Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

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Updated June 27, 2024

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This page explores Washington counseling degrees, along with state-specific career and salary information across different specialty areas of counseling.

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Learn how to become a counselor in Washington. Explore our rankings of the best counseling degree programs in Washington, the steps to becoming a counselor, and salary and job outlook data.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranked Washington second in the U.S. for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors' salaries in May 2023. Three Washington cities — Longview, Walla Walla, and Olympia — ranked among the highest-paying metropolitan areas for rehabilitation counselors.

Popular Online Counseling Master's Programs

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

The Best Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Antioch University-Seattle

  • Seattle, WA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Antioch University traces its roots back to 1852 when prominent educator and social reformer Horace Mann founded the school as a coeducational institution that welcomed people of both genders and, beginning in 1863, people of all races. In 1977, the school changed its name to Antioch University and has since expanded its influence to encompass five campuses in four different states: Washington, California, Ohio and New Hampshire. As the school's oldest and largest department, Antioch University's School of Applied Psychology, Counseling & Family Therapy offers a number of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels for students interested in counseling careers.

Students researching accredited counseling degree programs in Washington will find a unique and academically rigorous program at Antioch University Seattle. The university's School of Applied Psychology, Counseling & Family Therapy has developed its master's program based on three facets that distinguish the curriculum from similar programs: ethical practice, multicultural counseling and social responsibility. For working students or those with scheduling limitations, Antioch University offers flexible course schedules to meet modern demands. Classes are offered during the late afternoons and weekends as well as all day Friday. The master's program requires 90 quarter credit hours divided into 58 core major credits, 16 internship credits and 16 elective credits. Along with the course requirements, students at the graduate level will complete a six-month practicum and a 12-month internship to apply practical knowledge of the theories learned during the program. Additionally, students in the master's program must undergo 20 hours of personal counseling with a licensed practitioner.

Accreditation

  • Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$21,600
Out-of-state
$21,600
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$18,024
Out-of-state
$18,024
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
779
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Central Washington University

  • Ellensburg, WA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded as a teaching school in 1891, Central Washington University has grown into a large university system that offers more than 150 majors to nearly 2,500 graduates each year and comprises eight campuses throughout the state. Ranked number 51 on U.S. News and World Report's 2014 listing of the best regional schools in the west, the university boasts a comprehensive online program to meet the demands of working students, and those who study on campus gain access to an experienced world-class faculty. Students interested in pursuing counseling degrees will find a rigorous and selective program offered by the school's Department of Psychology.

Central Washington University's Department of Psychology offers a thorough program in mental health counseling that leads to a Master of Science in the discipline. The department typically accepts eight students each fall for this selective program. While the department welcomes students of varying undergraduate backgrounds, students will need to meet prerequisite requirements by taking certain psychology courses. The master's program requires completion of 90 quarter credit hours covering topics such as human growth and development, multicultural counseling and behavioral analysis. Students will also complete several practicum experiences throughout the program as well as an internship during their final year. The school believes in providing ample instruction along with practical, hands-on experiences that help prepare graduates for careers in a wide range of settings. Students who study here can expect excellent faculty support, an ideal faculty-to-student ratio and ample job prospects as graduates in 2013 reported a 100 percent job placement rate.

Accreditation

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,816
Out-of-state
$23,881
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,401
Out-of-state
$24,361
Retention Rate
67%
Acceptance Rate
90%
Students Enrolled
9,257
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
72% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Eastern Washington University

  • Cheney, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Eastern Washington University was established in 1882 and offers students the chance to explore an environmentally breathtaking community while taking advantage of the close proximity to major city Spokane. Despite its status as the fastest-growing higher education institution, the school maintains a manageable faculty-to-student ratio of 21:1, which helps students gain the faculty support they need to pursue advanced degrees. For students interested in counseling careers, Eastern Washington University's College of Social & Behavioral Sciences and Social Work offers a wide range of detailed programs at the graduate level that allow students to hone their skills in various specializations within the field.

