Top Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs
| Staff Writers
Are you ready to find your fit?
A career as a mental health counselor can be personally and professionally rewarding, as it often deals with assisting the most vulnerable members in a community. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 25% job growth rate for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors through 2029, with employers adding 79,000 positions in that time. Employment for mental health counselors should particularly increase in rural areas lacking healthcare services.
An online mental health counseling degree offers a flexible, affordable path to a new career. Online learning lets students tailor their schedules around personal and professional commitments. Many learners can graduate in 1-2 years.
Graduates are knowledgeable about counseling theories, human development, group work, assessments, and diagnosing mental illnesses. An accredited program readies master’s degree-holders to earn licensure and counsel children and adults in clinical settings.
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 an Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program
While each college establishes specific admission standards, most online master’s in clinical mental health counseling programs maintain some common requirements.
Schools typically require candidates to possess a minimum 2.7-3.0 undergraduate GPA. Applicants may also need to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Some programs expect prospective students to have completed certain prerequisite courses or hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling or a related field. Admissions departments may also prefer candidates who have gained work experience through internships or volunteer opportunities.
Along with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, applicants must typically submit supplemental materials like letters of recommendation from professional references, a resume, transcripts, and a personal statement.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a clinical mental health counselor?
The journey to becoming a clinical mental health counselor includes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and two years to get a master’s degree. Part-time students often take longer to graduate. Mental health counselors also need a license to work in a clinical setting, which requires completing supervised clinical hours.
What is accreditation and why is it important?
Institutional and programmatic accreditation protects students and their investments. Schools hold either regional or national accreditation, both of which ensure that the curriculum and institution meet certain standards. Online mental health counseling programs often hold accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Employers often prefer graduates from accredited programs.
What does a clinical mental health counselor do?
A clinical mental health counselor’s job entails assessing clients’ mental and emotional wellbeing. They diagnose patients and determine treatment plans. Specific job functions vary depending on the workplace.
What can I do with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling?
A master’s in clinical mental health counseling can jumpstart a graduate’s career as a school counselor, health educator, outpatient therapist, or substance abuse counselor. Mental health counselors help individuals and groups by focusing on prevention. They may opt to work with teenagers, elderly, or incarcerated individuals.
NC State enrolls over 36,000 students across 12 colleges. Along with in-person programs offered at its Raleigh home campus, NC State offers over 100 online programs, with more than 19,000 students enrolled in distance education.
NC State offers a 60-credit online master’s in clinical mental health counseling that takes three years to complete and includes some minimal on-campus visits during the final year of study. The master’s in education emphasizes concepts in career counseling and development, multicultural counseling, and clinical assessment strategies.
The cohort-based program combines asynchronous and synchronous study, with one 90-minute video conference meeting per week in addition to work completed individually. Students must complete a counseling practicum, including at least 100 hours of supervised clinical experience. Applicants must submit GRE or GMAT scores.
North Carolina State University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Founded in 1869 in Henderson, Tennessee, FHU is a private institution affiliated with the Church of Christ. FHU enrolls just over 2,100 students in a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, both on-campus and online.
Students seeking an online mental health counseling degree with a Christian foundation can earn a master’s in pastoral care and counseling at FHU. The 48-credit hour program prepares graduates to provide ministry-based counseling services. Candidates complete courses in family ministry, Christian leadership, and communication in ministry, along with a six credit hour internship.
This program best serves candidates seeking careers as pastors, youth ministers, and Bible school instructors. The curriculum emphasizes studies in ministerial counseling and includes required courses in the Old and New Testaments. Applicants must demonstrate a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, and submit GRE or GMAT scores.
Freed-Hardeman University holds regional accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Founded in 1946 as a technical college for engineers, LETU now offers over 140 academic programs across eight colleges. The university is a private, Christian institution emphasizing evangelical tenets and Biblical teachings. However, LETU welcomes applicants of all faiths, and enrolls over 3,100 students, including 857 online learners.
