The Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

The Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

| Staff Writers

The Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs
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Top Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs 2020

Rank School Location
1 Creighton University Omaha, NE
2 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND
3 Seton Hall University South Orange, NJ
4 University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD
5 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
6 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
7 West Virginia University Morgantown, WV
8 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
9 Bradley University Peoria, IL
10 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA

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.

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.

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

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The Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees 2020

  1. Creighton University
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    Creighton University is home to Best Counseling Degrees’ top low-cost online graduate program. Housed in the university’s Education Department, the Master of Science in School Counseling & Preventive Mental Health is designed to prepare competent school counselors. The online degree program explores challenging areas of youth development, from bullying to drug use to self-esteem. Students in the program may specialize in areas such as counseling in elementary school or secondary school settings, or in guidance counseling in pre-kindergarten to twelfth-grade environments. 

    Upon completion of 600 hours of internship, students will meet the requirements for Nebraska school counseling certification. Students from other states can work with an adviser to tailor their program to meet their state certification requirements. Creighton students can earn a low-cost MS in School Counseling & Preventive Mental Health in approximately two years of study. Students have the option to apply to the program through Creighton’s Magis Catholic Teacher Corps, a specialized learning experience that prepares teachers for Catholic schools.

    Courses Include

    • Data-Driven Perspectives in School Counseling
    • Diagnosis & Mental Health Issues in Children & Adolescents
    • Ethical Guidelines for School Counselors
    • Issues in Child & Adolescent Development for School Counselors
    • School Justice & Diversity in School Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $15,300
    • Credits Required: 36-39
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

     

  2. University of North Dakota
    Location

    Grand Forks, ND

    The University of North Dakota’s Master of Arts in Counseling program offers an emphasis in K-12 School Counseling. Applicants should have completed at least 20 undergraduate credits of coursework in the behavioral sciences, including areas such as classroom management, educational psychology, and statistics. The online degree program takes a data-driven, multicultural approach to professional school counseling. Students can expect to explore the development of elementary, middle, and high school students in academic, professional, personal, and social contexts. 

    Each student completes a data-driven, school-based project; a school counseling practicum; and a two-semester, 600-hour internship in a local elementary or secondary school setting. Each student must also pass a comprehensive exam in their final semester of study in order to graduate. Students can typically earn their MA in Counseling from UND in two and a half years. Upon completion of all program coursework, students will be eligible for licensure through North Dakota’s department of education. The university’s Department of Counseling Psychology & Community Services also offers a graduate certificate program in K-12 School Counseling.

    Courses Include

    • Counseling Research Laboratory
    • Ethics: Counseling and Counseling Psychology
    • Psychological Testing
    • School-Based Family Counseling
    • Theories of Counseling, Personality, and Development

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $7,688 in-state; $20,526 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

     

  3. Seton Hall University
    Location

    South Orange, NJ

    Seton Hall University’s College of Education and Human Services houses a Master of Arts in School Counseling. The online degree program is designed to prepare school counselors, consultants, advocates, and leaders for geographically, racially, and socially diverse K-12 school settings. Prior counseling experience or prerequisite courses are not required for admission to the program. Students enter the program as part of a cohort learning team that progresses through the program as a group. 

    Approved by the New Jersey Department of Education, the degree program meets the New Jersey Department of Education credentialing requirements. The curriculum includes foundational counseling and clinical courses and culminates in a school counseling internship. It builds students’ skills in counseling, early identification, and prevention in child and adolescent developmental challenges. Students can also expect to learn how to provide coping strategies, crisis interventions, and strong disaster response in school communities. Students can earn their MA in School Counseling in eight semesters, which typically takes two to two and a half years. 

    Courses Include

    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Counseling and Community Agencies
    • Counselor Ethics in Practices
    • Principles of Learning and Behavior Modification
    • Psychology of Learning and Behavior Modification

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $21,816
    • Credits Required: 48
    • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

     

  4. University of South Dakota
    Location

    Vermillion, SD

    Individuals who are particularly interested in guiding clients beyond addiction and substance abuse issues may choose to pursue the University of South Dakota’s Master of Arts in Addiction Studies. The online degree program provides advanced professional training in alcohol and drug prevention, counseling, education, and treatment. While each applicant is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, preferred applicants will have at least one year of relevant professional or volunteer experience. 

