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Information on Master of Arts (MA) Degree Program in Guidance Counseling

Majors Overview July 27, 2015

This article talks about Master of Arts (M.A.) degree programs in Guidance Counseling and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education and licensing choices.

Master of Arts (M.A.) Degree Programs in Guidance Counseling

Individuals who want to gain the skills needed to address students’ social, academic, and career needs meaningfully and accurately would benefit from enrolling in a Master of Arts (M.A.) program in Guidance Counseling. Enrollees could learn a wide array of counseling theories, techniques, and applications in counseling through group work, research, internships, and a practicum. In many programs, coursework enables enrolled students to meet the requirements for certification as a school counselor or teacher, to enable them to seek work in a public school. Students take 2-3 years to complete most graduate degree programs in guidance counseling. In some schools, a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree program in School Counseling is offered through an online or hybrid format.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree and meet a minimum undergraduate GPA standard. Although schools prefer a background in education, psychology, or child development, other majors are also allowed to enroll in some schools. However, schools may insist on undergraduate coursework in teacher training or educational psychology.


Coursework has to meet several standards as stipulated by the Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a school counseling program. These standards include lessons in diversity training, counseling roles, career development and behavioral growth. Accordingly, core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Cultural considerations
•Counseling practices
•Academic and career counseling
•Student assessment
•Substance abuse and addictions
•Child development
•Abnormal psychology

Career Choices

Program graduates seek careers where they would have to guide and shape a child’s vocational and educational direction during a pivotal part of the child’s life. Students may find help with personal problems, academic issues, and career planning, among other types of challenges. The job involves advocating a student or tapping into other support systems to fulfill a need. Skills covered in an MA degree program typically include those applicable to counseling jobs in many environments, including career placement organizations, colleges, or mental health facilities. Program graduates seeking education-specific careers may seek employment in private or public high, middle or elementary schools. They may also seek university-level positions as career counselors or academic advisors.

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, a job growth rate of 12% has been predicted for school and career counselors (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2014, educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors brought in an average annual wage of $56,040 (BLS).

Continuing Education and Licensing Choices

Each state may have its licensing requirements varying in terms of the required teacher licensing, degree, experience, and exams. Common requirements include some form of licensure through examination and a master’s degree. Continuing education is common, and reciprocity agreements commonly exist between states. Counselors can also seek other educational options, such as a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) with a school counseling focus or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

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