Most Affordable Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

| Staff Writers

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Counseling Programs
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A counseling career allows professionals to help people in a variety of areas, including substance abuse, behavioral and mental health disorders, disabilities, and school and career issues.

Counselors impact their clients’ lives in highly positive ways and can expect to find quick employment post-graduation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 22% increase in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling jobs through 2028. The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis estimates that the U.S. could experience shortages of up to 34,940 addiction counselors in at least 32 states and 40,140 mental health counselors in at least 36 states by 2030.

Best Low-Cost Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling 2020

Rank School Degree Type
1 North Carolina State University– M.Ed. in counseling Online
2 LeTourneau University– M.A. in counseling Online
3 Freed-Hardeman University– M.A. in counseling Online
4 Northwestern University– M.A. in counseling Online
5 Messiah College– M.A. in counseling Online

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Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

While the BLS reports that the average counselor’s salary exceeds the average of all occupations combined, students hoping to minimize their educational debt should consider low-cost options, such as an online counseling degree. Online programs typically offer the same educational quality as traditional programs without the need to travel to campus every day.

Aspiring counselors should explore online master’s in counseling programs. Counselors with a master’s degree can offer more services to their clients and work more independently. In addition, many state licensure boards require a master’s in counseling for mental health counselors. An online counseling degree serves as a flexible, affordable gateway to a rewarding career.

This page introduces the 25 best low-cost online master’s in counseling programs, with information about required credits, available specializations, and admissions processes. Each school summary also discusses the course delivery method — whether fully online or hybrid — and any requisite in-person fieldwork, residencies, or internships.

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

  1. North Carolina State University
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    Raleigh-based NC State established its counselor education program in 1946. Today, students can still earn an M.Ed. in clinical mental health counseling from NC State, but they can also pursue their studies online.

    The 60-credit program prepares graduates to become licensed professional counselors. Distance learners who enroll part time complete the program in three years. Students must enroll in courses all year, including during the summer term, taking two courses in the fall and spring semesters respectively. While learners complete most coursework online, they must travel to campus for a few weekend classes during their final year. Candidates also complete a 600-hour internship during their final year, and may take the national counselor examination in the program's final semester.

    Students applying to the online master's in counseling program must possess a bachelor's degree and submit their GRE or MAT scores, along with three recommendation letters. The program is only open to North Carolina residents.

    Courses Include

      • Multicultural Lifespan Development
      • Special Problems: Substance Abuse Counseling
      • Clinical Assessment
      • Group Counseling
      • Gender Issues in Counseling

       

      Unique Features

        • Cost: $462 per credit
        • Credits Required: 60
        • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

         

  2. LeTourneau University
    Location

    Longview, TX

    LeTourneau University is a Christian-affiliated institution based in Longview, Texas. The university offers two online master's degrees in counseling: an MA in school counseling and an MA in clinical mental health counseling. Both programs require students to complete 66 credits of coursework, including 45 core curriculum hours. Core courses focus on counseling skills, psychopharmacology, and research methods. Candidates must also complete three integrative theology courses and a class called trauma and theory in the developmental context.

    The curriculum for both programs includes a one-semester practicum and a two-semester internship. The practicum consists of a 100-hour introductory supervised field experience. Master's candidates also complete 600 hours of direct counseling services to fulfill the internship requirement. The program also includes one supplementary on-campus residency, which involves a 4-day intensive experience for an applied lab and ethics course.

    Applicants interested in these online counseling degrees should possess a master's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA and submit their GRE scores.

    Courses Include

      • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
      • Teaching Children and Adolescents
      • Human Sexuality and Sex Therapy
      • Couples Therapy and Assessment
      • Addictions Counseling

       

      Unique Features

        • Cost: $615 per credit
        • Credits Required: 66
        • Accreditation: Regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

         

  3. Freed-Hardeman University
    Location

    Henderson, TN

    Based in Henderson, Tennessee, FHU began educating students just after the Civil War in 1869. FHU is affiliated with the Church of Christ, and the university's Graduate School of Theology offers an online MA in pastoral care and counseling for individuals who want to provide counseling services in a biblical context. Many courses in the 48-credit curriculum focus on foundational counseling concepts alongside topics in ministry, Christian leadership, and theology.