    Depending on their academic and professional background, students can pursue a 33-credit advanced track or a 45-credit standard track toward the degree. Supervised field experiences are required for both tracks. Students can expect to complete licensure-oriented courses through the university’s Addiction Studies Department and to graduate eligible for the highest level of licensure in the state of South Dakota. Students who reside in other states should refer to their state’s Chemical Dependency Certification/Licensure Boards to ensure the program meets their needs. The USD Addiction Counseling and Prevention Department also offers a 15-credit online graduate certificate program in Addiction Studies.

    Courses Include

    • Gambling and Process Addiction
    • History and Culture of Addiction
    • Public Policy & Addiction
    • Relapse Prevention
    • Wellness, Recovery, & Maintenance

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $7,553 in-state; $14,521 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 33-45
    • Accreditation: National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission

     

  5. Virginia Commonwealth University
    Location

    Richmond, VA

    Virginia Commonwealth University’s Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program aims to prepare culturally responsive, ethical counselors. The degree program is designed to provide graduates with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience they need to become certified rehabilitation counselors and licensed professional counselors. Students enter the program in the fall, and they can choose to progress toward their degree on a part-time or full-time basis. 

    The degree requires 60 graduate credits, including 48 credits of didactic coursework, three credits of electives, 100 clock hours of fieldwork, and 600 clock hours of supervised internship in counseling and rehabilitation. The curriculum covers areas such as cultural diversity, disability, human development, job development, and technological adaptation.

    Full-time students can earn their MS in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from VCU in six semesters, including two summer sessions. The degree program is housed in the Department of Rehabilitation within the university’s College of Health Professions. The department also offers a post-master’s certificate in Professional Counseling.

    Courses Include

    • Addiction Counseling
    • Case Management
    • Couples and Family Counseling
    • Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
    • Group Counseling Theories and Techniques
    • Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disabilities

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $11,466 in-state; $23,487 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council on Rehabilitation Education

     

  6. Nova Southeastern University
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Nova Southeastern University houses a Master of Science in Counseling program within its College of Psychology. Preferred applicants must have an undergraduate or graduate degree in behavioral science, education, psychology, or a related field. Professional and/or personal experience in counseling can also boost program applications. Designed for practicing and aspiring counseling professionals, the online degree program provides practitioners with advanced counseling training while accommodating busy schedules. 

    Depending on their career interests and goals, students can choose from concentrations in Applied Behavior Analysis, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, and Substance Abuse Counseling. Credit requirements and delivery formats vary by concentration but each program suits working professionals through either online or weekend intensive course delivery.

    Each MS in Counseling student can expect to complete a core general counseling curriculum in addition to specialized courses for their chosen track. The Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, and Substance Abuse Counseling and Education concentrations require supervised field placements with accompanying live virtual courses. The Clinical Mental Health concentration also requires students to attend three days of residency on the university’s campuses in Fort Lauderdale or Orlando, FL. 

    Courses Include

    • Career and Lifestyle Assessment
    • Couples and Family Counseling Strategies
    • Ethical, Legal, and Professional Issues for Counselors
    • Psychological Testing for Individual Evaluation
    • Substance Abuse

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $18,932
    • Credits Required: 48-60
    • Accreditation: N/A

     

  7. West Virginia University
    Location

    Morgantown, WV

    West Virginia’s Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling is unique in its dual-specialization approach. With coursework in both clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling, the program prepares individuals for work in counseling settings from hospitals and rehab facilities to mental health therapy centers.

    Though coursework is delivered online, each student must attend a week-long on-campus intensive for an internship seminar and program evaluation. In their last semester, students are eligible to sit for the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor certification. Students may otherwise pursue certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.

    Graduates of the program are prepared to help guide and rehabilitate clients with a variety of challenges, from individuals with addictions to veterans seeking career support. The program can also provide a foundation for entering the integrative health care realm. Applicants to the program are evaluated on an academic and professional basis, but those with human relations coursework are best prepared. Each student can expect to engage in a research seminar, supervised counseling practicum, and a supervised clinical practice internship. 

