Best Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs

Best Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs

| Staff Writers

Best Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs
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Top 10 Best Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs

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

A master’s in clinical mental health counseling provides the necessary skills and knowledge to diagnose and treat patients experiencing mental illness or behavioral disorders. A master’s degree also satisfies state educational requirements for licensure and ensures that graduates understand ethical responsibilities. Read on to learn more about choosing a school and graduate program that meet your career goals.


  • New York University
    Location

    New York, NY

    Founded in 1831, New York University (NYU) enrolled over 60,000 students in fall 2019. U.S. News & World Report ranks NYU as 29th for national universities, 10th for best colleges for veterans, 62nd for best value schools, and 19th for most innovative schools in the country.

    NYU offers a master of arts in counseling for mental health and wellness that can lead to licensure and careers related to mental wellness. Learners can complete the program in under two years. The private school also delivers a master of arts in counseling and guidance that requires 48 credits. This program, which students can complete in 18 months, leads some graduates to counseling positions in preK-12 institutions. Each enrollee must complete 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours.

    Both programs hold accreditation through the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

    New York University is accredited by The Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Wake Forest University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Wake Forest University (Wake Forest), founded in 1834 in its namesake city, moved in 1956 to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. With an 11-to-1 student-faculty ratio, this private school educated 8,495 learners for the 2019-2020 school year through six schools and colleges.

    Students can pursue a master of arts in counseling in clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. Both degrees require 60 credits, including internships and capstone courses. Common classes for either focus address research, lifespan development, and counseling theories. Ninety-five percent of alumni who take the national counselor exam earn passing scores.

    The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredits these master's opportunities.

    Admission for either specialty requires a bachelor's degree, GRE scores, three recommendations, and a personal statement, along with phone and virtual interviews.

    Wake Forest University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • LeTourneau University
    Location

    Longview, TX

    LeTourneau Technical Institute was established in 1946 and later became LeTourneau University in 1989. This private, Christian institution in Longview, Texas, offers programs through eight schools. More than 3,000 students from over 30 countries attended the university in the 2019-2020 school year. The university ranks highly on U.S. News & World Report's lists for regional universities in the West, best colleges for veterans, and best value schools.

    Learners who pursue the university's online master's in clinical mental health counseling complete 66 credits in courses like family assessment, psychopharmacology, and group counseling methods. This program prepares for licensure and professions in areas such as marriage and family therapy and mental health counseling. Students can also choose the 66-credit online master of arts in school counseling, with courses in classroom management, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and addictions counseling.

    For either degree, each candidate must complete two 300-hour internships and a 100-hour practicum.

    LeTourneau University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • North Carolina State University
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    North Carolina State University (NC State) began in 1887 as a product of the Morrill Act of 1862 and was originally called North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Currently, NC State educates over 36,000 students.

    The College of Education delivers a primarily online master of education in clinical mental health counseling. Candidates can finish this part-time program in three years by participating in learning cohorts in spring, fall, and summer terms. Graduation mandates campus visits in later terms, along with 600 internship hours and a counseling practicum. Students nearing graduation qualify to sit for in-state licensing exams.

    Applicants must take the GRE or MAT and submit recommendation letters. The department only accepts in-state students for the online program.

    North Carolina State University holds accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Eastern University
    Location

    Saint Davids, PA

    The Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, founded in 1925, changed its name to Eastern University in 2001. This private school in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, maintains its Christian heritage and serves more than 3,000 learners.

    The College of Health and Sciences features a 60-credit master of arts in clinical counseling that emphasizes personality concepts. The program offers a general track and two concentrations: trauma studies and applied behavior analysis certification. Students complete coursework in asynchronous classrooms taught by field professionals. Candidates must also complete internships and a practicum but may graduate in three years with full-time attendance. The department also offers a hybrid accelerated track.

    Coursework adheres to Licensed Professional Counselors in Pennsylvania's standards to progress learners toward licensure. This online master's degree in clinical counseling also holds accreditation from the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council. Students who hold an undergraduate degree from Eastern University qualify for reduced tuition.

