Fastest Online Counseling Master Degrees of 2024

Updated January 22, 2024

Fast-track counseling degrees can jumpstart counseling careers in about two years. Check our program listings for the fastest online master's in counseling programs.

BestCounselingDegrees.net is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

If you are looking for an efficient and affordable online master's in counseling program, explore this guide to the fastest online counseling degrees. This page can help you understand the degree's benefits and limitations, learn about the specializations and concentrations offered, and find out how self-paced and accelerated master's in counseling programs work.

The fastest online counseling degrees can lead to positions helping clients with addictions and mental health issues and in fast-growing fields like industrial-organizational psychology and school and career counseling.

Popular Online Counseling Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Get an Online Master's in Counseling?

Distance learning programs can offer the fastest online counseling degrees, the most affordable master's programs, and the quickest career pathways. Learn more about what to look for in online options.

Save Time and Money: The fastest online counseling degrees take under two years to complete, providing cost savings on tuition and fees. Look for programs with in-state tuition rates regardless of residency. Distance learning also reduces commuting and parking expenses.

Quick Career Entry: After completing two years of master's-level study, you can qualify for in-demand positions in growing fields, such as industrial-organizational psychology and school and career counseling.

Streamlined Curriculum: The fastest online counseling degrees require 30-45 credits. Look for self-paced or asynchronous coursework that you can access at your convenience. Accelerated master's in counseling programs allow heavier credit loads.

Online Counseling Master Degrees Rankings Summary

Rank School In-State Tuition Out-of-State Tuition Acceptance Rate
#1 Northwestern University
Evanston, IL
$56,067 $56,067 7%
#2 Concordia University-Irvine
Irvine, CA
$8,564 $8,564 81%
#3 Chaminade University of Honolulu
Honolulu, HI
$27,720 $27,720 90%

Fastest Online Master's Degrees in Counseling

Learn more about our program ranking methodology.

#1 Fastest Online Counseling Master Degrees of 2024

Northwestern University

  • Evanston, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs

Cost: $21,550 per quarter

Credits to Graduate: 60

Northwestern University's master of arts in counseling offers an 18-month, licensure-focused accelerated track. The program has four start dates per year and rolling admissions. Students complete coursework online and participate in collaborative in-person immersions on the Chicago campus. Two specialization courses explore child and adolescent development and treatment approaches for common mental health concerns in today’s youth.

Distance learners log their clinical training hours at approved sites in their local areas. An online capstone conference completes the program. Admission requires a bachelor's degree.    

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$60,276
Out-of-state
$60,276
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$56,067
Out-of-state
$56,067
Retention Rate
99%
Acceptance Rate
7%
Students Enrolled
23,409
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Fastest Online Counseling Master Degrees of 2024

Concordia University-Irvine

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs

Cost per Credit: $695

Credits to Graduate: 60

The online master's in clinical mental health counseling at Concordia University Irvine focuses on helping clients progress beyond coping to restoration. Students can finish in 24-36 months. The curriculum integrates counseling skills with biblical principles. Courses include crisis and trauma counseling, foundations and contextual dimensions of mental health counseling, and foundations of spiritual formation and direction.

Learners complete practicums and internships and a four-day residency. Applicants should contact the admissions office or attend a live info session.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$37,990
Out-of-state
$37,990
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,564
Out-of-state
$8,564
Retention Rate
76%
Acceptance Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
3,710
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
71% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Fastest Online Counseling Master Degrees of 2024

Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Honolulu, HI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: N/A

Cost per Credit: $1,085

Credits to Graduate: 60

Chaminade University of Honolulu offers a master's in counseling psychology featuring three concentrations: marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, and school counseling. Students can graduate from the accelerated track in as few as 30 months.

Graduates can pursue licensure in Hawaii, but students from other states should check with their state boards to ensure the curriculum meets the requirements.  Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a faculty interview.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$27,340
Out-of-state
$27,340
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$27,720
Out-of-state
$27,720
Retention Rate
70%
Acceptance Rate
90%
Students Enrolled
2,214
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
63% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

What to Expect from the Fastest Online Master's in Counseling Programs

While counseling master's programs typically require 45-60 credits and 2-5 years of study, you can finish the fastest online counseling degrees in two years or less. The 30-45 credits needed to graduate include flexible, online coursework and on-site internship and practicum hours that you can complete in your local community.

Asynchronous online classes allow you to view pre-recorded or streamed lectures and complete assignments on your own schedule. Some programs offer accelerated counseling master's tracks that allow you to take a higher number of credits per semester and finish in 16-20 months.

If your goal is to become a licensed therapist or counselor, be sure to check if the accelerated tracks you are interested in qualify you for licensure, as some may not.

Online Master's in Counseling Specializations and Concentrations

Master's in counseling programs offer specializations and concentrations, with the fastest online counseling degrees focusing on areas that include school counseling, human services counseling, pastoral counseling, and industrial-organizational psychology.

Applying to an Online Master's in Counseling Program

It is important that prospective students consider admission requirements before beginning to apply to graduate school.

While admission criteria vary by program, common requirements include:

  • 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 GPA
  • 2-3 academic or professional letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement
  • A resume
  • An interview

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.

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.

How to Choose an Online Master's in Counseling Program

Selecting an online master's in counseling program involves assessing cost and time savings while considering academic quality, specializations, and student support for distance learners. Keeping the following factors in mind during your research can help you choose your best options.

Accreditation

To ensure you attend a reputable online counseling master's program, consider those accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling or Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Concentration and Specialization Options

Be sure to verify that the online master's in counseling programs you plan to apply to offer the concentration and specialization areas you need. The fastest online counseling degrees often focus on non-clinical areas.

Graduation Rate

Explore the graduation rates of online master's in counseling programs on your list to set yourself up for success. You can search the College Navigator database of the National Center for Education Statistics.

Internship and Practicum Opportunities

It's important to know whether the program offers internships and practicums in your area(s) of interest and whether you can complete them in your local community or if they require travel.

Student Support Services

Online counseling master's programs should offer virtual resources like admissions counseling, library access, academic advising, tutoring, and IT help. Online student networking opportunities can also make distance learning less isolating and create valuable connections.

Common Questions About the Fastest Online Counseling Master Degrees

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 Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the main organization responsible for accrediting counseling master's programs. School counseling programs may hold credentials from the National Association of School Psychologists. 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 employment to increase by 18% for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, with an increase of 5% for school and career counselors from 2022-32. Career counselors work in schools and can help unemployed workers and 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. However, 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.

How does an accelerated master's in counseling program work?

Accelerated master's in counseling programs offer some of the fastest routes to degree completion by allowing students to take heavier courseloads and complete more credits each semester. Accelerated study can help you graduate sooner.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time Best Counseling Degrees. Page last reviewed on November 24, 2023.

Recommended Reading

Helping you prepare and gain the most out of your educational experience.

Are you ready to do impactful work in your community?

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