Comparing School Counselor Masters Programs and School Psychology Masters Programs

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School psychologists are highly-trained professionals who have built expertise in both psychology and education, and work at helping both children and youth succeed in the school and in life by diagnosing and solving academic, social, behavioral and emotional problems. School psychologists work in school and school systems, hospitals and clinics, community health centers, universities, mental health institutions, the juvenile justice system and in private practice.

School counseling graduates receive similar training in both psychology and education, though shorter. While most school psychology master’s programs take up to three years to grant a specialist degree, school counselor masters programs take two years and only require 600 hours of internship training compared to 1200 required for school psychologists. Also, school counselors tend to work with the general population of students while school psychologists focus more on children with special needs. A good resource for those interested in school counseling is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

In order to become a school psychologist, you need to receive at least a master’s degree in school psychology. Other levels of training are specialist (a graduate degree with 60 credit hours or more), and doctoral degrees (Psy.D., Ed.D. and Ph.D.). You also need to be licensed by your state in order to practice and you may also receive national certification from the National School Psychology Certification Board (NSPCB). A good resource for all those interested in a career in school psychology is the National Association of School Psychology (NASP).

Tuition and Fees

According to, the online college and graduate school directory, there are 312 programs in the United States that offer a master’s degree in school psychology and 606 that offer a master’s in counselor education or school counseling. These include private and state institutions and the tuition and fees vary accordingly with state schools being the cheapest if you are a resident and will pay in-state tuition, and private schools costing the most. In some schools such as at the University of Delaware, in-state tuition does not apply to graduate programs and all students are charged the same tuition regardless of residency., estimated that the average cost for a master’s degree in clinical psychology in 2009 was about $6000 for in-state tuition and about $14,000 for those paying out-of-state tuition. In addition, bear in mind that if you are looking at private schools, the cost rises considerably to about $50,000 or more. For example attending Loyola University Chicago will cost you $52,000 in tuition alone for 60 credit hours, not adding other fees. Therefore there is no one-size-fits-all approach to determine the average cost for a master’s degree in school psychology or in school counseling. Find a program you like and weigh the total out-of-pocket costs to you after you have considered scholarships, grants and financial aid.

Other Costs

In addition to the standard tuition costs listed above, you should also remember that there are other fees that may be charged by schools including, a health center fee, student activity fees and lab fees. Also factor in your living expenses and this will depend on the cost of living of the city in which your program is located. Not to be forgotten is state and national licensing and certification fees once you complete your program.

Finally since these are professional degrees that require certification without which you will not be able to practice, this is a case where going to a prestigious private school without receiving significant funding may not make the most financial sense because what determines that you work as a school psychologist or school counselor is your license and certification and not where you received your degree.