Fastest Online Counseling Degrees

Are you ready to find your fit?

Counseling degrees lead to a multitude of career options, including academic advisors, guidance counselors, human services counselors, pastoral counselors, rehabilitation counselors, and substance and behavioral disorders counselors. Opportunities abound in fast-growing specialty areas, such as career advising in postsecondary schools or higher education, family counseling at healthcare organizations, and school counseling at the K-12 level.

Students looking for the fastest and most efficient pathways for completing their counseling programs can save money on their education and focus on targeted coursework that relates to their professional goals. Accelerated and online counseling programs offer the quickest routes, particularly those that allow learners to take more credits per semester, transfer credits toward their degree, and follow an asynchronous study plan at their own pace rather than adhering to scheduled cohort or synchronous curricula.

Our rankings can help you find the best fast-track counseling degree options for your schedule.

Top 10 Fastest Online Counseling Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS
2 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
3 Hampton University Hampton, VA
4 University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD
5 Grand Canyon University Phoenix, AZ
6 Angelo State University San Angelo, TX
7 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
8 Arkansas Tech University Russellville, AR
9 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
10 Fordham University Bronx, NY

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

  1. Kansas State University

    Manhattan, KS

    Online Master of Science in Academic Advising

    The Department of Special Education, Counseling and Student Affairs at Kansas State University offers students the opportunity to earn a Master of Science in Academic Advising online for 30 credits. This graduate program can be completed in less than two years when students take two classes per term. For students who are interested, additional coursework is available in: administration of academic advising; and intercollegiate athletics and the college student athlete. The program is designed for individuals who want to pursue a career in academic advising, as well as for current professionals in the field who want to strengthen their work of academic advising and career planning with college students.

    Courses include: research methods in education; learning principles; foundations of academic advising; interpersonal relations for academic advising; student development theory; multicultural aspects of academic advising; college student athletes; trends in career development; and college students with special needs.

    • Credits Required: 30
    • Graduate Tuition: $552 / Credit Hour
  2. Liberty University

    Lynchburg, VA

    Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling Online

    A Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling is available online at Liberty University. This 36 credit online degree emphasizes integrating biblical principles into the practice of counseling. Coursework will cover psychology, theology, and counseling. This non-licensure track degree will prepare graduates for careers such as: associate pastor; church counselor; non-licensed counselor; pastor; and women's ministry director. Graduates may also be able to work towards professional licensure with additional graduate study.

    Courses include: introduction to pastoral counseling; foundational doctrines for pastoral counselors; multicultural issues in pastoral counseling; spiritual formation in pastoral counseling; crisis intervention in pastoral counseling; marriage and family counseling; theories and techniques in pastoral counseling; integration of psychology and theology; theology and spirituality in counseling; healthy sexuality; gerontology and counseling; and counseling women.

    • Credits Required: 36
    • Graduate Tuition: $565 / Credit Hour
    Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling Online

    Liberty University offers a Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling. Liberty University, a Christian University, has been offering courses through distance education since 1985. This online degree can be completed for only 30 credits. Students in the program will select an area of specialty (12 credits) to complete along with the core courses (18 credits). This unique format allows graduates to enter the field of Human Services Counseling with a unique and focused area of concentration. Students can select the area of concentration that is of personal and professional interest. Courses can be completed fully online with some specialization courses potentially available through on-campus intensives.

    Areas of specialization include: addictions and recovery; business; christian ministries; criminal justice; crisis response and trauma; executive leadership; family advocacy, public policy, and the future; health and wellness; life coaching; marriage and family; and military resilience.

    • Credits Required: 30
    • Graduate Tuition: $565 / Credit Hour
  3. Hampton University

    Hampton, VA

    Master of Arts in Counseling Online

    A Master of Arts in Counseling is available online at Hampton University. This online counseling program can be completed for only 31 credits (30 credits of coursework plus a comprehensive examination). This degree provides students with a preview of the counseling field with concentrations available in: community mental health counseling; student affairs and college student development counseling; and school counseling. Graduates will be prepared to pursue certification as a Qualified Mental Health Provider (QMHP). Students interested in licensure as a professional counselor or therapist will need to take additional coursework.

    Courses include: assessment and appraisal in counseling; life span development; theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy; group process in counseling; career development; treating the substance abuser; identity, ethics, and legal aspects of counseling; community mental health and welfare services; introduction to research and program evaluation; and counseling with diverse populations.

