The 25 Best Low-Cost Master’s in Counseling Online Programs

By BCD Staff

February 2018

Counseling is a rewarding career focused on reducing suffering, improving social outcomes, and helping individuals overcome challenging circumstances. The field is projected to experience high job growth: 23% for substance abuse and mental health counselors, and 13% for school counselors. Professional counselors enjoy a range of career opportunities in a number of settings, such as outpatient centers, family services, or schools. Counselors must be licensed to provide clinical services. Licensure requirements vary by state, but generally include supervised clinical practice prior to graduation and passing a state exam. If you feel called to make a difference in people's lives and pursue a rewarding career path, then earning an online master's in counselor is an excellent choice.

Top 10 Affordable Online Master's in Counseling Degree Programs

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There are many options available for a counseling degree, so there is certainly a program to meet your specific interests. This guides reviews 25 of the top online master's programs, including specializations, coursework requirements, and admissions.


#25 Gwynedd Mercy

Gwynedd Valley, PA

Masters of Science in School Counseling Online


Gwynedd Mercy is a Catholic university located in Pennsylvania. The school counseling program requires 60 credits, split evenly between core curriculum and certification courses. Coursework is delivered online but two weekend residencies are required. One practicum and three internships in the student's community allow the opportunity for fieldwork. Specialized coursework includes topics in disabilities, English as a second language, and intervention techniques. The program meets the ASCA National Model guidelines. Graduates are eligible for licensure in Pennsylvania. To apply, you must have a 3.0 GPA or a score of 292 on the GRE, submit a personal statement, and attend a personal interview.

#24 Edinboro
University of Pennsylvania

Edinboro, PA

Online Master of Arts in Counseling

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Edinboro, PA Online Master of Arts in Counseling

Edinboro University offers a master's in counseling with several specializations. The art therapy degree meets the requirements for the national Art Therapy Credential. The college counseling program and school counseling program are accredited by CACREP. The clinical mental health and clinical rehabilitation degrees are hybrid programs. Students complete a supervised counseling practice, a practicum, and at least one internship. A total of 60 credits are required for the degree; 30 credits in core coursework and 30 credits in the specialization. Applicants must submit a writing sample along with official transcripts. Art therapy applicants must submit an online portfolio and have earned credit in psychology and studio arts.

#23 Creighton

Omaha, NE

Online Master of Science in School Counseling and Preventative Mental Health


The 36-credit hour school counseling program at Creighton University can be completed fully online in as little as two years. Three tracks are available: elementary school counseling, secondary school counseling, and PreK-12 guidance counseling. The tracks include at least one course in current issues and two internships. Core coursework includes the American School Counselor Association model, data-driven perspectives, and social justice in school counseling. Students without a teaching certificate are required to complete two additional practicums and three courses in school culture and education. The program meets requirements for school counselor certification in Nebraska. The Magis Catholic Teacher Corps offers subsidized tuition in exchange for teaching in Catholic schools.

#22 Cornerstone University

Grand Rapids, MI

Master of Arts in Counseling Online


Cornerstone University, a Christian university in Grand Rapids, Michigan, offers a master's in counseling with four areas of specialization. The 69-credit program includes a practicum and internships that provide 700 hours of supervised field experience. The addictions counseling specialization prepares students for the Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC) credential in Michigan. The trauma specialization addresses trauma counseling from a Christian worldview. The multi-state licensure specialization is designed for students seeking licensure outside of Michigan. The interdisciplinary studies specialization is a flexible program designed for students pursuing ministry. Two, three-day residencies are required. Students typically complete the program in 3 – 4 years.

#21 Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

Online Master of Counseling in Clinical Mental Health Counseling


The master of counseling with a specialization in clinical mental health counseling at Oregon State University (OSU) is a part-time, hybrid program. The degree requires 90 credits and can be completed in three and a half to four years. Following a cohort model, students attend classes on the Salem, Oregon campus twice per term, for two days. Students complete two practicum courses, five internship courses, and a counselor consultation course. As a CACREP accredited program, graduates are eligible for licensure in Oregon. Applicants must submit transcripts with a 3.0 GPA, a resume with professional recommendations, and a three page statement of objectives.

