South Dakota Masters in School Counseling Programs
What is a Masters in School Counseling?
School counseling graduate programs prepare aspiring school counselors to help students thrive in and out of the classroom. Because school counselors tend to work within an individual school directly with students, graduate program content may focus on the roles and responsibilities inherent to that type of setting.
Students might study issues related to classroom success, such as behavioral and learning disabilities. Or they might explore one-on-one counseling strategies, and even discuss the legal and practical considerations of providing special education services at the school and district level.
School counseling graduate programs may also vary by degree level and program focus. So whether you're interested in research or practical applications, elementary school counseling or high school, there may be a great school counseling program for you.
Choosing School Counseling Graduate Programs
There may be as many types of school counseling graduate programs as there are students. Your choice may hinge on a few key factors. This includes the level of the degree you’re looking for, your goals, and the type of experiences you seek. First, consider what areas of school counseling most interest you. Do you want to study in a program that is more theoretical, with an academic and research focus? Or look at practical applications of counseling theory within a school setting?
Additionally, some school counseling graduate programs might concentrate on a specific population. That could be an age group, or a certain type of behavioral, physical, or learning disability. For example, the kinds of things a school counselor might need to know in an elementary school may vary considerably from a high school setting. Elementary school counselors might focus on helping students develop certain behavioral and emotional
skills like organization, making positive decisions, and developing strategies to cope with behavior challenges. At the high school level, school counselors might still help students cope with emotional challenges and other personal issues. But beyond that, they may also guide students through the planning process to move on from high school, such as deciding on a career path, applying to colleges, or attending a vocational school.i
Finally, the opportunities offered outside the classroom may be an important factor. Someone aiming to jumpstart a new career may want the chance to observe in the field. Obtaining guided, hands-on experience in real-world settings could be a major consideration. Others may look for programs with research in areas of interest, or opportunities to design and conduct their own studies. Every program is different, so read descriptions carefully and contact schools directly for details.
Types of Schools Counseling Graduate Programs
Another important factor to finding a perfect school counseling program is the type of degree you choose to pursue. School counseling graduate programs may be available at a variety of levels, each with their own requirements and goals.
Earn Your Master’s Degree in School Counseling
In many areas, a masters in school counseling is a prerequisite to be able to work as a school counselor.i As such, most of these programs are designed to accommodate students moving into the field from the first time. That could be from a relevant bachelor’s program, or from another part of the education field, such as teaching.
School counseling masters programs may offer a few different degrees, each with their own unique approach to the subject matter. Types of masters degrees you might consider include the following.
- Master of Education in School Counseling (MEd): These degree programs are generally associated with a school of education, and as such, may emphasize educational principles and values as they apply to a school counselor role. They may develop more generalized education knowledge and skills in addition to clinical counseling techniques.
- Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) in School Counseling: In a general sense, there tends to be little difference between MA and MS programs in school counseling. Each may vary greatly depending on the school they’re offered by. However, often, an MA or MS in School Counseling might focus somewhat more heavily on the psychology and counseling side of school counseling, compared to more education-centric MEd programs.
- Educational Specialist (EdS) in School Counseling: An EdS in School Counseling is technically a step between a masters and doctorate, requiring additional coursework beyond what is generally required for a masters. Educational Specialist programs in school counseling, like MEd programs, tend to be offered by schools of education, and as such emphasize educational techniques, knowledge, and principles in their curricula.
- Psychology Specialist (PsyS) in School Counseling: As with the EdS above, a School Counseling PsyS stands between masters and doctorate. Unlike the EdS, however, these programs are generally associated with schools of psychology, and as such, the course content may focus more heavily on clinical counseling practice.
One consideration to keep in mind when choosing your masters program is the thesis requirement. If you are planning to go on and earn your doctorate, choosing a program including a thesis may be an advantage for you. On the other hand, if you hope to go straight into the field, a program focused on gaining more practical experience may be a preferable.
School Counseling Doctoral Programs
School counseling doctoral programs tend to be designed to support a specific objective or career path. For example, one might be designed for current and aspiring school and district administrators, while another might emphasize research practices. As a result, a variety of unique doctoral programs may be available, which could support your specific educational and professional goals.
Types of doctorate degrees you might pursue include the following.
- PhD in School Counseling
- Doctor of Education in School Counseling (EdD)
- Doctor of Psychology in School Counseling (PsyD)
While individual programs may vary widely, in some cases, the type of degree conferred could tell you a little about the program. For example, an EdD program may often be offered through a school of education, and focus on educational principles and how they relate to counseling, and vice versa. Similarly, a PsyD program would be associated with a psychology school and may emphasize clinical skills and psychology research. Meanwhile, a PhD may be a little broader in scope, and might spend more time focusing on research methodologies and similar topics. For more information on degree types and what they entail, reach out to the school in question.
Graduate Certificates in School Counseling
School counseling graduate certificate programs may be offered at the masters level or higher. They tend to require fewer courses than their respective degrees, and thus might be earned in somewhat less time. Some graduate certificates might be designed to accommodate those with a relevant education and career background, but who are new to school counseling. These may provide a brief overview of the field and act as a gateway to a longer masters program. Others might aim to build on school counselor education and experience with additional skills or specialization.