LETU's online MA in counseling programs are ideal for students seeking one of the top mental health counseling graduate programs. The school offers MA degree options in clinical mental health and school counseling. The clinical mental health track requires 66 credit hours, including six credits of theology coursework for counselors. The core curriculum addresses concepts in research methods, psychopharmacology, and counseling skills and techniques.
Applicants must hold an undergraduate GPA of at least a 2.75. Students entering the program with less than 12 undergraduate credits in psychology must complete prerequisite courses.
LeTourneau University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Originally founded as the Baptist Bible Seminary in 1932, CSU now serves over 900 students through a variety of Biblically-centered academic programs. Candidates may take courses at CSU's home campus in Johnson City, New York, or enroll in one of the university's online programs, many of which take as few as two years to complete.
CSU’s 60-credit online MS in counseling program focuses on ministry studies and biblically-based counseling. Core courses include biblical philosophy of counseling, spiritual issues in counseling, and group counseling. The fully accredited program takes under four years to complete. Students must attend three week-long intensive courses on-campus during summer sessions.
Applicants to the MS in counseling program must hold a bachelor’s degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Students entering the program without undergraduate experience in psychology or theology must complete prerequisite courses.
Clarks Summit University holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Located just south of Buffalo, New York, SBU offers many academic programs, including six online graduate degrees. SBU’s online programs boast small class sizes and asynchronous instruction, allowing for quality education and exceptional flexibility.
SBU's online master’s in clinical mental health counseling is available as a track in the MS in education program. The 60-credit program includes courses in abnormal psychology, psychological testing and assessment, and research methods in education. The curriculum stresses individual and group counseling competencies, communication, critical thinking, and ethical and legal responsibilities in counseling. Students complete two internships entailing 300 clock hours of supervised counseling practice.
Applicants must submit two letters of reference and attend an admissions interview.
SBU's clinical mental health counseling program holds programmatic accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. St. Bonaventure University holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
With more than 31,500 students, UB is the State University of New York system's flagship institution and its largest school. The university offers over 205 online and on-campus master’s programs.
Students can complete UB's master’s in clinical mental health counseling in 4-6 semesters. The online MS in rehabilitation counseling consists of 48 credit hours and features courses in rehabilitation foundations, counseling techniques, and legal and ethical issues in counseling. Candidates also complete at least 750 counseling contact hours across two to three semesters. The program culminates in two final exams and a portfolio.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling or a related field. Prospective students must attend an admissions interview and submit a statement of intent.
The program is accredited by Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). The University at Buffalo holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
This Omaha institution opened its doors in 1878 with a student body of just 120 individuals. Today, Creighton enrolls more than 8,900 students in over 140 academic programs, including 30 distance learning options.
Creighton students seeking an online mental health counseling degree can earn a master’s in school counseling and preventive mental health and choose from concentrations in elementary school counseling, secondary school counseling, and PK-12 guidance counseling. Students complete between 36 and 39 credit hours, depending on their chosen track. Core courses include diagnosis and mental health issues in children and adolescents, theoretical perspectives in counseling, and social justice and diversity in school counseling.
Prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA and submit letters of recommendation. Online coursework is presented asynchronously, and learners benefit from small class sizes and individualized faculty attention.
Creighton University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
A private liberal arts institution located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest University serves more than 8,400 students through a variety of major, minor, and certificate programs. Some of Wake Forest's graduate programs can be completed entirely online.
The university's online master’s in counseling features two track options: clinical mental health and school counseling. Both tracks require a minimum of 60 credit hours, and include core courses such as theories and models of counseling, research and statistical analysis, and counseling skills and techniques. All students complete a practicum and two internship courses. Both concentrations culminate in a professional identity capstone seminar.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. While candidates must submit GRE scores, the school may waive this requirement based on academic merit. Applicants attend a virtual interview with an enrollment specialist.
