Best Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling: 2017

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Advanced Education & Career Options in Counseling

The American Counseling Association notes that counseling is meant to empower others to achieve goals in various aspects of life, including education, wellness, mental health, careers and relationships. Students who earn an online master’s in counseling degree will be prepared to either step into new roles to help others or use it as a stepping stone to a doctorate.

Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees: 2017

There was a time when choosing to pursue a master’s degree meant taking time off from work or sacrificing family responsibilities to sit in a classroom and listen to lectures. Today’s master’s programs are different. But how can a student winnow the options to the one that is right for them? Our rankings of the Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees for 2017 are a great way to start.

Rank University Name Score Net Price Financial aid percent Online Programs Aavailable Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate University Information Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services
1 Canisius College Score99.82
Net Price
Financial aid %99%
#Online programs4
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate68%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
2 Virginia Commonwealth University Score96.67
Net Price
Financial aid %41%
#Online programs4
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate56%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
3 Prescott College Score96.61
Net Price
Financial aid %90%
#Online programs3
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate45%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
4 Indiana State University Score96.59
Net Price
Financial aid %75%
#Online programs3
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate43%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
5 University of Central Arkansas Score95.73
Net Price
Financial aid %85%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate41%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
6 Thomas University Score94.89
Net Price
Financial aid %86%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate14%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
7 University of Southern Mississippi Score94.81
Net Price
Financial aid %74%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate50%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
8 North Carolina Central University Score94.79
Net Price
Financial aid %81%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate43%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
9 Mercy College Score94.43
Net Price
Financial aid %88%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate34%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
10 University of Louisiana at Monroe Score94.34
Net Price
Financial aid %56%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate37%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
11 University of Arkansas at Little Rock Score94.30
Net Price
Financial aid %50%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate19%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
12 Concordia University-Wisconsin Score94.28
Net Price
Financial aid %98%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate59%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
13 Angelo State University Score94.26
Net Price
Financial aid %58%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate32%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
14 Creighton University Score94.25
Net Price
Financial aid %98%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate75%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
15 Amridge University Score94.13
Net Price
Financial aid %100%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad RateN/A
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
16 Liberty University Score94.03
Net Price
Financial aid %78%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate46%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
17 Nova Southeastern University Score93.98
Net Price
Financial aid %94%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate42%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
18 Harding University Score93.94
Net Price
Financial aid %91%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate61%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
19 Arkansas State University-Main Campus Score93.86
Net Price
Financial aid %65%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate39%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
20 University of Kentucky Score93.85
Net Price
Financial aid %59%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate58%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
21 Fort Hays State University Score93.79
Net Price
Financial aid %72%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate41%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
22 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Score93.78
Net Price
Financial aid %50%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate71%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
23 Washburn University Score93.76
Net Price
Financial aid %58%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate34%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
24 Texas Woman's University Score93.71
Net Price
Financial aid %36%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate47%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
25 Wichita State University Score93.69
Net Price
Financial aid %65%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate41%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
26 Emporia State University Score93.67
Net Price
Financial aid %76%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate42%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
27 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Score93.64
Net Price
Financial aid %69%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate65%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
28 Chadron State College Score93.52
Net Price
Financial aid %66%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate42%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
29 Medaille College Score93.49
Net Price
Financial aid %77%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate45%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
30 University of the Cumberlands Score93.36
Net Price
Financial aid %100%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate45%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
31 National Louis University Score93.34
Net Price
Financial aid %70%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate44%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
32 University of Alaska Fairbanks Score93.31
Net Price
Financial aid %43%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate33%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
33 Winston-Salem State University Score93.29
Net Price
Financial aid %67%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate40%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
34 University of South Dakota Score93.23
Net Price
Financial aid %63%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate45%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
35 Northern State University Score93.21
Net Price
Financial aid %67%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate46%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
36 Utah State University Score93.17
Net Price
Financial aid %51%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate50%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
37 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Score93.12
Net Price
Financial aid %48%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate36%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
38 Faulkner University Score93.11
Net Price
Financial aid %92%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate33%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
39 Seton Hall University Score93.01
Net Price
Financial aid %97%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate67%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
40 Wake Forest University Score92.97
Net Price
Financial aid %40%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate87%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
41 South Dakota State University Score92.81
Net Price
Financial aid %53%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate56%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
42 Michigan State University Score92.78
Net Price
Financial aid %44%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate79%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
43 University of Tennessee Martin Score92.73
Net Price
Financial aid %51%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate49%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
44 Lehigh University Score92.59
Net Price
Financial aid %49%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate88%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
45 Oregon State University Score92.54
Net Price
Financial aid %55%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate61%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less