    Courses Include

    • Addictions Counseling
    • Career Development and Job Placement
    • Cultural Issues
    • Disability Across the Lifespan
    • Rehabilitation Client Services

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $9,450 in-state; $24,390 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 63
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  8. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Liberty University’s School of Behavioral Sciences houses an online program leading to a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The degree program is designed to train students to gain state licensure and work as licensed professional counselors. Like all Liberty programs, the MA in CMHC program is delivered through an evangelical Christian worldview. Though the majority of the program’s coursework is delivered entirely online, each student must attend two intensives on the university’s campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia. 

    Even though campus visits are required, scheduling remains flexible to accommodate busy student schedules. Students can expect to observe professional counselors at work through the practicum experience and to apply their own skills during two semesters of counseling internships. Transfer students with relevant approved coursework may transfer in up to half of the degree requirements. Students typically earn their MA in CMHC from Liberty in two and a half years of study. Prior to graduation, each student must pass a Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination and Integration Exam.

    Courses Include

    • Clinical Diagnosis & Treatment Planning
    • Counseling Techniques & the Helping Relationship
    • Integration of Spirituality & Counseling
    • Substance Abuse: Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention
    • Theories of Family Systems

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $8,217
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  9. Bradley University
    Location

    Peoria, IL

    Bradley University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling program with specialty tracks in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Professional School Counseling. It is designed to prepare individuals to work with client populations such as students facing academic challenges, veterans facing lifestyle challenges, individuals battling addiction, and so on. Students complete their studies online on a flexible schedule but must visit the university’s campus in Peoria, IL, twice for week-long residency experiences. 

    Students attend their first residency in their first term of study, and the second in their eighth term. Students can also expect to complete the program’s required field experiences in settings in their local community with supervision from an approved supervisor of their choice. The university’s counseling faculty members guide graduate students in exploring how counseling affects the brain through a unique “neurocounseling” approach. Graduates of Bradley’s MA in Counseling program will be prepared for the National Counselor Exam.

    Courses Include

    • Counseling: Ethics and the Law
    • Human Growth and Development
    • Loss and Grief Counseling
    • Neurocounseling: Bridging Brain and Behavior
    • Substance Abuse Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $15,660
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  10. Messiah College
    Location

    Mechanicsburg, PA

    Messiah College offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling with underpinnings in Christian principles. The degree program is designed to prepare graduates to become Christian-informed clinical mental health counselors, couple and family counselors, and school counselors in a variety of settings. It has rolling admissions, meaning it offers multiple start dates throughout the year. Students can expect to complete 30 core credits and 30 credits in their area of specialization. 

    Designed for working professionals, the program delivers most of its courses online. Online coursework is supplemented by weeklong intensive courses on the university’s campus in Mechanicsburg, PA, with small class sizes and personalized attention. Students can choose to progress toward their MA degree on a timeline that meets their needs, usually between two and six years.

    Graduates of the program are prepared for professional counseling licensure, marriage, and family therapy licensure, or school counselor certification in the state of Pennsylvania. The program is offered at a no-fee tuition rate, which means there are no hidden fees for courses or resources. Students may alternatively pursue the university’s Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in counseling, which helps satisfy state certification and licensure requirements. 

    Courses Include

    • Career Counseling Across the Lifespan
    • Crisis, Trauma, and Grief Counseling
    • Human Sexuality
    • Multicultural Issues for Counseling Professionals
    • Spiritual Formation and Faith-Based Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $11,610
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  11. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    Fort Hays State University’s Department of Advanced Educational Programs houses a Master of Science in Counseling in School Counseling. The degree program prepares individuals to guide students through various mental health and life challenges in school settings. The curriculum includes supervised field experiences through a three-credit practicum experience in elementary or secondary school counseling and two semesters of internship in school counseling. 

    Though the majority of the coursework is delivered online, graduate students must attend two on-campus weekend sessions per semester for courses in Counseling Skills Development and Group Counseling: Theories & Procedures. Each student must also successfully complete comprehensive exams.

    Students may enter the program without a teaching background, but they must complete six additional credits of coursework in Understanding the Learner and Working with Diverse and Exceptional Learners. The degree program spans three years of study and prepares graduates for Kansas school counseling licensure. Students may work with the FHSU Department of Advanced Educational Programs to ensure they meet the academic requirements for licensure in their state. 