    Eastern University holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Creighton University
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    Creighton University (Creighton), founded in 1878, is a private, Jesuit institution in Omaha, Nebraska, that educates around 9,000 students every year. Ninety-eight percent of graduates enter the workforce, service positions, or other educational programs within half a year of earning degrees. The university ranks as the 63rd best value school and 69th best college for veterans in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

    Students can pursue the institution's master of science in school counseling and preventive mental health. Enrollees choose from specializations like elementary and secondary school counseling and may personalize the curriculum to fit career objectives. The program calls for approximately 48 credits, though certified teachers may graduate with 36. However, these credit expectations vary by specialization. Each candidate must also complete at least 600 hours in an approved internship and, if they are not certified teachers, two practicums.

    The department adheres to the standards of the American School Counselor Association.

    Creighton University holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Clarks Summit University
    Location

    Clarks Summit, PA

    Baptist Bible Seminary started in 1932 with its initial classes at the local First Baptist Church. In 2016, this Pennsylvania institution became Clarks Summit University (CSU) and currently enrolls nearly 1,000 students.

    CSU's master of science in counseling requires 60 credits, including nine elective credits. The Baptist university offers coursework covering topics like intervention, addiction, development, and behavior. Learners must also complete fieldwork through internships and practicums. Graduates may qualify to take the national certified counselor exam and pursue a professional counselor license.

    Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and prerequisite coursework in psychology or applicable theology. Online learners at CSU can submit papers to its online writing center for feedback. The school's Murphy Memorial Library also offers online journal articles and participates in Interlibrary Loan.

    Clarks Summit University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Association for Biblical Higher Education.

  • Freed-Hardeman University
    Location

    Henderson, TN

    Founded in 1869, Freed-Hardeman University (FHU) in Henderson, Tennessee, is affiliated with the Church of Christ. The institution features six schools and colleges that educate 2,117 students and features a 13-to-1 student-faculty ratio. U.S. News & World Report ranks FHU as the 31st regional university in the South and the 10th best value school in the country.

    Its Graduate School of Theology delivers a master of arts in pastoral care and counseling. Each candidate must earn 48 credit hours in an internship and classes that blend counseling concepts with Christian theology. Faculty members deliver courses synchronously and may utilize web-conferencing. Students must visit campus for a clinical intervention course.

    Typical program students include preachers and youth ministers. An applicant must hold a bachelor's and at least a 3.0 GPA. The department also requires a personal statement and three recommendations for admission.

    Freed-Hardeman University is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • University at Buffalo
    Location

    Buffalo, NY

    The University at Buffalo (UB), a public university founded in 1846, enrolled over 31,000 students in fall 2018. The school is affiliated with the State University of New York system. The Department of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology offers a master of science in rehabilitation counseling. Online students can finish the program part time by earning 48 credits over eight semesters and fulfilling clinical fieldwork. These clinical experiences include a 150-hour practicum and two 300-hour internships.

    This program has received accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, as well as the New York State Education Department. Each applicant must undergo an interview, hold a bachelor's degree, and write a statement of intent.

    University of Buffalo holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Bradley University
    Location

    Peoria, IL

    Founded in 1897, Bradley University (Bradley) includes eight schools and colleges. This private school in Peoria, Illinois, serves around 5,400 students from over 40 nations. A 12-to-1 student-faculty ratio and average classes of 21 learners provide an interactive learning environment at this Carnegie-Classified institution.

    Bradley students can pursue a master of arts in counseling in clinical mental health counseling or professional school counseling. These degrees require 60-61 credits in classes like substance abuse counseling, psychopharmacology in counseling, and couples and family counseling. Each learner must complete two internships and a practicum, participate in on-campus residencies, and construct a thesis. This program boasts accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and prepares enrollees for the national counselor exam for licensure and certification.

    Admission requirements for either specialty include a virtual interview, recommendation letters, essays, and a bachelor's.

    Bradley University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  • St. Bonaventure University
    Location

    Saint Bonaventure, NY

    St. Bonaventure University (SBU) launched in 1858 as a Catholic-Franciscan institution. Located in New York, SBU's enrollment exceeds 2,300, with 98% of learners benefiting from financial aid. The university ranks as the third-best value school, ninth-best college for veterans, and 19th regional university in the North, according to U.S. News & World Report.

