Top Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs 2020

Top Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs 2020

| Staff Writers

Top Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs 2020
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A career as a mental health counselor can be personally and professionally rewarding, as it often deals with assisting the most vulnerable members in a community. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 25% job growth rate for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors through 2029, with employers adding 79,000 positions in that time. Employment for mental health counselors should particularly increase in rural areas lacking healthcare services.

An online mental health counseling degree offers a flexible, affordable path to a new career. Online learning lets students tailor their schedules around personal and professional commitments. Many learners can graduate in 1-2 years.

Graduates are knowledgeable about counseling theories, human development, group work, assessments, and diagnosing mental illnesses. An accredited program readies master’s degree-holders to earn licensure and counsel children and adults in clinical settings.

Keep reading to learn more about the top affordable online master’s in clinical mental health counseling programs.

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Most Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs

Rank School Location
1 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC
2 Freed-Hardeman University Henderson, TN
3 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
4 Clarks Summit University South Abington Township, PA
5 St Bonaventure University Saint Bonaventure, NY
6 University at Buffalo Buffalo, NY
7 Creighton University Omaha, NE
8 Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC
9 Eastern University St. Davids, PA
10 New York University New York City, NY

Methodology

View our ranking methodology here.

  1. North Carolina State University
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    NC State enrolls over 36,000 students across 12 colleges. Along with in-person programs offered at its Raleigh home campus, NC State offers over 100 online programs, with more than 19,000 students enrolled in distance education.

    NC State offers a 60-credit online master’s in clinical mental health counseling that takes three years to complete and includes some minimal on-campus visits during the final year of study. The master’s in education emphasizes concepts in career counseling and development, multicultural counseling, and clinical assessment strategies.

    The cohort-based program combines asynchronous and synchronous study, with one 90-minute video conference meeting per week in addition to work completed individually. Students must complete a counseling practicum, including at least 100 hours of supervised clinical experience. Applicants must submit GRE or GMAT scores.

    North Carolina State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  2. Freed-Hardeman University
    Location

    Henderson, TN

    Founded in 1869 in Henderson, Tennessee, FHU is a private institution affiliated with the Church of Christ. FHU enrolls just over 2,100 students in a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, both on-campus and online.

    Students seeking an online mental health counseling degree with a Christian foundation can earn a master’s in pastoral care and counseling at FHU. The 48-credit hour program prepares graduates to provide ministry-based counseling services. Candidates complete courses in family ministry, Christian leadership, and communication in ministry, along with a six credit hour internship.

    This program best serves candidates seeking careers as pastors, youth ministers, and Bible school instructors. The curriculum emphasizes studies in ministerial counseling and includes required courses in the Old and New Testaments. Applicants must demonstrate a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, and submit GRE or GMAT scores.

    Freed-Hardeman University holds regional accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

  3. LeTourneau University
    Location

    Longview, TX

    Founded in 1946 as a technical college for engineers, LETU now offers over 140 academic programs across eight colleges. The university is a private, Christian institution emphasizing evangelical tenets and Biblical teachings. However, LETU welcomes applicants of all faiths, and enrolls over 3,100 students, including 857 online learners.

    LETU's online MA in counseling programs are ideal for students seeking one of the top mental health counseling graduate programs. The school offers MA degree options in clinical mental health and school counseling. The clinical mental health track requires 66 credit hours, including six credits of theology coursework for counselors. The core curriculum addresses concepts in research methods, psychopharmacology, and counseling skills and techniques.

    Applicants must hold an undergraduate GPA of at least a 2.75. Students entering the program with less than 12 undergraduate credits in psychology must complete prerequisite courses.

    LeTourneau University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  4. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    South Abington Township, PA

    Originally founded as the Baptist Bible Seminary in 1932, CSU now serves over 900 students through a variety of Biblically-centered academic programs. Candidates may take courses at CSU's home campus in Johnson City, New York, or enroll in one of the university's online programs, many of which take as few as two years to complete.

    CSU’s 60-credit online MS in counseling program focuses on ministry studies and biblically-based counseling. Core courses include biblical philosophy of counseling, spiritual issues in counseling, and group counseling. The fully accredited program takes under four years to complete. Students must attend three week-long intensive courses on-campus during summer sessions.

    Applicants to the MS in counseling program must hold a bachelor’s degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Students entering the program without undergraduate experience in psychology or theology must complete prerequisite courses.

    Clarks Summit University holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

  5. St Bonaventure University
    Location

    Saint Bonaventure, NY

    Located just south of Buffalo, New York, SBU offers many academic programs, including six online graduate degrees. SBU’s online programs boast small class sizes and asynchronous instruction, allowing for quality education and exceptional flexibility.

    SBU's online master’s in clinical mental health counseling is available as a track in the MS in education program. The 60-credit program includes courses in abnormal psychology, psychological testing and assessment, and research methods in education. The curriculum stresses individual and group counseling competencies, communication, critical thinking, and ethical and legal responsibilities in counseling. Students complete two internships entailing 300 clock hours of supervised counseling practice.

    Applicants must submit two letters of reference and attend an admissions interview.

