The 50 Best Online Schools for a Graduate Degree in Counseling

Badge - Best Counseling Degrees - Best Online SchoolsBy Kirsten Hughes

In this article, we present our selections for the best online schools for a graduate degree in counseling for 2015.

Distance learning is great for students with work and family commitments that make it challenging to attend classes on campus. Many students choose to pursue a degree in the online format because they are busy juggling full lives. Distance education allows for increased flexibility and independence but also requires a great deal of self discipline. If you are motivated to pursue a graduate degree choosing the school that is the best fit for you is the first step towards accomplishing your goal and advancing your career.

What to look for in an online graduate degree in counseling

Accreditation: Regional accreditation is the educational accreditation of schools, colleges, universities, and institutions of higher education (including public, nonprofit, and for-profit that are academic in nature) in the United States. There are six regional accrediting bodies recognized by U.S. Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) that can grant regional accreditation. National accreditation bodies typically accredit trade and vocational schools.

Some of the programs (about 25%) on this list are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and/or the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The benefit of attending a COAMFTE or CACREP accredited program is that these programs have been able to show that they meet professionally approved standards, resulting in a streamlined licensure application process for the graduate.

Licensure: It is recommended that you check with your state licensing board directly to determine if the program you are interested in meets the educational requirements necessary to work towards licensure in your home state. Following graduation you can begin the licensure process of completing clinical hours and supervision and taking the licensure exam. You must be licensed by your state to practice as a counselor. Contact your state board directly for further information.

Residency: Because interpersonal skills are critical to the success of professionals in the field of counseling most programs require what is called a residency. The residency is a brief visit to campus where students and faculty meet face-to-face. The goal is to support students in developing relationships with faculty and peers as well as a time to develop counseling skills. On-campus residencies typically run anywhere from a long weekend to up to two-weeks and take place once or twice over the course of the program. Generally, additional costs per residency apply (fees, airfare, lodging, meals etc.) All residences listed by the programs are included here.

Detailed criteria for selecting the top 50 schools for an online graduate degree in counseling

Schools were selected for inclusion in this article as follows:

  1. The initial pool of schools was drawn from National Center for Education Statistics data by selecting schools that offered both distance education and counseling degrees (degrees such as Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, Marriage & Family Therapy, Christian Counseling and Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling) at the master’s and doctoral level. Those schools were checked for regional accreditation based on data collected from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
  2. From these we selected only CACREP and/or COAMFTE accredited schools offering counseling and therapy degrees at the master’s and doctorate level.
  3. We selected schools offering these degrees mostly or fully online. Hybrid programs were included if designed for distance learners as residencies or intensives.
  4. We focused on programs that enable graduates to have the option of pursuing licensure (“licensure track”) or a Ph.D.
  5. To further refine the list, preference was given to schools that clearly state residency requirements if applicable and/or schools that offer unique specializations. For example, if the program was unclear about the length of the on campus requirements and they didn’t have a unique specialization, they may have been ruled out. Alternatively, if a school was unclear about residency requirements or if perhaps they had a higher than average requirement, but they offered a unique specialization or benefit, they were further considered for inclusion.

Rather than presenting a ranked list, we present the schools alphabetically. Because the offerings vary in the type of degree specialization and on-campus requirements, we feel this manner of presentation serves our readers better than a strict rank order would. These 50 schools set high goals for themselves and their students, and have achieved a high degree of excellence in preparing graduates for practical licensure and further graduate study.

#1 Adams State University

Alamosa, CO

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  • Master of Arts in Counseling-Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Counseling- School Counseling

Adams State University (ASU) offers two CACREP accredited programs; Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health and Master of Arts in School Counseling. The Online Plus program at ASU offers the same content as the other accredited programs at ASU in an online format. 60 credit hours are required to complete the Master of Arts in Counseling programs. A one-week, on campus, intensive is required in each of the two summer sessions; this time will allow for students to connect with peers and faculty. Each student will be a part of a cohort. Cohorts are currently starting every Fall, Spring, and Summer.

  • Tuition: $405/Credit Hour

#2 American Public University System

Charles Town, WV

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  • Master of Education: School Counseling

American Public University System (APUS) offers a Master of Education in School Counseling for 48 credits. This program prepares students to meet the academic, career, and personal/social needs of K-12 students. Candidates in this program must be physically located near a school district where on-site observations will be allowed. Because field work is a requirement of this degree, you are advised to confirm that APUS is approved in the state where you will complete your field work. Additionally, APUS teacher licensure programs prepare students for licensure eligibility through the West Virginia Department of Education. While many states grant reciprocity for licensure out of state, it is recommended that you become familiar with your state specific requirements in order to determine if additional coursework will be required to become licensed in your home state.