    • Credits Required: 31
    • Graduate Tuition: $695 / Credit Hour
  4. University of South Dakota

    Vermillion, SD

    Master of Arts in Addiction Studies Online

    The University of South Dakota offers 33 credit advanced track online Master of Arts in Addiction Studies. The program offers two tracks of study, the Advanced Track (33 credits) and the Standard Track (45 credits). The Advanced Track is set up for students who have completed some educational coursework (such as a bachelor's degree in addiction studies), credentialing, and/or have previous professional experience in addictions. A handful of unique electives are available to choose from for the Advanced Track, including: working with families on alcohol and drug issues; alcohol and drug use in diverse populations; Native Americans and substance use and abuse; and psychopathology and addiction. Graduates of the program will be prepared to be leaders in the field of addictions, prevention, treatment, and recovery.

    Courses include: advanced legal/ethical issues and the addiction profession; wellness, recovery, and maintenance; addiction counseling; addiction studies research; addiction profession supervision; public policy and addiction; case management and assessment of co-occurring disorders; history and culture of addiction; and relapse prevention.

    • Credits Required: 33
    • Graduate Tuition: $442 / Credit Hour
  5. Grand Canyon University

    Phoenix, AZ

    Online Master of Science in Addiction Counseling

    Grand Canyon University offers a 36 credit online Master of Science in Addiction Counseling. This program is designed to train students through coursework and supervised clinical internships to work as professional addiction counselors. Students will learn skills in assessment, treatment, and prevention and how addiction impacts individuals, couples, and families. Graduates will be prepared for careers in addiction counseling in the setting of their choice including private practice, inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, and hospitals.

    Courses include: introduction to graduate studies in health sciences; professional counseling orientation and ethics; counseling theories; introduction to addictions and substance use disorders; group counseling theory and practice; social and cultural diversity issues in counseling; psychopharmacology and addictions; co-occurring disorders; family issues and addictive disorders; diagnostics, assessment, treatment; and counseling chemical dependency adolescents.

    • Credits Required: 36
    • Graduate Tuition: $500 / Credit Hour
    Online Master Of Science in Mental Health And Wellness

    A Master of Science in Mental Health and Wellness is available online at Grand Canyon University. This degree only requires the completion of 34 credits. Courses are generally 8 weeks in length. This program is designed to support graduates in integrating theories and practices for mental health and wellness in their professional career. Students can be creative in how they choose to use their degree professionally. The program is not designed to prepare graduates for professional licensure as a counselor or therapist but will support graduates in understanding and delivering culturally competent and ethically sound services related to mental health in a variety of community settings and human service careers.

    Courses include: introduction to graduate studies and liberal arts; introduction to mental health and wellness; ethics and cultural diversity in mental health and wellness; human development; group dynamics; community health; documentation, research, and information literacy in mental health and wellness; mental health, wellness and health care integration; and mental health and wellness capstone.

    • Credits Required: 34
    • Graduate Tuition: $500 / Credit Hour
  6. Angelo State University

    San Angelo, TX

    Online Master of Education in Guidance and Counseling; Online Master of Science in Applied Psychology

    Angelo State University offers two different counseling degrees that can be completed online for 36 credits each. Students can earn a Master of Education in Guidance and Counseling 100% online for 36 credits. This degree is designed for students who wish to pursue a career as a public school counselor or a college and university counselor. A Master of Science in Applied Psychology is also available online for 36 credits. This degree is designed to prepare graduates to apply psychology to societal issues in an effort to improve people's lives in areas such as health, safety, and education. Courses for these degrees are offered in 8 weeks sessions, allowing students to complete the program in less than two years.

    Courses include: social and cultural influences; tests and measurements; lifespan development; legal and ethical principles; individual counseling; group counseling; theories of counseling; career and occupational counseling; dysfunctional behavior; leadership; social psychology; theories of personality; research methods; applied economic psychology; social perception; health and wellness psychology; sports psychology; cognitive and behavioral neuroscience; developmental psychology; and motivation, emotion, and stress.

    • Credits Required: 36
    • Graduate Tuition: $618 / Credit Hour
  7. Arkansas State University

    Jonesboro, AR

    Online Master of Science in College Student Personnel Services

    The College of Education and Behavioral Science at Arkansas State University offers a 36 credit Master of Science in College Student Personnel Services. This online degree is designed for students who want the flexibility to earn their degree while continuing their professional career. The program prepares graduates to work with college student populations in areas such as: testing centers; campus health centers; residence life; career services; multicultural centers; student leadership; academic advising; recreation; and disability services. Students in the program will have the opportunity to complete a practicum experience in a higher education setting. Practicum opportunities are available at Arkansas State University as well as at other colleges and universities across the country.

    Courses include: the community college; student personnel services in higher education; college student development; organization and administration of college student personnel services; legal aspects of higher education; higher education finance; multicultural dynamics in higher education; development and advancement in higher education; and assessment, accreditation, and accountability in higher education.