    Online courses are delivered synchronously through web conferencing. While distance learners typically attend classes through the web in real time, some professors allow online students to watch recorded lectures on their own. Candidates also complete a six hour internship in the field. Distance learners must maintain a 3.0 GPA on at least 24 credits to qualify for the internship and to graduate.

    Admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a personal essay, and three letters of recommendation, including one from a pastor. Students may also submit a scholarship application.

    Courses Include

    • Suffering and the Human Condition
    • Grief Counseling
    • Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy
    • Marriage and Family Counseling
    • Crisis Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $610 per credit
    • Credits Required: 48
    • Accreditation: Regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

     

  4. Northwestern University
    Location

    Evanston, IL

    Students at this Evanston, Illinois institution can pursue a 60-credit online counseling master's degree. Northwestern uses a quarter system rather than a traditional semester system, which means that students complete four shorter terms throughout the year. Therefore, learners who enroll full time can graduate in nine quarters, or just over two years. Distance learners can also choose an accelerated track option, which allows them to finish the degree in six quarters, or 1.5 years.

    This online counseling degree includes clinical field placements and immersion experiences. During a practicum and an internship, learners complete 600 hours of supervised clinical experience at approved sites. For the two immersion experiences, students head to Chicago for a group counseling course and a capstone research symposium. Candidates can also pursue a child and adolescent emphasis that focuses on counseling young people with mental illnesses.

    Applicants should submit their undergraduate transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, a statement of purpose, and a supplemental letter. The admissions process also includes a group interview. While interested individuals without an undergraduate degree in psychology or counseling may apply, they must complete extracurricular requirements after gaining admission.

    Courses Include

    • Cultural Diversity in Counseling
    • Individual Systems: Psychodynamic Viewpoints
    • Theories and Techniques of Group Counseling and Psychotherapy
    • Counseling Methods: Outreach, Prevention, and Advocacy
    • Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $112,128 in total for traditional and part-time track students; $112,134 for accelerated track students
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  5. Messiah College
    Location

    Mechanicsburg, PA

    A private, Christian institution based in Central Pennsylvania, Messiah enrolls about 3,300 students on campus and online. The school's accredited master of arts in counseling equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to become professional licensed counselors.

    The degree offers three specializations: school counseling; marriage, couple, and family counseling; and clinical mental health counseling. All three concentrations share the same core requirements, including courses on counseling techniques and taking a faith-based approach to counseling. Candidates on each track must complete one practicum course and two internships. The practicum serves as an initial field placement, with learners completing 40-50 direct service contact hours out of the 100 total required hours. Students must also complete 300 hours for each internship course. Those specializing in school counseling must participate in one internship in an elementary school, and one in a secondary school.

    Distance learners typically complete the program in 2-4 years, depending on how many credits they take each semester. While most coursework is presented online, distance learners participate in one-week intensive courses in January and July. Prospective students should hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a personal statement with two recommendation letters. They must also participate in an admissions interview.

    Courses Include

    • Psychopathy and Diagnosis Across the Lifespan
    • Organization and Administration of School Counseling Programs
    • Autism Spectrum Disorders
    • Crisis, Trauma, and Grief Counseling
    • Substance Abuse/Addiction and Families

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $690 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  6. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    South Abington Township, PA

    CSU was founded in New York and later moved to Pennsylvania, where the university still offers a private, Baptist-affiliated education today. CSU also administers a variety of distance learning programs, including an online MS in counseling that prepares students for the National Certified Counselor exam and professional counseling licensure.

    Distance learners complete 60 credits of coursework primarily online across eight-week terms. The curriculum includes three on-campus courses, which learners take in the summer as one-week modules, in addition to an internship and a practicum. Candidates can also opt to visit the on-campus counseling center and observe licensed counselors at work. Students usually complete the program in under four years, and may transfer in up to 20 credits to accelerate the process.

