Master’s in School Counseling

Master’s in School Counseling


As an educator, you want to help students reach their potential — academically, socio-emotionally, spiritually, and vocationally. Perhaps you’ve wondered how you can make more of a difference.

PLNU's fully online asynchronous school counseling program equips you to transform your school or university one student at a time. We accept applicants throughout the State of California for our Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) in School Counseling. Both the M.A. and M.S. tracks have the same unit requirements but differ in the career trajectory you can pursue. Those who enroll in the M.A. track are equipped to continue working with students in a school environment. The M.S. track, however, prepares you to continue your education and pursue a doctoral degree. 

Our M.A. track can be taken with or without the Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential, but it's recommended if you want to work in a counseling role in the state of California’s public school system.  

You'll be prepared to serve your students with excellence, grounded in the theories and history of school-based counseling practices while also developing your own expertise — all under the guidance of knowledgeable mentors and expert faculty within PLNU's School of Education. You'll also be empowered to develop students and young adults to achieve their fullest potential.

When you join PLNU’s master’s in school counseling program, you'll challenge yourself to become a more effective counselor. Everyone you encounter here will share that goal with you — from your admissions counselor to your professors. Rest assured, PLNU’s School of Education will take a personal interest in you and care about your concerns, experience, beliefs, and goals.

M.A. vs. M.S. Comparison

  Masters of Arts (M.A.) Masters of Science (M.S.)

Who it's for

The master of arts designates a terminal ending of the candidate’s scholarship; the degree is designed with a final action research project that integrates the candidate’s learning in the program with a field-based project that draws conclusions that are practical, relevant, and reflective of the candidate’s teaching or leadership experience.

The master of science prepares a candidate for future scholarship in an area of interest. The candidate completes a five-chapter thesis that includes a relevant literature review, applies research methodology, and critically analyzes data to inform practice and theory. This degree provides a direct pathway into the proposed PLNU Ed.D. doctoral program.

Program start

Spring, summer, fall Spring, summer, fall

Program Structure

Online Online






*Approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and meets the requirements for educator certification in the state of California.


*Approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and meets the requirements for educator certification in the state of California.

Program Highlights  Receive your M.A. online in the state of California, have a flexible schedule, work closely with your local district partnerships, add customizable added authorizations, and develop knowledge and skills that align with professional standards.

Receive your M.S. online in the state of California, have a flexible schedule, work closely with your local district partnerships, add customizable added authorizations, and develop knowledge and skills that align with professional standards.



Yes Yes

International Students 


Yes Yes



Azucena Gonzalez

Student Profile

PLNU student Azucena Gonzalez found her calling to become a guidance counselor through PLNU's master's in education.

Watch Video:
Education FOFY

Lasting Network of Support

PLNU’s Education Associates alumni network 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.

Relevant Topics to Meet Real Needs

Our embedded PPS credential allows you to meet the requirements to work as a counselor in the California public school system right after graduation. For those seeking to further their education, our M.S. in School Counseling requires a master’s thesis that prepares you for doctorate work. 

District partnerships ensure PLNU’s curriculum addresses current needs and topics facing counselors. In addition to offering accredited programs grounded in research, PLNU equips you to integrate your beliefs, values, and goals with your school counseling practice.

Customizable and Convenient

Achieve greater impact with your career by earning your master’s in school counseling. You'll gain the skills and degree you need to advance or simply be more effective where you are. You'll also do so in an environment where your goals and passion are shared and valued. At PLNU, we're here to partner with you and give you the kind of holistic care you know every student deserves.

A master’s in school counseling with the embedded Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential prepares you to be able to serve students as a school counselor in an elementary, middle, or high school setting. 

PLNU's fully online asynchronous program allows you to work toward your degree at a pace that works best for you. You have the flexibility to craft your own schedule.

Accreditation: WSCUC

When you and your classmates complete PLNU’s master’s in school counseling, you'll be prepared to:


  • Maintain competencies in knowledge, skills of the school counseling profession, and attitudes that demonstrate the ability to ethically implement, maintain, and advocate for a results-based counseling program.


  • Promote the comprehensive counseling program, modeling servant leadership that focuses on positive outcomes for diverse school communities in the belief that all students can learn and succeed.


  • Engage in ongoing professional self-evaluation and personal self-reflection using the professional dispositions expected of educators. Assess student needs routinely and use technology to conduct, analyze, and evaluate research data and communicate results to all school stakeholders.

Professional Licensure or Certification

This program is approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and meets the requirements for educator certification in the state of California, where Point Loma Nazarene University is physically located. PLNU cannot confirm whether or not specific programs meet out-of-state requirements for professional licensure or certification. Information about out-of-state requirements in teacher credentialing is available on this website

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A Reputation for Excellence: PLNU Forms Committed San Diego Educators

PLNU's School of Education is one of the top producers of education candidates not only within San Diego, but the state of California. Read more about the work being done at PLNU.

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 2024 Quad I — September 2, 2024
  • Fall 2024 Quad II — October 28, 2024
  • Spring 2025 Quad I — January 13, 2025
  • Spring 2025 Quad II — March 17, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad I — May 12, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad II — July 7, 2025

Note: Not all programs offer entry for new students each quad. Check with your enrollment counselor for programs and start dates.

Application Deadline(s):

  • Fall 2024 Quad I — August 21, 2024
  • Fall 2024 Quad II — October 16, 2024
  • Spring 2025 Quad I — December 11, 2024
  • Spring 2025 Quad II — February 28, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad I — April 25, 2025
  • Summer 2025 Quad II — June 20, 2025

Start Application

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 exceptions process.