    SBU delivers 60-credit online master of science in education degrees in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Each degree requires two 300-hour internships and seven-week courses in areas such as research methods, group counseling, and abnormal psychology. Students must also complete a 100-hour practicum and two residency experiences for both programs. The master's in school counseling also requires workshops in child abuse prevention and safe schools.

    The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredits both programs.

    St. Bonaventure University holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Oregon State University
    Location

    Corvallis, OR

    Originally called Corvallis College at its founding in 1858, Oregon State University (OSU) adopted its current name in 1961. School enrollment in 2019 surpassed 31,000 students, indicating a 2.4% increase in student population from the previous year.

    Its master of counseling in clinical mental health counseling calls for 90 quarter credits. Learners must earn 600 internship hours and 100 practicum hours, participate in counseling sessions, and complete a national exam. Requirements for this degree also include 24 professional development hours that may involve webinars, workshops, and conferences.

    The university also delivers a 75-credit master of counseling in school counseling. However, learners can only complete half of the program online. Candidates must complete 600 internship hours, along with weekly hours at a school for two practicums.

    Both programs hold accreditation through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

    Oregon State University holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits this university.

  • Lubbock Christian University
    Location

    Lubbock, TX

    The Churches of Christ founded Lubbock Christian University (LCU) in 1957. Students at this private institution in Texas benefit from an interactive 13-to-1 student-faculty ratio. LCU ranks 66th among regional universities in the West.

    Students can earn a 60-credit master of science in clinical mental health counseling through LCU. Online courses for this program are delivered synchronously and asynchronously, taking a maximum of eight weeks each. Learners must also complete one practicum, two internships, residency classes, and a comprehensive assessment.

    LCU also offers a master of science in school counseling. For this fully online master's degree, candidates earn 36 credits through courses on concepts such as group counseling and crisis counseling, also completing a practicum and comprehensive test. Graduates of this program boast a 100% pass rate for in-state school counseling licensure exams.

    Lubbock Christian University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Gwynedd Mercy University
    Location

    Gwynedd Valley, PA

    Founded in 1948, Pennsylvania's Gwynedd Mercy University (GMercyU) currently educates over 2,800 learners from 37 nations. The school delivers 30 undergraduate majors, more than 30 graduate programs, and has a 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    The university offers a master of science in counseling with three specializations: clinical mental health, college counseling student affairs, and school counseling. All options require 60 credits, which enrollees can complete in under four years.

    For the school counseling degree, the curriculum reflects the standards of the American School Counseling Association's National Model. To graduate, students must earn practicum hours and complete internships.

    The clinical mental health and college counseling student affairs degrees require 100 practicum hours and three internships that total 600 hours.

    Gwynedd Mercy University holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Auburn University
    Location

    Auburn, AL

    Auburn University (Auburn) began as East Alabama Male College in the 1850s. This Alabama institution became coeducational in 1892 and has expanded to include 15 colleges and schools.

    Students can pursue an online master of education (M.Ed.) or a master of science (MS) in clinical rehabilitation counseling to prepare for careers where they assist patients with disabilities. M.Ed. candidates must earn 60 credits and take a certification exam in rehabilitation counseling. MS enrollees must complete 64 credits and a thesis. Either path requires 100 practicum hours and 600 internship or clinical hours. The Council of Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredits both master's degrees.

    Each applicant must undergo an interview and provide three references, a statement of intent, and a writing example.

    Auburn University holds accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Huntington University
    Location

    Huntington, IN

    Located in Huntington, Indiana, Huntington University (HU) was founded in 1897. The school embraces Christian traditions and enrolled around 1,300 learners in 2018. Current students may choose from more than 70 programs and benefit from a 13-to-1 student-faculty ratio. The institution ranks as U.S. News & World Report's 11th best value school and 40th regional university in the Midwest.

