Online master’s in counseling degree programs are offered by a variety of institutions. Whether the institution is a traditional brick-and-mortar institution or an online-online school, most of the graduate counseling degree programs offered online require short four to eight day residency periods, which are designed to help students practice the application of counseling techniques in person.
Ranking The Top 10 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs
All of the universities on this list of top ten online master’s in counseling degrees are accredited regionally. Other accreditations vary from school to school. The schools are ranked according to reputation. While the online-only schools tend to offer a greater range of degree programs online, the reputation of the non-profit traditional institutions tends to outweigh the variety offered by their often for-profit online only competitors and are a good place to start for someone looking to get a counseling degree.
#1. Capella University: Master of Science in Counseling
Executive Summary: Fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), Capella University is a private online institution with curriculum specifically designed for experienced working professionals. Based in Minneapolis, Capella has been awarded the CHEA Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes. Within the Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Science, the Department of Counseling is committed to offering a variety of counseling programs that are aligned with professional standards of the CACREP.
Tuition: At the Master’s degree level, the tuition rate at Capella University is between $385 and $720 per credit hour with an additional $1,495 for residency if applicable.
Concentrations: Capella University currently offers the following online Master’s level concentration programs relevant to counseling:
• Online Master of Science in Addiction Studies
• Online MS in Clinical Counseling
• Online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling (CACREP-, COAMFTE-accredited)
• Online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling
• Online MS in Sex Therapy
• Online Master of Science in School Counseling
• Online Master of Science in Human Behavior
#2. Wake Forest University: Master’s of Arts in Counseling-Clinical Mental Health
Executive Summary: Wake Forest University’s commitment to excellence and the school’s “Pro Humanitate” (for humanity) philosophy is reflected in its reputation and the quality of its programs. The online master’s in counseling program at Wake Forest is focused on producing caring counselors and human services professionals during a time when so many face difficulty and hardship. 2012-2013 is the online counseling degree program’s first year and one can only hope there is more to come from this prestigious university.
Tuition: Estimated annual tuition at Wake Forest for the MA in Counseling program is $33,000.
Unique Features: Wake Forest University is ranked #27 by U.S. News and World Report’s Annual Guide to America’s Best Colleges and the #33 ranked best value university in the country.
#3. Grand Canyon University: Master of Science in Counseling
Executive Summary: Based in the heart of Phoenix, about four hours from the popular tourist attraction that gives the university its name, Grand Canyon University is a premier private Christian institution that provides quality online or on-campus traditional and non-traditional education for working professional students. According to the U.S. News and World Report, GSU is home to the 63rd best online programs in the nation. The accredited online university was also recognized as a top five online school by Fortune Magazine. The Department of Psychology and Counseling is committed to preparing learners to become global citizens, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders in behavioral science professions.
Tuition: At Grand Canyon University, professional counseling studies programs have a tuition rate of $495 per credit hour.
Concentrations: Fully accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC), Grand Canyon University currently offers the following two Master’s level concentrations related to counseling. Both of these programs have the goal of preparing graduates for licensure by the National Board for Certified Counselors as a LPC or LASAC.
• Online Master of Science in Addictions Counseling
• Online Master of Science in Christian Counseling
• Online MS – Christian Counseling of Substance Use & Addictive Disorders
• Online MS – Mental Health and Wellness
• Online MS – Mental Health and Wellness: Christian Ministry
• Online MS – Mental Health and Wellness: Community Mental Health Administration
• Online MS – Mental Health and Wellness: Prevention
• Online MS – Professional Counseling
#4. University of Massachusetts: Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling
Executive Summary: The University of Massachusetts has been a pioneer of the adoption of online education among its peers. The online MS in Mental Health Counseling program is affordable and one of the strongest options available to prospective counselors seeking a high-quality program from an institution with a strong reputation at an affordable price.
Tuition: Tuition for the online MS in Mental Health Counseling program at UMass is $475.00 per credit, making it one of the most affordable online master’s programs in the field of counseling.
Unique Features: The University of Massachusetts has been recognized by the Sloan Consortium for excellence in online teaching. UMass is ranked #97 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report and ranked by The Times of London as one of the top 20 universities worldwide.
#5. Walden University: Master of Science in Counseling
Executive Summary: With more than 40 decades of experience, Walden University is a private online for-profit institution that supports more than 46,500 adult learners in achieving their academic goals. According to the U.S. News and World Report, Walden is currently nationally recognized for having the 80th best online graduate programs in the nation. The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is dedicated to providing culturally and contextually relevant education programs based on the scholar-practitioner model.
Tuition: Students earning a Master’s degree at Walden University should expect to pay $455 per quarter credit hour, along with a $110 technology fee each quarter.