    Courses Include

    • Lifestyle and Career Development
    • Professional and Ethical Issues in Counseling
    • Professional Counseling in Elementary Schools
    • Psychopathology and Diagnosis
    • Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $3,497 in-state; $9,961 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 48-54
    • Accreditation: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

     

  12. University of Central Arkansas
    Location

    Conway, AR

    The University of Central Arkansas offers a Master of Science in School Counseling through its Department of Leadership Studies. The degree program aims to endow students with the skills needed to become successful counselors and leaders in K-12 school settings. The online program features a combination of synchronous and asynchronous virtual courses. Beyond coursework, students can expect to complete practicum and internship field experiences in school settings. 

    Students who hold a valid Arkansas teaching license can pursue an Add-On Track that provides them with an advanced school counseling credential, while those without a teaching license must follow the Initial Licensure Track. Initial Licensure Track candidates must pass a background check and an additional Praxis Exam in the Principles of Learning and Teaching. The degree program is approved by the Arkansas Department of Education, but if students live in another state, they will need to fulfill their own state’s requirements for licensure. Each student must successfully complete either a state licensure exam or the program’s alternate assessment.

    Courses Include

    • Educational Assessment and Measurement
    • Instructional and Behavioral Strategies for School Counselors
    • Multicultural Counseling in Schools
    • School-Based Organizational Leadership
    • School Counseling Intervention Strategies

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $4,807 in-state; $9,614 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 48
    • Accreditation: N/A

     

  13. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    The University of Louisiana at Monroe’s Master of Science in Counseling program offers students the option to specialize in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, or both. The degree program is delivered entirely online with some live virtual course meetings and no residency requirements. Online students must engage in a live virtual summer workshop during their first year of study. The first year of the program covers foundational concepts and skills while the second year involves advanced clinical concepts and skills. 

    Each student completes one year of supervised clinical experience, which includes one semester of practicum experience and two semesters of internship in their area(s) of specialization. Students can expect to complete at least 100 clinical hours at their practicum setting and 600 hours in their internship setting. Counseling students typically enroll in the program on a full-time basis and earn their degree in two years plus two semesters. Completion of the degree program means students have met the coursework requirements for School Counselor and/or Professional Counselor licensure in Louisiana and other states. 

    Courses Include

    • Addictions
    • Crisis Intervention Counseling
    • Introduction to Marriage, Couples and Family Counseling
    • Maladaptive Psychopathology
    • Trauma

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $6,490 in-state; $18,590 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  14. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Regent University integrates Christian principles into its study of mental health counseling. Housed in the university’s School of Psychology & Counseling, the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling prepares graduates to be licensed professional counselors. All applicants must hold an undergraduate degree, and while coursework in the behavioral sciences is beneficial, it is not an admission requirement. 

    The degree program can be completed on the university’s campus in Virginia Beach, VA, or online with two one-week on-campus residencies. Students can attend their residencies in January or August and may choose from one of three program pace options to suit their schedules. Students can expect to engage in a clinical internship in a qualified setting in their local area. Each degree candidate must also complete an exit exam in order to graduate from the program. Graduates of the program will be academically prepared to pursue counseling licensure in Virginia and other states.

    Courses Include

    • Addiction Therapies for Individuals and Families
    • Career & Lifestyle Development
    • Concepts of Family Systems
    • Counseling & Christian Thought
    • Human Growth & Development

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $12,726
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  15. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Edinboro, PA

    The Edinboro University of Pennsylvania offers multiple program pathways toward a Master of Arts in Counseling degree. Depending on their passions and aspirations, students can choose to focus on areas such as art therapy, college counseling, or school counseling. Alternatively, students may specialize in clinical mental health and/or clinical rehabilitation counseling. All students complete a core counseling curriculum that covers theory and practice in human development, multicultural and group counseling, and beyond. 

    Each student can expect to complete 600 hours of internship work in their area of specialization. Internships generally require 40 hours onsite per week over the course of a 15-week semester. The university’s MA in Counseling in Art Therapy was the nation’s first fully online art therapy program. Applicants to the program must submit an online art portfolio and proof of undergraduate studio art and psychology credits. The art therapy program prepares students for Pennsylvania Counselor Licensure and the national Art Therapy Credential. The college counseling program also prepares graduates for national certification and licensure exams in the field. 

