Top Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs 2021
| Staff Writers
Are you ready to find your fit?
With more and more people seeking mental health counseling services in the U.S., the counseling profession continues to grow.
In fact, the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors could increase by nearly 80,000 professionals from 2019-2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s a projected growth rate of 25% — much faster than the national average for all occupations.
If you want to become a clinical mental health counselor, first you need to meet the requirements for licensure. That includes a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. These programs typically last 1-2 years, depending on the program format and the student’s past experience. Online degrees often offer more flexible options, allowing distance learners to enroll in accelerated programs or study at their own pace.
This page lists the best online master’s in mental health counseling programs, all of them accredited and offering students a valuable education.
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.
Applying to a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program
In order to apply to counseling master’s programs, prospective students need at least a bachelor’s degree. Schools typically prefer candidates with an undergraduate degree in psychology, education, or a related field. However, some schools consider applicants who studied something entirely different. If you chose an unrelated undergraduate major, you can always boost your application by volunteering at a mental health services agency.
Applicants should also possess a minimum undergraduate GPA ranging from 2.5-3.0. They should submit their official transcripts, resume, and recommendation letters. Some programs also require a personal essay in which students describe their education and career goals. Many schools expect prospective students to submit standardized test scores from the GRE or MAT as well. During the application process, candidates may need to participate in an admissions interview.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do clinical mental health counselors do?
Clinical mental health counselors provide mental health services to patients. Unlike nonclinical counselors, these professionals work with patients who have more serious mental or behavioral issues. They can also assess, diagnose, and treat patients with psychotherapy or other mental health approaches.
What is accreditation and why is it important?
Within the higher education system, accreditation is put into place to ensure that students receive a quality education. Aspiring mental health counselors can only obtain state licensure if they possess an accredited degree. Employers look for job candidates with accredited degrees, as well. When searching for accredited programs, look for credentials from agencies like the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Is an online master’s in mental health counseling a good degree?
An online master’s in mental health counseling is a good degree for anyone who wants to become a mental health counselor. It can also serve as a good degree for students who eventually hope to earn their Ph.D. Remember to make sure you find an accredited online mental health counseling program, which guarantees that your degree will have value when looking for jobs.
What can I do with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling degree?
A master’s in clinical mental health counseling prepares graduates to become licensed clinical professional counselors. Some students prefer to go into a certain specialty, like substance abuse and addiction, school counseling, or geriatric counseling. Others might aim to work in academia as a professor, while others might go into social and community services.
The program blends theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience. All students must complete a 100 contact hour practicum and a 600 contact hour internship, in addition to their classroom work. Multiculturalism, social justice advocacy, and collaborative learning experiences form the cornerstones of this program.
Human Development and Counseling Appraisal and Testing for Counselors Diversity and Social Justice in Counseling Addictions Counseling I: Theory and Approaches Ethical and Legal Issues of Mental Health Counseling
Cost: $944 per credit Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Meeting all academic requirements for New York state licensure, the program prepares students for clinical practice, as well as enrollment in doctoral programs. In addition to coursework, all students must complete a practicum in either mental health counseling or disaster counseling and crisis intervention. Students also complete a two-semester internship.
Ethics and Professional Identity in Mental Health Counseling Career Development, Counseling, and Assessment Professional Roles in Mental Health Counseling Human Growth and Development Research Methods and Program Evaluation
Cost: $471 per credit (in-state) / $565 per credit (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
CCNY, the oldest college in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, offers a campus-based master of arts in mental health counseling. Designed for those with a bachelor's or master's in psychology, the program prepares students for New York licensure and clinical practice.
The program accepts only full-time students, with classes typically offered during the day and early evening on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Although the school allows students to work, they must be available for 20 hours per week in practicum placements during their last two semesters, alongside their course schedule.
Theories and Techniques of Counseling Assessment & Diagnosis of Individuals, Families, and Groups Research and Program Evaluation Lifestyle and Career Development Psychoeducation and Community-Based Interventions
Cost: $470 per credit (in-state) / $855 per credit (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
The program combines theoretical knowledge with practical, hands-on experience. All students must complete a 100 contact hour site-based practicum and a two-semester clinical internship alongside a weekly seminar. Practicum sites include the UNI Counseling Center, Hawkeye Community College, and Wartburg College.