#20 Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA

Master of Education in International Counseling Online


The school counseling program at Lehigh University provides an international focus through it's curriculum and international professional institutes. While the degree is in school counseling, the program focuses on interventions in school, community, and family, preparing graduates for employment in schools and other settings. Students attend in-person institutes in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or in Greece each summer. The 34-39 credit program covers topics in multicultural counseling for the global community, counseling in international settings, and counseling individuals with special needs. Courses are delivered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Students complete two internships during their final year.

#19 Palo Alto University

Palo Alto, CA

Online Master of Arts in Counseling


Palo Alto University, located in the technological hub of Palo Alto, California, offers an online master's in counseling with two areas of emphasis: marriage, family, and child or clinical mental health. The degree provides a multicultural focus directed towards social justice and reducing suffering. Online courses are delivered synchronously in the evenings. Students are required to attend a week-long residency during their first year. 700 hours of direct experience in a counseling setting are required. Students can expect to earn their degree in two years and three months, after which they will be eligible for licensure in California.

#18 The University of Tennessee-Martin

Martin, TN

Online Masters in Counseling


Three concentrations are available in the online master's in counseling at University of Tennessee Martin: school counseling, clinical mental health, and school counseling endorsement. The school counseling degree requires 48 credits. Applicants must have prior teaching experience, or complete an additional course in preK-12 observation. The clinical mental health program is 60 credits. Both specializations require a practicum and two internships and a four-day residency at the Martin campus. The school counseling endorsement is available for professionals with an advanced degree. It requires 24 – 27 credits and two internships. The program is accredited by CACREP and graduates are eligible for licensure as counselors.

#17 University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, LA

Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) offers a CACREP accredited master of science in counseling with two specializations. Students may pursue clinical mental health counseling or school counseling, and in some cases may pursue both specializations concurrently. The graduate program follows a semester schedule, with starts dates in fall and spring. Students also complete courses during two summer sessions and an intensive session in winter and spring. ULM charges a flat tuition rate that includes all fees, making it easier to budget your education. Admission to the program requires a minimum overall 3.0 GPA and a score of 290 on the GRE.

#16 Touro University Worldwide

Los Alamitos, CA

Online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy


Touro University Worldwide (TUW) offers three tracks for the marriage and family therapy degree. The clinical track requires a total of 72 credits, including 18 credits in practicum courses totaling 500 clock hours. The licensed professional clinical counseling (LPCC) track requires and additional 10 LPCC credits, for a total of 82 credits. The non-clinical track can be completed with a minimum of 54 credits and does not require any practicum hours. Students complete a capstone course during their final semester in preparation for the California licensure exam. The program can be completed in 18 – 36 months, dependent on the chosen track.

#15 Salem College

Winston-Salem, NC

Masters of Education in School Counseling Online


Salem College, in the research triangle of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, offers a research-driven master of education program. Students complete the program in a cohort and progress through classes according to a set order of curriculum, taking two courses at a time. Cohorts begin each spring and fall. The degree requires 48 credit hours and can be completed in 36 months. A practicum and internship are required, totaling 700 hours, as well as a research seminar. Students must attend two weekend seminars in individual counseling and group counseling. Graduates are eligible for licensure as a school counselor in North Carolina.

#14 Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, AZ

Online Master of Science in Professional Counseling

Online Master of Science in Mental Health and Wellness


Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers a fully online master's in counseling with no residential requirements. The 62-credit program covers coursework in five domains: models and practice, ethics, social cultural foundations, research, and professional development. In these domains, students complete core courses in a variety of counseling skills and assessment methods. Final coursework includes a 100-hour practicum, which earns two credits, and two 300-hour internships which earn eight credits. Courses begin every eight weeks. GCU accepts up to 12 transfer credits. The program can lead to licensure as a counselor; a master's degree is required in all states, GCU meets the requirements in Arizona.

