Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling 2021

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Counselors can work in diverse environments, including schools, private practices, mental health clinics, and nursing homes. Practitioners in the field need special training to gain the skills and techniques necessary to help clients.

Along with helping learners develop the tools required to practice, a master’s in counseling often leads to ample opportunities for career growth and advancement. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors to increase 25% from 2019-2029. The BLS projects a growth rate of only 4% for all occupations during the same time period.

Master's in Counseling - Top Questions from Prospective Students


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

    Graduates often work in specialized counseling positions. A master’s in counseling can also lead to roles in human resources, social work, corporate consulting, and education.


  • Q. Can you be a counselor with a master's degree?

    In some states, a master’s in counseling meets the education requirements for licensure as a school or addictions counselor.


  • Q. How much does a counselor make with a master's degree?

    A counselor’s salary depends on factors including education level, field of practice, and location. According to BLS data, counselors earn a median salary of $45,760 per year.


  • Q. Is there a demand for mental health counselors?

    The BLS projects a 25% growth rate for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors from 2019-2029, which is much higher than the projected 4% growth rate for all occupations.


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Why Get a Degree in Counseling?

Students earning a master’s in counseling typically focus on a specific practice area. Degree-seekers receive instruction and training based on their career goals.

Many colleges and universities offer counseling master’s degrees online, allowing learners to pursue specializations not available at institutions in their region. Although several factors influence an individual’s salary, higher levels of education typically correlate with higher earnings. According to BLS data, master’s degree-holders earn a weekly median salary of $1,545, while bachelor’s degree-holders earn a median of $1,305 per week.

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How Much Does a Counseling Degree Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in-state graduate students at public schools paid an average of about $12,170 for tuition and fees for the 2018-2019 academic year. Graduate students at private institutions paid an average of about $27,780 during the same school year. In addition to tuition and fees, students pursuing a master’s in counseling should budget for books and supplies.

Master’s students often apply for fellowship programs and research scholarships. Many fellowships include teaching or research responsibilities. Additionally, some public colleges and universities charge in-state tuition rates to all online learners, regardless of residency. This can save out-of-state students thousands of dollars.


Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

The cost of earning a master’s degree can be a major hurdle for many students. The calculation tool below can help learners compare the cost of attending various schools to choose a program that meets their academic and financial objectives. School websites often feature much of the required information.

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Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.


How Much Do Counseling Majors Make?

A counselor’s salary depends on several factors, including their specific field, industry, and state. After earning a master’s in counseling, graduates often have ample opportunities to advance their career and increase their earning potential.

According to the BLS, education, guidance, and career counselors earn a median salary of $58,120 per year. Positions in the federal executive branch pay these counselors the highest median salary, at $75,230.

Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn a median annual salary of $79,820, according to BLS data. These psychologists earn the highest salaries working in outpatient care centers, which pay a median salary of $109,100 per year.

The top-paying states for counselors include New Jersey ($70,410), New York ($61,480), Washington State ($60,300), North Dakota ($60,280), and Pennsylvania ($59,790), according to the BLS. The states with the highest employment levels for counselors include California, Texas, and Louisiana.

Courses in Counseling

Master’s students in counseling programs gain a comprehensive understanding of fundamental topics, emerging theories, and effective counseling techniques. Courses typically cover topics including group counseling and psychotherapy, diversity and inclusion, family therapy, and professional issues and ethics.

Learners pursuing a master’s in counseling typically complete an internship, during which they interact directly with clients under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Many programs also require a thesis or capstone project, which allows students to demonstrate mastery of their chosen practice area.

Although curricula vary by program, many master’s in counseling programs feature the courses below.

Learners in this course explore principles and methods of individual assessment, and they prepare to interpret standardized scores. Degree-seekers also learn how to administer tests to linguistically and ethnically diverse populations. Students hone their interviewing skills through supervised client contact.

Enrollees become familiar with various aspects of human development across the lifespan. Students explore how nature and nurture influence human development from infancy to old age. They study how individuals develop and adapt under various environmental and psychological conditions.

In this class, students conduct an in-depth examination of mental health disorders. Degree-seekers gain the skills to diagnose and treat maladaptive behaviors. Students explore empirical treatment options for clients with various mental disorders. Coursework also covers ethical issues related to the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.

Certifications and Licensure for Counseling

All states require counselors and clinical psychologists to hold a license to practice. Licensure requirements vary among states, with many requiring a doctoral degree in counselling or psychology. However, some states license master’s degree-holders.

Counselors can also pursue voluntary certifications to demonstrate their dedication and skills in particular areas of the field. Obtaining one or more certifications can lead to increased responsibilities and earning potential.