Professional Orientation and Ethics in Counseling Intervention & Prevention in Lifespan Development Crisis and Trauma Intervention and Management Wellness, Self-Care, and Brain-Based Strategies Dynamics of Family, Couples, & Human Sexuality in Counseling
Cost: $9,159 per year (in-state) / $19,633 per year (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
A public university in Jacksonville, UNF offers an on-campus master of science in clinical mental health counseling through the university's Brooks College of Health. Students who pass clinical research and outcome evaluation with at least a B and maintain an overall GPA of 3.3 in their first two semesters may, with written approval, complete a thesis. All other students take three elective courses instead.
Other than the thesis or electives, all students must take the same courses in the same order and complete both a practicum and an internship.
Human Development Across the Lifespan Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Counseling Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis Conceptual and Research Independent Study in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Animal Assisted Therapy in Counseling: Theory and Practice
Cost: $493 per credit (in-state) / $1,044 per credit (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Rowan, a public university in Glassboro, New Jersey, offers a campus-based master of arts in clinical mental health counseling. The program prepares in-state students for New Jersey licensure. Students who plan to practice in other states should contact the corresponding state licensing board. The program also prepares graduates to pursue a doctoral degree or a research position.
All students must complete a 600 contact hour practicum in addition to their classroom work. The majority of students follow the advanced clinical track, which adds two electives in an area of clinical development. Students may also choose the thesis track, which can help those planning to pursue a doctorate or research career. All students must take either the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE) or the National Counselor Exam (NCE) at the end of their program.
Research Methodology and Statistics in Counseling Psychology I & II Social and Cultural Diversity Advanced Seminar in Clinical Practice Lifespan Development Psychopharmacology and Biological Bases of Behavior
Cost: $715 per credit Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, Brooklyn offers an on-campus master of arts in mental health counseling. The program focuses on three major mental health approaches: experiential/humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, and psychodynamic. The main emphasis is on adults and families. The program meets the academic requirements for New York licensure, though students must complete 3,000 contact hours of post-degree clinical experience before becoming eligible for licensure.
All students take the same core courses before choosing electives to round out their experience. Students must pass a comprehensive exam after completing 48 credits and complete both a clinical practicum and an assessment practicum, as well as a two-semester internship. Students must attend full-time.
Assessment, Counseling and Psychotherapy with Couples and Families Experiential Approaches to Counseling and Psychotherapy Social, Linguistic and Cultural Foundations of Counseling Developmental Psychology Research and Program Evaluation Methods in Applied Psychology
Cost: $5,545 per semester (in-state) / $855 per credit (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
A private Jesuit university in Fairfield, Connecticut, Fairfield offers an on-campus master of arts in clinical mental health counseling. Accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) since 1986, the program offers students numerous opportunities for skill development beyond the classroom. The program's Counselor Education Lab and Training Center provides a three-tier practicum experience. Students participate as coaches, process observers for various courses, and collaborate with faculty on research and presentations.
All students take the same series of courses, followed by two electives. In addition to the practicum experience, students must pass a comprehensive exam before graduation.
Multicultural Issues in Counseling Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy Counseling Relationships and Skills Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Management, Delivery, and Evaluation Introduction to Marriage and Family Therapy
Cost: $875 per credit Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
A public university located in Winona, Minnesota, WSU offers an on-campus master of science in clinical mental health counseling. The program prepares students for licensure in Minnesota as a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) and in Wisconsin as a licensed professional counselor (LPC). Students from other states should contact their state licensing board for more information.
Students take the same series of courses, plus their choice of a counseling specialties workshop that serves as an elective. All students must complete a counseling practicum, a 600 contact hour internship, and a capstone research project.
Development over the Lifespan Ethical Practice and Social Change Orientation to Clinical Mental Health Counseling Diagnosis and Psychopathology of Children and Adolescents Theory and Practice of Sexual, Substance Abuse and Crisis Counseling
Cost: $428 per credit (MN, ND, and SD residents) / $455 per credit (WI residents) / $646 per credit (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Springfield, a private college in Springfield, Massachusetts, offers a campus-based or hybrid master of science in clinical mental health counseling. The campus-based program requires weekday attendance, while the hybrid program schedules classes on weekends. Students may use elective credits to prepare for licensure in various states, including Massachusetts and Florida.
