Top 25 Low-Cost Master’s Degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

By Kirsten Hughes

A master of science in mental health counseling provides holders with the requisite skills and experience needed to serve as clinical counselors in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, and community health centers. Classes in these programs expose students to the various needs of their clients, such as drug addiction recovery, mental disorders, eating disorders, family problems, and histories of verbal and/or physical abuse.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for substance abuse counselors is $43,000. The occupation also enjoys a projected growth rate of 23% over the next ten years, a much faster rate than the 7% national average. Students who need to continue working or who need to take care of their families should consider getting an online masters. In contraposition to on-campus programs, online programs generally offer coursework asynchronously, which means that students can access the material at a time convenient for them.

#25 Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Master of Arts in Counseling Online

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To receive a master’s in mental health counseling from Northwestern University students need to complete courses such as theories and techniques of group counseling and psychotherapy, psychopathology in counseling, and theories of counseling and psychotherapy. The program is accredited by the CACREP, and students can enter the program in the fall, spring, or summer. To apply to the program, students must include two letters of recommendation from supervisors and professors, a CV, a statement of purpose, test scores for those who speak English as a second language, and a statement of purpose clarifying their intentions for a career in mental health counseling.

#24 Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC

Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Accredited by the CACREP, the fully online master’s in mental health counseling program at Wake Forest offers 24-hour technical support to its students and boast a 98% pass rate on the National Counselor Exam. Coursework in the mental health track includes foundational courses such as life span development: implications for counseling and theories and models of counseling. Core courses include advanced counseling skills and crisis management and career development and counseling. The admissions office requires an undergraduate 2.5 minimum GPA, a 300 writing score on the GRE, and a successful interview. Application materials include three letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

#23 North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC

Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

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NC State University’s master’s in mental health counseling was founded in 1946 and now offers an online option for students who need program flexibility. Admission to the program requires GRE or GMAT scores, three letters of recommendation, transcripts from all previously attended undergraduate and graduate programs, and a qualifying TOEFL score for students who speak English as a second language. Special problems: substance abuse counseling, multicultural lifespan development in education context, and group counseling serve as three example core classes. The program also offers two mental health courses: introduction to clinical mental health counseling and internship in clinical mental health counseling.

#22 Antioch University New England

Keene, NH

Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Antioch University New England offers a master’s in mental health counseling that holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Students must take required courses such as crisis counseling interventions and foundational theories of MFT. They then take three elective courses such as special issues with military families, family counseling approaches to addictions, and human sexuality and sex therapy. Core courses constitute 39 credits, elective courses constitute nine credits, and the remaining 12 credits go toward practicum and internship experiences. To apply, students need to submit two letters of recommendation and official transcripts boasting a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

#21 Medaille College

Buffalo, NY

Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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The master’s in mental health counseling degree at Medaille College offers fixed, 17-week courses delivered in an asynchronous format. Students must complete assignments by a certain date, but they can schedule their coursework around their families and jobs. Classes open in either the fall or the spring. Admission to this CACREP-accredited online master’s program requires a resume, a letter of intent outlining why students want to enter a mental health counseling career, and three professional references — preferably from former professors or employers. Prospective students must also pass an interview prior to program entrance.

#20 Bradley University

Peoria, IL

Online Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Those with a master’s in mental health counseling from Bradley University go on to work as rehabilitation counselors; substance abuse counselors; and marriage, couples, and family counselors. This CACREP-accredited program offers students coursework in neurocounseling: bridging brain and behavior, career and life planning across the lifespan, and theories and techniques of counseling. The mental health specialty offers three unique courses: brain-based interventions, clinical mental health counseling, and counseling and the dynamics of aging. Students must complete 60 total credits to graduate, including a practicum, two internships, and a week-long, on-campus residency. Graduates go on to work at nonprofit organizations, local and federal government organizations, and clinics.

#19 Prescott College

Prescott, AZ

Online Master of Science in Counseling with a specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Prescott College’s master’s in mental health counseling comes in the form of a “limited-residency.” This format allows students to gain their practical experience within their own community. Courses in the core curriculum include career and lifestyle development: challenges of adulthood, professional counseling ethics, and research and program evaluation in mental health counseling. The program offers 20 different elective courses from which students can choose. Students must complete coursework, internships and practicums, and an exam in order to graduate. Application materials include two letters of recommendation, official undergraduate transcripts, an updated resume, and a personal statement outlining their interest in the program.

#18 Argosy University

Phoenix, AZ

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

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Admission to Argosy University’s master’s in mental health counseling requires at least a 3.0 GPA during the final 60 hours of an undergraduate program and a qualifying score on an English proficiency exam for students who speak English as a second language. Topics covered in the core include diagnosis and treatment of behavioral and emotional disorders and trauma impact and counseling. Elective topics include psychopathology and assessment, human sexuality, and child and adolescent counseling. Students must finish one practicum and two internship requirements totaling nine credit hours. Students in the mental health track must also complete a portfolio that includes their academic and professional experience prior to graduation.