  • Tuition: $15,600 Total

#3 Amridge University

Montgomery, AL

  • Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Master of Arts in Professional Counseling
  • Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Ph.D. in Professional Counseling.

Amridge University is committed to the spirit of its Christian ideals as well as distance education. The School of Human Services offers several Master’s and Doctoral Programs in counseling. Outlined here are the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, both of which allow graduates to prepare for licensure. These programs include support for students to prepare for the licensure examination in their home state. Successful completion of the Master’s programs requires 60 hours of coursework including practicum and and clinical coursework and experience. The Ph.D. programs in Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Counseling both require 60 credit hours. The Ph.D. programs appear to require a portion of online, face-to-face, and residency requirements.

#4 California Baptist University

Riverside, CA

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  • Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

California Baptist University (CBU) teaches from a Christian worldview. The Master of Science in Counseling Psychology (62 credits) program prepares students to enter the field of Marriage and Family Therapy or Professional Clinical Counseling. The Online Professional Studies (OPS) division at CBU offers classes in one of two formats; a virtual hybrid format with synchronous high definition online interactions and an asynchronous online format that allows students to work at their own pace. The program has small class sizes with cohorts of 20-25 students to promote peer interactions and interpersonal skills through live online meetings. The program is designed to be completed in two years. Students have the option of participating in weekly lectures in person on CBU’s main campus or by logging on from home. CBU has a psychotherapy requirement stating that students in this program are required to complete 24 hours of individual psychotherapy or fifty hours of group psychotherapy with a licensed psychotherapist prior to graduation.

  • Tuition: $640/Credit Hour

#5 Capella University

Minneapolis, MN

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  • Master of Science in Addiction Counseling
  • Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy
  • Master of Science in Mental Health
  • Master of Science in School Counseling
  • Master of Science in Human Behavior
  • Ph.D. in Advanced Studies in Human Behavior
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision

Capella University offers more Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in counseling than any other online program. Additionally, Capella University is the only online program offering both CACREP and COAMFTE accredited degrees. Capella has earned CACREP accreditation for the following master’s programs: Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy, and School Counseling. Capella has also earned accreditation from the COAMFTE for the M.S. in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy. This accreditation sets Capella apart because currently only two online counseling programs in the country are accredited by the COAMFTE. The credit requirements vary depending on the degree and range from 48-144 . The residency requirements also vary by degree, two six-day residential colloquia are required for Master’s programs and three four-day colloquia are required for Doctorate programs. Capella has a clear and informative website outlining all important and relevant information for each specified degree. Capella is meeting rigorous criteria in order to provide CACREP and COAMFTE accredited programs and the coursework, residency, and fieldwork requirements, are in turn ambitious.

  • Tuition: $487/Credit Hour for Master’s. Ph.D. varies between $2,800 – $5,100 per quarter.

#6 Colorado Christian University

Lakewood, CO

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  • Master of Arts in Counseling

Colorado Christian University (CCU) offers a CACREP-accredited Master of Arts in Counseling. The Master in Counseling program supports students in integrating faith into their learning process and professional development. The coursework (60 credit hours) can be completed in 2 1/2 years of intensive study. Online classes are taught in 7 or 14 week blocks. The same degree is also offered “in-seat” on campus. Three five-day residencies are required of online students at CCU’s Lakewood Campus. The residencies support students in developing critical counseling skills as well as encourage developing fellowship with the CCU community. The online cohort will follow specific online progression requirements.

  • Tuition: $585/Credit Hour

#7 Concordia University-Wisconsin

Mequon, WI

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  • Master of Science in Education – Counseling

Concordia University- Wisconsin Online offers a Master of Science in Education – Counseling for 45-48 credits. Coursework prepares students for the counseling field with school and professional tracks available with the possibility for dual licensure. Flexible online options include self-paced and collaborative online learning. Online courses run in 8-10 week sessions. The residency requirement involves taking two courses (Individual Counseling and Group Counseling) on the Mequon campus. The residency is offered in July and each course is a two week session. Students can select to take both courses in one summer or one course in each summer.