    The university offers a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling. Degree-seekers for this 60-credit program may take courses in ethics, marriage and family therapy, play therapy, psychopharmacology, and career development. Learners may also complete an independent study. The degree calls for 100 practicum hours and three internships that each include 300 hours.

    This online master's in clinical mental health counseling prepares for in-state licensure and may also satisfy other states' requirements.

    Huntington University holds accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Concordia University - Wisconsin
    Location

    Mequon, WI

    Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW), affiliated with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, dates back to 1881. Around 8,000 students attend this private school each year, choosing from over 70 programs and benefiting from a 12-to-1 student-faculty ratio.

    The institution delivers master of science in education degrees in school counseling and professional counseling, with licensure options.

    The school counseling master's calls for 45-48 credits, depending on the learner's teaching certification status. The curriculum must include courses from 10 categories, such as counseling theory, human growth and development, and social and cultural foundations. Candidates must complete a pre-practicum portfolio and three 200-hour practicum experiences where they work with different grade levels. Each practicum requires additional portfolio sections. Other graduation requirements include passing scores on the Praxis II exam.

    The professional counseling degree requires 60 credits from categories like counseling theory, addictions counseling, and foundations of clinical mental health counseling. Learners also complete practicum or internships that total 700 hours to earn this degree.

    Concordia University Wisconsin holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

  • University of Massachusetts - Amherst
    Location

    Amherst, MA

    University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) started as the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1863 as a product of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act. The university currently enrolls 31,350 students and ranks 64th for national universities, 37th for best colleges for veterans, and 24th for top public schools.

    The university's master of education in school counseling, master of science in rehabilitation counseling, and master of science in mental health counseling all require 60 credits. Students in these programs learn in cohorts and must complete a two-week, on-campus component, along with clinical fieldwork.

    The curriculum for each program prepares for in-state licensure. Candidates in the master's in mental health counseling program can also qualify for a school adjustment counselor license by completing three credits beyond degree requirements.

    University of Massachusetts Amherst is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  • Gallaudet University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Located in Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University began as a school that assists the hearing impaired in 1864. The student body totaled 1,623 learners in Fall 2017 and U.S. News & World Report ranks Gallaudet as the 18th best value school in the country.

    The Department of Counseling offers a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling. The program calls for courses in substance abuse, family therapy, psychopharmacology, research, and group psychotherapy. Clinical requirements include 200 practicum hours and 600 internship hours. These experiences must relate to the hearing impaired but may include a community or clinical counseling focus.

    Candidates can sit for the national counselor examination for licensure and certification while earning this master's in mental health counseling.

    The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Gallaudet University holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Seton Hall University
    Location

    South Orange, NJ

    Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley started Seton Hall University (Seton Hall) in 1856. This Catholic institution in South Orange, New Jersey, offers over 90 programs, an average class size of 21 learners, and a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    The College of Education and Human Services delivers a master of arts/educational specialist degree in professional counseling. For this degree, learners can earn 60 credits in 10 semesters but must complete two residency experiences. Program requirements include internships, a practicum, and classes on topics like multicultural counseling, counseling skills, and abnormal psychology.

    Learners can also pursue a 48-credit master of arts in school counseling that requires courses, a practicum, and internships that relate to K-12 counseling. The New Jersey Department of Education and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation approve this program.

    Seton Hall holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Corban University
    Location

    Salem, OR

    Founded in 1935, Corban University (Corban) in Salem, Oregon, embraces Christian beliefs. More than 2,700 students attended this private institution in the 2019-2020 school year. U.S. News & World Report considers Corban as the seventh-best regional college in the West and eighth-best value school in the country.

    Students can earn a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling from Corban in two years. The program requires 60 credits in courses and clinical experiences. The curriculum presents counseling concepts through Christian ideology and prepares enrollees for in-state licensure. The program uses a hybrid format and includes weekly in-person meetings.

    Program faculty represent different counseling areas, such as grief counseling, crisis counseling, and marriage and family.