    Courses Include

    • Appraisal Techniques in the Helping Professions
    • Career Development and Life Planning
    • Diagnosis and Assessment
    • Ethical and Professional Issues in Counseling
    • Multicultural Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $9,000 in-state; $13,500 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education/Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (Art Therapy), Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (Clinical Mental Health, College, and School Counseling), Council on Rehabilitation Education (Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling)

     

  16. North Carolina Central University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    North Carolina Central University’s Master of Arts in School Counseling prepares individuals to support student development and success in K-12 school settings. The fully online program curriculum is structured in three phases. The first curricular phase covers areas such as career counseling, ethics, and multicultural and gender issues. The second phase includes statistical and research courses, clinical training, and approved electives. Finally, the third phase of the curriculum includes an education research procedures course as well as clinical experiences. 

    Each student must complete 100 hours of clinical supervised practicum in a college, education-related agency, or school. Students must also complete 600 hours of internship in an education-related setting that involves the application of assessment and interviewing in individual and group counseling. The NCCU MA in School Counseling degree program meets the academic requirements for K-12 school counselor licensure in North Carolina. In order to qualify for licensure, students must complete the graduate coursework and clinical experiences and successfully pass the Praxis II specialty test in school counseling. 

    Courses Include

    • Clinical Interventions in Events of Crisis, Grief, and Trauma
    • Counseling Children with Special Needs
    • Multicultural and Gender Issues in Counseling
    • Psychosocial Development and Behavioral Dynamics
    • Vocational Theory and Career Development

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $4,740 in-state; $17,694 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  17. Wake Forest University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Wake Forest University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers two fully online programs leading to a Master of Arts in Counseling. The Clinical Mental Health program prepares students to work with clients facing a wide range of life and mental health challenges, such as marriage troubles or substance abuse.

    The School Counseling program prepares students to support children and their families in school settings. Both programs include clinical practicum and internship experiences and are designed to build students’ understanding in areas including career and lifestyle development, group work, and social and cultural foundations. 

    All students take four foundation courses, six core counseling courses, and beginning and advanced practice courses in their area of specialization. The counseling curriculum culminates in a professional identity capstone course. Graduates of the program are eligible to sit for the National Counselor Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Exam as required by their state. Wake Forest MA in Counseling graduates have a 95% pass rate on the National Counselor Exam. 

    Courses Include

    • Addiction Counseling
    • Classification of Mental & Emotional Disorders
    • Cultures and Counseling
    • Family Counseling
    • School Guidance and Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $38,650
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  18. Eastern University
    Location

    St. Davids, PA

    Eastern University offers a fully online program option leading to a Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling. Alternatively, students can opt to complete the degree program in a blended format of asynchronous online and evening courses. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree and have successfully completed prerequisite behavioral science courses. Online students can enter the program in January or August.

    Housed in the university’s College of Health and Sciences, the program offers a general track that covers a wide range of topics in clinical counseling. Students also have the option to pursue Applied Behavior Analysis Certification or to concentrate in Trauma Studies. Three-quarters of the program curriculum is comprised of core courses, and the remainder includes flexible electives for general track students or concentration courses.

    Eastern University's MA in Clinical Counseling also includes summer sessions, 100 hours of practicum, and 600 hours of internship work. Students may follow a four-year part-time track, a three-year full-time track, or an accelerated, two-year, blended-format track toward the degree. The program meets all of the educational requirements for professional counselor licensure in the state of Pennsylvania.

    Courses Include

    • Career Development Theory & Practice
    • Ethics and Professional Development
    • Group Dynamics and Counseling
    • Personality Dynamics and Psychosocial Assessment
    • Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling Practice

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $16,560
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

     

  19. Southern Arkansas University Main Campus
    Location

    Magnolia, AR

    Southern Arkansas University offers a Master of Education in School Counseling through the Department of Counseling and Professional Studies within its College of Education. Students may complete the degree program in a fully online format or a hybrid format that blends online and in-person learning.

    The M.Ed. in School Counseling incorporates the implementation of comprehensive developmental guidance programs that align with the standards set by the American School Counselor Association. The curriculum includes the Development and Administration of a School Counseling Program, which is offered as a summer hybrid course that includes online assignments and an intensive face-to-face component. 