Timeline of an Online Master’s in Counseling

Getting in: The Application Process

Once the schools for a short list are chosen, it’s time to start the application process. The first step is serious homework to find out what is required of applicants. The checklist below can help potential students figure out what is needed so they can get a jump-start on the process.

  • Transcripts

    A transcript showing successful completion of a bachelor’s degree program as well as the overall GPA and grades in each course is a top requirement for students entering a master’s in counseling program.

  • Statement of purpose

    This important essay can make a student’s goals clear and help them stand out to the admissions committee. Prospective counseling students can demonstrate their interest in the field, professional aspirations and potential specializations in their education.

  • Resume

    Some schools require a certain amount of experience in the counseling field before applying. Others, however, simply want to know that students have some sort of experience, whether it is paid or volunteer work.

  • Letters of recommendation

    Three letters of recommendation are usually required as part of the application process. These can be written by work colleagues, supervisors of volunteer work, former professors or similar references.

  • GRE scores

    Most schools require GRE scores at the time of application. However, some accept an excellent undergraduate GPA as a substitute. Students can also take the GRE Psychology Subject Exam, an optional, single-subject test which could give them a boost in a competitive field of applicants.

  • Prerequisite courses

    Some foundational undergraduate courses are required for entrance to online counseling master’s. These courses are preferably completed as part of a bachelor’s program, but if not, they must be completed during the first year alongside regular coursework for the degree.

  • Interview

    Applicants who make the school’s list of potential students are invited to interview to share more about their aspirations in social work and their past achievements. For online students, the interview can be conducted via Skype, phone or similar means.

Year 1

During the first year of study, students in an online counseling master’s program can expect to take many foundational courses that prepare them to move into the concentration of their choice. Some of these courses will be refreshers of subjects learned in undergraduate studies with a more targeted spin and advanced level of study. Titles might include human growth and development, group counseling, or counseling principles. Students will also begin a practicum to gain a required number of clinical hours working directly with clients.

Year 2

The second year focuses on concentration courses and ramps up the practicum experience. Students focus on internships or continue the practicum started during the first year, eventually accumulating 600 hours or more of clinical experience. This is a necessary step toward earning a license after graduation. During the second year, students delve deeper into their concentrations, which include specializations such as school counseling, child & adolescent counseling, marriage, couple and family therapy, and addictions and substance abuse counseling. To test competency in all areas, a comprehensive exam is required at the end of the second year.

Students who take classes full time can usually graduate in two years or less. Those who are taking accelerated courses might graduate in 18 months, while those who are going to school part time might take three years to finish.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

Before a counseling master’s student can walk away with a degree in hand, there are certain graduation requirements that demonstrate their competence in the field. These vary from one school to another, but most will have at least one of these requirements in place:

  • Comprehensive exam

    This exam focuses on all the things a student should have learned over the course of the internship and two years of study. Successful completion of the exam signals to the school and to potential employers that the student gained the essential skills and knowledge needed to become a counselor.

  • Complete supervised hours

    The practicum hours help ensure that counseling students are ready to work with clients upon graduation. Supervision by a seasoned counselor or psychologist also provides an educational bonus. This requirement provides the hands-on experience that prepares online master’s students to work independently as counselors.

  • Research requirement

    Students typically have to take several courses in research during their second year of study. This requirement ensures students will be able to conduct their own research and formulate their own theories as their careers evolve.

  • Master’s project

    Although some counseling programs require a project or thesis, most don’t because the supervised practicum is usually considered enough to demonstrate knowledge and skills.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling

Trying to narrow down the options but not sure where to start? Our search tool can help. Students can choose schools based on location, number of students enrolled, type of school, degree level and even the cost of tuition.

