Graduate Certificate Programs in School Counseling
Professional counselors, educators, and other mid-career professionals who have already completed undergraduate and master’s-level academic training in teaching, counseling, psychology, social work, or another related behavioral or social science field can prepare for a career in school counseling through graduate certificate programs in school counseling. These programs provide graduate training and instruction in the theories, principles, and practices used to provide counseling services to K-12 students in schools and other educational and clinical settings. However, rather than conferring an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctoral degree, school counseling graduate certificate programs culminate in the conferral of a certificate of completion. As a result, graduate certificate programs require fewer courses and take significantly less time to complete than master’s and doctoral degree programs.
Indeed, many school counseling graduate certificate programs are designed to be completed in roughly one year, as opposed to the two to three years that is common for a master’s degree program. Upon completion of a school counseling graduate certificate, students who hold a master’s degree, have engaged in the requisite number of hours of supervised school counseling internship hours, and meet other requirements may be eligible to apply for a state license in school counseling.
Note: Most states require school counselors who work for and with public K-12 schools and school systems to be licensed by a state board of counseling or education. See the section below on Accreditation and Licensing in School Counseling for more information.
School Counseling Explained
School Counselors, as defined by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), are certified and/or licensed educators who use the tools of mental health counseling to improve student success in areas such as academic achievement, social development, and emotional wellbeing. School counseling, as a profession and an area of academic study, integrates the principles and practices of clinical counseling with training in educational pedagogy and theories of psychological, behavioral, and cognitive development in children, adolescents, and young adults. The responsibilities of school counselors vary by school and age group but commonly include offering direct counseling services to students who are experiencing the expected challenges of succeeding academically, maturing intellectually, and developing socially as they progress from kindergarten to 12th grade. In addition, school counselors are equipped to handle and are commonly called upon to provide assessments of and interventions for students who have acute problems that impact their academic success, including issues related to substance abuse, trauma, and social and behavioral disorders.
Working as a school counselor generally requires a master’s degree plus specialized training in school counseling. Some states and employers also require school counselors to hold a teaching license and/or a professional credential, typically the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). As noted in more detail below, these requirements vary by state and may also vary by school district and/or school. However, every state and the District of Columbia requires individuals who provide clinical counseling services, such as psychotherapy, to be a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or the equivalent in that state.
Identifying and Classifying School Counseling Graduate Certificate Programs
School counseling graduate certificate programs are generally designated as certificate programs with a school counseling curriculum. GraduateCertificates.com researches these programs and classifies them based on several key criteria. To be listed on this site and classified as a graduate certificate program in school counseling, a program must be offered by an accredited, non-profit college or university. It must offer coursework that prepares students to work in the field of school counseling. It must also consist of graduate-level coursework, which means that applicants to these programs must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and, because licensing requires a master’s degree, many school counseling graduate certificate programs are designed for students and mid-career professionals who have already completed a master’s degree in counseling, education, psychology, social work, or a related field.
These programs are commonly designated as graduate, post-graduate, and post-master’s certificate programs in school counseling and are often offered through schools or colleges of education and/or behavioral science and counseling at universities that have master’s programs in school counseling. Indeed, many graduate certificate program courses overlap with courses students take in a college or university’s master’s in school counseling program.
School Counseling Graduate Certificate Coursework
School counseling graduate certificate curricula vary by school and by program. However, there are several core areas of training that these programs generally focus on, including the evidence-based theories and professional practices associated with individual and group counseling, psychopathology and developmental psychology, and the ethics of school counseling. Many programs also require students to complete a specified number of supervised practicum hours in a school setting. It is also common for school counseling graduate certificate programs to include one or two required or elective courses in special topics, such as drug and alcohol counseling, special education, multicultural counseling, trauma counseling, and crisis prevention and intervention.
The list below draws on actual graduate certificate programs in school counseling and provides a representative overview of the types of courses that are commonly offered by these programs.
- Child and Adolescent Development
- College and Career Readiness
- Developmental Interventions
- Drug and Alcohol Counseling
- Ethical Issues in School Counseling
- Individual and Group Counseling
- Multicultural Counseling
- Psychopathology Classifications
- Special Education Law and the Role of the School Counselor
Accreditation and Licensing in School Counseling
While specific licensing requirements vary by state, all fifty states and the District of Columbia require licensed counselors to hold a master’s degree. Most states also require school counselors who work in public school systems and at K-12 public schools to be licensed by their state board of counseling or education. In addition, school counselors may be required by some states to hold a teaching license. Professional counselors who are interested in working in the field of school counseling, but not in public schools, may not be required to hold a school counseling license, but all states do require individuals who provide clinical counseling services to be LPCs.
