The Most Affordable Master’s Degrees in Counseling in the Western United States
| Staff Writers
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A master’s degree in counseling typically takes two years of full-time study to complete and includes general courses in psychology and counseling. Specialty areas may include family, marriage/couples, substance abuse, school, trauma, or mental health counseling. Counseling master’s programs also require fieldwork hours where students work under the supervision of a licensed counselor.
Counselors practice in a variety of settings, including schools; government human services agencies; private practices; healthcare settings, such as hospitals or long-term care (nursing) facilities; nonprofit agencies; rehabilitation/addiction treatment centers; or the criminal justice system.
The following rankings include schools in the western U.S., such as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii.
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.
Applying to a Top Most Affordable Master’s Degree in Counseling in the West
Graduate degree programs in counseling require candidates to possess at least a bachelor’s degree, with some coursework in the social sciences and a minimum 3.0 GPA (varies by program), transcripts, at least two recommendations, and an application. Applications often include essay questions or personal statements about why the student wants to pursue a master of counseling degree. Schools also look for evidence of maturity, professionalism, ethics, and an aptitude for the helping professions.
Schools may require a background check. Whether a past criminal conviction would lead to rejection depends on the details, including the state and the nature of the conviction.
Master’s programs in counseling do not typically require counseling experience, but students with a successful work history in social services present stronger applications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do counselors work?
Counselors work in a variety of settings, including hospitals and health systems, private and public schools, social services agencies, rehabilitation/substance abuse treatment centers, nonprofits, the justice system, and religious organizations. They can also work with organizations where staff experience trauma, such as first responders.
What is accreditation and why is it important?
Accreditation establishes the criteria for education quality and determines whether a school’s program meets those criteria.The Council for Accreditation for Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the primary accreditor for master of counseling programs.
Is a master's in counseling a good degree?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for counselors may grow by approximately 25% between 2019 and 2029. Counseling can provide considerable job satisfaction for those interested in helping others and counselors can work in a variety of settings, from independent practices to large government agencies.
What can I do with a master's in counseling degree?
Almost all graduates of a master of counseling program take the national licensing examination to become a licensed counselor. Counselors work with people experiencing difficulties in their social life or with mental health issues, people who have experienced traumas, students in school settings, and people receiving treatment for addictions. They may work for themselves as private practitioners, as part of a group practice, or for an employer, such as a government agency or nonprofit.
The School of Family Life at Brigham Young University offers a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. The COAMFTE accredited Marriage and Family Therapy program at BYU was established in 1967, making it one of the first universities in the country to offer a Marriage and Family Therapy degree. Because the Marriage and Family Therapy degree emphasizes clinical practice, graduates will be prepared to promote individual and family health and human development within the context of the family system.
Courses include: theoretical foundations of marital and family therapy; analysis and treatment of human sexual development; addictions and violence in families; psychopathology and assessment in marriage and family therapy; marital and individual psychotherapy; issues of gender and ethnicity; the individual and family over the life course; ethical and professional issues for family therapists; and intermediate practicum in marriage and family therapy.
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,680.00
Application Deadline: January 15th, December 1st (MFT)
Northwest Nazarene University is a nonprofit Christian University that was founded in 1913. Northwest Nazarene University offers Master of Science in Counseling Degrees in Clinical Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling, and School Counseling. All three degrees require the completion of 60 credits.
The Clinical Counseling program prepares graduates to be leaders in the field of Clinical Counseling with a strong foundation in the theory and practice of counseling, along with a compassion for, and understanding of, the needs of diverse populations. Students in the Marriage and Family Counseling program will focus on the theory and practice of marriage and family therapy including systems theory and interventions targeted towards couples. The School Counseling program trains students to provide services in the school setting and also provides students the opportunity to choose an area of emphasis from areas including: play therapy; trauma, crisis, and grief; and integration of faith in counseling.
Courses include: the profession of counseling; ethical and legal issues; multicultural counseling and societal issues; learning process and lifespan development; theories of counseling; family counseling theories; career development; group counseling; addictions counseling; research and statistics; clinical intervention and prevention; couples counseling; family systems theory and research; marriage and family counseling assessment; practice of counseling; human sexuality; family education experience; school counseling; counseling exceptionalities; and measurement and assessment.
