depending upon the area of the country in which you work, you could experience higher or lower demand. There also is growing demand for school counselors at the community college level. The median salary is $53,000 per year.
  • Career Counselor –Career counselors also will see job demand increase by approximately 8% per year. These counselors often work in high schools and community colleges. The median salary is $51,000 per year.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor –Some counselors decide to work outside of the educational environment with their master’s degree. Job demand for these counselors will increase by a significant 22% by 2024, as more people with drug problems are getting treatment rather than extended jail time. The median wage is $39,900.

Scholarships and Grants

To help to pay for your master’s education, please consider these available grants and scholarships:


Review these helpful resources to learn more about being a school counselor:

  • American School Counselor Annual Conference: The ASCA offers this annual conference dedicated to the needs of school counselors across America. More than 2,000 school counselors gather at this annual event and it offers deep dive looks at the hottest topics in school counseling.
  • International School Counselor Association: This association is international in scope and is focused on the needs of school counselors around the world.

Additional Resources