#17 Lock Haven University

Lock Haven, PA

Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Offered online, Lock Haven’s master’s in mental health counseling requires students to complete 60 total credits. The program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP); the university is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Core topics include theories and models of counseling across the lifespan, research and program evaluation, and addiction counseling. The core curriculum consists of 51 total credits. Students with at least a 3.0 GPA and a successful interview may qualify for program entrance. Application materials include three letters of recommendation, college transcripts, and a statement of career goals.

#16 Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling Online

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Nova Southeastern University offers a master’s in mental health counseling concentration online. Courses include counseling theories and practice; ethical, legal, and professional issues for counselors; diagnosis and treatment of adult psychopathology; and psychological testing for individual evaluation. Students must complete 33 credits in the core curriculum and 27 additional courses in the track. Graduation depends on passing a final exam. Students go on to work in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, clinics, and hospices. Admission to the program requires the completion of an application and a 2.5 GPA over the last 60 credits of a student’s undergrad program.

#15 Thomas University

Thomasville, GA

Online Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling

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Accredited by CORE, or the Council on Rehabilitation Education, the master’s in mental health counseling program at Thomas University combines intellectual growth with practical experience. A 63-credit program, students must complete practicum and internship experiences alongside engagement with the theoretical approaches to community health, ethical clinical practice, and diagnostics and counseling. Studies include foundations of career and development and job placement services, the medical aspects of disability, and substance abuse counseling methods. Those who take the addiction specialization need 11 more credit hours. Graduates of the program qualify for the CRC exam offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.

#14 Colorado Christian University

Lakewood, CO

Master of Arts in Counseling Online

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Earning a master’s in mental health counseling from Colorado Christian University ensures that students receive a professional degree steeped in religious values. The 60-credit degree enjoys accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Students can complete the degree in about two and a half years of study, and learners matriculating to the school can transfer in as many as 12 credits. Upon completion, graduates are ready for the National Counselor Exam. The counseling core constitutes 41 credit hours, the bible and theology requirement continues four credit hours, the practicum and internship requirement constitutes nine credit hours, and electives constitute six credit hours.

#13 Messiah College

Mechanicsburg, PA

Online Master of Arts in Counseling

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The master’s in mental health counseling at Messiah College focuses on the integration of faith and counseling through courses such as spiritual formation and faith-based counseling; professional issues and ethics for counselors; and assessment techniques for individuals, couples, and families. The program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and ensures that students receive a flexible and affordable education that allows them to get an education without sacrificing their family or work life. The program offers rolling, year-round admission and can take as few as two years to complete.

#12 Grace College and Theological Seminary

Winona Lake, IN

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

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Grace College’s online masters in mental health counseling takes 60 total credits to complete and boasts accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). While students can complete most of their coursework online, the school does require a residency that can last between seven and 10 days. The school prides itself on its Christian heritage and offers coursework grounded in the scriptures. Psychotherapy with children and adolescents, research and program evaluation, and addictions counseling serve as three examples of classes that students take during their tenure in the program.

#11 University of the Southwest

Hobbs, NM

Online Master of Science in Education with a specialization in Mental Health Counseling

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Students in University of the Southwest’s master’s in mental health counseling program can complete the online program in about two and a half years of study. Learners take classes in topics such as play therapy, Christian counseling, and psychopharmacology and choose a degree plan ranging anywhere from 48 to 60 credit hours. The program accepts students in the fall, spring, and summer and offers elective courses in addictions and human sexuality. Students meet with faculty and peers through a synchronous delivery format in which learners go online during predetermined times for classes and lectures.

#10 Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA

Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Regent University’s master’s in mental health counseling offers courses in a 16-week format. It prepares learners for state licensure and holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). To graduate, students must complete a variety of courses; topics include ethics, professional orientation and legal issues in counseling; crisis, trauma, and clinical mental health; and career and lifestyle development. Those hoping to enter the program need to already hold either a BS or a BA with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Application materials include a completed online application, a processing fee, a resume, and a government-issued ID.

#9 Faulkner University

Montgomery, AL

Master of Science in Counseling Online

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The 61-credit master in mental health counseling from Faulkner University prioritizes practical experience and a Christian emphasis that results in an education that is well-rounded and grounded in faith. Students complete 85% of the work online, with the remainder of the program taught on campus for two clinical training sessions. Those who complete the program qualify for licensure in Alabama. Topics include counseling in the community, measurement and assessment, and integrations of theology and counseling. To apply, students need a minimum 2.75 GPA from their undergraduate education, at least a 370 on the MAT, and three letters of recommendation.

#7 (tie) University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, LA

Online Master of Science in Counseling

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The CACREP-accredited master’s in mental health counseling from the University of Louisiana at Monroe lets students choose one of two tracks: the clinical mental health counseling track or the school counseling track. Graduates of the mental health track go on to become rehabilitation counselors, mental health administrators, and mental health counselors. To complete the mental health track, students must finish 60 total credits, 12 of which must be in a concentration area. For admission, students need to hold at least a 3.0 overall GPA and a GRE combined score of 290. Those who already hold a graduate degree in another field do not need to provide GRE scores.