    Graduates of the M.Ed. in School Counseling program will be prepared to support students as licensed school counselors in K-12 school settings. Students who already hold a valid Arkansas teaching license may choose to complete 600 hours of internship and pursue a K-12 add-on advanced license. Those without a teaching license can earn a K-12 initial license. The M.Ed. degree program meets the Arkansas academic requirements for initial and advanced K-12 school counselor credentials and licensure. Students can earn their M.Ed. in School Counseling from SAU in two and a half to three years.

    Courses Include

    • Counseling Children & Adolescents
    • Counseling in a Diverse Society
    • Ethical, Legal & Professional Issues in Counseling
    • Group Counseling
    • Human Development for Helping Professionals

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $5,130 in-state; $7,650 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 48
    • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educational Providers

     

  20. Hampton University
    Location

    Hampton, VA

    Hampton University offers an online General Counseling concentration within its Master of Arts in Counseling program, which aims to offer a general overview of the professional counseling realm. The General Counseling concentrated program provides foundational counseling coursework only and does not include the fieldwork components required for counseling licensure.  

    Students who choose to earn their degree on campus may pursue a concentration in College Student Development, Mental Health, Pastoral, or School Counseling. Students in the General Counseling concentration have the option to transfer their completed coursework to one of the accredited, licensure-oriented, on-campus concentrations. The MA in Counseling degree requires 30 credits of study, including 16-week courses and the completion of a comprehensive exam.

    Counseling students may join Hampton’s chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, an international counseling honor society. The General Counseling concentration alone does not meet the Virginia Licensed Professional Counselor requirements, but it may be applied toward Qualified Mental Health Provider certification in the state of Virginia. Applicants to the MA in Counseling program must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and graduate-level courses in Abnormal Psychology and Ethics.

    Courses Include

    • Career Development
    • Community Mental Health and Welfare Services
    • Counseling with Diverse Populations
    • Identity, Ethics and Legal Aspects of Counseling
    • Treating the Substance Abuser

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $11,315
    • Credits Required: 31
    • Accreditation: N/A (General Counseling concentration is not accredited, though the Community Mental Health, Pastoral, School, and Student Affairs concentrations are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs)

     

  21. Adams State University
    Location

    Alamosa, CO

    Adams State University’s Master of Arts in School Counseling prepares counselors to support student wellbeing and success in K-12 school settings. New cohorts of the MA in School Counseling begin each fall, spring, and summer. Most courses are delivered online, though students must attend two clinical summer intensive weeks during the program. Students can expect to engage in pre-practicum preparation and a 100-hour practicum placement, which includes 40 hours of direct client contact. Students will also complete a specialized, 600-hour, two-part school counseling internship that includes 240 hours of direct client contact. 

    Students complete their practicum and internship experiences in their local area and meet their supervisors locally each week. Students who enter the program in a fall cohort can expect to earn their degree in eight semesters while students entering in the summer or spring may earn theirs in seven semesters. Upon completion of the MA program, graduates will have met one of three requirements to become a special services provider: school counselor in the state of Colorado. Teacher licensure is not a requirement for becoming a special services provider.

    Courses Include

    • Counseling Modalities in a School Setting
    • Counseling Theories & Helping Relationships
    • Crisis, Disaster, & Trauma
    • Multicultural & Diversity Issues
    • Professional School Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $4,590 in-state; $10,746 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  22. Montana State University
    Location

    Bozeman, MT

    Montana State University’s Department of Health and Human Development offers three options within its graduate Counseling program. The Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling program and the Mental Health Counseling program each consist of 60 credits of study and lead to a Master of Science in Counseling.

    The School Counseling program requires 48 credits of study and leads to a Master of Education in Counseling. The degree program is delivered through a variety of curriculum formats, including face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses, with required courses following a set sequence. All summer courses are delivered in a blended format of online and face-to-face learning. Students can expect to gain up to 1,500 hours of supervised counseling experience and training.