    • Credits Required: 36
    • Graduate Tuition: $257 / Credit Hour
  8. Arkansas Tech University

    Russellville, AR

    Online Master of Science in College Student Personnel

    Arkansas Tech University offers a Master of Science in College Student Personnel. This 36 credit degree can be completed online in two years. Applicants who are interested in this program can apply for unconditional admission if they meet specific requirements. Additionally, the program welcomes individuals with bachelor's degrees in a variety of areas to apply. The program offers rolling admissions with students having the opportunity to enter the program at multiple start dates throughout the year. The program provides training and education to students through coursework, field experiences, and mentorship. Graduates will be prepared to support college students as they navigate their life in all areas outside of the classroom.

    Courses include: student development theory; college students and subcultures; legal issues for professionals in college student personnel; counseling theories and helping skills; assessment and evaluation in higher education; administration in college student personnel; ethical leadership in higher education; advising student groups; academic advising; career counseling; and diversity and inclusion in student affairs.

    • Credits Required: 36
    • Graduate Tuition: $558 / Credit Hour
  9. Dallas Baptist University

    Dallas, TX

    Master of Arts in Christian Counseling Online

    A Master of Arts in Christian Counseling is available online through the Graduate School of Ministry at Dallas Baptist University. This 36 credit counseling degree is offered through evening courses on-campus, in hybrid format, and also online for students working to balance their professional and personal lives with their educational aspirations. This non-licensure track program is designed for students who want to provide Christian counseling in a variety of non-secular settings such as churches or ministry-based organizations.

    Courses include: biblical servant leadership; spiritual formation and worship; christian history and heritage; counseling theories and techniques; lifespan human development; abnormal psychology; christian counseling skills; introduction to christian counseling; group counseling methods; marriage and family counseling; counseling victims of trauma; a christian approach to human sexuality; biblical foundations and models for small group ministry; conflict resolution in ministry; and victim assistance ministry training.

    • Credits Required: 36
    • Graduate Tuition: $856 / Credit Hour
  10. Fordham University

    Bronx, NY

    Master of Arts in Pastoral Care Online

    The Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University offers a Master of Arts in Pastoral Care. This is a 36 credit degree that is available online with a one week on-campus residency requirement during the summer to support students in strengthening their practical counseling skills. This program has a history of attracting a variety of students from diverse professional backgrounds who bring a depth of experience in areas such as working with at risk youth, the elderly, and as chaplains in hospitals. Graduates of the program will have the foundational skills to provide pastoral counseling through ministry work to diverse populations experiencing a variety of challenges.

    Courses include: pastoral counseling theory; human growth and development; professional ethics in pastoral counseling; theology of pastoral counseling and spiritual care; pastoral counseling skills; social and cultural foundations of pastoral counseling; marriage and family therapy; and death, dying and bereavement.

    • Credits Required: 36
    • Graduate Tuition: $844 / Credit Hour

Applying to an Online Counseling Degree Program

The fastest online master’s in counseling programs comprise 30-45 credits and primarily prepare students for positions that do not require licensure. Learners can finish in two years. Clinical practitioners need to be licensed and must complete additional coursework and supervised clinical experience.

While admission criteria vary by program, common requirements include the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited program
  • Undergraduate coursework in research methods, statistics, and general or developmental psychology
  • Transcripts showing a minimum 3.0 grade point average (GPA)
  • 2-3 academic or professional letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement
  • A resume
  • An interview

Some programs may require Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores, particularly for applicants with a lower GPA, along with essays or writing samples. Schools may also require — or prefer — paid or volunteer experience in a mental health field or education.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are online counseling programs as reputable as in-person programs?

    Accredited online counseling programs deliver the same academic quality as on-campus programs. Applicants should ensure that their college or university selections hold regional accreditation and that the counseling program is also accredited. Accreditation shows that schools and programs undergo a regular assessment process and comply with rigorous educational standards.

  • Who is responsible for accrediting counseling programs?

    The primary organization that accredits counseling master’s programs is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. School counseling programs may hold credentials from the National Association of School Psychologists. The American Psychological Association also accredits counseling programs. Additionally, specialty accreditation may be conferred at the program level.

  • What kinds of counselors are most in demand?

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 25% growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors and an 8% growth for school and career counselors from 2019-29. Career counselors work in schools and can help unemployed workers as well as individuals seeking a career change.

  • Does your undergraduate degree need to be in counseling to qualify for a graduate program?

    Most counseling programs do not require an undergraduate counseling degree, but an associate or bachelor’s degree — or prerequisite coursework — in counseling, psychology, social sciences, social work, or other mental health field helps strengthen an application for admission. Education credentials and teaching degrees also bolster applications for school and college-level counseling.

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Choose what you’d like to specialize in, and discover which schools offer a counseling degree that can help you make a difference.