#7 (tie) Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, AZ

Online Master Of Science In Mental Health And Wellness

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Courses in Grand Canyon University’s master’s in mental health counseling include mental health, wellness, and healthcare integration; ethics and cultural diversity in mental health and wellness; and documentation, research, and information literacy in mental health and wellness. Students focus on the best practices in the clinical mental health sector, learning about the complexities of the human mind by exploring advanced theoretical concepts and research, learning about community health care, and understanding the relationship of physical wellness to mental wellbeing. Grand Canyon also offers multiple scholarships to incoming students, including a high school student scholarship, a priority registration scholarship, and a variety of other scholarships.

#6 Capella University

Minneapolis, MN

Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling Online

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Capella University’s master’s in mental health counseling requires students to complete both a practicum and two internships. This CACREP-accredited program requires students to complete 10 total core courses, seven specialization courses, and two residencies. Applied research and program evaluation in mental health counseling, counseling and advocacy with diverse populations, and group counseling and clinical applications in mental health counseling serve as three examples of courses. Learning outcomes include both practical and theoretical training in clinical practice, an ethical understanding of the American School Counselor Association’s ethics code, and the ability to communicate with clients who live with sensitive and complex situations.

#4 (tie) Lindsey Wilson College

Columbia, KY

Online Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development

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A master’s in mental health counseling degree from Lindsey Wilson College offers learners an asynchronous course format, student support, and a network of like minded individuals — including faculty and peers. The program boasts accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and delivers coursework in eight-week slots. Students must complete 30 core credit hours in classes such as counseling theories and techniques: cognitive/behavioral, group counseling techniques, and psychopathology. Prospective students must send in three letters of recommendation from employers or former professors, complete an interview, and send official transcripts from all postsecondary schools attended.

#4 (tie) Walden University

Minneapolis, MN

Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Walden University boasts a CACREP-accredited master’s in mental health counseling program that allows students to transfer in as many as 45 credits. Admission to the program includes completion of the online application and transcripts from your bachelor’s program. Students can specialize in one of six areas: trauma and crisis counseling, career counseling, addiction counseling, military families and culture, forensic counseling, and the general program. Courses in the general program include counseling psychotherapy theories, introduction to mental health counseling, and foundations for graduate study in counseling. Students should remember that while there are no on-campus fees associated with the program, they need to pay Walden a technology and pre-practicum lab fee.

#3 Adams State University

Alamosa, CO

Online Master of Arts in Counseling

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Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the CACREP, the master’s in mental health counseling program at Adams State University develops counselors with a strong sense of professionalism through both theoretical and hands-on learning. Clinical mental health and school counseling serve as the program’s two concentrations, and students can select the one that meets their career goals. The program constitutes 60 total credits that qualify graduates for licensure in the state of Colorado. Courses in each track ready students for the specific demands of the field. Clinical counseling courses include counseling modalities for clinical mental health, professional school counseling issues, and comprehensive school counseling.

#2 University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, KY

Master of Arts in Professional Counseling Online

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The University of the Cumberlands offers a master’s in mental health counseling that holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). As an online program, students enjoy the flexibility of asynchronous coursework through the study of courses such as private practice and clinical supervision, child and adolescent counseling, and marriage and family counseling. Lifestyle and career development and etiology and diagnosis of mental disorders count as two examples of the core coursework. TOEFL scores for individuals who speak English as a second language are required for program entrance. Additional requirements include a cumulative 3.0 undergraduate GPA and official transcripts.

#1 Lamar University

Beaumont, TX

Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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The master’s in mental health counseling from Lamar University requires students to complete 60 total credits prior to graduation. It aims to ensure that graduates can work in places like hospitals and clinics providing qualitative care to a variety of different clients. Substance abuse counseling, counseling skills, and crisis prevention intervention serve as three courses offered in the program. Students must complete two internships totaling 600 hours, or 240 hours of direct service and 360 hours of indirect service. Learners also need to attend two residencies on campus. To apply, students should send in their official undergraduate transcripts and a completed online application form. The program exempts students from providing a GRE score who hold a GPA of at least a 3.0.

 

Methodology:
This list was created using data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. We looked for programs offering master’s degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. We retained schools that offered this degree in a distance education format. Additionally, we evaluated schools based on regional accreditation and only accepted regionally accredited schools. We evaluated each program’s website and tuition (per credit hour). Schools were ranked based on low cost.

About the author: Kirsten Hughes is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, with her Masters in Education from the University of Oregon. Kirsten has provided direct services to youth and families, in a variety of roles and a range of settings, for the last 15 years. Kirsten particularly enjoys supporting young people as they navigate the challenges that come with transitioning from high school to college and beyond. Kirsten lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.

 

See also: The Top 10 Online Master’s Degrees in Student Affairs and College Counseling