Average Graduate Tuition: $8,851.00
Application Deadline: Feb. 15th for fall start, September 15th for spring start
Corban University is a Christian College that offers a CACREP accredited Master of Arts in Counseling designed to prepare graduates to pursue licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and/or as a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Faculty in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program brings a broad range of interests and experience to the classroom. The counseling program at Corban University, located in Salem, Oregon, offers a hybrid model with courses offered in the evenings and online. Students in this program will receive training integrated with a Christian faith-based perspective to work with and support clients in a range of settings.
Faculty areas of interest include: depression; anxiety; eating disorders; play therapy; bipolar; PTSD; rehabilitation counseling; veterans affairs; adolescents; Christian counseling; clinical supervision; intimate partner violence; couples/family therapy; integration of spirituality & therapy; multiculturalism; and school communities.
A Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy is available at Bethel Seminary. This COAMFTE licensure track degree integrates Christian theology with program courses and clinical practice. Students generally complete this 65 credit program in three years. Bethel Seminary has students representing over 60 denominations. Graduates of the program go on to serve individuals, couples, and families in settings ranging from community mental health clinics, schools, government agencies, and church-based settings.
Courses include: theories of marriage and family therapy; principles of counseling; dynamic of family process; research design and evaluation; individual and family psychopathology; professional and legal issues; group psychotherapy; community mental health; domestic violence; child abuse; psychopharmacology; and clinical experience.
The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary is accredited by the CACREP. Students in the program will develop clinical skills through supervised clinical experiences on-campus at Shepherd's Gate Counseling Center or through the programs numerous off-campus placements. Graduates will be prepared to pursue licensure, and to integrate their faith in the practice of professional counseling. The program reports a 100% pass rate for the National Counselor Exam.
Courses include: counseling theories; human development and counseling; counseling foundations; psychopathology and diagnosis; groups in counseling; kingdom of Israel and prophets; career development and assessment; marriage and family counseling; addictions and counseling; survey of Christian doctrine; research and evaluation in counseling; social and cultural foundations; counseling and spirituality; clinical counseling internship; assessment and measurement in counseling; professional orientation; and comprehensive examination.
Average Graduate Tuition: $10,080.00
Application Deadline: November 1st for Spring start, April 1st for fall start
The Master of Arts degree in Counseling at Adams State University offers concentrations in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and in School Counseling. This 60 credit CACREP accredited degree is available for students to complete either on-campus, off-campus (at different Colorado campuses), or online. See the program website for more information about these options. Adams State University designs program options and curriculum requirements with flexibility in mind to meet the needs of working professionals.
Courses include: introduction to research; multicultural issues; lifespan development; counseling theories and helping relationships; group counseling; career development; couple, family, system counseling; practicum; assessment in counseling; foundations of addiction counseling; ethics and professional issues; crisis, disaster, and trauma;evidence-basedd counseling; clinical mental health counseling; and professional school counseling issues.
The Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions at Regis University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling and a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. The Master of Arts in Counseling (60 credits) is accredited by the CACREP and prepares graduates to work with individuals facing complex mental health challenges in a range of clinical settings. The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (60 credits) is accredited by the COAMFTE and prepares graduates to effectively support individuals, couples, and families in the context of the family system to alleviate mental health symptoms and relational challenges.
Courses include: spirituality and counseling; human growth and development; theories of counseling; cultural issues and social justice; professional orientation and ethical issues; counseling techniques; clinical assessment; career counseling and development; substance abuse counseling; crisis, trauma, and loss; theories of family therapy; integrated healthcare; techniques in family and couple therapy; family origins and life cycles; gender development and sexuality; couple therapy; and play in family therapy.
Average Graduate Tuition: $11,250.00
Application Deadline: October 1st for Summer, February 20th for fall start
The Master of Arts in Counseling at Colorado Christian University is accredited by the CACREP. The program follows a cohort model with students having the opportunity to learn with and from peers. Students can choose the format of study that best works for their personal needs by choosing to take courses on campus in Lakewood or Colorado Springs or online. The 60 credit curriculum includes a Bible and theology core; a counseling curriculum core; a practicum/internship core; and electives. Through coursework and clinical training, students will have the opportunity to integrate theory and practice, grow spiritually, and develop professionally. Graduates will be prepared to pursue licensure.