Therefore, it is advisable to review your state’s licensing requirements for schools and clinical counselors prior to enrolling in a graduate certificate program in order to determine whether or not the program will fulfill licensing eligibility requirements and, if not, what additional training, coursework, and/or academic credentialing will be necessary to attain licensing eligibility upon completion of a graduate certificate program.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in School Counseling
Online graduate certificate programs represent a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based graduate certificate programs. They also allow schools to broaden the reach of a program to students who live outside of commuting range of the school offering the program. This is especially useful to students who do not live near a college or university that offers a school counseling graduate certificate program and who cannot or would prefer not to relocate to attend a program.
School counseling graduate certificate programs that are offered online provide students with the same type of training and coursework as campus-based programs but do so using distance-learning platforms, commonly referred to as learning management systems (LMSs). An LMS is an internet-based educational platform that facilitates the streaming of live and prerecorded lectures and provides students with access to virtual class sessions, instructional modules, and other learning assets.
Online instruction is generally delivered using one of two modes. Synchronous online instruction refers to instruction that takes place in real time and thus requires students to be logged on to a program’s LMS while lectures and/or virtual class sessions are taking place. Asynchronous online instruction refers to instruction that does not have a real-time component and that can thus be accessed and completed when it is convenient for students to do so, 24-7 (as long as they meet required due dates for assignments and other participation requirements). Prerecorded lectures that can be streamed at any time of the day and assignments that have a due date but that students are free to complete when they have availability are examples of asynchronous instruction.
While asynchronous instruction provides more scheduling flexibility than synchronous instruction, it requires a greater degree of self-motivation and self-discipline, along with time management skills, to keep up with course materials. Synchronous instruction is the more structured of the two modes, but it does not offer the scheduling flexibility of asynchronous instruction, as students are often required to attend weekly live online classes in the evening (typically once a week) or on the weekend.
Some online graduate certificate programs in school counseling offer all of their didactic coursework via an LMS and do not require students to attend campus-based sessions, while others require a limited number of campus visits for orientations, workshops, seminars, and other instructional activities that benefit from in-person instruction. GraduateCertificates.com classifies programs as online programs provided that they do not require more than three campus visits per year. Programs that require four or more campus visits are classified as blended or hybrid programs. Blended/online programs offer a portion of their coursework online but also require students to attend in-person classes at a campus location. As a result, a blended/hybrid program may be a more convenient alternative to a fully campus-based program, but typically these programs are not practical for students who live beyond commuting range of the school offering the program.
Note: Some online school counseling graduate certificate programs require a practicum or internship that must be completed in person at a site approved by the program. Most programs allow students to find a suitable location to complete these requirements at a site that is convenient for them. However, students who are considering an online program that requires an in-person practicum or internship may want to contact a program administrator prior to submitting an application to ensure that a convenient location can be found.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in School Counseling
The example programs listed below are representative of the types of graduate certificate programs in school counseling that are currently offered online by accredited colleges and universities.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) offers an online Post-Master’s Certificate in School Counseling program through its Cato College of Education and its Distance Education division. The 12-credit program consists of three graduate courses and a 300-hour supervised school counseling internship. It is designed for students who have already earned a master’s degree in counseling but who would like to add a specialization in school counseling. Students in the program are not required to attend any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit UNC Charlotte’s Distance Education division at distanceed.uncc.edu.
Wilmington University in New Castle, DE offers a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Counseling that can be completed in a 100% online format that does not require students to attend any campus-based sessions. The 18-credit program consists of six graduate courses that are designed to prepare school counselors for emerging challenges in the field while earning credits that can be applied toward recertification in school counseling. Applicants to the program must hold a master’s degree and be employed as a school counselor. For more information on the program, visit Wilmington University at www.wilmu.edu.
Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, KY offers an online Graduate Certificate in School Counseling that is designed for students who hold a master’s degree in counseling and want to specialize in school counseling. The program consists of four courses that confer 12 graduate credits. The program can be completed in one year and does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit Campbellsville University at online.campbellsville.edu.
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