Students interested in accredited counseling degree programs in Washington will find a diverse and academically challenging program offered by Eastern Washington University that helps students develop into socially responsible counselors who understand the needs of varying individuals within larger communities. The program requires at least 93 credits and takes 21 months to complete, which translates to six academic quarters or two academic years, and the school boasts a 100 percent on-time completion rate for students enrolled in the program. Students will study a wide range of subjects related to school counseling such as family systems and parent education, the law for school counselors, diversity in counseling and career counseling. In addition, students will complete a 12-hour practicum as well as a 15-hour internship to demonstrate practical knowledge of material covered throughout the program. Students must also complete a comprehensive written exam and an oral exam to graduate with a master's degree.

In an effort to meet the demands of counselors-in-training who want to pursue a broader base of study in the field of psychology, Eastern Washington University offers a Masters in Mental Health Counseling (MS) degree program that prepares students for diverse careers in the discipline. The program rests on four essential educational objectives: to educate students on modern psychological theories, to train graduates on relevant techniques, to promote the advance of applicable psychological concepts and to instill a better sense of self-awareness. As with the master's program in school counseling, the mental health counseling focus requires at least 93 credit hours spread out over a two-year academic period. Courses cover similar topics in both programs, but students in the mental health counseling program will choose a course of study that adequately reflects individual career goals and will also complete an additional five hours of internship experience for a total of 20 hours.

Accreditation

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,080
Out-of-state
$25,464
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$12,661
Out-of-state
$27,987
Retention Rate
67%
Acceptance Rate
88%
Students Enrolled
10,700
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Gonzaga University

  • Spokane, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in the bustling urban setting of Spokane, Gonzaga University is a Roman Catholic Jesuit school that offers modern academic study enriched with religious influence. The school was founded in 1882 and continues to uphold traditional teachings while expanding its influence into the 21st century through the use of relevant and applicable academic offerings. Gonzaga University offers a number of graduate programs in counseling under the direction of its School of Education that will help students gain the skills and practical experience needed to become licensed counselors whether they choose the private practice route or work in a public setting.

For students interested in pursuing counseling careers that involve working primarily with students, Gonzaga University offers an in-depth M.A. School Counseling program that will help prepare them to meet the challenges of contemporary educational settings. Specifically, the school counseling emphasis prepares students to work in a K-12 environment and helps students develop and hone the appropriate attributes needed for positions within this field. The M.A. program requires a total of 53 credits spread out over two years, including a summer term. The first year covers 36 credits and includes courses covering topics such as psychopathology, assessment in school counseling and counseling theories. The second year focuses primarily on a supervised practicum and internship experience. Students will complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship to meet the licensing requirements for the state. Additionally, students in the school counseling program must pass a comprehensive oral and written examination in order to graduate.

Students interested in accredited counseling degree programs in Washington will find the M.A. Clinical Mental Health Counseling offered by Gonzaga University to be of great use in helping them to develop individualized techniques based on accepted standards. The university's School of Education takes a unique approach to counseling education by encouraging students to develop their own personalized theories of counseling that they can apply to research as well as practical application. The master's program in clinical mental health counseling requires at least 60 credit hours and takes approximately two years to complete on a full-time schedule. Courses cover topics like occupational choice and career development, marriage and family counseling, and chemical dependency in counseling. Through the use of supervised internships and practicum experiences, students who study at Gonzaga University will develop the skills needed to pursue a wide range of counseling positions within the community and can expect beneficial job placement assistance upon graduation.

Relationship counseling covers a broad spectrum but requires counselors with specific training in the art of conflict resolution, interpersonal communication, self-awareness, empathy and emotional intelligence. In order to prepare students to become well-adjusted and properly trained relationship counselors, Gonzaga University offers a comprehensive M.A. Marriage & Family Counseling program that helps students develop the skills and techniques needed to counsel couples and families in a wide variety of public and private settings. The master's program in relationship counseling requires at least 60 credit hours and takes two full years to complete with summer sessions. Courses are similar in nature to other counseling programs at the university, but differences include topics such as human sexuality, advanced family systems and theories in counseling theories. As with other graduate programs, students will complete internships and practicum requirements with community and university supervisors to demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical knowledge learned throughout the program.