    This online master's in clinical mental health counseling adheres to the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists' guidelines with accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

    Corban University holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  • Virginia Commonwealth University
    Location

    Richmond, VA

    Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond began in 1838 as the Medical College of Hampden-Sydney. The college joined with Richmond Professional Institute and received its current name in 1968. Today, the school educates 31,000 learners with an 18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    The College of Health Professions provides a master of science in mental health and rehabilitation counseling. This degree calls for 48 credits in asynchronous classes such as case management, addiction counseling, and theories of professional counseling. The department also requires 100 practicum hours dealing with professional issues for counselors, 600 internship hours, and three elective credits. These requirements total 60 credits.

    Graduates should possess knowledge and experience that relate to research-based, ethical practices for individual and group counseling sessions. Admission requirements include a goal statement, references, and GRE or MAT scores.

    Virginia Commonwealth University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Union Institute & University
    Location

    Cincinnati, OH

    Located in Cincinnati, Union Institute and University (Union) dates back to 1964 and has provided distance education for over half a century. This military-friendly school currently enrolls around 1,500 students.

    To earn Union's master of arts in clinical mental health counseling, each student must complete 60 semester hours and three annual residency components but may transfer up to 12 hours into the program. Graduates of this master's in mental health counseling can sit for the national counselor examination. The Council of Applied Master's Programs in Psychology and the National Board for Certified Counselors approve this master's program.

    Union also offers certificates related to counseling, including credentials in alcohol and drug abuse counseling, health education, and leadership in public service. Learners can consider these certificates for increased career opportunities.

    Union Institute and University holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Malone University
    Location

    Canton, OH

    Founded in 1892, Malone University (Malone) offers 115 programs and embraces Christian traditions. Candidates can pursue Malone's 60-credit, online master of arts in education in clinical mental health counseling. These credits include core courses like assessment in counseling, abnormal psychology, and diagnosis of mental disorders. Learners must also complete elective classes, a practicum, and two internships.

    Students often graduate in 36-42 months and may earn licenses and begin careers in substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or marriage and family therapy.

    Each applicant must submit transcripts, two references, and an autobiography that addresses heritage, experience, and reasons for counseling interest. Transfer students may apply as many as 15 outside credits toward this master's in clinical mental health counseling.

    The program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Malone University also holds Carnegie classification and accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    Located in Manchester, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) was founded in 1932. Current enrollment at this private institution exceeds 93,000 students and U.S. News & World Report ranked SNHU as the most innovative school in the country.

    The university's master of arts in clinical mental health counseling calls for 60 credits. Specifically, learners complete online classes such as group counseling, diagnosis of emotional and mental disorders, and human development. The department also mandates 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours. Students must also fulfill two in-person residencies that each last five days.

    The curriculum reflects the standards of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. The master's program prepares graduates for counseling exams and licensure in fields such as professional counseling, professional clinical counseling, and clinical mental health counseling.

    Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.


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.


What to Consider When Choosing a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program

Online learning initiatives allow candidates to attend respected schools and programs, regardless of where they live. While choosing a master’s in mental health counseling program may seem overwhelming, many prospective students benefit from considering the following points as they explore their options.

    • Career Goals: Mental health counselors specialize in a variety of areas, working as educational counselors, rehabilitation counselors, or substance abuse counselors. Some focus on serving specific populations, such as veterans, children, or couples. Many schools allow students to explore specialty areas through elective coursework and concentrated academic tracks. Practicums and internships can also help candidates explore their career goals.
    • Practicum Requirements: Both on-campus and online mental health counseling programs include hands-on learning and professional practice components. During a practicum, licensed counselors supervise students in a clinical setting, where they help to provide direct patient services, such as individual or group counseling sessions. Practicums typically require a part-time work commitment, while internships may require full-time service for the program’s duration.
    • Licensure Requirements: A program should align with licensing requirements for the state in which you plan to practice. Some curricula are built around state licensing exams like the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.
    • Cost and Affordability: Multiple factors can impact program costs, including type of school, transportation, books, and fees. Financial aid, such as federal student loans or school-sponsored scholarships, can help offset educational costs.
    • Accreditation: Ideally, a school should hold regional accreditation. Institutional accreditation ensures that colleges and universities adhere to quality standards. Many schools also seek programmatic accreditation for their counseling programs from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Accredited programs typically meet the minimum educational requirements for licensure and may qualify graduates for professional certification programs.