  • Tuition: $530/Credit Hour

#8 Faulkner University

Montgomery, AL

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  • Master of Science in Counseling

Faulkner University offers a Master of Science in Counseling (61 credits) in a hybrid format. The program integrates a Christian-based worldview within the mental health profession. Graduates of this program go on to work in a variety of clinical settings – from community agencies to Christian ministries. As a hybrid program, the majority of the coursework is taught online. Two one-week on-campus residencies are required during the program. Residencies are scheduled for the third weeks of January and September each year and provide hands-on field experience. As with most other online programs, graduates are eligible to pursue licensure in the state where the program is based – in this case, Alabama, with reciprocity being offered with some other states. Faulkner recommends that students verify with the counseling board in their homes state regarding the potential for licensure.

  • Tuition: $258.31/Credit Hour

#9 Fort Hays State University

Hays, KS

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  • Master of Science in Counseling

Fort Hays State University Virtual College offers a Master of Science in Counseling (61 credits) with concentrations in School Counseling or Community Counseling. This program requires the completion of three, 4-day, on campus courses. Fort Hayes reports that their Virtual College offers tuition in the lowest 2% in the United States.

  • Tuition: $535/Credit Hour

#10 Gallaudet University

Washington D.C.

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  • Master of Arts School Counseling

Gallaudet University’s Department of Counseling offers the Summers and Online School Counseling Program (58 credits). This program focuses on educating practitioners to become multiculturally competent professional school counselors with the focus of working with deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students in a variety of K-12 educational settings. This is a hybrid program requiring 2 1/2 years to complete. Classes are offered on campus during three 6-week summer sessions and online during the fall and spring semesters. The on-campus requirements of this program are higher than all other online programs listed here however, this program was selected for this list because of the unique focus of study. In addition this program meets the high standards of CACREP accreditation. This program accepts applicants every 3 or 4 years and the next cohort of students is expected to begin in Summer of 2017 or 2018. Gallaudet reports that the most recent cohort of eight students was admitted in June 2011 and 100% completed the program in December 2013.

#11 George Washington University

Washington D.C.

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  • Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling

The George Washington University (GW) online program offers a Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling (48 credits). This program focuses on educating professionals to empower individuals with physical, mental, emotional, medical or social, disabilities to lead full and enriching lives. Rehabilitation counselors work in a variety of settings from community counseling agencies to human resource departments. GW’s online programs maintain low student-to-instructor ratios and promote connection and interaction between students and faculty. Students who complete a GW online program earn a GW degree, no distinctions are made between online and on-campus degrees.

  • Tuition: $820/Credit Hour

#12 Grace College and Theological Seminary

Winona Lake, IN

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  • Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Grace College and Theological Seminary provides an online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This program was established in 2010 and is accredited by the CACREP. This program requires the completion of 60 credit hours of coursework and is designed to be completed in three years. An annual 7-10 day residency on campus with faculty, staff and peers is required. The program aims to develop a student’s theological, interpersonal, and clinical competencies.

  • Tuition: $537/Credit Hour

#13 Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, AZ

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  • Master of Science in Addiction Counseling
  • Master of Science in Christian Counseling
  • Master of Science in Christian Counseling of Substance Use and Addictive Disorders
  • Master of Science in Professional Counseling

Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers several degree options through their Online Psychology and Counseling program. They offer Master of Science degrees in Addiction Counseling (36 credits), Christian Counseling (74 credits), Christian Counseling of Substance Use and Addictive Disorders (48 credits), and in Professional Counseling (62 credits). No residency requirements are stated.  Graduates can work towards licensure following graduation and build careers in a variety of settings – from community mental health agencies to private practice. The online programs at GCU are offered one class at a time in order to support students in focusing and achieving an in-depth level of understanding.

  • Tuition: $465/Credit Hour

#14 Hampton University

Hampton, VA

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  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision

The School of Education and Human Development at Hampton University offers a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. This hybrid online program includes a minimum of two on-campus residencies. For applicants with a master’s degree, this program will require the completion of 64 credits. Research is a central component of this degree. Coursework is offered in the Specialist in Education Counseling program, as well as in conjunction with the School of Nursing Ph.D. program, and also in thematic seminars with a focus on developing solutions to real-life problems.

  • Tuition: $695/Credit Hour

#15 Indiana Wesleyan University

Marion, IN

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  • Master of Arts in Counseling in Addictions Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Counseling in School Counseling

Indiana Wesleyan University identifies as an evangelical Christian University. Indiana Wesleyan University’s Master of Arts degree with a major in Counseling has six separate specializations. Select specializations that are available completely online or in the hybrid format (online with on campus intensives). The Master of Arts in Counseling with a specialization in Addictions Counseling (48 credits) is offered completely online. The Master of Arts in Counseling in School Counseling (48 credits) is offered in a hybrid format with all classes online except for two courses requiring a weekend intensive in Indianapolis. The School Counseling program is accredited by the CACREP.

