M.A. in Education with a specialization in College Counseling and Student Development

M.A. in Education with a specialization in College Counseling and Student Development


College is a critical stage in anyone’s life journey. Beyond simply getting accepted, students need the proper resources and professionals to help them thrive through college and beyond. Be a part of helping college students succeed.

PLNU’s Master of Arts in Education with a specialization in College Counseling and Student Development (CCSD) is designed to prepare graduates to serve in a variety of roles in which they’ll help students from traditional, nontraditional, and special populations succeed at any two- or four-year college or university.

The CCSD program at PLNU is fully online and consists of 36 semester units of course work, including 350 hours of required fieldwork in a higher education context. Fieldwork is tiered with some initial requirements completed through assignments, observations, informational interviews, workshops, or conferences leading to a field placement when 250 hours are completed over two semesters (125 hours per semester).

Some courses require hours aligned with an assignment and may be completed at the same time as fieldwork. CCSD students will also have access to departments and individuals who may help them complete these course requirements, and students will complete a thesis project based on their specific research interests. PLNU graduate services and the CCSD program provide ongoing support for students in the way of faculty advising, fieldwork placement, writing, career services, and thesis coaching.

Lasting Network of Support

PLNU’s education alumni network, Education Associates, keeps you connected long after graduation. Faculty members have a reputation for staying in touch and continuing to mentor students. Career counseling and additional professional development opportunities are always available to you.

Professional Preparedness

Courses are aligned with industry standards that prepare graduate students to enter a career in higher education or leverage for the next step in their current position. Graduates apply relevant knowledge and research that can be used to design, implement or manage programs to support the success of college students. 

Accreditation — WSCUC

Pursue your Purpose

Discover a deeper understanding of your purpose as it relates to serving the overall well-being of college student success.

Upon completion of PLNU's M.A. in Education with a specialization in College Counseling and Student Development (CCSD), graduates will be able to/demonstrate:

  1. A proficient understanding of the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for various roles in higher education contexts.
  2. Identify leadership theories, skills, and competencies required to effectively manage and lead in higher education.
  3. Application of research-based academic advising/counseling when assisting college students to persist, engage, and thrive.
  4. Utilize cultural literacy, humility, and flexibility in anti-racism practices in education planning, career goals, advising, personal development, and postsecondary transitions.
  5. Understand how to engage in meaningful discussions and actions that contribute to the promotion of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion on a college campus.
  6. Demonstrate critical thinking in understanding historical, political, and societal factors that have influenced higher education as an embedded part of United States society, including current trends in innovation and globalization.
  7. Design college student programming, implementation, and assessment of the needs of diverse and identity-based populations at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and in various higher education contexts (e.g., community colleges and four-year IHEs).
  8. Support students in utilizing successful learning practices in their program or course modality; remote, online, hybrid, or face-to-face formats.
  9. Utilize data and research to inform decision-making in planning to address contemporary issues in higher education (e.g., anti-racism, crisis management, mental health, risk assessment, substance abuse education, violence prevention, health and wellness practices, and spiritual/faith identity development, career readiness, and much more.)
  10. Understand how to research, analyze, and apply ethical and legal standards in student affairs.
  11. Understand how to apply student development theories in leadership and management roles related to the support of emerging adults.

Professional Licensure or Certification

This program is approved by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College & University Commission (WSCUC), where Point Loma Nazarene University is physically located. Credential programs such as the PPS and teaching credentials within PLNU’s School of Education are approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Information about out-of-state requirements in teacher credentialing is available on this website.

Application Information

Are you ready to take the next step and apply?

We're here to make the entire process a simple one. We'll walk you through the application process, answer your questions, and get you one step closer to earning your degree.

Program Start Date(s):

  • Fall 2022 Quad I — August 29, 2022
  • Fall 2022 Quad II — October 24, 2022
  • Spring 2023 Quad I — January 9, 2023
  • Spring 2023 Quad II — March 13, 2023

Application Deadline(s):

  • Fall 2022 Quad I — August 1, 2022
  • Fall 2022 Quad II — October 10, 2022
  • Spring 2023 Quad I — December 19, 2022
  • Spring 2023 Quad II — February 22, 2023

The Selection Process

The educational context at PLNU will challenge you to live a full life that integrates the pursuit of knowledge with beliefs, values, and actions. While honoring diverse perspectives and beliefs, Christian values and principles are woven into the educational experience. We understand your application is not only a reflection of you as a student; it reflects you as a person. At PLNU, we holistically evaluate your academic history, work and life experience, background, and circumstances to determine admission into a graduate program. Your undergraduate GPA is an important piece of your application, but if you do not meet the minimum GPA requirement of a 3.0, you may still be eligible for admission based on your application package as well as the exceptions policy per your particular program.* Therefore, we strongly encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor, who will advise you regarding your qualifications and provide specific information about the admission under the exceptions process.

To be admitted into PLNU's Master of Arts in Education program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript.

If you have any questions about your qualifications or the program in general, we encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor.

Application Checklist

Note: The application is completed entirely online with the exception of transcripts, which can be submitted electronically or directly to PLNU, and test scores, which should be submitted electronically.

  1. Submit an online application for admissions (including $50 non-refundable application fee, which is waived for PLNU alumni, current or former military and their dependents, and PLNU employees).
  2. Submit official transcripts with proof of earned baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution. (If you are a PLNU alumnus, please notify your counselor to have your transcripts retrieved. You do not need to request transcripts from the PLNU Office of Records.)