Career Outlook for Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Graduates

Counseling graduates may see a promising employment outlook in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) projects a 22% job growth rate for substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health counselors from 2018-28, creating 68,500 new jobs for mental health professionals. However, demand for mental health counselors varies considerably from state to state.

Career Options and Salaries

Mental health counseling programs teach students to evaluate patients and diagnose behavioral disorders or mental illnesses. Graduates enjoy many career opportunities in the mental health field, including those listed in the table below.

Career Options and Salaries for Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Graduates

    • Mental Health Counselor

      Median Annual Salary: $46,050
      Job Growth (2016-2026): 23.1%
      Job Description: Mental health counselors use individual and group counseling to treat mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, or aid in long-term management of mental illnesses. They also assist individuals in coping with stressful situations. They may work in private practice or as part of a mental health group, in residential facilities, or outpatient centers. Mental health counselors must hold state licensure.

    • Substance Abuse Counselor

      Median Annual Salary: $44,160
      Job Growth (2016-2026): 23.2%
      Job Description: These counselors specialize in treating addiction disorders, such as drug or alcohol abuse, and help people overcome drug or alcohol dependence. Many patients also struggle with various mental health concerns, and counselors seek to address underlying behavioral health needs within treatment plans. Substance abuse counselors often provide individual and group therapy services in residential or outpatient treatment facilities.

    • Rehabilitation Counselor

      Median Annual Salary: $35,630
      Job Growth (2016-2026): 10%
      Job Description: Rehabilitation counselors assist individuals in overcoming mental, physical, cognitive, or emotional disabilities. They assess each client’s needs and develop plans to help their patients live independently. In addition to individual and group counseling, rehabilitation counselors also help clients access resources for job training, technology, or mobility equipment. These professionals often work in vocational and community rehabilitation services, residential care facilities, or government agencies.

    • Marriage and Family Therapist

      Median Annual Salary: $50,090
      Job Growth (2016-2026): 22%
      Job Description: These therapists specialize in relationships. They help families adjust to changes like divorce, unemployment, or moving. By discussing emotions and experiences, they help clients develop coping strategies and change problematic behaviors. While most work in private practices, some collaborate with other health practitioners to provide holistic services.

    • Social Worker

      Median Annual Salary: $49,470
      Job Growth (2016-2026): 11%
      Job Description: Social workers help clients overcome barriers to self-sufficiency by connecting them with appropriate community services, such as job training or food assistance. They may also provide clinical mental health services like individual or group counseling. Professionals work in government agencies, schools, hospitals, or outpatient treatment facilities. Social workers may need a master’s degree and state license to provide clinical services.

Source: BLS, Projections Central

Top 5 Paying States

Several factors can impact counselors’ salaries, including specialization, industry, education level, and professional experience., As the table below indicates, geographic location also influences earning potential. According to BLS data, more than 267,000 mental health counselors nationwide earn a mean wage of $47,920, with those in the bottom percentile earning $28,240 and top earners enjoying a mean wage of $72,990.

Top Paying States for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Utah2,540$66,330
Alaska910$62,920
District of Columbia650$59,850
Oregon4,880$59,390
United States267,730$47,920

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations provide educational funding opportunities through scholarships and fellowships, mentoring programs, and career resources. In addition, many professional organizations help counselors meet state license renewal standards through continuing education. Some associations also participate in state and federal lobbying efforts, working to set policies and regulations that strengthen the profession.

    • American Mental Health Counselors Association: Formed in 1976, this organization sponsors networking opportunities, workshops, conferences, and professional education. It publishes The Advocate Magazine and the Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Members enjoy access to exclusive online communities and discounted professional services.
    • American Counseling Association: ACA publishes the Counseling Today professional magazine and the science-focused Journal of Counseling and Development. The association’s online career center features a job board and career-specific resources.
    • National Board for Certified Counselors: This organization administers the National Certified Counselor credentialing program along with several specialty designations. The organization also offers marketing resources and continuing education opportunities.

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