  • Tuition: $494/Credit Hour

#16 Lamar University

Beaumont, TX

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  • Master of Education in School Counseling
  • Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Lamar University (LU) Online program offers a Master of Education in School Counseling and a Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The Master of Education in School Counseling is for certified teachers who are looking to become a part of a support team. This is a 36-credit-hour accelerated format that allows students to complete the program in less time than traditional campus-based programs. The Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling requires the completion of 60 credit hours. This program is also accelerated and can be completed in as few as 27 months. Graduates of this program will gain the theoretical knowledge and therapeutic skills to work with a variety of clients and circumstances. Students should consult with the licensing board in their home state to determine if additional coursework will be required following graduation in order to work towards licensure.

  • Tuition: $705/Credit Hour

#17 LeTourneau University

Longview, TX

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  • Master of Arts in Counseling

LeTourneau University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with faith-based training. This program is set up to support students in learning to use Christian disciplines when working with clients in the context of counseling. This degree is offered as an accelerated program in the online format. The coursework in this program prepares students to work towards licensure following graduation.

  • Tuition: $570/Credit Hour

#18 Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

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  • Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Master of Arts in Professional Counseling

Liberty University’s Counseling Department offers two licensure track counseling degrees; Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and Master of Arts in Professional Counseling. Both degrees require the completion of 60 credit hours. The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy prepares graduates to seek licensure as a Marriage and Family therapist. In addition to online coursework, four one-week on-campus intensives are required. The Master of Arts in Professional Counseling prepares students to work towards becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor following graduation, three one-week on-campus intensives are required for this program. With both programs an emphasis is placed on the integration of faith into the counseling practice.

  • Tuition: $520/Credit Hour

#19 Medaille College

Buffalo, NY

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  • Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling

Medaille College offers a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling. As many schools on this list do, Medaille College offers an on-campus option or an online option. The on-campus program meets only one weekend a month or you can complete your degree fully online where you will receive the same student-centered, practitioner-based learning as you would on campus. This program can be completed in as little as 2 1/2 years. One year into the program, students select a clinical area of focus.

  • Tuition: $816/Credit Hour

#20 Messiah College

Mechanicsburg, PA

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  • Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Counseling – Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Counseling – School Counseling

Messiah College offers a CACREP accredited Master of Arts in Counseling. Messiah College integrates academics and Christian faith. The marriage, couple and family counseling program is the only online, CACREP accredited, faith based marriage, couple and family counseling program in the U.S. Students have up to 6 years to complete the program. Rolling admission allows applicants to enter the program at multiple points throughout the year. One-week on-campus sessions take place in January and July in order to focus on students counseling skill development.

  • Tuition: $595/Credit Hour

#21 Missouri Baptist University

St. Louis, MO

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  • Master of Arts in Counseling

Missouri Baptist University (MBU) offers a Master of Arts in Counseling to work towards becoming a school guidance counselor. Certified teachers and those without initial teacher certification have options of working on Elementary and Secondary Counseling (K-12). The online Counseling degree courses meet year round for 8 weeks at a time and receive the same coursework as students in MBU’s traditional classroom graduate program. Diplomas do not distinguish between online and on-campus degree programs.

  • Tuition: $560/Credit Hour

#22 North Carolina Central University

Durham, NC

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  • Career Counseling

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) offers the only CACREP-accredited online Career Counseling program in the nation. The 48-credit-hour program prepares graduates to work as career counselors in a variety of settings from K-12, colleges, universities, public and private schools, non-profit organizations and private companies. The program is typically completed in two years.

#23 Northcentral University

Prescott Valley, AZ

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  • Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy

Northcentral University’s (NCU) School of Marriage and Family Sciences offers Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) programs. The MFT programs at NCU prepare students through academic and clinical work to work with individuals, couples, and families facing mental health, behavioral, and relationship challenges. The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy is accredited by the COAMFTE and requires 45 credit hours for completion. The Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy requires 69 credit hours for completion. Both the Master’s and Ph.D. program do not require students to travel to onsite residencies; instead, students are connected with qualified supervisors in their local area to complete face-to-face clinical experience. All NCU faculty hold doctoral degrees in MFT or related fields, and are practicing Marriage and Family Therapists and/ or supervisors. NCU describes their program as being taught one-to-one and as a result students are not following semester or quarterly enrollment schedules so students can begin the program any week of the year.