Courses include: counseling skills training; group processing; psychopharmacology; counseling services and methods; theories of personality and counseling; psychopathology; human growth and development; crisis and trauma; marriage and family; groups and group therapy; lifestyle and career; social and cultural foundations; empathy training; human sexuality; addictive behaviors; anxiety and mood disorders; and eating disorders.
Average Graduate Tuition: $12,567.00
Application Deadline: 4 weeks prior to next Block start date
Students can earn a CACREP accredited Master of Arts in Counseling degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Western Seminary. The program is offered at a Seminary in Portland, Oregon with an emphasis on integrating a Christian worldview into the practice of professional counseling. With courses being offered in-seat in classrooms, students can also select to take some core courses and electives online. The 68 credit curriculum is made up of biblical studies, theology, and counseling core. Western Seminary encourages students to focus on the finances of their education and make responsible choices by accessing scholarships and paying out of pocket with monthly payment plans in order to avoid graduating with major student loan debt.
Courses include:Courses include: clinical foundations-basic counseling skills/interventions; family systems theory; psychopathology; legal and ethical issues; human lifespan development; spiritual development and assessment; group counseling; social and cultural foundations; counseling couples; career and lifestyle development; professional orientation; human sexuality; counseling violence and abuse issues; emergency preparedness-suicide intervention; and emergency preparedness-trauma counseling.
Average Graduate Tuition: $13,200.00
Application Deadline: February 13th for Summer start; June 12th for Fall start; October 16th for spring start
The City University of Seattle offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with programs of emphasis in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling. The CACREP accredited Master of Arts in Counseling requires the completion of 90 credits. Courses are designed to prepare students for clinical application in the practicum and internship settings. Students will move through the program following the cohort model and have the option to complete the program at a full-time pace of study, in two years, or in a three-year program, designed for working professionals. Courses are offered with face-to-face in-classroom instruction with some supplemental online courses.
Courses include: introduction to counseling practice; systemic theory-multicultural counseling; human growth and development; professional ethics and law; systemic theory-marriage, couple and family counseling; research methods and statistics; career counseling; counseling theory; group counseling; professional counseling orientation; systemic theory-crisis, disaster and trauma counseling; addictions and co-occurring perspectives; and special topics in individual, relational and sexual development.
The Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at New Mexico State University offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Accredited by the CACREP, course curriculum and clinical hours will prepare graduates to pursue licensure as a Clinical Mental Health Counselor. Reportedly, recent graduates of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at New Mexico State University have a pass rate for the National Counselor Examination of 100%, as well as a job placement rate of 100%.
Courses include: human development; multicultural counseling; appraisal theory and technique; professional issues in mental health counseling; counseling theory and technique; diagnosis and treatment planning; child and adolescent counseling; career/life planning and vocational assessment; group work theory and technique; counseling practicum; family therapy theory and technique; addictions counseling; organization and administration of school counseling; and advanced counseling practicum.
Bushnell University offers a CACREP accredited Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that is integrated with a Christian worldview. Students are encouraged to tailor their program around their areas of interest, with the opportunity to select electives and choose an internship or practicum site of particular personal interest. Additionally, students in this program will be supported in developing an area of specialization focused on a specific population, clinical issue, treatment, or intervention. Graduates of this 60 credit program will be prepared to pursue licensure as a professional counselor.
Courses include: professional orientation; personality and counseling theory; the helping relationship; ethical and legal issues; research and evaluation; group dynamics and theory; human growth and development; lifestyle and career development; counseling in a multicultural society; family systems; diagnosis and psychopathology; testing and appraisal; addiction counseling; and crisis, trauma, and grief counseling.
George Fox University offers three CACREP accredited master's degree in counseling: The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (60 credits); The Master of Arts in School Counseling (57 credits); and The Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling (68 credits). These graduate counseling programs strive to educate students in counseling, with an integrated understanding of the role that Christian faith can play in overall mental health and wellness.