    Applicants to the online master's in counseling program should possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. CSU looks for individuals with at least nine undergraduate credits in theology, and psychology. Incoming students without these credits must enroll in prerequisite courses before beginning the master's program.

    Courses Include

    • Abnormal Behavior
    • Psychology of Grief and Bereavement
    • Evaluation and Consultation for Mental and Mood Disorders
    • Biblical Theology of Counseling
    • Behavioral Addictions

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $550 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

     

  7. Salem College
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    North Carolina-based Salem College is a private, liberal arts school for women and the nation's thirteenth-oldest college. Salem does accept male students in its graduate programs, including the online M.Ed. in school counseling. The 48-credit degree uses a cohort model, in which students progress through the program at the same pace as their classmates. Most candidates graduate in three years.

    The online counseling degree explores contemporary issues in the field, along with foundational counseling theories, strategies, and legal and ethical considerations in counseling. All students must complete a 100-hour practicum, a 600-hour internship, and a professional research seminar.

    Interested North Carolina residents may apply as long as they possess bachelor's degrees with a minimum 3.0 GPA, or if they have completed 12 graduate credits with at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicants should submit writing samples and recommendations.

    Courses Include

    • Focus on Student Advocacy and the School Counselor
    • Culturally Relevant Counselling: Exploring Educational Equity
    • Twenty-first Century Career and Educational Counseling Development
    • Assessment, Measurement, and Evaluation for School Counseling
    • Managing the Comprehensive School Counseling Program

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $525 per credit
    • Credits Required: 48
    • Accreditation: National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education

     

  8. St Bonaventure University
    Location

    Saint Bonaventure, NY

    A Catholic institution affiliated with the Franciscan order, St. Bonaventure educates about 2,000 students through its western New York campus and online. The school offers two online counseling degrees: an MSED in school counseling, and an MSED in clinical mental health counseling.

    The 60-credit programs prepare students for the licensed school counselor and licensed professional counselor credentials, respectively, which individuals need to legally practice in New York state. Terms last seven weeks, and learners can generally complete their degrees in three years. While the program primarily operates online, students must visit campus for two required four-day residencies. A 100-hour practicum at the beginning of the program's second year introduces learners to field experience. Master's candidates may then further practice their skills with two 300-hour internships.

    Each applicant must submit their undergraduate transcripts indicating at least a 2.75 GPA. They should also send in a personal statement or writing sample and two recommendations before participating in an interview.

    Courses Include

    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Advanced Human Growth and Development
    • Management of School Counseling Programs
    • Interventions for School and CMH Counseling
    • Multicultural Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $770 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  9. University at Buffalo
    Location

    Buffalo, NY

    With about 32,000 undergraduate and graduate students, UB is the largest university in the 64-campus public State University of New York System. The university's MS in Rehabilitation Counseling trains graduates to work at alcohol and abuse recovery programs, government agencies, medical and psychiatric clinics, and many other professional settings.

    This online counseling degree requires 48 credits in total. All online students enroll on a part-time basis and take two courses each semester. Distance learners can generally graduate within three years. The curriculum includes at least 750 hours of experiential contact. The practicum requires 150 onsite contact hours, while two internships allow students to practice their clinical skills for an additional 600 hours. Distance learners also take the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification exam while enrolled in the program.

    Applicants should possess a bachelor's degree in a related field, although UB does not specify a minimum GPA needed for admission. Prospective students must also send in two recommendations and a statement of intent, and undergo an interview.

    Courses Include

    • Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability
    • Legal and Ethical Issues in Counseling
    • Rehabilitation Foundations
    • Fieldwork and Counseling Techniques
    • Understanding Statistical Research

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $471 per credit for New York residents; $565 per credit for nonresidents
    • Credits Required: 48
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  10. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Los Angeles-based USC offers a 49-credit online master of education in school counseling that prepares students to earn California's Pupil Personnel Services: School Counseling credential. This certification gives students the legal right to work as school counselors in the state.