  • Tuition: Tuition is listed as total program cost and may vary. M.A. MFT: $38,510. Ph.D.MFT $66,107. Prefered Military Tuitition Rates Available.

#24 Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, FL

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  • Master of Science in Counseling

The Master’s of Science in Counseling at Nova Southeastern University is offered with concentrations in mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, and applied behavior analysis (45-60 credits). The program focuses on student engagement and aims to keep students active in their online education through weekly engagement with professors and fellow students. Activities include threaded discussion boards, chat rooms, email, and electronic classroom sessions. An annual professional development institute is scheduled each year on the main campus in Ft. Lauderdale.

  • Tuition: $650/Credit Hour

#25 Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

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  • Master’s in Counseling
  • Ph.D. in Counseling

Oregon State University offers two CACREP-accredited graduate programs: the Master of Counseling-School Concentration and the Ph.D. in Counseling. Both programs are hybrid format requiring a significant portion of time on location with classes held twice per term (Friday and Saturday 9-5) in Salem, Oregon and Wilsonville, Oregon, respectively. This program would be more accessible to students living in the Northwest. However, these locations are near Portland International Airport to be more accessible for out-of-state students. The face-to-face classes required from this program are different than the residencies required from the others schools on this list due to format and increased travel time. The Master of Counseling School Concentration requires the completion of 75 credits. This program follows a cohort model and begins in June each year. The Ph.D. in counseling program prepares graduates to work as clinicians, supervisors and educators in clinical and academic settings. The Ph.D. program requires the completion of 150 credits.

  • Tuition: $541 / Credit Hour

#26 Our Lady of the Lake University

San Antonio, TX

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  • Master of Education in School Counseling

Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) Master of Education in School Counseling supports students in working towards their goal of becoming a school counselor at the primary and secondary levels. In the 48-credit-hour program, students focus on topics such as aptitude assessment, ethical issues in schools, multicultural issues, and psychological development. A goal of the program is to prepare graduates for licensing examinations to become professional counselors. As a Catholic university, OLLU aims to integrate spiritual growth into the students professional development.

  • Tuition: $775/Credit Hour

#27 Prescott College

Prescott, AZ

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  • Master of Science in Counseling

The Master of Science in Counseling at Prescott University offers five areas of specialization as well as several innovative concentrations. In the 60-credit-hour curriculum, students choose one of the following five areas in which to specialize: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Couple and Family Therapy Counseling, Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, Addiction Counseling, and School Counseling. Additionally, Prescott College is one of a select handful of programs in the United States to offer the following concentrations: Adventure-Based Psychotherapy, Ecopsychology, Equine-assisted Mental Health, Expressive Art Therapy, and Somatic Psychology. Students will collaborate with faculty to customize their education to meet their career goals. Students are required to attend two residencies per academic year. Students are also required to participate as clients in a therapeutic process (20 full sessions) with a licensed Mental Health Practitioner while completing their graduate degree.

  • Tuition: $765/Credit Hour

#28 Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA

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  • Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling
  • Master of Arts in School Counseling
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education

Regent University’s School of Psychology and Counseling provides several counseling degrees. This graduate school focuses on providing an education backed up by biblically-based values. The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and the Master of Arts in School Counseling are both accredited by the CACREP. There is also a Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling available. All three Master of Arts programs require the completion of 60 credit hours and three week-long residency during the course of the programs. The programs may be completed in as little as two years. The Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision program is accredited by the CACREP and designed for currently licensed counselors. The program follows a prescribed progression of coursework, with a required internship and dissertation. Three one-week residencies are also required for this program. The program is 66 credit hours and may be completed in as few as three years.

  • Tuition: Master’s: $780/Credit Hour. Ph.D.: $710/Credit Hour

#29 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

St. Mary of the Woods, IN

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  • Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Master of Arts in Music Therapy

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College offers two unique Master of Arts programs; The Master of Arts in Art Therapy (MAAT) and The Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT). The programs focus on creativity and spirituality. The MAAT requires the completion of 51 credit hours and is designed to take 3 1/2 years to complete. Students go through the program as a cohort to promote collaborative learning and community building with faculty and peers. Students are required to attend three 4-6 day on-campus residencies every year. Students are required to have access to a registered art therapist within driving distance of their local area. The MAMT requires the completion of 43 credit hours and requires students to come to campus for two summer intensive residencies during the program of 5-6 days each. This program would be a good fit for individuals hoping to use their love of art and music to support clients therapeutically. Each program is recognized by their professional organization.