    Official transcripts must be sent to:
    Point Loma Nazarene University
    Office of Graduate Admissions
    3900 Lomaland Dr.
    San Diego, CA 92106

    Official electronic transcripts must be emailed to:
  3. Submit a personal essay, two-three pages in length and double spaced, that addresses the following topics:
    1. Describe your professional career goals for the next five years.
    2. Describe the variety of experiences that helped you determine these goals.
    3. Explain what motivates you to work in California’s diverse schools.
    4. Explain why you are applying to PLNU, a private Christian university.
  4. Provide two professional recommendations. You will be asked to register your recommenders by providing their names, titles, and email addresses.

*Exceptions Policy: If you have below a 3.0 GPA in your baccalaureate degree, you will need to speak with your enrollment counselor for more information on the exceptions materials needed for your particular program.

Career Opportunities

Specific career opportunities are generally within student affairs or related areas such as: counseling within a community college context, advising, career services, disability services, residential life, enrollment counselors, and other student support services related to the growth, development, and success of college students (traditional and nontraditional). Individuals who seek the CCSD graduate program desire entry-level positions in higher education, or are current professionals in higher education who desire to deepen their knowledge of student development theory and practice in order to expand their career opportunities.

Financial Aid and Student Support

We take seriously the role of providing you with financial, academic, and career support so you have the tools you need to be successful at PLNU and beyond. That’s why we offer a holistic support system that focuses on your unique experiences, particular needs, and personal and professional goals — resulting from our deep concern for you, our student.

With a focus on authentic relationships and personalized attention, our goal is to help transform you so you can follow your calling in your own career and life.

Financial Aid and Student Support

Frequently Asked Questions

What is required to be admitted into this program?

To be admitted into PLNU's Master of Arts in Education program, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript. You must also have an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. If you don’t meet the minimum GPA requirement, please contact your enrollment counselor regarding the exceptions process. All applicants will also need to submit a writing sample and complete an interview.

See the application checklist to learn more about what's required to apply and be admitted into the program.

Can I work while completing the Program?

Yes! As a fully online program, the CCSD program allows you to complete your classes while working, and many candidates for this program are already working in higher education. Be aware that during your two fieldwork semesters, you will likely require some flexibility with your job schedule. Check with your employer to see if they can offer flexible hours to support your education while fulfilling fieldwork requirements. There may be some remote options for fieldwork, but this is not guaranteed.

What scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available to me?

You will have the option to apply for scholarships, grants, loans, and other special types of aid through Student Financial Services. Contact your enrollment counselor for more information.

Do I have to attend my online classes at a particular time?

This program is fully online, meaning classes are asynchronous. However, a required fieldwork component and reflective coaching are built into the program, as well as optional networking and connection opportunities that will enhance your experience if you can attend them. 

What does thesis coaching look like in this program?

Your thesis instructor serves as your professor for the thesis course but also as your coach as they help facilitate and support you through the thesis process.

How do I complete my field hours?

The fieldwork hours for the CCSD program are a total of 350 hours; 100 hours will be strategically embedded into foundational coursework and 250 hours are completed over two semesters; 125 hours each semester. The fieldwork coordinator and faculty work closely with candidates and host sites to support the fieldwork requirements. 

Of the 50 hours embedded in GED 6071S Seminar in College Counseling and Student Development, 30 hours can be met through conferences, workshops, or presentations that focus on the knowledge, skills, and research associated with student affairs/development in higher education.

How long does it take to complete this program?

Completion of the degree depends almost entirely upon the energy, confidence, motivation, and availability of the individual student’s schedule and life circumstances. While the entire program can be achieved within an 18-month period of time, it is more common for students to take 24 months. A student’s financial aid package can, at times, dictate the academic load that must be maintained.

When are the courses offered?

Courses for the degree program are offered in eight-week quads throughout the calendar year. While some of PLNU’s education programs are hybrid, the College Counseling and Student Development program is fully online.

How large will my classes be?

Classes are intentionally small. Most education classes won’t exceed 30 students and will generally have between 15 and 20 students.

For whom is this degree appropriate?

The CCSD specialization is intended for candidates who are currently working in higher education in various roles, including student affairs, admissions or enrollment, or other student support service departments, or for those looking to begin a new career in this field.

If you’re hoping to work with high school students, you should instead consider the Pupil Personnel Services Credential program.

If you’re looking to become a teacher at the elementary or high school level, you should consider a Master of Arts in Teaching.

I’m not yet working in education. Is this the right program for me?

If you’re looking to enter a career in higher education because you’re excited to serve diverse college/university student populations, then, yes. If you’re looking to become a k-12 school counselor or teacher, you should consider a Master of Arts in Teaching or another related program.

How many units does the CCSD require?

36 units

Will this program prepare me to work in a high school setting?

No, if you want to work in a high school setting, you will need to complete a Masters of Education in Counseling in Guidance along with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential.

Can I earn both the PPS credential and the CCSD specialization, both within the Counseling and Guidance degree?

Yes. To do so, you must first follow the PPS course sequence and complete that degree in its entirety, including fieldwork. Then you would add the following courses, resulting in one master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, with a PPS credential and a College Counseling and Student Development specialization. 

Is a master’s thesis required to earn the degree?

Yes. Within every master’s program within PLNU’s School of Education, students are required to complete a four-unit course called culminating research and design. This course is designed to prepare students for the research and the writing of a master research paper focused on a single research question. After successful completion of this course, students will receive a university mentor to guide them in completing their research project. It is important to note that a second master’s research project must be completed in each area for which a candidate seeks a specialization.

How many units can I transfer in from other universities?

Students can transfer up to six graduate units from other schools toward the degree — providing that coursework is less than seven years old and was not counted toward another credential or degree program.

Course List

For information about the courses required for the M.A. in Education with a specialization in College Counseling and Student Development program, view the PLNU Catalog. 

Course Information

Department Faculty