    Distance learners may pursue the degree part time or full time and graduate in 2-3 years. The curriculum teaches future counselors to help kids achieve college and career readiness, aid children overcoming challenges like poverty, and support children struggling with trauma. Master's candidates must complete 700 hours of fieldwork, including a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship. Before students engage in onsite supervised work, they must pass California's basic skills requirement assessment. Students must also construct a portfolio of their work to graduate.

    Prospective students should submit their bachelor's degree transcripts demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA, a personal essay, two recommendation letters, and two short answer responses.

    Courses Include

    • Learning and Individual Differences
    • Counseling and Collaborative Consultation in the School Settings
    • Human Development Theory in School Counseling
    • Politics of Differences
    • School Connectedness, Climate, and Classroom Management

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1,928 per credit
    • Credits Required: 49
    • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

     

  11. Eastern University
    Location

    St. Davids, PA

    Eastern is a Christian-affiliated institute with about 3,300 students located in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. Eastern's MA in clinical counseling allows students to earn the degree either through hybrid learning -- that is, both online and on-campus -- or entirely through distance learning. Students in the 60-credit program can also choose from a general clinical counseling track, or a concentration in either trauma studies or applied behavior analysis. In addition to foundational courses about psychology theory and counseling techniques, students complete a practicum and two internships.

    Candidates who choose to pursue an accelerated online master's in counseling can graduate in two years. However, learners on the accelerated track must complete both web-based and on-campus components, taking evening and asynchronous online classes. Incoming accelerated track students must also have completed at least six credits of behavioral science coursework over the past decade. Accelerated students may not work full time. Otherwise, full-time students in the non-accelerated program can complete the degree in three years, while part-time students may graduate in four years.

    Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates who do not meet the 3.0 GPA requirement should submit two recommendations and GRE scores.

    Courses Include

    • Personality Dynamics and Psychosocial Assessment
    • Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling Practice
    • Lifespan Development
    • Psychopathy and Diagnosis
    • Techniques of Counseling and Psychotherapy

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $725 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Master's in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

     

  12. Creighton University
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    Omaha-based Creighton offers an MS in school counseling and preventative mental health that equips master's candidates with the tools to help children and adolescents overcome obstacles. The curriculum integrates Creighton's Jesuit values into the courses, focusing on compassion, ethics, and building relationships. Learners can graduate in about two years.

    Incoming students who already possess a teaching certificate may complete the program in 36 credits. Those without a teaching certificate must enroll in an extra practicum, bumping up their required coursework to 48 credits. All master's candidates must complete a 600-hour internship. Students can also choose between specializations in elementary school counseling, secondary school counseling, and pre-kindergarten-12th grade guidance counseling.

    Applicants should possess a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. They should also complete a background check and submit three recommendation letters and a personal statement.

    Courses Include

    • Action Research in School Counseling
    • Issues in Child and Adult Development for School Counselors
    • Individual Planning and Counseling Techniques for School Counselors
    • Diagnosis and Mental Health Issues in Children and Adolescents
    • Social Justice and Diversity in School Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $597 per credit
    • Credits Required: 36-48 credits
    • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

     

  13. Bradley University
    Location

    Peoria, IL

    Established as Bradley Polytechnic Institute in 1897, Bradley University continues to operate as a private higher education institution in Peoria, Illinois. The university offers an MA in professional school counseling, and an MA in clinical mental health counseling. Both degrees require 60 credits of coursework, which students primarily complete online. However, they must also participate in two one-week, on-campus residencies.

    The first residency occurs during learners' first term, while the second occurs during the eighth term. In addition, all students must fulfill a practicum and two internships. Master's candidates pursuing the school counseling degree also complete a thesis, which involves conducting advanced research under a professor's guidance.

    To apply, prospective students should submit their undergraduate transcripts; GRE, MAT, or GMAT scores; two letters of recommendation; and an admissions essay. Bradley prioritizes applicants who possess at least a 3.0 GPA during their undergraduate coursework, although the school also considers applicants with a 2.5 GPA with high standardized test scores.