#13 Clarks Summit University

South Abington Township, PA

Online Master of Science in Counseling


Clarks Summit University's online master's in counseling provides a counseling model with a biblical foundation. The program requires 48 credits of core coursework and 12 credits in one of six specializations: Addictions, general counseling, hospital chaplaincy, marriage and family, mental and mood disorders, and therapeutic recreation. Students complete field experiences in the form of a practicum and internships. Three one-week courses at the Johnson City, New York campus are required. Applicants must have at least nine credits in Christianity and psychology or complete 18 credits as a prerequisite for admission. You may transfer up to 20 credits. Graduates are eligible for state licensure or the pursuit of doctoral education.

#12 Washburn University

Topeka, KS

Master of Arts in Human Services Online


The master's in human services/addiction counseling at Washburn University is offered full or part time and requires 36 credit hours to complete. Students attending full time complete three courses per semester and graduate in two years. The program is entirely online with field experience in your community. Coursework includes topics in integrative human services, substance use, and dual disorders. Two practicums are required. The program meets requirements for licensure as an addictions counselor in Kansas; students should check qualifications in their state. To obtain regular admission, Washburn requires a 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of prior coursework. A maximum of 12 credits may be transferred.

#11 Capella University

Minneapolis, MN

Online Master of Science in School Counseling

Online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling Therapy

Online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling


The clinical mental health counseling degree at Capella University requires 22 courses, 90 quarter credits, for completion. Coursework includes 10 core courses and seven courses in the specialization. Students complete a total of 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours during their final quarters. Two residencies are required as a part of two courses. The one-week sessions are held at different locations each year, based on the number of students in the area. Families may travel with the student. Up to 20 transfer credits are accepted. The program is accredited by CACREP and meets licensure eligibility requirements in many states.

#10 Lindsey Wilson College

Columbia, KY

Online Master of Education in Counseling & Human Development


This master of education degree offers a specialization in mental health counseling. The degree requires a minimum of 60 hours, including 30 hours in core curriculum covering topics in human development, helping relationships, group work, and program evaluation. The specialization requires 21 hours in advanced counseling skills. Students also complete 750 hours of clinical field experience. A 13-hour substance abuse counseling certificate is also available. The counseling and human development program is accredited by CACREP and meets clinical counseling licensure requirements in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. It does not meet requirements for school counselor certification.

#9 Walden University

Minneapolis, MN

Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Online Master of Science in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling

Online Master of Science in School Counseling.


Walden University offers a masters in marriage, couple, and family counseling with five specializations: addiction counseling, career counseling, forensic counseling, trauma and crisis counseling, and military families and culture. The general program requires a minimum of 90 quarter credits. The specializations require an additional 10 credits each. All students must complete a 100-hour practicum and 600 hours in an internship. Students complete two courses during each 11-week quarter; courses are delivered in a set order. Walden accepts up to 45 transfer credits and offers credit for work or military experience. The program is accredited by CACREP and meets licensure requirements in many states.

#8 Adams State University

Alamosa, CO

Master of Arts in Counseling Online

 Adams State University Alamosa, CO Master of Arts in Counseling Online

The counseling program at Adams State University offers two areas of emphasis: clinical mental health and school counseling. The program follows a cohort model with three start dates per year. Students complete 60 credit hours over seven semesters. Core coursework includes research and a 100-hour practicum. You may complete the 600-hour internship requirement in your own community. Students earning their online master's in counselor may opt for a dual specialization by substituting program courses for electives. Both programs meet requirements for their respective licensure in Colorado. There are two mandatory one week residencies at the Alamosa, Colorado campus.

#7 University of West Alabama

Livingston, AL

Online Master of Education in School Counseling

Online Master of Education in Student Affairs in Higher Education

Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Online Master of Science in Family Counseling

Online Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling


The 60-credit hour clinical mental health counseling program at University of West Alabama (UWA) is offered in an accelerated format and can be completed in 1 – 2 years. Courses are offered in five, eight-week terms. Students complete two courses in research and program evaluation, a 100-hour practicum, and two internships. You can select 12 credit hours from an extensive list of electives, allowing depth or breadth in addictions treatment, distance counseling, play therapy, or grief and trauma. Up to nine credit hours may be transferred to the program. Students from all states except California, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico may apply to the online program.