Wake Forest University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
A Christian institution affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA, this Davids, Pennsylvania school incorporates faith into its academic programs, emphasizing key tenets of reason and justice. Eastern offers more than 160 programs, including online options for students seeking a master’s in clinical mental health counseling.
Eastern’s MA in clinical counseling includes two track options: trauma studies and applied behavior analysis certification. Students may pursue an accelerated path and earn their degree in as few as two years. Eastern offers both on-campus and online delivery options, allowing students to blend web-based and in-person courses, or to complete the degree entirely online.
The program requires 60 credit hours for both track options, with foundational courses in counseling theory, ethics and professional development, and psychopathology and diagnosis. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 2.8 undergraduate GPA. Applicants with a lower GPA must submit GRE scores.
Eastern University holds regional accreditation from The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Both programs feature live classes and opportunities to interact with classmates and instructors. Students may attend short on-campus intensives to meet classmates and network and train. The counseling programs offer rolling admissions and do not require the GRE. All students complete a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship at a location in their home community.
New York University holds regional accreditation from The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Located in Peoria, Illinois, Bradley is a private university serving over 5,400 individuals through more than 185 academic programs across eight colleges and schools. Bradley offers a growing number of programs entirely online, including a master’s in clinical mental health counseling.
Serving as a direct academic track to licensure, the 60-credit program prepares students to sit for the National Counselor Exam. Candidates explore topics such as crisis intervention, human growth and development, and substance abuse counseling. The program includes a required practicum and an internship that online students can complete at an approved site in their community.
Applicants must submit GRE or GMAT scores, letters of recommendation, and admissions essays. The university prefers a 3.0 undergraduate GPA or higher.
Bradley University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Established in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Indiana's HU still upholds the church’s mission of faith and evangelism. Today, HU offers more than 70 academic programs, including online options for distance learners and working adults.
HU's 60-credit hour online master’s in clinical mental health counseling meets licensure standards in Indiana and many other states. Emphasizing spiritual formation, the program teaches candidates to incorporate Christian principles into counseling practice. Required courses include clinical psychopathology and assessment, addiction counseling, and crisis and trauma counseling.
Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation and a professional resume. Prospective students should have an undergraduate GPA of at least a 3.0. Prerequisites include three credit hours in psychology and three in Biblical studies; if necessary, admitted students may complete these during their first year of study.
Huntington University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Ranked as one of the country's friendliest college towns, Corvallis serves as home to OSU. The university enrolls roughly 32,700 students in over 200 academic programs, including more than 70 online options.
OSU offers two master’s in counseling degrees: one in clinical mental health counseling and one in school counseling. Students may complete both degrees almost entirely online, with limited on-campus requirements. The part-time clinical mental health counseling degree requires 90 quarter credit hours, and many students complete the program in about three-and-a-half years. Students must complete some on-campus courses, but may complete the required internship hours at an approved site anywhere in the country.
Students must complete at least 24 professional development hours by attending conferences and workshops in the field. Applicants must hold a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and submit a statement of objectives and letters of recommendation.
Oregon State University holds regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
Members of the Churches of Christ founded Texas-based LCU in 1957, and the university still embodies Christ-centered teachings and values. Today, candidates can choose from more than 70 academic programs.
LCU offers both an MS in clinical mental health counseling and an MS in school counseling online, with limited or no residency requirements. The clinical mental health degree consists of 60 credit hours, including some hybrid courses requiring week-long campus residencies. The curriculum includes courses in counseling research, addictions, and crisis counseling. Students complete a counseling practicum and an internship, with some part-time learners graduating in about nine semesters.
Qualifying applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit letters of reference. Applicants who move into the second part of the admissions process must attend an interview with faculty and submit responses to counseling essay questions.
Lubbock Christian University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Established in 1892 as northeastern Ohio's first Bible institute, Malone continues to serve as a Christ-centered private institution, offering more than 100 academic programs. Affiliated with the Evangelical Friends Church, Malone aims to provide faith-based education and leadership training.
