The Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

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Counselors help people navigate the various and complex relational and emotional challenges in their lives. While the job can be demanding, it is also a deeply rewarding career where professionals can make a difference in people’s lives.

Graduates of an online master’s in counseling program can expect to join a growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the field of school and career counselors to increase 8% from 2019-29, while the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to increase by 25% in that same time period.

While a bachelor’s degree in counseling prepares graduates for entry-level careers in the field, most counseling professionals hold a master’s degree in counseling and state licensure. Additionally, pursuing an online counseling degree allows students to study on their own time and without the commute to campus. Online programs can prove especially great for learners with other work or family responsibilities.

To learn more about this degree, explore some of the best counseling master’s programs online in the list below.

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The Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

  1. San Diego State University
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    SDSU, a public university in San Diego, California, offers an online master of science in rehabilitation counseling. Open to students outside San Diego County, the 60-credit program typically takes three years to complete. Graduates work in a diverse collection of rehabilitation settings, from schools to community agencies. Some graduates specialize in patients with a specific type of disability, while others work with a wider range of clients.

    All students take the same sequence of courses. Heavily focused on the practical applications of learned skills, the program begins fieldwork experiences in the first year. Students complete three practicum placements, followed by two internships.

    Courses Include

    • Medical and Psychological Aspects of Disability
    • Theory & Process of Counseling
    • Case Management and Rehabilitation Services
    • Seminar in Rehabilitation: Organization Development
    • Policy & Governance in Disability & Postsecondary Systems

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $9,570 per year (in-state) / $16,698 per year (out-of-state)
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission
  2. The University of Alabama
    Location

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UA, a public university in Tuscaloosa, offers an online master of arts in rehabilitation counseling. The program prepares students to help people with disabilities meet their goals, whether vocational, social, or personal.

    Full-time students can graduate in two years. In addition to coursework, all students must complete both a practicum and an internship. Students must secure their own placement sites for these fieldwork experiences.

    Courses Include

    • Professional Issues, Ethics and Advocacy in Counseling
    • Group: Process and Procedures
    • Medical, Functional, and Environmental Aspects of Disability
    • Vocational Rehabilitation Case Management and Placement
    • Research Methods in Education

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $420 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  3. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public university in Greenville, North Carolina, ECU offers an online master of science in clinical counseling. With an emphasis in addictions, the program meets academic requirements for students to become both licensed clinical mental health counselors (LCMHC) and licensed clinical addictions specialists (LCAS) in North Carolina.

    In addition to traditional classes, all students must participate in a group counseling course and a small personal growth group. The program strongly encourages (but does not require) individual personal counseling. Students must also complete a practicum and an internship.

    Note that applicants recovering from a substance use disorder must show at least one year of sobriety before acceptance into the program.

    Courses Include

    • Ethical and Legal Aspects in Clinical, Addictions, and Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Human Growth and Development in Clinical, Addictions and Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Multicultural Issues in Clinical, Addictions, and Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Career Counseling in Clinical, Addictions, and Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Foundations of Addictions and Clinical Counseling

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $233 per credit (in-state) / $877 per credit (out-of-state)
    • Credits Required: 62 credits
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  4. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    GW, a private university in Washington, D.C., offers an online master of arts in rehabilitation counseling. The program prepares students to work with people living with a wide variety of disabilities, including chronic mental health disorders, HIV/AIDS, and developmental disabilities.

    The program meets academic requirements for the certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC), licensed professional counselor (LPC), and national certified counselor (NCC) credentials. All students must complete a practicum and two three-credit internship placements.

    Courses Include

    • Professional and Ethical Orientation to Counseling
    • Social and Cultural Dimensions of Counseling
    • Disability Management and Psychosocial Rehabilitation
    • Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disabilities
    • Introduction to Research and Evaluation in Counselor Education

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $895 per credit
    • Credits Required: 48 credits
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  5. University of North Texas
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UNT, a public university based in Denton, offers an online master of science in rehabilitation counseling through UNT Online. The program focuses on the many issues people with disabilities face, from psychosocial issues to dealing with the medical community. Students prepare for careers with employers such as Veterans Affairs (VA), addiction facilities, schools, or community-based rehabilitation centers.

    All students take the same basic sequence of courses, along with one elective based on their personal interests and goals. The program includes 700 contact hours of fieldwork experiences, as well as a comprehensive exam.

    Courses Include

    • Rehabilitation in a Multicultural Society
    • Advanced Counseling Techniques in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Group Work and the Rehabilitation Process
    • Principles of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Recovery
    • Psychopathology in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $22,568 per year (in-state) / $30,164 per year (out-of-state)
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  6. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private, evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty offers an online master of arts in clinical mental health counseling with two mandatory on-campus intensives. All students must also complete a practicum and two internship semesters at sites in their local area.

    The program blends a biblical worldview with the latest evidence-based theories and techniques of counseling. It meets all academic requirements for Virginia state licensure, including a comprehensive final exam. Students from other states should check with their state licensing board for more information.