#6 Southern Arkansas University

Magnolia, AR

Master of Education in School Counseling Online

Online Master of Education in College Counseling and Student Affairs

Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling


The online master's in counseling offered by Southern Arkansas University (SAU) is a comprehensive 60 credit hour program. The master's degree requires an educational research course in the first semester. Subsequent coursework covers topics in professional issues, psychopharmacology, and counseling across the lifespan. One practicum and two internships are required. Students explore individual and group counseling skills and advanced theory and practice. The program can be completed in 3 – 4 years and meets requirements for licensure in Arkansas. Students must pass a comprehensive exam and a minimum of 3.0 GPA to be eligible for licensure. SAU provides student support services and an employment resource center for online students.

#5 University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, KY

Online Master of Arts in Professional Counseling


University of the Cumberlands (UC), located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, offers a counseling degree that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The clinical mental health program requires coursework in clinical supervision and advanced skills in marriage, family, and child counseling. Two tracks are available. Track one requires a minimum of 30 hours with an option for one or two specializations and a thesis. Track two requires 45 hours, including 600 hours of practicum and a one-day resident intensive. This track leads to licensure in Kentucky. Up to half of the credit hours may be transferred from a regionally accredited institution.

#4 Union College

Barbourville, KY

Master of Arts in General Psychology Online


Union College offers several tracks in their graduate psychology programs. The online general psychology degree requires 37 hours and prepares students to pursue doctoral studies or achieve career advancement. The hybrid clinical psychology program requires 49 hours plus an additional 12 hours for licensure. The substance abuse program is offered entirely online and requires 60 hours to meet Kentucky state licensure requirements. Students also have the option of pursuing a 21-hour chemical dependency counselor certificate. The program is offered in an accelerated format; eight-week courses begin six times per year. All programs require a practicum and a thesis or research project.

#3 Campbellsville University

Campbellsville, KY

Online Master of Arts in Education in School Guidance Counseling


Campbellsville University is a Christian university offering a master's in school counseling with Christian values. The online degree is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Students can earn their degree in 18 months, completing 48 credit hours and 400 hours of internship-based fieldwork. Three credit hours are also required in research practicums. The degree leads to licensure as a school counselor in Kentucky. Campbellsville University participates in the Yellow Ribbon program and offers reduced tuition costs for active duty military. The program transfers up to 12 credit hours from a regionally accredited institution.

#2 University of Missouri-Columbia

Columbia, MO

Online Master of Education in Educational, School and Counseling Psychology


The online master of education in counseling at Mizzou Online offers advanced education in mental health practices. The program requires 25 credits in the major and 9 credits in electives. It is particularly beneficial for education and mental health professionals who want to pursue education in managing atypical student behavior and developing collaborative intervention strategies. The capstone course requires a research paper demonstrating integrated knowledge and skills from the program. The program does not lead to licensure. Students attending part time, year-round classes earn their degree in two years. University of Missouri offers in-state tuition rates for distance learners.

#1 American Public University System

Charles Town, WV

Online Master of Arts in Psychology


American Public University (APU) offers entirely online learning with a special focus on serving the military community; 78% of the student body have a military background. Asynchronous online classes begin monthly. Courses are eight or 16 weeks long, allowing you to complete your education on your schedule. The counseling degree requires 39 semester hours, including one elective course in the major and a capstone course. The capstone serves as an integrative review while students receive direct guidance from the instructor and complete a research project. APU offers a military tuition grant, covers the cost of technology fees, and awards transfer credit for military training.
Methodology: A list of schools offering select counseling programs as Distance Education was gathered using College Navigator. From this list, each school's regional accreditation was gathered and only schools that were regionally accredited remained. Then each school's website was searched to confirm if a counseling program was indeed offered online. Schools were only retained if they had a degree with a counseling focus and those programs were available in an online format. Each school's Graduate tuition per credit hour was obtained from each school's website. Schools were ranked on affordability, and when there was a tie, schools were ranked alphabetically.

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This concludes our ranking of the 50 Best Low-Cost Online Master's in Counseling Degree Programs 2018.