Accreditation

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$47,560
Out-of-state
$47,560
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$14,499
Out-of-state
$14,499
Retention Rate
92%
Acceptance Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
7,381
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Seattle University

  • Seattle, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded as a private Jesuit Catholic institution in 1891, Seattle University has evolved into a significant university boasting 6th place among regional universities in the west according to U.S. News and World Report. In fact, the school has been ranked within the top 10 of regional universities for more than a decade by the same publication while also enjoying top marks from several other prestigious ranking guides.

The Master of Arts in Education/School Counseling Program offered by Seattle University rests on 11 educational objectives outlined in detail on the College of Education's website. In essence, they can be summed up in broader terms as follows: to prepare students to utilize effective technology and techniques for the advancement of modern counseling; to promote the development of successful research skills, as well as practical application of theories; and to enhance students' empathetical skills for the purpose of relating with students, teachers and parents. The M.A.Ed. program in school counseling requires 72 credit hours divided into six credits of core education courses, 42 credits of counseling courses, 21 credits of school counseling credits and three credits of electives. School counseling courses cover topics such as career guidance for K-12 students and an introduction to learning disorders. The school offers convenient course schedules and evening classes to make the program accessible to working students.

The educational objectives for Seattle University's Master of Arts in Education/Community Counseling Program are similar to the ones outlined for the school counseling focus. However, the focus of the community counseling program is on the development of counselors who can meet the demands of a broader community in terms of counseling services. This degree path requires 72 hours designated into the following areas: 42 hours of counseling courses, 18 hours of community counseling courses, six hours of core courses and six hours of electives. Topics under the community counseling emphasis include addiction counseling, law and ethics for mental health counselors, and lifespan career development. Students will participate in a four-quarter practicum or internship experience that enables them to develop their practical skills while building a proper network within which they can work following graduation. Upon completing the program, students will be eligible to work in settings such as psychiatric hospitals or correctional facilities.

Accreditation

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$48,510
Out-of-state
$48,510
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$13,770
Out-of-state
$13,770
Retention Rate
82%
Acceptance Rate
85%
Students Enrolled
7,121
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Western Washington University

  • Bellingham, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded in 1893, Western Washington University boasts a number of prestigious rankings from publications and organizations such as U.S. News and World Report, the Sierra Club, Kiplinger's and Forbes Magazine and offers a wide range of programs to nearly 15,000 students each year. Among the college's many achievements is being named one of the best schools in the country for its type, as well as one of the most environmentally green institutions. Students researching accredited counseling degree programs in Washington can expect a comprehensive and in-depth program taught by experienced faculty under the direction of the university's Department of Psychology.

The Department of Psychology at Western Washington University offers a comprehensive but selective program at the graduate level. The school accepts only six students each year into its M.S. in Mental Health Counseling program. Students have the option to complete 91 quarter credit hours without a thesis or 97 quarter credit hours including a thesis. Students who choose not to complete a thesis will sit for a written exam. Regardless of the option chosen, students will complete a series of psychology courses spanning two years and covering topics such as social psychology, standardized tests and group counseling. Students will also complete practicums and internships within the community along with seminars related to their chosen career paths. In addition to the Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program, Western Washington University's Department of Psychology offers a school counseling concentration as well as an experimental psychology track for those interested in specific areas within the field.

For students interested in becoming school counselors and working directly with students, Western Washington University offers a Master of Education program with an emphasis in school counseling. While the M.Ed. program does not guarantee licensure, those who graduate will be recommended for certification to become licensed counselors in K-12 educational settings. The master's program requires completion of at least 83 quarter credit hours spread out over two years of full-time study, and the department only admits six students each year to ensure appropriate faculty-to-student ratios. In addition to the course requirements, students will complete practicums and internships to further their practical education while demonstrating key concepts in the field of psychology. The school counseling emphasis does not require a thesis, but students will need to complete a final written exam. Students should note that the program features largely daytime classes during the week and is best suited for those with open schedules.