The Clinical Mental Health Counseling program can be completed in two to four years and leads students to be eligible to pursue licensure as a professional counselor (LPC). The School Counseling Program can generally be completed in two to four years. The Marriage and Family Therapy program generally takes three to four years to complete prepares students to pursue licensure as a professional counselor (LPC) or as a marriage and family therapist (LMFT). Students in the MFT program will be required to complete 20 hours of individual therapy.
Unique feature: a unique feature of George Fox University is their play therapy and trauma courses. George Fox University's Graduate School of Counseling is home of the Northwest Center for Play Therapy Studies (NWC PTS). Students in the counseling program will have access to courses and training offered by NWC PTS. NWC PTS is well known for attracting leaders in the field of play therapy to present at conferences offered throughout the year.
Average Graduate Tuition: $15,504.00
Application Deadline: May 1st for Fall semester, October 1st for Spring semester, February 1st for Summer semester
A Master of Science in Counseling with an option in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling is available at California State University Fresno. This 60 credit program is accredited by the CACREP. The program reports a successful pass rate for the National Counselor Examination and graduates report success in securing employment in the counseling field.
Courses include: laws relating to children; introduction to counseling; counseling and mental health; topics in counseling; collaborative leadership skills for human services professionals; seminar in multicultural aspects of counseling; seminar in assessment in counseling; counseling through the lifespan; seminar in sexuality counseling; student development theory in higher education; seminar in career development theory; seminar in ethics and professional practices of counseling; psychopharmacology; couples therapy; field placement in counseling; addictions counseling; and crisis trauma counseling.
Average Graduate Tuition: $15,666.00
Application Deadline: October 1st for Spring semester, March 1st for Fall semester
The College of Health and Human Development, Department of Counseling, at California State University Fullerton offers a Master of Science in Counseling. This 63 credit degree is accredited by the CACREP. Graduates of this program will be eligible to pursue licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and/or a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). The program values attention to, and respect for, multicultural diversity with students, faculty, and clients. Students can complete the program in 3-5 years depending on what works best, given their personal and professional commitments.
Courses include: the counseling profession; pre-practicum (basic counseling skills); human development and functioning; career counseling; modes of individual counseling; techniques of brief treatment and assessment; counseling and culture; child and adolescent counseling; psychopharmacology; professional ethics and legal issues in counseling; systems of family counseling; addictions; couples counseling; crisis intervention and trauma treatment; and advanced counseling techniques.
A Master of Science in Counseling is available at California State University Los Angeles. This Master of Science in Counseling degree has an option in School-Based Family Counseling. This program will train students in the K-12 school setting and to take into consideration the educational context when working with children and families outside of the school. Students in this program will complete supervised fieldwork experience in school counseling as well as in child welfare and attendance. Additionally, students will complete a practicum experience in marriage, family, and child counseling.
Courses include: child maltreatment and domestic violence; lifespan human development for counselors; ethical, legal, and professional issues in counseling; school-wide applied behavioral analysis; multicultural counseling; assessment in counseling; group counseling; introduction to family evaluation and counseling; advanced family and marriage counseling; family counseling with children; diagnosis and treatment in clinical counseling; counseling and human sexuality; career education and guidance in schools; and addiction counseling.
California State University Northridge offers several graduate degrees in counseling. The Master of Science in Counseling (60 credits) has CACREP accredited options in: Career Counseling; College Counseling and Student Services; Marriage and Family Therapy; and School Counseling. Each option of study is distinct, and while they share common core courses the majority of courses for the major will depend on the option of study and focus on the issues most relevant to that specialty. A wide range of counseling specialties are available with students able to select a program based on their career goals and the population they hope to build a career working with. Students will find the degree that best meets their counseling career goals at California State University Northridge.
Core Courses for all Master in Science in Counseling majors include: individual and group assessment; research principles; counseling in cross-cultural settings; seminar in counseling theory and practice; seminar in career counseling theory; counseling practicum-communication; counseling practicum-skills; and law and ethics.