    Courses Include

    • Loss and Grief Counseling
    • Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders
    • Neurocounseling: Bridging Brain and Behavior
    • Crisis Intervention
    • Career and Life Planning Across the Lifespan

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $910 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  14. Wake Forest University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest University provides more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students with a private, nonprofit education. The school's Department of Counseling offers two online master's degrees: an MA in clinical mental health counseling and an MA in school counseling. Both degrees consist of 60 credits and share the same foundational and core classes but feature different advanced practice courses.

    Students on the clinical mental health specialty track complete a practicum, two internships, and a two-credit professional identity capstone course. Learners who pursue the school counseling concentration complete the same requirements in an elementary or secondary school setting.

    Qualifying applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a 2.5 minimum GPA, along with GRE scores exceeding 300 and a minimum writing score of 3. Prospective students should also send in three recommendation letters and a personal statement.

    Courses Include

    • Advanced Counseling Skills and Crisis Management
    • Lifespan Development: Implications for Counseling
    • Classification of Mental and Emotional Disorders
    • Addiction Counseling
    • Appraisal Procedures for Counselors

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1,456 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  15. New York University
    Location

    New York City, NY

    One of the largest private universities in the country, NYU educates more than 50,000 students through 19 schools and colleges. NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development runs an MA in counseling for mental health and wellness and an MA in school counseling and guidance, both offered online.

    Consisting of 48 credits, the school counseling degree explores counseling concepts through the lens of equity and social justice. Distance learners can choose to concentrate in bilingual school counseling, which trains graduates to work with children who speak English as a second language. School counseling master's candidates must complete a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship, with full-time learners graduating in 18 months.

    The master's in mental health counseling requires 60 credits of coursework, and full-time students can complete the program in 21 months. The degree prepares students to seek New York counseling licensure, and candidates must also fulfill 100 practicum hours and 600 clinical internship hours.

    While NYU does not require a minimum undergraduate GPA for either program, all applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. Candidates should also submit a personal statement and two recommendation letters.

    Courses Include

    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Sexual Decision-Making and Risk-Taking in Adolescence
    • Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment
    • Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Theory and Application
    • Trauma: Theoretical and Clinical Perspectives

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $1,795 per credit
    • Credits Required: 48-60
    • Accreditation: Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

     

  16. University of Wisconsin - Stout
    Location

    Menomonie, WI

    UW-Stout is a public polytechnic institution in Menomonie, Wisconsin. The university offers an online MS in rehabilitation counseling that prepares students for the national Certified Rehabilitation Counselor examination and state counselor licensure in Wisconsin. The 60-credit program allows distance learners to complete coursework almost entirely online. The web-based program follows an asynchronous format, so students can log on and complete their class assignments or stream lectures at their convenience. Students enroll part time, typically taking two courses each semester, and most earn their degrees in three years.

    The one on-campus component consists of a 2.5-day orientation at the university. The program also includes a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship, which students may complete at clinical rehabilitation sites in their local areas. The online program option is open only to candidates with at least two years of experience working in rehabilitation or with disabled individuals. Otherwise, incoming students may enroll in a full-time, hybrid option.

    While applicants should possess a bachelor's degree, the university does not require a minimum GPA. Applicants must also submit a written statement and three recommendation letters.

    Courses Include

    • Neurodevelopmental, Neurocognitive, and Psychiatric Conditions
    • Rehabilitation Counseling Assessment and Planning
    • Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Programs
    • Crisis and Trauma Counseling
    • Social and Cultural Issues in Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $580 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  17. Lubbock Christian University
    Location

    Lubbock, TX

    This Texas university began educating students in 1957 and now enrolls about 1,800 learners. Graduate students can pursue either a master's in clinical mental health counseling or a master's in school counseling, which are both offered through distance learning formats.