    All three graduate counseling programs are typically completed in two years of year-round study. Due to course sequencing and program timing, students are encouraged to progress toward their degree on a full-time basis. A part-time option is available, though it may conflict with course sequencing and slow down student progress. The counseling master’s degree program prepares graduates for counseling licensure in the state of Montana, but most states require additional coursework and/or fieldwork beyond the degree prior to licensure eligibility.

    Courses Include

    • Couples Counseling
    • Human Response to Stress
    • Mind-Body Well-Being Self-Care
    • Multicultural Awareness
    • Theory and Practice of Addiction

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $4,941 in-state; $16,805 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 48 (M.Ed.), 60 (MS)
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

  23. New York University
    Location

    New York City, NY

    New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development houses a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling. Students enter the program as part of a cohort group in the summer, fall, or winter. The online degree program requires 60 graduate credits of study and completion of field experiences at NYU-approved sites in students’ local communities. Field experiences include a 100-hour practicum placement in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness and a 600-hour internship experience spread over three semesters. 

    Students can expect to engage in live virtual courses that incorporate collaboration with peers and professors, including field experience preparation through acting out client-therapist interactions with a peer partner. The MA degree program also includes a four-day on-campus experience in New York City, which features intensive training and networking. During their last term in the program, students must take a Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam. Depending on their start date, students may follow a seven-, eight-, or ten-term degree plan and can earn their MA degree in as few as 21 months. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue licensure and employment as mental health counselors. 

    Courses Include

    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Cross-Cultural Counseling
    • Group Dynamics: Theory and Process
    • Human Growth and Development
    • Professional Orientation and Ethical Issues in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $41,352
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

     

  24. University of Massachusetts-Boston
    Location

    Boston, MA

    The University of Massachusetts, Boston, offers a primarily online program leading to a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. The degree program is housed in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology within the university’s College of Advancing and Professional Studies.

    Online students enter an MS program cohort in the summer term, beginning with an online course and two face-to-face courses. Students complete the remainder of their coursework online through synchronous and asynchronous courses. Synchronous classes meet in an online classroom for an hour to an hour and a half one evening each week. Asynchronous course materials are delivered through the Blackboard online learning platform. 

    The 60-credit curriculum includes a foundational series of general counseling courses and a specialized series of mental health counseling courses. Students can also expect to complete a 100-hour practicum placement and a 600-hour internship. These field experiences take place in mental health settings in students’ local communities, and they are supervised via virtual chat.

    The MS curriculum terminates in a capstone clinical case study. Students can earn their MS in Mental Health Counseling from UMass Boston in two years. When combined with approved clinical and field experiences, the program meets the academic requirements for Massachusetts’ mental health counselor licensure.

    Courses Include

    • Ethical Standards and Professional Issues in Counseling
    • Life Span Human Development
    • Sex and Sexuality in Counseling Practice
    • Sociocultural Considerations in Counseling
    • Trauma and Crisis Counseling

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $17,375 in-state; $33,915 out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

     

  25. Palo Alto University
    Location

    Palo Alto, CA

    Palo Alto University’s Department of Counseling offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with two possible areas of emphasis: Clinical Mental Health and Marriage, Family, and Child. The MA in Counseling program can be completed in a hybrid residential format or a low-residency online format, and applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. The interactive online learning environment incorporates video conferencing software and features two to three live evening classes per quarter.

    The MA in Counseling focuses on building students’ skills in four core areas: assessment, ethics and professional practice, intervention and counseling, and research and critical thinking. Each student must engage in a clinical practicum or fieldwork experience, which involves 700 hours of counseling experience - including 280 hours of direct client contact - over a 12-month period. These placements may take place in community mental health agencies, nonprofit counseling centers, and school mental health centers.

    Online students can earn their MA in Counseling from Palo Alto University in two years and nine months. The degree program is designed to prepare students to become highly competent, licensed clinical counselors. Graduates may pursue licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist or a Professional Clinical Counselor in the state of California. Those living in other states can pursue similar licenses depending on their state’s licensure board regulations and requirements.

    Courses Include

    • Addiction Counseling
    • Community Mental Health with Cognitive Behavioral and Brief Therapy
    • Crisis and Trauma Counseling
    • Human Sexuality
    • Psychopharmacology

     

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $21,227
    • Credits Required: 93 quarter credits (~62-semester credits)
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

     

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 25 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 50 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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