Concentrations: Walden University is fully accredited by the CACREP to provide the following Master’s level degree concentrations relevant to counseling:
• Online MS – Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Career Counseling
• Online MS – Clinical Mental Health Counseling: General
• Online MS – Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Military Families and Culture
• Online MS – Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Trauma and Crisis
• Online MS – Clinical Psychology: Counseling
#6. Seton Hall University: Master of Arts in Counseling
Executive Summary: SHU is a Roman Catholic school with a 150 year academic tradition as one of the first Roman Catholic universities in the United States. Seton Hall has recently begun offering online programs, bringing their rich academic history to the world of online education. Two short on site residencies are required for the completion of the online counseling degree program.
Unique Features: Seton Hall University is ranked #131 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report.
#7. University of North Dakota: Master of Arts in Counseling
Executive Summary: The University of North Dakota is a state university with a long heritage dating to 1883, before North Dakota became a state. The university is now launching online courses to bring the academic excellence of the University to a wider audience. Online students are charged the same rate as North Dakota Residents making it one of the most affordable online counseling degree programs available.
Unique Features: UND is ranked #171 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report and its psychology programs are highly rated.
#8. Sacred Heart University: Master of Science in Applied Psychology
Executive Summary: This program offers a concentration in Community Psychology. The primary goal of the Community Psychology concentration is to develop counselors capable of meeting the needs of community organizations such as community centers, schools and social services organizations. The focus of this degree is on working with underprivileged, underserved communities in need.
Tuition: The cost of the MS in Applied Psychology program is $700 per credit
Unique Features: Sacred Heart University is ranked #38 among universities in the northern region by U.S. News and World Report.
#9. Liberty University: Master of Arts in Professional Counseling
Executive Summary: Liberty University is a large evangelical Christian university and was one of the first prominent universities of its kind to begin offering online programs. The focus of Liberty’s MA in Professional Counseling program is to help students develop a mastery of professional counseling theory and practice and ground their practice in Christian ethical values.
• Online MA – Pastoral Counseling: Crisis Response & Trauma
• Online MA – Pastoral Counseling: Leadership
• Online MA – Pastoral Counseling: Military Resilience
• Online MA – Professional Counseling (60hr)
Tuition: Liberty University tuition for the MA in Professional Counseling programs is $465.00 per credit, making it one of the cheapest online master’s in counseling degree programs available anywhere.
Unique Features: Liberty University is ranked #65 among universities in the southern region by U.S. News and World Report.
#10. Northcentral University: Master of Arts in Psychology- Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Executive Summary: Northcentral is a private, for-profit university. The online MA in Psychology with a focus on Industrial/Organizational Psychology focuses on preparing students to evaluate the psychological status of employees for corporations, aid in the hiring process and and perform many varied tasks involving the assessment of employee mental health, and when necessary, providing counseling for employees.
Tuition: The cost of Northcentral’s graduate program is $675.00 per credit.
Unique Features: While U.S. News and World Report doesn’t evaluate online counseling degree programs, Northcentral was rated top ten the Faculty Credentials and Training category for the two programs rated by U.S. News and World Reports online education honor roll.
More Exceptional Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs
Our editors couldn’t stop at just 10, so here are three additional great Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs we think you should consider.
Bellevue University: Master of Science in Clinical Counseling
Executive Summary: Bellevue University is fully devoted to providing working adults with the resources and quality programs they need to advance in their careers. 80% of the school’s undergraduates are over the age of 25 and the average of graduate students is even higher, making this an attractive place for adults wishing to complete their degree or earn their graduate degree among their peers.
Tuition: Bellevue’s Online MS in Clinical Counseling program tuition is $495.00 per credit.
Unique Features: Bellevue was awarded the prestigious “21st Century Best Practices Award” by the United States Distance Learning Association, a great honor in the distance education community.
LeTourneau University: Master of Arts in Counseling
Executive Summary: LeTourneau is a private interdenominational christian university that was founded just after World War II with one of its primary services being to provide quality education for returning American servicemen.
Tuition: Tuition for the MA Counseling program at LeTourneau is $540.00 per credit.
Unique Features: LeTourneau University is ranked #36 among western regional universities by U.S. News and World Report.
Post University: Online Master of Science in Human Services- Alcohol and Drug Counseling
Executive Summary: Post is another university with a long academic tradition that is breaking into the online market and is one of the only such institutions that does not require any residency periods for its online counseling degree program. This particular program has a light credit load of 37 credits and the cost is lower than that of many competing institutions.
Tuition: The cost of the full MSHS-Alcohol and Drug Counseling program at Post University is $20,000.
Unique Features: The online programs offered by post have received recognition from U.S. News and World Report’s online distance education honor roll including rankings of #12 for Faculty Credentials and Training, and #28 for Student Services and Technology.
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This concludes our ranking of the top online master’s in counseling degree programs.