Student Population:
School Type:
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Careers & Salary with a Master’s in Counseling

Students in an online counseling master’s program choose a concentration to study during their second year. This concentration can then help determine which careers will be possible for them upon graduation. Below are some of the more popular concentrations and the careers they could lead to.

Concentrations
Child and Adolescent Counseling

This concentration prepares students to work with children and teenagers. Classes cover a broad spectrum of topics, including family therapy, group counseling and play therapy. Graduates will be able to assess and work with children and adolescents who are dealing with developmental delays, ADHD, autism, social pressures, bullying and other issues.

Career:
Child Therapist
Child Therapist

Dedicated to working with children between the ages of three and 18, child therapists are trained to help with a wide variety of problems, including learning disabilities, developmental delays and behavioral issues.

Social Services Counselor
Social Services Counselor

These counselors work directly with social services, child and family services, and government services to help people who are dealing with issues related to mental illness and wellbeing.

School Counselor
School Counselor

School counselors work with students in grades K-12 or in college. They also help students and parents work through their issues and are available for teachers and administrators as well.

School Counseling

People who want to work with students at all levels of education can take advantage of the school counseling concentration, where they will learn how to properly observe, assess and consult with children and parents as well as build their ability to communicate well with students, teachers, administrators and parents.

Career:
School Counselor
School Counselor

Coordinates communications or acts as the spokesperson for certain government organizations. The primary responsibility of a PIO is to provide information to the media and public as required by law and according to professional standards.

Career Counselor
Career Counselor

Whether a student is preparing to graduate high school and trying to figure out which college to attend, looking forward to starting a career after college, or going back to school after several decades in the workforce, career counselors are poised to help them reach their full potential.

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Dedicated to enabling people to live normal lives, rehabilitation counselors strive to help clients cope with disabilities of all types, including those that stem from substance abuse or mental illness.

Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Those who enter mental health counseling can work in a wide variety of positions, all designed to help clients find better lives. Typical courses taken in this concentration include Psychology, Mental Health Theory, Human Growth and Development, and Mental Health Disorders.

Career:
Mental Health Therapist
Mental Health Therapist

As licensed counselors, these professionals help clients with a variety of issues that affect mental health. Their job includes assessment, diagnosis, crisis management, education and treatment using any number of therapies.

Grief and Hospice Counselor
Grief and Hospice Counselor

These counselors are present during the worst times of people’s lives, helping them through the grief that comes from losing a loved one. As hospice counselors, they also work with people facing death.

Clinical Pastoral Counselor
Clinical Pastoral Counselor

Like other counselors, clinical pastoral counselors help those who are dealing with a variety of issues, but they do so from a foundation of a certain faith. However, the pastoral counselor will help those of different religions and beliefs.

Addictions and Substance Abuse Counseling

This concentration focuses on building a strong knowledge of the complex disorders involved in substance abuse and addictions. Courses are designed to lead to an understanding of addictive behavior and its underlying causes, whether genetic, physiological, psychological or social.

Career:
Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance Abuse Counselor

These counselors focus solely on the effects of substance abuse and addictions, with the aim to help clients overcome issues resulting from those addictions or behaviors.

Social Services Counselor
Social Services Counselor

These counselors work directly with social services, child and family services, and government services to help people who are dealing with issues related to mental illness and wellbeing.

Marriage and Family Therapist
Marriage and Family Therapist

These licensed professionals work with families, couples and even single individuals to help them through issues with relationships. They are considered mental health professionals, on a par with psychologists and social workers.

Marriage and Family Counseling

This family-focused concentration helps students provide the best care possible to families, children and couples who are facing trying times. Courses help students understand human behavior within the general context of relationships as well as specific problems such as depression, abuse, marital breakdowns and work stresses.

Career:
Marriage and family therapist
Marriage and family therapist

These licensed professionals work with families, couples and even single individuals to help them through issues with relationships. They are considered mental health professionals, on a par with psychologists and social workers.

Child Therapist
Child Therapist

Dedicated to working with children between the ages of three and 18, child therapists are trained to help with a wide variety of problems, including learning disabilities, developmental delays and behavioral issues.

Clinical Pastoral Counselor
Clinical Pastoral Counselor

Like other counselors, clinical pastoral counselors help those who are dealing with a variety of issues, but they do so from a foundation of a certain faith. However, the pastoral counselor will help those of different religions and beliefs.