To be admitted into PLNU's master’s in school counseling must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript.

Admissions Interview: You may be eligible for an interview waiver. Eligibility can be discussed in more depth with a PLNU admissions counselor once you've started your application. 

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 alums, 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:

    *Please note, official transcripts must be sent directly from the regionally accredited institution.
  3. Submit a personal essay, 2-3 pages in length and double-spaced.
  4. Once you have submitted your admissions application, your two selected professional recommenders will automatically be sent the auto-generated document to complete on your behalf. If you'd life to include a written letter in addition to this required document, you may do so, but it's unnecessary.
  5. Basic Skills Requirement: Senate Bill 153 (Chap. 38, Stats 2024), effective June 29, 2024, makes two changes to the California Basic Skills Requirement (BSR). Specifically, the bill adds a provision that allows possession of a bachelor’s (or higher) degree earned at a regionally accredited college or university to meet the Basic Skills Requirement (BSR). The bill also removes the BSR as a requirement for earning any credential or permit where the applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree. 

Start Application

*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

PLNU’s master’s in school counseling is designed to help you advance your career in counseling.

The program is ideal for:

  • Elementary School Counselors
  • Middle or High School Counselors
  • Career Counselors

*Those seeking a career in counseling outside of the California public school system can complete the M.A. program without the PPS credential.

Angie Winkler headshot

Student Profile

Angie Winkler: Changing Lives as a Counselor

PLNU graduate student Angie Winkler shares how God led her to the calling of school counseling — and to go back to school to get her M.A. in Education and a Counseling and Guidance, Pupil Personnel Services Credential — in an unconventional way ... a trip "down under" to Gold Coast, Australia.

Read More

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's required to be admitted into this program?

To be admitted into PLNU's master's in school counseling 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. You'll also need to take a basic skills test, such as the CBEST, if you're interested in earning a credential as part of your degree. 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?

Our courses are conveniently held in the evenings and fully online for you to work during the day. However, because fieldwork hours will need to be completed during school hours, you will not be able to work full time while enrolled in fieldwork. Fieldwork begins later in the program and consists of 200 hours per semester. A total of 800 hours is required for the program. Check with your employer to see if they offer flexible hours to support your education, especially while fulfilling the fieldwork requirement.

What scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available to me?

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

What if I'd like to earn a certificate or added authorization without completing a master’s degree?

This option is available.

How long does it take to complete the program?

Completion of the degree and credential depends almost entirely upon the energy, confidence, motivation, and availability of the student to complete fieldwork. The entire M.A. program can be achieved within 16-18 months. The entire M.S. program can be achieved within 16-26 months. A student’s financial aid package can, at times, dictate the academic load that must be maintained.

When are courses offered?

Courses for the degree program are offered in eight-week quads throughout the calendar year. While many of the courses are offered in a traditional classroom, face-to-face environment, others are offered online. Some classes are offered in both formats and provide students with a choice of instructional delivery.

How many days a week do classes meet?

The program is offered fully online asynchronous to complete courses when it works best for your schedule.

How large will the classes be?

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

Are international students eligible to apply?

Yes! As an international student, you can apply as a senior in university or any time after you obtain your bachelor’s degree. If you earned your baccalaureate degree outside of the United States, all documents must be translated into English and evaluated by members of National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). You must also submit official proof of English proficiency (TOEFL). Please contact Graduate Financial Aid and Student Support Services for more information.

We also will accept a 110 minimum score from DuoLingo as proof of proficiency. 

PLNU is a Christian university, but I am not a Christian. Would I feel out of place in this program?

We welcome and encourage people of all backgrounds as students in our programs. Issues that relate to faith may be discussed in some classes, and engaging in discussion with individuals with alternative points of view will be encouraged as learning opportunities. Students will work within a learning community that is supportive academically, spiritually, and emotionally.

How do district partnerships work?

PLNU has agreements with districts throughout the San Diego and Bakersfield areas. PLNU will place you at a district to complete your fieldwork hours and clinical practice (student teaching hours).

What if I would like to earn a certificate or added authorization without completing a master’s degree?

This option is available.

For whom is this degree appropriate?

Candidates who complete the Master of Arts degree in School Counseling with a PPS California credential are certified for the diverse professional responsibilities of a k-12 guidance counselor (school counselor) for an elementary, middle, or high school in California.

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

The master's in school counseling is geared toward seasoned education professionals or business professionals who instruct others as part of their work. For aspiring teachers, PLNU offers a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). The MAT is most likely to meet your needs if you have just completed your undergraduate degree or are transitioning to education from another field, but please contact your enrollment counselor if you would like more personalized information.

How many units does the master’s degree with PPS Credential require?

This degree program consists of 50 semester units with the PPS credential. The degree program without the PPS credential consists of 39 units. 

What other master’s students will I be in coursework with?

PLNU's master's in school counseling degree shares the following courses which apply to candidates seeking deeper knowledge and practice across professional venues:
• Cultural Competence in a Pluralistic Society
• Advanced Educational Psychology
• Educational Measurement and Evaluation
• Personal and Educational Philosophy
In fact, students from PLNU's School of Nursing also take these shared courses from our School of Education, adding depth of experience and exposure to how a variety of professionals apply these important concepts.

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 towards another credential or degree program.

Course List

For information about the courses required for the master’s in school counseling program, view the PLNU catalog.

M.A. Course Information M.S. Course Information

Department Faculty