    SBU's clinical mental health counseling program holds programmatic accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. St. Bonaventure University holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

  6. University at Buffalo
    Location

    Buffalo, NY

    With more than 31,500 students, UB is the State University of New York system's flagship institution and its largest school. The university offers over 205 online and on-campus master’s programs.

    Students can complete UB's master’s in clinical mental health counseling in 4-6 semesters. The online MS in rehabilitation counseling consists of 48 credit hours and features courses in rehabilitation foundations, counseling techniques, and legal and ethical issues in counseling. Candidates also complete at least 750 counseling contact hours across two to three semesters. The program culminates in two final exams and a portfolio.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling or a related field. Prospective students must attend an admissions interview and submit a statement of intent.

    The program is accredited by Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). The University at Buffalo holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

  7. Creighton University
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    This Omaha institution opened its doors in 1878 with a student body of just 120 individuals. Today, Creighton enrolls more than 8,900 students in over 140 academic programs, including 30 distance learning options.

    Creighton students seeking an online mental health counseling degree can earn a master’s in school counseling and preventive mental health and choose from concentrations in elementary school counseling, secondary school counseling, and PK-12 guidance counseling. Students complete between 36 and 39 credit hours, depending on their chosen track. Core courses include diagnosis and mental health issues in children and adolescents, theoretical perspectives in counseling, and social justice and diversity in school counseling.

    Prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA and submit letters of recommendation. Online coursework is presented asynchronously, and learners benefit from small class sizes and individualized faculty attention.

    Creighton University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  8. Wake Forest University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    A private liberal arts institution located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest University serves more than 8,400 students through a variety of major, minor, and certificate programs. Some of Wake Forest's graduate programs can be completed entirely online.

    The university's online master’s in counseling features two track options: clinical mental health and school counseling. Both tracks require a minimum of 60 credit hours, and include core courses such as theories and models of counseling, research and statistical analysis, and counseling skills and techniques. All students complete a practicum and two internship courses. Both concentrations culminate in a professional identity capstone seminar.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. While candidates must submit GRE scores, the school may waive this requirement based on academic merit. Applicants attend a virtual interview with an enrollment specialist.

    Wake Forest University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

  9. Eastern University
    Location

    St. Davids, PA

    A Christian institution affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA, this Davids, Pennsylvania school incorporates faith into its academic programs, emphasizing key tenets of reason and justice. Eastern offers more than 160 programs, including online options for students seeking a master’s in clinical mental health counseling.

    Eastern’s MA in clinical counseling includes two track options: trauma studies and applied behavior analysis certification. Students may pursue an accelerated path and earn their degree in as few as two years. Eastern offers both on-campus and online delivery options, allowing students to blend web-based and in-person courses, or to complete the degree entirely online.

    The program requires 60 credit hours for both track options, with foundational courses in counseling theory, ethics and professional development, and psychopathology and diagnosis. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 2.8 undergraduate GPA. Applicants with a lower GPA must submit GRE scores.

    Eastern University holds regional accreditation from The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

  10. New York University
    Location

    New York City, NY

    NYU is the nation's largest private institution, enrolling more than 58,000 students. NYU offers courses and academic programs at its New York City campus and online.

    Students can pursue two unique online counseling degrees at NYU: an MA in counseling for mental health and wellness and an MA in counseling and guidance. The counseling and guidance track includes 48 credit hours, and the counseling for mental health and wellness option requires 60. Full-time students may complete either track in 18 to 21 months.

    Both programs feature live classes and opportunities to interact with classmates and instructors. Students may attend short on-campus intensives to meet classmates and network and train. The counseling programs offer rolling admissions and do not require the GRE. All students complete a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship at a location in their home community.

    New York University holds regional accreditation from The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Applying to an Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program

While each college establishes specific admission standards, most online master’s in clinical mental health counseling programs maintain some common requirements.

Schools typically require candidates to possess a minimum 2.7-3.0 undergraduate GPA. Applicants may also need to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Some programs expect prospective students to have completed certain prerequisite courses or hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling or a related field. Admissions departments may also prefer candidates who have gained work experience through internships or volunteer opportunities.

Along with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, applicants must typically submit supplemental materials like letters of recommendation from professional references, a resume, transcripts, and a personal statement.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • How long does it take to become a clinical mental health counselor?

    The journey to becoming a clinical mental health counselor includes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and two years to get a master’s degree. Part-time students often take longer to graduate. Mental health counselors also need a license to work in a clinical setting, which requires completing supervised clinical hours.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Institutional and programmatic accreditation protects students and their investments. Schools hold either regional or national accreditation, both of which ensure that the curriculum and institution meet certain standards. Online mental health counseling programs often hold accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Employers often prefer graduates from accredited programs.

  • What does a clinical mental health counselor do?

    A clinical mental health counselor’s job entails assessing clients’ mental and emotional wellbeing. They diagnose patients and determine treatment plans. Specific job functions vary depending on the workplace.

  • What can I do with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling?

    A master’s in clinical mental health counseling can jumpstart a graduate’s career as a school counselor, health educator, outpatient therapist, or substance abuse counselor. Mental health counselors help individuals and groups by focusing on prevention. They may opt to work with teenagers, elderly, or incarcerated individuals.


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