Potential Salary Increases with a Master’s Degree

Learners who opt to earn a higher degree often do so in order to receive better pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with master’s degrees make $11,700 more per year than those who hold bachelor’s degrees. That financial boost also applies to counselors. According to PayScale.com, counselors with a bachelor’s degree make an average of $18 per hour, or about $37,440 per year. By contrast, counselors with a master’s degree make between $30,791 and $69,181. The numbers below apply to mental health counselors, who typically must hold at least a master’s degree.

Growth potential 29%
Average salary $40,850

Additional Resources & Links

People who choose a career in counseling can make good use of the following resources, which apply to students and professionals alike.

  • American College Counseling Association

    Dedicated to counselors who help college students with their education and career paths, this site provides members with resources, news and webinars.

  • American Counseling Association

    This popular membership site offers information on government affairs, continuing education, careers and conferences.

  • American Mental Health Counselors Association

    Mental health professionals can benefit from news and publications, and information on careers, education and advocacy. The site also features an online community of like-minded professionals, among other perks.

  • American School Counselor Association

    Designed for counselors who work with K-12 and college students, this organization also provides information for parents and administrators.

  • The Association for Addiction Professionals

    Created for people working with addiction and substance abuse, this organization offers a career center, directories, resources, conferences, certification and development opportunities.

  • National Board for Certified Counselors

    Those who are interested in certification can find it here, along with a job board and information on continuing education and advocacy.

Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees

RANK COLLEGE SCORE TEACHER/STUDENT RATIO COST GRADUATION RATE
1 Apex School of Theology 100.00 17:1 91%
2 Faith Evangelical College & Seminary 96.00 15:1 82%
3 Winston-Salem State University 93.50 14:1 46%
4 Southern California Seminary 93.00 14:1 100%
5 North Carolina Central University 92.00 15:1 47%
6 Hampton University 91.75 9:1 66%
7 Canisius College 89.50 12:1 68%
8 Harding University 88.00 16:1 63%
8 Amridge University 88.00 10:1 22%
10 Salem College 87.75 11:1 65%
11 Concordia University-Wisconsin 87.50 13:1 61%
12 University of Mississippi 87.25 18:1 61%
12 Lehigh University 87.25 10:1 87%
14 University of Alaska Fairbanks 86.75 14:1 32%
14 Gallaudet University 86.75 6:1 46%
14 Fort Hays State University 86.75 17:1 43%
17 Virginia Commonwealth University 86.50 17:1 59%
17 Northwestern Oklahoma State University 86.50 14:1 34%
17 Baptist Bible College & Seminary of Pennsylvania 86.50 9:1 54%
20 Wake Forest University 86.25 11:1 88%
20 Creighton University 86.25 11:1 78%
22 Washburn University 86.00 14:1 34%
22 University of South Dakota 86.00 17:1 56%
24 University of Central Arkansas 85.25 17:1 45%
24 Seton Hall University 85.25 14:1 66%
26 Dominican University 84.75 11:1 63%
27 Saint Joseph’s College of Maine 84.25 11:1 63%
28 Shasta Bible College and Graduate School 84.00 5:1 38%
29 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse 83.75 19:1 68%
29 George Washington University 83.75 12:1 79%
31 University of Northern Colorado 83.50 17:1 46%
32 San Diego State University 82.75 28:1 66%
33 Loyola University Chicago 82.25 14:1 73%
34 The University of Tennessee Martin 82.00 17:1 47%
35 Union Institute & University 81.75 8:1 25%
36 Indiana Wesleyan University 81.50 16:1 63%
37 New Life Theological Seminary 81.25 4:1 19%
38 University of North Dakota 81.00 19:1 55%
39 Prescott College 80.75 9:1 35%
39 Oregon State University 80.75 19:1 63%
41 University of Kentucky 80.50 18:1 61%
41 Emporia State University 80.50 18:1 39%
43 University of Missouri-Columbia 80.25 20:1 69%
43 Mid-America Christian University 80.25 11:1 31%
45 Corban University 79.75 14:1 56%
45 Arkansas State University-Main Campus 79.75 17:1 39%
47 Northern State University 79.25 18:1 44%
47 Marian University 79.25 13:1 54%