    The MS in clinical mental health counseling consists of 60 credits, most of which can be completed online. Distance learning terms last 7-8 weeks, and courses feature both synchronous and asynchronous components. In addition, students must visit campus for six courses. Each one-week residency takes place at the end of these courses and consists of intensive instruction. Master's candidates also fulfill a practicum requirement, complete two internships, and pass a comprehensive exam.

    In contrast, the MS in school counseling only requires 36 credits of coursework. This online program does not include any on-campus residencies, although students must complete a practicum and comprehensive exam.

    With their initial application, interested individuals should submit their undergraduate transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA and three reference letters. During the second phase of the admissions process, applicants complete a personality assessment, write two short essays, and participate in an admissions interview.

    Courses Include

    • Psychopathology of Individuals and Families
    • Techniques of Individual and Family Counseling
    • Addictions
    • Career Counseling
    • Counseling Children, Adolescents and their Families

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $468 per credit
    • Credits Required: 36-60
    • Accreditation: Regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

     

  18. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    Established in 1931, ULM educates over 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students through a variety of online and on-campus programs. The school offers an online MS in clinical mental health counseling for individuals who want to work as licensed counselors.

    The curriculum focuses on diagnosing and treating anxiety, depression, emotional trauma, and other mental disorders. Courses are presented entirely online, and distance learners do not need to visit campus at any time. While most courses are delivered in an asynchronous format, students must sometimes log on to participate in synchronous class meetings. They must also participate in a web-based workshop during the summer of their first year. Prior to graduation, candidates complete a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship.

    Qualifying applicants meet one of three criteria: an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and a GRE score of at least 290; if 400 times an applicant's undergraduate GPA plus their GRE score equals at least 1490; or if applicants already possess a graduate degree. Applicants should submit their transcripts, GRE scores, a letter of interest, and three recommendation letters.

    Courses Include

    • Human Growth and Development
    • Maladaptive Psychopathology
    • Principles of Administration of Mental Health Counseling Programs
    • Multicultural Populations
    • Introduction to Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $500 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  19. University of Hawai'i at Manoa
    Location

    Honolulu, HI

    The University of Hawai'i at Manoa opened its doors in 1907, making it the oldest institution in the University of Hawai'i system. UH Manoa now offers over 200 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, including an online master's in rehabilitation counseling.

    Officially called the MS in kinesiology and rehabilitation science: rehabilitation counselor education, the degree is presented in a distance learning format with both synchronous and asynchronous components. Typically, synchronous classes occur at 4:30 p.m. to accommodate working students. Students enroll in 6-9 credits per semester, and they can graduate in three years. Culminating courses include a practicum, two internships, and a seminar. Graduates are qualified to take the national certified rehabilitation counselor exam.

    Students who want to pursue state counseling licensure must take an extra 12 credits of coursework and complete additional fieldwork. They may then take the national clinical mental health counseling exam and apply for state licensure.

    Individuals can apply by submitting their bachelor's degree transcripts, three recommendations, and a statement of objectives.

    Courses Include

    • Psychopathy in Counseling
    • Assistive Technology in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Principles and Practice of Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability
    • Vocational Evaluation and Assessment in Rehabilitation

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $663 per credit for Hawaii residents; $1,558 per credit for nonresidents
    • Credits Required: 48
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  20. Oregon State University
    Location

    Corvallis, OR

    OSU operates a main campus in Corvallis, along with an additional location and a strong distance learning division. The university offers two hybrid master of counseling degrees for individuals interested in the field: a master's in clinical mental health counseling and a master's in school counseling.

    The 90-credit clinical mental health counseling program is a part-time degree, allowing students to graduate in 3.5 years. While distance learners complete coursework primarily online, they must also attend classes for two weekends each term on the Wilsonville campus. Candidates can practice their skills in real-world settings during a 100-hour practicum and a minimum of 600 internship hours. OSU also requires students to participate in 10 individual counseling sessions and 10 hours of group counseling. Finally, master's candidates must obtain 24 professional development hours by attending conferences, workshops, webinars, or seminars.