All students take the same core courses along with their choice of electives. Students must also complete a 100 contact hour practicum and a 600 contact hour internship before graduation.
Professional Orientation and Ethical Practice in Counseling Psychopathology: Diagnosis and Treatment Planning Trauma and Crisis Counseling Behavioral Techniques for the Developmentally Disabled Adventure Therapy: Facilitating Life Skills through Experiential Learning
Cost: $1,073 per credit Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
Part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, WCU offers a campus-based master of science in clinical mental health counseling. Although all students must take the same core courses, they may use nine credits of electives to personalize their path according to personal interests.
All students must complete a 100 contact hour practicum that provides experience with various client populations, including couples, families, and individuals. Students must also complete two semesters of internship experience before graduation. The program typically takes five semesters to complete, with summers off.
Fundamentals of the Helping Relationship Trauma and Crisis Intervention Work and the Professional Counselor Counseling Research Methods and Program Evaluation Fundamentals of Assessment, Diagnosis, and Mental Health Intervention Counseling Military Professionals, Veterans, and Their Families
Cost: $516 per credit (in-state) / $774 per credit (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Part of the sprawling State University of New York (SUNY) system, UAlbany offers a campus-based master of science in mental health counseling. Approved as preparation for New York state licensure, the program blends theory and practice for use in work environments including community-based nonprofits, healthcare organizations, wellness companies, and even private practice (following licensure). Requirements include at least 15 undergraduate credits in psychology courses, including statistics, personality theory, and abnormal psychology.
All students take the same core courses, along with three electives of their choice. Students must also take a two-hour course in child abuse reporting and a comprehensive final exam.
Substance Abuse and Addictive Behaviors Research Principles and Methods in Counseling Multicultural Perspectives in Counseling Theory and Practice Counseling Children, Adolescents & Families in Crisis Preventive Counseling: School and Community-Based Wellness Promotion
Cost: $5,655 per semester (in-state) / $11,550 per semester (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
A member of the immense State University of New York (SUNY) system, Oswego offers a campus-based master of science in mental health counseling with start dates in the summer or fall. This two-year program, accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), prepares students for the New York state licensing exam. Students interested in becoming credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselors may take additional courses to prepare for that exam.
All students take the same basic courses, along with their choice of electives. Students must complete a three-credit practicum in mental health counseling and a six-credit internship in mental health counseling.
Race, Gender, and Class Issues in Counseling Foundations of Mental Health Counseling & Consultation Professional Orientation & Ethics in Mental Health Counseling Clinical Assessment in Mental Health Counseling Foundations of Psychological and Educational Appraisal
Cost: $471 per credit (in-state) / $963 per credit (out-of-state) Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Seton Hall, a private Catholic university in South Orange, New Jersey, offers an on-campus master of arts in professional counseling that meets New Jersey licensure requirements. All students must review state licensing requirements before enrolling and again in their first semester.
The program provides a broad knowledge base in individual and group counseling, prevention, crisis intervention, and career counseling, which prepares students for a wide variety of mental health careers. Students complete 48 credits in clinical mental health counseling courses, followed by 12 credits in advanced theory and practice.
Orientation to Professional Counseling Appraisal and Assessment in Counseling Multicultural Counseling and Psychology Etiology and Treatment of Addictions Couple & Family Dynamics: Systemic Perspectives
Cost: $1,354 per credit Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
A private Christian university in Nashville, Tennessee, Belmont offers a campus-based master of arts in mental health counseling, clinical mental health counseling track through the university's College of Theology & Christian Ministry. The program, which combines scientific study with Christian values, meets Tennessee's requirements for licensure. Graduates go on to work in private practice, probation offices, community mental health settings, addiction treatment centers, and more.
In addition to coursework in counseling techniques and Christian perspectives, all students must complete a three-credit practicum and a six-credit internship.
Christian Perspectives on Psychopathology & Human Suffering Christian Ethics in the Clinical Encounter Theories & Methods of Psychotherapy Research History & Theology of Marriage & the Family Diagnosis & Treatment of Personality Disorders
Cost: $1,260 per credit Credits Required: 60 Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
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