  • Tuition: M.A. in Art Therapy: $650/Credit Hour. M.A. in Music Therapy: $625/Credit Hour

#30 Salem College

Winston Salem, NC

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  • Master of Education in School Counseling

Salem College, a liberal arts college for women, offers a Master of Education in School Counseling. This 48 credit hour program is designed to be completed in 36 months. Two weekend seminars on the Salem College campus are required. This research-driven program emphasizes the skills required to become a licensed school counselor.

  • Tuition: $1,364 per three-credit hour class

#31 Seton Hall University

South Orange, NJ

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  • M.A./ Ed.S Professional Counseling
  • M.A. in School Counseling

The College of Education and Human Services department at Seton Hall University (SHU) offers a Master’s in School Counseling, Master’s in Counseling and Education Specialist Counseling program. This 48 (M.A. programs)-60 (combined M.A./Ed.S.) credit program is designed for students working towards a career as a school counselor or professional mental health counselor. Online students are held to the same standards as those in the on-campus program. The programs can be completed in less than three years. Both programs require two on-site residencies. A unique feature SHU is their all-inclusive tuition. Tuition reportedly covers all fees and expenses, tuition, room and meals for the two on-site residencies and graduation.

  • Tuition: M.A. in School Counseling (48 credits) $35,500. M.A./Ed.S. Professional Counseling (60 credits) $44,340

#32 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Lubbock, TX

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  • Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has been offering the degree of Master of Rehabilitation Counseling (MRC) since 2000. The program recruits students from diverse populations. Over 87% of students who enter the program finish with their degree or certification requirements. The pass rate for the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor national exam exceeds the national average (100% of students who take the exam while in the program pass). 98% of graduates of the MRC program are employed in the field, or a closely related field, within 6 months. Generally, students take two to three years to complete the 7 semesters of the program. This program is available to students around the world and there are no residencies required. Rehabilitation counselors work with individuals with disabilities to promote independence and enhance quality of life.

  • Tuition: Total Cost $10,800 for residents of Texas, $14,400 for out of state students.

#33 The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL

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  • Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling

The Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling at The University of Alabama is is a 48-60 credit hour program. Students can elect to be enrolled full or part time, at full time the program can be completed in two years. Graduates of this program are trained to go support individuals with disabilities in reaching their personal and vocational goals. Some courses are offered as synchronous courses and require weekly participation via live virtual classroom. Live virtual classes are delivered in Central Standard Time.

  • Tuition: $354/Credit Hour

#34 The University of Tennessee-Martin

Martin, TN

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  • Master of Science in Education – Counseling

The Master of Science in Education with a major in Counseling at the University of Tennessee- Martin has two concentrations available; School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The school counselor concentration will prepare students to work with students, teachers, and parents to support the development and academic needs of Pre-Kindergarten through 12th graders. The Clinical Mental Health Counseling concentration prepares graduates to work as mental health counselors in the community in a variety of settings from agencies to private practice. Interested applicants should consult their state licensing board regarding additional coursework that may be needed beyond the degree to obtain state licensure.

  • Tuition: In state: $534/Credit Hour. Out-of-state: $582/Credit Hour

#35 The University of Texas at Tyler

Tyler, TX

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  • Master of Arts in School Counseling

The Master of Arts in School Counseling at the University of Texas at Tyler is a cohort program that begins each summer. The program requires the completion of 36 credit hours and can be completed in 1 1/2 years, less than most master of school counseling degrees around the country. The application process requires a brief Skype interview. Applicants will be notified of an admissions decision 3-5 business days following the interview.

  • Tuition: In state: $731/Credit Hour. Out-of-state: $1,095/Credit Hour

#36 Thomas University

Thomasville, GA

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  • Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling

The Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling at Thomas University requires the completion of 63 credits. This degree is fully online and does not have any residency requirement. This program works to prepare students to take the Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling exam, which students can take once they have successfully completed 75% of the program. Some grants are available for this program in partnership with the US Department of Education and the Department of Labor, Vocational Rehabilitation agencies. Graduates of this program go on to work in a range of human service agencies. The employment rate for graduates of this program is at 79% within 6 months of graduation.

  • Tuition: $5,815 per semester

#37 Touro University Worldwide

Los Alamitos, CA

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  • Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy at Touro University Worldwide requires the completion of 60 credit hours typically taken over the course of six eight-week terms. This program highlights the new healthcare market influenced by the Health Care Reform Act which works to create health care teams to provide individuals and families with comprehensive care. Marriage and Family Therapists specialize in working with individuals, couples, and families while taking into consideration how the context of their lives influence their current challenges. Graduates of this program are eligible for MFT licensure in the State of California (and most other states) without completing additional coursework.