Sometimes, the latter might be referred to as an endorsement or an extension. That essentially means it’s a credential that, added on to your degree, emphasizes your qualification to act in a unique capacity. For more information on what options are available to you in a specific program, reach out to them for more information.
School Counselor Programs Example Curriculum
School counseling graduate programs span a broad spectrum. As such, the specific curriculum you find may depend on factors including the type of degree you’re earning, the kind of role your program is designed to support, the perspective and values of that particular school, among other factors.
However, many different school counseling graduate programs might share a few essential topics. Here’s an example of the types of things you might study.
- Educational Research: This topic could include the basics of designing and conducting educational research, as well as understanding findings and applying them in real-life scenarios. Some programs may even include opportunities to get involved with research projects or potentially conduct your own.
- Counseling Techniques: Many programs dedicate time to the clinical side of counseling. Courses might cover a variety of strategies and techniques to help young students thrive.
- Developmental Psychology: If you have a background in education, you may have touched on developmental psychology previously. Programs offering school counseling degrees may go beyond the basics, especially within the context of providing counseling services and identifying behavioral, emotional, and learning needs of students at different stages.
- Testing and Assessment: School counseling programs may cover the ins and outs of assessing students identified as potentially having learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, etc. This could also touch on identifying students who may be in need of testing.
- Crisis Intervention: These courses could cover the impact of a variety of trauma and crisis situations on a personal, family, and societal level, and how a school counselor might respond to those scenarios. This could include assessing crisis situations, responding to trauma situations, intervention strategies, and more.
- Psychology of Learning: This complex topic could expand to multiple courses, touching on specific types of learning disabilities, language acquisitions, and differentiation strategies. Additionally, it could touch on a school counselor’s potential role on an IEP or behavioral plan team, creating strategies to help a student succeed in overcoming a specific obstacle to learning.
- Multicultural & Diverse Counseling: School counseling graduate programs may also examine the diverse needs of students from a variety of backgrounds, and how that could impact counseling strategies. This could include religious and cultural factors, different types of families, socioeconomic status, physical and intellectual disability, and more.
School Counseling Internships and Fieldwork
In addition to coursework, graduate school counseling programs may have an additional field-work component, in the form of an internship or practicum requirement. Field experiences could range from short-term externships and observations, to extended field placements under the guidance of a professional. In the case of a practicum, this field experience would be rolled into a formal course, with specific academic expectations and sometimes a project or portfolio at the end. Internships, meanwhile, more closely emulate what it would be like to work independently once you graduate. Field experience is often a requirement for state certification, though the specifics may vary.i So reach out to your selected schools for more information if this is something that interests you.
Guidance Counseling Graduate Program Formats
Once you have decided to pursue school counseling graduate programs, it may be helpful to identify the perfect format to fit into your life and support your educational success. Whether you feel you work best in a traditional classroom, or need as much flexibility as possible, options may be available for your consideration.
On Campus School Counseling Graduate Programs
Earning your school counseling degree in a graduate school may be a good fit for you if you work best learning face to face. School counseling programs anchored on a local campus generally have the stability of a more regular schedule. They also may have a community atmosphere, enabling students to collaborate and debate in the classroom in addition to attending lectures.
Possibly the biggest perk of studying on campus? The resources your school counseling graduate program could offer you. In addition to what you might expect—libraries, classrooms, computer labs—some graduate programs boast lab spaces that simulate a real work environment, facilities for research, and access to the same technology professionals use when working in schools! That possibility, combined with the support of your program and career services, means you could get the hands-on experience you need before you graduate.
Online School Counseling Graduate Programs
Online school counseling graduate programs programs bring advanced study to your computer, whether that’s at home, in the office, or on the go—as long as you’re using a compatible device and have a stable internet connection, at least. Studying school counseling online means you could choose from programs across the country, without having to worry about moving or commuting. A big plus if you are interested in a focus area only offered by some programs. And if you’re already working—whether you’re a teacher, or already work as a school counselor—the flexibility that brings means you could continue being there for your students while you study. You can also readily find online school counseling programs that don't require you to take the GRE if that helps!
Hybrid School Counseling Graduate Programs
Hybrid school counseling graduate programs combine many of the qualities of online and graduate school learning. For students who aren’t sure which they’d prefer, this could be a useful compromise. In essence, these programs are still associated with a local campus, but offer online coursework to increase flexibility and accommodate student schedules and learning preferences. So you could still have access to valuable lab space, technology, and face-to-face support, even while you’re taking courses online, and being there for your students every day.
How To Become A Guidance Counselor or School Counselori
If you want to work as a guidance counselor, or a school counselor, you will likely need to earn a master’s degree. However, there are a few other potential requirements. In addition to earning a graduate school counselor degree, you may also need pursue a license or certification to practice in a public school setting. These are generally issued by the state. As such, the requirements may vary depending where you are but typically look like those listed below.
- Minimum education (e.g. a master’s degree in school counseling)
- Field experience completed under professional guidance (such as a practicum or internship)
- Professional experience working in an educational setting (such as being a classroom teacher)
- Criminal background check
These and other requirements may vary on a case by case basis. For more information on what you might need to do, contact the state regulating board where you intend to work, or get in touch with your selected school counseling graduate programs.
Top 1School Counseling Graduate Programs in South Dakota
- Aberdeen, SDAberdeen, SD
Northern State University
Students selecting school counseling will be prepared to counsel children K-12 in private or parochial schools.