    The school counseling degree consists of 75 credits. Students complete about half of the program online and half through on-campus classes in Wilsonville. In addition, many online components follow a synchronous format. Like the clinical mental health counseling program, learners must complete a practicum and internship. These experiences occur in a school setting, and students without a teaching license must complete extra field experience. Students can complete the part-time degree in three years.

    Prospective students may apply if they earned at least a 3.0 GPA during their undergraduate coursework. They must also submit recommendation letters and a statement of objectives.

    Courses Include

    • Group Counseling
    • Applied Psychopharmacology for Counselors
    • Trauma-Informed Counseling
    • Leadership of School Counseling Programs
    • Special Education Issues in Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $589 per credit
    • Credits Required: 75-90 credits
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  21. Huntington University
    Location

    Huntington, IN

    HU is a private, Christian-affiliated liberal arts school in Indiana. The university offers an online MA in clinical mental health counseling that integrates both scientific clinical training and a Christian worldview. The 60-credit degree is meant to train students who seek Indiana licensure. However, HU also offers a 48-credit track for out-of-state students whose home state only requires a 48-credit master's program for licensure.

    Courses develop counseling skills and explore counseling theories used to guide patients at any age. The online counseling degree includes a 100-hour supervised practicum that introduces students to clinical practice, in addition to two mandatory 300-hour internships. Learners can also complete one more advanced internship, which also consists of 300 hours and allows added supervised practice in their field.

    HU prefers applicants who possess a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Applicants should submit their bachelor's degree transcripts and two recommendation letters.

    Courses Include

    • Foundations of Crisis and Trauma Counseling
    • Psychopharmacology
    • Advanced Evaluation and Diagnosis of Mental and Emotional Disorders
    • Theory and Techniques of Helping Relationships
    • Knowledge and Skills of Mental Health Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $535 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

     

  22. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    Kansas-based Fort Hays State University dates back to 1902, when it was known as the Western Branch of the Kansas Normal School. Today, the university enrolls about 15,500 students in several programs, including the MS in school counseling and MS in clinical mental health counseling. Both are presented in a hybrid format, with on-campus and online components.

    The school counseling degree requires 48 credits of coursework for individuals with a teaching background, or 54 credits for all other students. Non-teachers need to take two extra courses about understanding learners and working with diverse and exceptional learners. All master's candidates must participate in a practicum in an elementary or secondary school setting and complete a school counseling internship.

    Students enrolled in the 60-credit clinical mental health counseling degree complete half of their courses online and half on campus on Fridays and Saturdays. Master's candidates must pass a comprehensive exam before they complete the program's mandatory practicum and internship.

    Prospective students must demonstrate at least a 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of their coursework during their undergraduate degrees. The university requires two reference letters, a personal goals statement, and a group interview through web conferencing.

    Courses Include

    • Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling
    • Childhood and Adolescent Counseling 3 COUN 855 Ad
    • Addictions Counseling
    • Professional Counseling in Elementary Schools
    • Psychopathology and Diagnosis

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $287.75 per credit
    • Credits Required: 48-60
    • Accreditation: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

     

  23. Malone University
    Location

    Canton, OH

    Located in Canton, Ohio, Malone is a Christian institution offering an online master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. All terms in the 60-credit program last for eight weeks, and distance learners can graduate in 3-3.5 years. Incoming students may also graduate faster by transferring in up to 15 credits.

    Candidates take foundational courses on counseling techniques, abnormal psychology, and treatment methods, along with electives like counseling the LGBTQI population and spirituality and religion in counseling. The curriculum also includes fieldwork that prepares students to seek licensure in Ohio and select other states. Master's candidates must complete a practicum and two internships in a supervised clinical setting. Graduates go on to become substance abuse counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and marriage and family therapists, among other professions.

    To apply, prospective students should submit their undergraduate transcripts, two professional references, and an essay describing the applicant's significant life experiences. Malone does not specify a minimum GPA needed for admission.