    Courses Include

    • Orientation to Counselor Profession Identity & Function
    • Integration of Spirituality & Counseling
    • Assessment Techniques in Counseling
    • Clinical Diagnosis & Treatment Planning
    • Substance Abuse: Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $565 per credit (full-time) / $615 per credit (part-time)
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  7. University of Kentucky
    Location

    Lexington, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public university based in Lexington, UK offers an online master of arts in counseling, counselor education. Students may specialize in either rehabilitation counseling or clinical mental health counseling. The program, designed for working students, meets all academic requirements for Kentucky licensure. Out-of-state students should check with their state licensing board for more information.

    In addition to traditional core and specialization-based coursework, all students must also complete a three-credit practicum and a nine-credit internship and either a comprehensive final exam or the certification exam in their specialty (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination or Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination).

    Courses Include

    • Medical & Psychosocial Aspects of Disabilities: Psychiatric Disabilities
    • Supported Employment, Independent Living, & Transition
    • Case Management in Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Crisis & Trauma Counseling
    • Mental Health Diagnosis & Treatment Planning for Counselors

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $693 per credit
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  8. Grace College and Theological Seminary
    Location

    Winona Lake, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    An evangelical Christian college located in Winona Lake, Indiana, Grace offers an online master of clinical mental health counseling designed for Christian counselors. Though all courses are taught online, all students must attend an annual seven-day residency on campus. The curriculum also demands a site-based practicum and two internship experiences. Applicants must submit a background check.

    The program focuses on the intersection between faith and science, challenging students to ask tough questions. In addition to the techniques needed to care for others, students' own personal and professional development forms a cornerstone of the program.

    Courses Include

    • Theological Foundations in Counseling
    • Personality & Counseling Theories
    • Spirituality in Counseling
    • Lifestyle & Career Counseling
    • Psychotherapy w/ Children & Adolescents

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $34,620 total
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  9. North Carolina Central University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A historically Black university (HBCU) in Durham, NCCU offers an online master of arts in clinical mental health counseling designed to ready students for state licensure in professional counseling. Students may opt to take an additional three courses to prepare for licensure as a clinical addictions specialist. Those living in another state should check their state licensing requirements for more information.

    In addition to traditional coursework, all students must participate in a three-credit practicum and a six-credit internship. All students take the same series of courses, divided into Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III. The program does not offer any electives.

    Courses Include

    • Ethical and Professional Orientation to Counseling
    • Crisis, Trauma & Grief Counseling
    • Vocational Theory & Career Development
    • Introduction to Addiction Counseling
    • Diagnosis, Assessment & Psychopathology

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $298 per credit (in-state) / $902 per credit (out-of-state)
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  10. University of Wisconsin-Stout
    Location

    Menomonie, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UW-Stout, a public university based in Menomonie, offers an online master of science in rehabilitation counseling. The program offers both synchronous-combined cohort and asynchronous online-only models.

    In the full-time combined cohort program, on-campus and online students work together in real-time shared learning. In the part-time online-only model, students attend a two-day virtual real-time orientation and then complete weekly assignments at their leisure. Applicants for the online-only program must demonstrate two years of related work experience (not required for the combined cohort model).

    Students must arrange for their own field-based activities, including site visits and projects. All students must also procure a site for their practicum and internship experiences. The program concludes with either a comprehensive exam or a thesis.

    Courses Include

    • Psychological Testing and Assessment in Rehab and Counseling
    • Neurodevelopmental, Neurocognitive and Psychiatric Conditions
    • Rehabilitation Counseling Assessment and Planning
    • Research in Rehabilitation and Counseling
    • Foundations of Evaluation Research

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $398 per credit (combined cohort, in-state) / $859 per credit (combined cohort, out-of-state) / $598 per credit (online-only)
    • Credits Required: 60 credits
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Applying to an Online Master’s in Counseling Program

Admission requirements for online and on-campus counseling master’s programs are similar. Prospective students must usually hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. Schools may consider applicants with an undergraduate degree unrelated to counseling, although incoming students may need to take prerequisite courses.

Applicants should submit their undergraduate transcripts to prove they meet the minimum GPA requirement, which schools usually set between 2.5 and 3.0. Most schools require applicants to meet a minimum score on the GRE or MAT. Prospective students usually also submit personal essays and recommendation letters. Finally, schools may require candidates to participate in an interview.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where do counselors work?

    Counselors work in many different environments, depending on their specialization. School counselors work in elementary, middle, and high school settings. Other counselors work at outpatient mental health centers, residential mental health facilities, individual and family services, hospitals, prisons, or juvenile detention facilities.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Accreditation assures that programs provide students a quality education that adequately prepares them for their careers. Counseling students should look for regionally accredited schools and programs with accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

  • Is an online master's in counseling a good degree?

    A counseling degree is a great option for any student who hopes to pursue a career in professional counseling. As long as you pursue a master’s in counseling online from an accredited program, your degree will hold the same value as a traditional, on-campus program.

  • What can I do with a master's in counseling degree?

    An online master’s in counseling prepares graduates to become counselors within many different specialties. Some go on to become school and career counselors, while others pursue focus areas in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counseling. A master’s degree can also serve as a stepping stone for students to receive a doctoral degree in the field and work in research or academia.

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