The Most Affordable Master’s Degrees in Counseling in the Western United States

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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.

Rank School Location
1 Brigham Young University-Provo Provo, UT
2 Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID
3 Corban University Salem, OR
4 Bethel Seminary-San Diego San Diego, CA
5 Denver Seminary Denver, CO
6 Adams State University Alamosa, CO
7 Regis University Thornton, CO
8 Colorado Christian University Lakewood, CO
9 Western Seminary Portland, OR
10 City University of Seattle Seattle, WA

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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.


Best Affordable Online Counselor Programs 2021

  1. Brigham Young University-Provo
    Location

    Provo, UT

    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)
    • Credits Required: 70

  2. Northwest Nazarene University
    Location

    Nampa, ID

    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
    • Credits Required: 60

  3. Corban University
    Location

    Salem, OR

    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.

    • Average Graduate Tuition: $8,876.00
    • Credits Required: 60

  4. Bethel Seminary-San Diego
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    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.

    • Average Graduate Tuition: $8,910.00
    • Application Deadline: January 1st
    • Credits Required: 65

  5. Denver Seminary
    Location

    Denver, CO

    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
    • Credits Required: 60

  6. Adams State University
    Location

    Alamosa, CO

    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.

    • Average Graduate Tuition: $10,332.00
    • Credits Required: 60

  7. Regis University
    Location

    Thornton, CO

    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
    • Credits Required: 60

  8. Colorado Christian University
    Location

    Lakewood, CO

    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
    • Credits Required: 60

  9. Western Seminary
    Location

    Portland, OR

    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
    • Credits Required: 60 – 68

  10. City University of Seattle
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    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.

    • Average Graduate Tuition: $13,914.00


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