Malone's master’s in clinical mental health counseling is available entirely online. Offered as an MA in education with a specialization in clinical mental health counseling, the 60-credit degree can be completed in 3-4 years. Core courses include assessment in counseling, diagnosing mental illness, and abnormal psychology. Students also complete a counseling practicum and two-part internship. Malone graduates boast around a 90% pass rate for the counseling exam.
Applicants must submit two professional references and an autobiographical statement detailing their family history and personal experiences that led to pursuing a degree in counseling.
Malone University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Founded in 1948 by The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, GMercyU boasts small class sizes and a close-knit student body of just over 2,800. Many of GMercyU's 40 academic programs are available entirely online.
Students interested in a counseling degree can pursue three online MS in counseling programs at GMercyU, including a track in clinical mental health counseling. The 60-credit curriculum includes core courses in counseling agencies, DSM and psychopathology, and group counseling. Candidates also complete a 100-hour practicum and 600 hours of supervised internship experience.
Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and demonstrate completion of prerequisite courses in psychology and research methods or statistics. those with a GPA lower than 3.0 must submit GRE scores for consideration. Students may transfer up to six graduate credit hours toward the degree.
Gwynedd Mercy University holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
ULM enrolls over 9,100 students in 96 unique academic programs. Founded in 1931, the school boasts a beautiful historic campus along the Bayou DeSiard in northeast Louisiana. ULM also offers over 35 programs entirely online, delivered in accelerated eight-week sessions.
ULM’s online master’s in clinical mental health counseling holds accreditation from Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The 60-credit hour program includes required courses in theories and methods in counseling, addiction counseling, and legal and ethical issues in counseling. Students complete 600 hours of supervised clinical experience, and may develop an optional thesis project.
Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. While all students must submit GRE scores, this requirement is waived for master's degree-holders. The program prepares students for Louisiana licensure, and out-of-state students should check their state’s requirements.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
CUW has provided Christ-centered higher education since 1881, and now provides over 8,000 students with more than 70 academic programs. In addition to serving learners on its campus just north of Milwaukee in Mequon, CUW also offers many degrees entirely online.
Students in CUW's online MS in education program can pursue tracks in school and professional counseling, school counseling licensure, or SAC professional counseling licensure. Depending on the track, students complete between 45 and 60 credit hours, taking core courses in counseling theory, human growth and development, and social and cultural foundations. Candidates on the professional counseling track must complete at least 700 practicum and internship hours. Professional counseling licensure generally requires an additional 3,000 hours of supervised practice.
Prospective students must hold an undergraduate GPA of at least a 3.0. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.
Concordia University Wisconsin holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Originally established as the Western Branch of the Kansas Normal School in 1902, FHSU now offers programs across 31 academic departments. More than 15,500 students take courses at FHSU, including over 7,000 enrolled in its virtual college.
FHSU offers two online counseling degrees: one in clinical mental health counseling and one in school counseling. The clinical mental health track offers half of the required courses online and the other half on campus. This 60-credit hour program prepares students to become licensed professional counselors in Kansas, with required courses in counseling skills development, psychopathology and diagnosis, and social and cultural foundations. Students must take comprehensive exams before beginning the mandatory counseling internship.
Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework, and must submit to a background check.
Fort Hays State University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Founded in 1867, WVU is a public institution enrolling over 29,900 students in more than 360 academic programs. WVU also offers hundreds of online degrees, including options for students seeking the top mental health counseling graduate programs.
WVU's 63-credit, 18-course online MS in clinical rehabilitation counseling includes core classes in rehabilitation services, disability across the lifespan, and vocational evaluation techniques. Students must complete a semester-long counseling practicum that includes at least 150 practice hours, in addition to a 600-hour internship. Most course requirements take place online, with the exception of two week-long intensive workshops on campus.
