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.

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.

Fastest Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling

  1. University of Nebraska at Kearney
    Location

    Kearney, NE

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UNK's hybrid master of science in education with a concentration in school counseling requires 43 credit hours for completion. Students can choose from two sub-concentrations: school counseling preK-6 or school counseling secondary 7-12.

    The curriculum consists of six semesters of online coursework, a summer residency, and in-person Praxis core and school counseling courses. The program is approved by the Nebraska Department of Education for School Counselor Endorsement.

    Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree in any field. Applicants submit official transcripts, a resume, three professional references, and a statement of motivation. Students without undergraduate degrees in teacher education can become school counselors by completing 12 graduate credit hours of online coursework, teacher educator field-based training, and a master's degree in school counseling.

    Courses Include

    Theories of Counseling | Child and Adolescent Development and Interventions | Ethical, Legal, and Professional Practice in Schools | Problem-Solving Behavioral Assessment

    Unique Features

    Cost: $315/credit (in state), $500/credit (out of state)
    Credits Required: 43 credit hours
    Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

    https://www.unk.edu/

  2. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The School of Behavioral Science at Liberty offers a fully online, non-licensure master of arts in human services counseling. This program requires 30 credits, which most learners complete within one year. Students can select one of 13 specializations in areas such as addictions and recovery, business, Christian ministries, criminal justice, crisis response and trauma, marriage and family studies, life coaching, and military resilience.

    Admission requirements include a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA, official collegiate transcripts, an online application and associated fee, and proof of English proficiency. The curriculum includes 18 credits of core coursework and 12 credits of specialization courses, utilizing flexible, eight-week scheduling. Students can transfer up to 15 credits into the program.

    Courses Include

    Human Growth and Development | Integration of Spirituality and Counseling | Studies in Interpersonal Communication | Multicultural Issues in Human Services

    Unique Features

    Cost: $565/credit
    Credits Required: 30 credits
    Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

    https://www.liberty.edu/

  3. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The hybrid master of arts in pastoral counseling at Regent requires 30 credits for completion and includes three credits of field experience. Students must complete at least 150 hours of pre-approved, on-site experience, 50 of which must include contact hours in human services work. Career opportunities with this degree include pastoral care, family service centers, church counseling centers, and coaching.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA from a regionally accredited institution. Prospective learners submit an online application and applicable fee, official college transcripts, an academic background questionnaire, a writing sample, and a government-issued ID. Some students must take two prerequisite courses, depending on the outcome of their submitted writing sample.

    Courses Include

    Professional Ethics in the Human Service Fields | Addictive Behavior and Substance Abuse | Multicultural Awareness and Individual Diversity | Survey of Christianity

    Unique Features

    Cost: $595/credit
    Credits Required: 30 credits
    Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

    https://www.regent.edu/

  4. Morehead State University
    Location

    Morehead, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    MSU's master of arts in counseling program entails 36 credits over two years, assuming a part-time study load of six credits per semester, including summer terms. The curriculum consists of 24 credits of core coursework, nine credits of professional education core coursework, and culminating practicum.

    Students must complete required coursework with a minimum 3.0 GPA and pass an exit exam to meet graduation requirements. Students who complete the program gain a provisional school counseling certificate in grades preK-12.

    Admission requirements include official transcripts demonstrating a bachelor's or master's degree with a minimum 2.5 or 3.0 GPA, respectively. Applicants must also submit a 286 GRE score with a minimum 143 verbal score or an MAT raw score of 33.

    Courses Include

    Research Methods in Education | Introduction to Career Counseling | Psycho-Social and Multicultural Factors in Counseling | Practicum in Counseling

    Unique Features

    Cost: $570/credit
    Credits Required: 36 credits
    Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

    https://www.moreheadstate.edu/

  5. Lincoln Memorial University
    Location

    Harrogate, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Carter and Moyers School of Education offers a hybrid master of education in counseling requiring 48-60 semester hours for completion. The preK-12 concentration requires 36 semester hours of core coursework and 12 semester hours of concentration courses, while the mental health counseling concentration requires 36 semester hours of core coursework and 24 semester hours of concentration courses.

    Prospective students must apply for and gain admission to both the graduate studies department and the program. Graduate admission requirements include official transcripts, three recommendations, a professional statement, a group interview, and GRE, PPLT, or MAT test scores. For program admission, students must apply for degree candidacy and have their program of study approved by an advisor.

    Courses Include

    Professional Orientation and Ethics in Counseling | Counseling Skills | Psychology of Human Development | Practicum in Counseling

    Unique Features

    Cost: $490/semester hour
    Credits Required: 48-60 credits
    Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

    https://www.lmunet.edu/

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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