Accreditation

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP)
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,761
Out-of-state
$25,668
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,756
Out-of-state
$24,431
Retention Rate
77%
Acceptance Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
14,747
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

At BestCounselingDegrees.net, we use data from reputable sources like the U.S. Department of Education to help you find the best school for your needs. The most important metric in our rankings -- affordability -- accounts for 60% of our formula. We also consider academic quality, program offerings, online enrollment, and graduation rates.

This ranking is from 2021. To learn more, consult our ranking methodology.

How to Become a Counselor in Washington

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) licenses mental health counselors at two levels: mental health counselors and mental health counselor associates. Mental health counselor associates are pre-licensure candidates gaining the requisite experience under an approved supervisor.

Mental health counselors have completed their 3,000 hours or 36 months of supervised training hours. They have also passed the National Counselor Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam. These licensed professionals can practice independently.

Both mental health counselors and counselor associates need a master's in mental health counseling or behavioral science from an accredited program or a doctorate in mental health counseling or a related field. Associates pay a $35 application fee, and full licensure fees are $191.

The DOH also credentials certified counselors. Certified counselors have a significantly more limited scope of practice than master's level providers. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a counseling field, a passing score on the Washington State Certified Adviser Examination, and a written supervisory agreement. The initial certification fee is $680.

Licensure and certification candidates submit official transcripts and responses to personal data questions.

Salary and Career Outlook for Counselors in Washington

Median Annual Salary for Counselors in Washington

Washington counseling degrees can lead to careers paying median annual salaries ranging from $48,710 for rehabilitation counselors to $80,260 for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors. Earning potential can be affected by the demand for counselors, workplace type, education and experience, and cost of living.

Washington's cost of living was ranked the 8th highest among U.S. states, and Washington's median wages are higher than the national median.

Median Annual Salary for Counselors in Washington
Occupation Median Annual Salary
Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors $80,260
Marriage and Family Therapists $66,670
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors $58,540
Counselors, All Other $56,650
Rehabilitation Counselors $48,710
Source: BLS, 2023

Occupation Outlook for Counselors in Washington

Higher-than-average demand is projected for different counseling specializations in Washington. According to the BLS, the average growth rate across all occupations is 3% from 2022 to 2032.

Higher demand is partly due to the Evergreen State experiencing a shortage of mental health professionals. According to KFF research, Washington met only 18% of the state's need for mental healthcare in April 2024.

Anxiety and depression are on the rise in Washington, with 32.6% of adults reporting symptoms in early February 2023. Substance use is another big concern, and drug overdose deaths increased from 14.1 per 100,000 in 2011 to 28.1 per 100,000 in 2021.

Career Outlook for Counselors in Washington
Occupation Change in Employment 2020-2030
Marriage and Family Therapists 26%
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors 23%
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors 16%
Rehabilitation Counselors 10%
Source: Projections Central

Frequently Asked Questions About Counseling Degree Programs in Washington

Do you need a license to be a counselor in Washington?

Mental health counselors need a license to practice independently in Washington. The state DOH also licenses and regulates marriage and family therapists and substance use disorder professionals. The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Education certifies school counselors.

Mental health counselors and counselor associates spend about seven years earning their bachelor's and master's degrees, plus an additional three years to gain supervised experience. Those with doctorates may spend an additional 3-8 years in school. Certified counselors only need a four-year bachelor's degree. Certified counselors possess a significantly more limited scope of practice and must refer out for diagnoses.

Licensed mental health counselors and certified counselors renew their credentials every year. They must complete 36 hours of continuing education, Mental health associates can only renew six times.

Mental health counselor associates pay a $35 application fee, and licensed mental health counselors pay $191 once they have completed their supervised training and passed their exams. Certified counselors pay a $680 initial certification fee.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by Best Counseling Degrees. Page last reviewed June 17, 2024.

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