  • Tuition: $500/Credit Hour

#38 Union Institute University

Cincinnati, OH

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  • Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Union Institute & University’s Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is a hybrid program. Students will engage in their education through online coursework, live/ synchronous meetings between students and faculty, and residencies. The residencies occur during three annual weekends (in February, June, and September). Faculty aim to guide students in their professional development throughout the program. This program works to support students in pursuing licensure in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Professional Counseling. Program graduates meet coursework requirements for national certification by the National Board for Certified Counselors and over 90% of graduates pass pass the National Exam. Several scholarships are available to newly admitted students in the amount of $200 per credit hour.

  • Tuition: $778/Credit Hour

#39 University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, LA

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  • Master of Science in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Science in Counseling – School Counseling
  • Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy

The University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) offers a Master’s program and a Ph.D. program in counseling. The CACREP-accredited Master of Science in Counseling offers a concentration in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, or both. The Master’s program is 60 credits and generally takes two years to complete. A Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy with a Concentration in Creative Systemic Studies is also offered at ULM. The Ph.D. consists of 60 credit hours (two years of full-time coursework) and a dissertation. Students will work together in a cohort, and collaboration is encouraged. ULM offers a Student Advocate and Retention Coordinator to provide support and act as a liaison for students pursuing a distance education.

  • Tuition: $475/Credit Hour

#40 University of Massachusetts-Boston

Boston, MA

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  • Master of Science in Family Therapy
  • Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Education in School Counseling
  • Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling

The University of Massachusetts-Boston offers several online programs through the Department of Counseling and School Psychology; a Master of Science in Family Therapy, Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling, and a Master of Education in School Counseling.  The Master of Science in Family Therapy program can be completed in three years by full-time students. A two-week residency (during which time two courses will be completed) is required the second summer of the program and is held at UMass Dartmouth. The Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling, requires the completion of 60 credit hours. A two-week residency is held the first summer of the program at UMass Dartmouth, and the rest of the program is completed online with the cohort. The Master of Education in School Counseling is a 60-credit degree and also requires the completion of a two-week residency at UMass Dartmouth the first summer of the program. Transcripts will not reflect that the instructional format was online. These programs are designed to fulfill the academic requirements for licensure, but, as always, applicants should confirm this with the licensing board in their home state. A Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling is offered through the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development for 60 credits, all coursework is online except for the two week residency at UMass Dartmouth.

  • Tuition: $490/Credit Hour

#41 University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, ND

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  • Master of Arts in Counseling with a K-12 School Emphasis

The University of North Dakota (UND) has a Master of Arts in Counseling with a K-12 School Emphasis. This program begins every spring and the 48-50 credits typically take 2.5 or more years to complete. There are two four-day residencies each summer (4 visits total) required. A focus on justice and appreciation of diversity is integrated throughout the curriculum. UND’s distance learning programs mirror those offered on-campus. Transcripts and diplomas look the same for online and on-campus students. All students are eligible for in-state tuition regardless of residency. Graduates of this program will be prepared to work as a school counselor with grades K-12.

  • Tuition: $467.72/Credit Hour

#42 University of North Texas

Denton, TX

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  • Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling

The College of Public Affairs and Community Service at the University of North Texas offers a 48-credit-hour Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. this program can be completed in a little over two years. No residencies are required for this program, but interaction between students and faculty is encouraged. As with many distance learning programs, the students in this program are located around the world; technology is used to connect students and faculty as much as possible.

  • Tuition: Texas resident: $227.79/Credit Hour. Out of State: $587.79/Credit Hour

#43 University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, KY

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  • Master of Arts in Professional Counseling
  • Ed.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision

The Master of Arts in Professional Counseling is geared to support recent baccalaureate graduates as well as those with field experience earn their degree to work towards professional licensure as a clinical counselor. This program requires the completion of 60 credits and is designed to be completed in two years. No residencies are required. The University of the Cumberlands offers rolling admissions for this program. Qualified applicants can begin classes at the beginning of any bi-semester (five starting opportunities a year). The Ed.D and Ph.D. programs with a specialization in Counselor Education and Supervision are offered in a hybrid format, and most of the classes are offered online with some residency requirements. The Doctorate programs (60 credits) can be completed in approximately three years at full-time status. This program is working towards CACREP accreditation. The University offers technology for state-of-the-art distance learning that supports small group video interaction and conferencing.