    Courses Include

    • Multicultural Counseling and Advocacy
    • Group Dynamics, Process, and Counseling
    • Foundations of Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • Diagnosis of Mental Disorders
    • Management and Advocacy in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $610 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  24. West Virginia University
    Location

    Morgantown, WV

    Morgantown-based WVU has operated as a public, land-grant institution since 1867. Today, the university offers more than 380 academic programs, including several distance learning degrees. The MS in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling allows students to take courses primarily through WVU's eCampus system. However, candidates must travel to campus for a one-day orientation and two additional intensive one-week sessions. These sessions typically occur in the fall of students' first year and in the spring of their second year. Full-time learners may graduate in two years, while candidates enrolled part time usually take three years to complete the degree.

    The practicum requirement consists of 150 supervised contact hours at an approved counseling agency or institution. Learners must also complete an internship, which involves 240 hours of direct client services and 600 hours of supervised work overall. Finally, students can opt to complete a research thesis or dissertation.

    WVU prefers applicants with a minimum 2.8 undergraduate GPA, although those with at least a 2.5 GPA may apply as well. Applicants should also submit three reference letters.

    Courses Include

    • Medical Aspects of Rehabilitation
    • Disability Across the Lifespan
    • Advanced Vocational Evaluation Techniques
    • Career Development and Job Placement
    • Rehabilitation Client Services

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $628 per credit
    • Credits Required: 63
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  25. Gwynedd Mercy University
    Location

    Gwynedd Valley, PA

    Located in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, GMercyU is one of 17 institutions in the Sisters of Mercy college and university system. GMercyU offers three different master's programs in counseling: an MS in school counseling, an MS in college counseling, and a master's in mental health counseling.

    Each program offers a completely online option, and each includes 60 credits of coursework. All three programs require a 100-hour practicum and 600 internship hours, which students split between three sites. Although distance learners complete the majority of coursework online, they must attend two on-campus weekend residencies. GMercyU designed these online programs for part-time students to graduate in 3.5 years.

    Prospective students may apply if they obtained a minimum 3.0 GPA during their undergraduate coursework. Applicants who do not meet this requirement can still apply, but they must also submit GRE scores. Additionally, all applicants should send in two recommendation letters, write a personal statement, and participate in an admissions interview.

    Courses Include

    • Group Counseling and Facilitation Skills
    • Marriage and Family Counseling
    • Assessment Techniques in Counseling
    • Social Justice, Multicultural and Diversity Issues in Counseling
    • Research Skills for Reflective Practitioners

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $650 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

     

Methodology

Best Counseling Degrees is proud to provide counseling students with top-ranking resources and information so they can make informed decisions about their future. While several micro-factors are affecting every school’s overall score, primary grading factors are accreditation, affordability, mid-career earning potential, how competitive admissions are for incoming students, student feedback, and school reputation. Each ranking utilizes information provided public sources such as:

  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
  • Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP)
  • National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator
  • United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook

Career and Salary Information

A master’s in counseling online increases earning power. According to PayScale, those with a master’s degree earn an average salary of $50,000 compared to an average of $47,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree. The list below features potential careers for graduates of a master’s program.

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors assist people with mental illnesses and behavioral disorders and those with substance abuse issues, such as alcohol and drugs. These professionals use therapy and treatment plans to help their clients attain wellness. At minimum, mental health counselors need a bachelor’s and a master’s degree to become licensed.

School and career counselors work in schools with students needing help with academic or social issues. Career counselors assist job seekers or those with workplace problems. Most states require a master’s degree to become a school counselor. Some states require career counselors to obtain a master’s and license to practice.

Marriage and family therapists help couples and families with relationship difficulties and challenges. They often work in private practice or at mental health clinics. These therapists need a master’s degree and state license. Students interested in this field can visit the Most Affordable Accredited Marriage and Family Therapy Programs.

Psychologists almost always need a doctoral degree to practice. An advanced degree, such as those listed at Great Tuition-Free Doctoral Programs in Counseling, provides an in-depth curriculum that prepares students to conduct research or diagnose and treat patients. A master’s degree can serve as a stepping stone to a doctorate.

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