The Department of Counseling and School Psychology at San Diego State University offers a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. This is a full time ttwo-yearprogram, including summers, and is accredited by the COAMFTE. Students will travel through the program with the support of their cohort. The faculty aims to attract a diverse and talented student population with the philosophy that every student's academic experience will be enhanced by a vibrant cohort. Students will have the opportunity to work with culturally diverse populations, in their internship placements, under quality supervision.
Courses include: cross-cultural counseling communication skills; cross-cultural counseling practicum; professional issues in mental health practice; family life cycle development; marriage and family therapy theories and best practices; family and systemic treatment of substance abuse; mental health recovery and the DSM: a social justice perspective; trauma and crisis counseling in multicultural community context; family systems assessment of child abuse; violence in couples' relationships; sexuality and intimacy in couple and family therapy and counseling; and counseling interventions with children and adolescents.
San Francisco State University offers a Master of Science in Counseling with several areas of specialization available. The CACREP has accredited the Master of Science in Counseling with concentrations in Career, College, Gerontology, School, and MFT counseling. Note: the program's Rehabilitation Counseling program is currently accredited by CORE and this accreditation will transfer to CACREP accreditation in July 2017. Students will take common core counseling courses as well as courses geared specifically towards their area of specialty. Graduates of San Francisco State University's Master of Science in Counseling Program will be eligible to take the National Counselor Examination and pursue professional licensure.
Courses include: theories of counseling; developmental foundations for counselors; counseling process; assessment in counseling; alcohol and substance abuse; crisis counseling for counselors; group counseling process; social and cultural foundations in counseling; law and ethics in counseling; and couples and family counseling.
Students at Sonoma State University can earn a Master of Arts in Counseling. This 60 credit, CACREP accredited Master of Arts in Counseling offers students the opportunity to choose between two programs of study: the Clinical Mental Health Counseling track or the School Counseling track. Faculty emphasize preparing students to be leaders in the field of counseling with attention to understanding and articulating the needs of individuals within the system in which they work and live. The program will make an effort to accommodate the needs of individual students' schedules to complete the program within 2-3 years depending on personal, family, and professional commitments.
Courses include: counseling theories and professional orientation; applied counseling techniques and assessment; research evaluation and assessment in counseling; supervised field experience; multicultural counseling; clinical diagnosis and treatment planning; theory and practice of group counseling; counseling orientation, law and ethics, and case management practices; couples and sexuality counseling; substance use and dependence; working with families in a school setting; group counseling in the schools; consultation; and crisis intervention.
Lewis and Clark College offers a Master of Arts or Science in Professional Mental Health Counseling and a Master of Arts or Science in Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy. The Master of Arts or Science in Professional Mental Health Counseling is accredited by the CACREP. This program emphasizes preparing graduates to be skilled professionals with the ability to provide individual and group therapy to diverse populations while paying attention to issues of social justice. The Master of Arts or Science in Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy is accredited by the COAMFTE. The Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy Program accepts 35 students each year into their three-year cohort model program, over the last few years at least 80% of students have graduated within the three-year time frame.
Professional Mental Health Counseling focus areas include: counseling LGBTQ clients; feminist therapies; mind/body/spirit/creativity; community and professional advocacy; eating disorders; and ecopsychology. Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy areas of specialization include: addictions treatment; international family therapy; sex therapy; and ecopsychology.
Average Graduate Tuition: $15,822.00
Application Deadline: January 17th (MFT) & February 1st (PMHC)
The Counselor Education Program at Gonzaga University offers CACREP accredited graduate degrees in counseling. The degrees include: Master of Arts in School Counseling; Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; and Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Counseling. Students will engage in their program through the cohort model in which they will support, and be supported by, their peers throughout their time earning their degree. Students interested in Gonzaga University can select the degree that matches their professional goals and graduate as a leader in the field with that specialty.
Courses include: critical issues in counseling; counseling theories; counseling pre practicum; research and statistics; introduction to clinical mental health counseling; special issues in counseling; human growth and development; group process; marriage and family counseling; child-adolescent counseling; assessment in counseling; group facilitation; chemical dependency in counseling; multicultural counseling; occupational choice and career development in counseling; human sexuality; special issues in school counseling; and trauma, crisis, and grief.
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