  • Tuition: $291/Credit Hour

#44 University of the Southwest

Hobbs, NM

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  • Master of Science in Education – School Counseling

The Master of Science in Education, School Counseling program at the University of the Southwest can be completed in 42 credits, fully online. No residencies are required. Graduates will be prepared to work with students, parents, and educators in primary, elementary, middle, and high school settings. This program works to prepare graduates to become school counselors with the skills and abilities to work with students from diverse populations. The required practicum and internship can be completed in a range of settings.

  • Tuition: $580/Credit Hour

#45 Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, VA

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  • Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Allied Health Professions offers a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. VCU started one of the very first Rehabilitation Counseling programs in the country in 1955, and they were innovators in developing online training. Over 150 students have successfully completed this distance learning program. Coursework can be completed at the student’s convenience. Students determine when to focus on coursework and when to interact with peers and instructors, without required synchronous scheduling. Students are required to participate in two one-week on-campus residencies. This program requires the completion of 48 credit hours as well as the required hours for practicum and internships.

  • Tuition: $656.81/Credit Hour

#46 Wake Forest University

Winston Salem, NC

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  • Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health
  • Master of Arts in Counseling – School Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Human Services

Wake Forest University’s Counseling program offers three online master’s programs through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The programs are Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (60 credit hours), Master of Arts in School Counseling (60 credit hours), and Master of Arts in Human Services (39 credit hours). Graduates from these programs go on to find careers in a variety of fields from career counselor to nonprofit administrator. The Master of Arts in Counseling is accredited by the CACREP. Wake Forest reports a 100% pass rate for graduates taking the National Counselor Exam.

  • Tuition: $1,260/Credit Hour

#47 Walden University

Minneapolis, MN

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  • Master of Science in Addiction Counseling
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Science in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling
  • Master of Science in School Counseling
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision

Walden University has been offering advanced degrees through distance learning since 1970. Walden University offers five counseling degrees, three of which are CACREP accredited. They offer a Master of Science in Addiction Counseling (90 credits), Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (90 credits and CACREP accredited), Master of Science in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling ( 90 credits and CACREP accredited), and Master of Science in School Counseling (75 credits), and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision (93 credits and CACREP accredited). Each degree offers a general program which is required and additional specializations may be selected from a range including career counseling, military families and culture, and trauma and crisis counseling. Residencies which focus on strengthening skills and collaborating with Walden faculty, staff and peers are held in various locations in the U.S. and other parts of the world. The Master’s programs each require two six-day residencies, and the Ph.D. program requires one four-day residency and two eight-day residencies.

  • Tuition: M.S. in Addiction Counseling: $44,510. M.S. in Clinical Mental Health & M.S. in Marriage & Family Therapy: $46,760. M.S. in School Counseling: $34,790. Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision: $55,175

#48 Washburn University

Topeka, KS

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  • Master of Arts in Human Services: Addiction Counseling

Washburn University’s Master of Arts in Human Services: Addiction Counseling prepares graduates to advance their careers in a number of ways. Graduates can go on to become Addiction Counselors, teachers in community colleges, or pursue further graduate study. The program requires the completion of 36 credit hours. The curriculum focuses on theory and research with an emphasis on addiction counseling.

  • Tuition: $433/Credit Hour

#49 West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV

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  • Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling

West Virginia Uinversity’s (WVU) online and extended campus offers a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. The program requires the completion of 51 credit hours, the option of completing 60 plus credit hours is available for students seeking to meet the professional licensing requirements. This program prepares graduates to work as counselors with clients with mental, physical, and emotional disabilities in a variety of settings from mental health clinics to Veterans Administration programs. In-state tuition is available to all students regardless of residency.

  • Tuition: $1,217/Credit Hour

#50 Wright State University

Dayton, OH

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  • Master of Rehabilitation Counseling

The College of Education and Human Services at Wright State University (WSU) offers a Master of Rehabilitation Counseling-Severe Disabilities program. Graduates with this degree can go on to seek licensure and work with people experiencing a variety of concerns including mental, emotional and/or physical. Students are encouraged to engage with their peers from around the country in the online learning community facilitated by WSU. Students can be admitted to the program each quarter. Approximately 20% of the students (current program has 26 students) are from underrepresented groups.

About the Author

Kirsten Hughes is a Family Therapist, with her Master’s in Education from the University of Oregon, and has been working with youth and their families for over ten years. She relishes the opportunity to work with and support young people as they navigate change and make important life decisions in the transition from high school to college and beyond. Living in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband and two young sons, Kirsten enjoys spending time exploring the beautiful outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.


This concludes our ranking of the top online schools for a graduate degree in counseling.

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