Applicants must hold an undergraduate GPA of at least a 2.8, and submit GRE or MAT scores and three letters of reference. Students should have completed certain prerequisite undergraduate courses.
West Virginia University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Founded in 1964, Union Institute & University offers academic programs at locations in Ohio, Florida, and California. Union aims to provide working adults with flexible and accessible education, offering online and on-campus programs to accommodate busy schedules.
Union's online master’s in clinical mental health counseling features short weekend residencies at the university’s Cincinnati campus. The 60-credit hour MA includes required courses in counseling theory and practice, psychopathology, and diagnosis and assessment. The program culminates in a graduate capstone project consisting of a 30-35 page research paper on a topic of the student’s choosing. Learners also complete a 100-hour practicum and 600 hours of supervised internship experience. Required weekend residences take place twice per academic year.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Application materials include a personal statement, three professional references, and an individual interview.
Union Institute & University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Washington, D.C.-based Gallaudet is the only university designed to serve deaf and hard of hearing students. Gallaudet has served at the forefront of deaf education and advocated for deaf people's rights for over 150 years. Today, the university offers a wide variety of affordable and accessible on-campus and online programs.
Students seeking a top mental health counseling graduate program can earn their master’s in clinical mental health counseling online at Gallaudet. The 69-credit hour program specifically prepares students to provide mental health services for hard of hearing and deaf patients. Full-time candidates typically finish the program in about four semesters. Learners must take a qualifying exam following the first year of study, and complete a 200-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship working with deaf and hard of hearing clients.
Applicants must have a working knowledge of American Sign Language.
Gallaudet University holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
A private college located in western New York state, Medaille College was founded as a teachers' college in 1875 by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Today, Medaille's many academic programs are available in a variety of delivery options, including on-campus, online, and weekend formats.
Most students complete Medaille’s 60-credit online master’s in clinical mental health counseling in about two years. The program consists of 17 asynchronous courses spanning topics in professional orientation and ethical practice, social and cultural diversity, and human growth and development. Students also complete three semesters of practicum and internship hours, moving through the program in cohorts.
Counseling students enjoy special scholarship opportunities. Applicants must submit three reference letters and a statement of intent. Candidates who move through initial admissions processes must also sit for an interview.
Medaille College holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Located 90 miles from Boston, UMass Amherst originally opened in 1863 as an agricultural college. Now, UMass enrolls more than 31,300 students in 240 academic programs, including 78 master’s options.
UMass offers three master’s degrees in counseling: an MS in mental health counseling, an MS in rehabilitation counseling, and an M.Ed. in school counseling. The MS in mental health counseling provides a great option for students seeking an online mental health counseling degree. This 60-credit hour program includes courses in counseling theory and practice, ethical standards and professional issues in counseling, and counseling families and couples. Students complete most courses online, with only two weeks of on-campus study required.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and must have taken at least five undergraduate courses in the social sciences.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Established in 1863, the Kansas State Teachers' College became ESU in 1977. The university now enrolls more than 5,800 students across over 200 academic programs, boasting the lowest student debt rate of all public universities in the state.
Students seeking a graduate online mental health counseling degree enjoy a variety of options at ESU, including an MS in clinical counseling. The 60-credit hour program includes 45 credits of core courses and 15 credits within the student’s chosen concentration. Available concentrations include addiction counseling, clinical mental health counseling, and clinical rehabilitation counseling. Students complete one semester (three credit hours) of a counseling practicum and two semesters (six credit hours) of a clinical internship requiring 600 clock hours of supervised practice.
To apply, prospective candidates must submit three letters of reference and attend an admissions interview. Certain dual programs and concentrations require GRE scores for admission.
Emporia State University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Online College Resources
Helping you prepare and gain the most out of your educational experience.
Individuals facing disabilities, injuries, or illnesses may benefit from the use of recreation-based therapies. By introducing activities like dance, sport, or arts and crafts, therapists can help patients learn skills...