The American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders administers this certification to professionals specializing in alcohol addiction, eating disorders, sex addiciton, drug addiction, or gambling disorders. Candidates must hold at least a master’s degree in a mental health-related field and have at least 6,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Professionals can qualify for this certification with a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a health-related field. The American Institute of Health Care Professionals administers the credential to candidates with strong educational and professional backgrounds. Candidates for this certification must hold the National Certified Counselor credential. The National Board for Certified Counselors administers this credential to individuals with at least six graduate credits of field experience and at least 100 hours of postgraduate supervised school counseling experience.

Scholarships for Counseling

Many colleges and universities provide fellowships, grants, and scholarships for graduate students. Some grant programs include a living stipend in addition to covering tuition and fees. Counseling students can also explore financial aid opportunities from professional organizations, state and federal agencies, and nonprofit groups in the field.


  • NBCC Foundation Minority Fellowship Program

    Who Can Apply: The National Board for Certified Counselors offers this fellowship to minority students pursuing a master’s degree in counseling. Applicants must demonstrate a history of involvement with underserved minority communities and must commit to serving this population for at least two years after graduation.

    Amount: $10,000

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  • Melanie Merola O'Donnell Memorial Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in a master’s program with a focus on mental illness, such as a counseling program, can apply for this scholarship from the Melanie Foundation. Applicants must demonstrate a history of involvement in the mental health field.

    Amount: $2,500

    Explore Here

  • Services for Transition Age Youth Fellowship

    Who Can Apply: The American Psychological Foundation accepts applications from practitioners pursuing a terminal master’s degree. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to serving transition-age youth (ages 16-25).

    Amount: $6,000

    Explore Here


Online Master’s in Counseling Programs 2021

  1. Grace College and Theological Seminary
    Location

    Winona Lake, IN

    Tuition

    $24768

    Grace College offers a 60-credit hour Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that can be completed online. To gain acceptance into this program, prospective students must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Most students complete this degree in 3 years and take classes such as Personality and Counseling Theories, Psychopathology, Ethical and Legal Issues, and Spirituality in Counseling. The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program was developed in 2010 and is designed to prepare students for careers in clinical health counseling. It is committed to Scripture as the foundation for truth in each course with a complementary understanding of the truths in psychology and social sciences. Although students may complete most of their coursework online, they are required to attend a 7- to 10-day residency on Grace College's campus in Winona Lake, Indiana. The residency involves counselor preparation and training, evaluation in skill development and spiritual growth activities organized by the online and residential faculty members. During each day of the residency, students participate in a spiritual formation activity that encourages them to become closer with the Lord and fosters an understanding of a Christian counselor identity. Each year that students are enrolled in Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling courses, they are required to attend residency. While the Grace College Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is accredited by the CACREP and leads to professional counseling licensure in Indiana, it may not meet the specific licensing requirements in other states. Students who wish to acquire licensure in another state are responsible for fulfilling that particular state's requirements.

  2. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $23800

    At Liberty University, prospective students can earn an online Master of Arts in Professional Counseling degree. The Master of Arts in Professional Counseling involves 3 3-credit hour intensives; 1 3-credit hour observation-based practicum and 1 6-credit hour internship. Ethical and Legal Issues in Counseling, Human Growth and Development, Counseling Techniques and the Helping Relationship, and Multicultural Counseling are a few examples of the core classes students will be required to take. A maximum of 50% of the program hours may be transferred if approved. Webinars are available to help online students remain engaged in Liberty University's community, even from a distance. The school also offers scholarships to graduate students and tuition discounts for veterans. For acceptance into this program, students must hold a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.7 and submit a personal statement as well as 2 letters of recommendation. The online Master of Arts in Professional Counseling degree is designed to equip students with the training they need to gain state license and become a licensed professional counselor, or LPC, so they can pursue a career at a mental health agency, counseling center, private practice, hospital program or inpatient mental health treatment facility. Students who complete this program can expect to enhance their understanding of human psychology through field-tested techniques and learn best practices for promoting the mental health and holistic wellness of clients in a wide variety of communities. Upon graduation, students may work as a mental health counselor and help empower others to conquer their personal challenges and make positive changes in their lives.

  3. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    South Abington Township, PA

    Tuition

    $23890

    At Clarks Summit University, prospective students can earn an online Master of Arts in Counseling. For acceptance into this program, students must hold a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Since this program is completely online, there is an online resource hub that is designed to help students easily navigate all of the resources they may need while completing their degree. The Master of Arts in Counseling is fully accredited by the MSCHE and typically takes 2 years to complete. The goal of this program is to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to provide biblical counseling in a wide range of roles. Students who enroll in this program can expect to better understand people, grow in their awareness of how God's Word applies to healthy living and help resolve human struggles. This foundational exposure to counseling will allow students to develop a repertoire of basic counseling skills; examine their gifts, talents and sense of calling; understand traditional models of helping and a biblical view of the change process; and articulate a biblical worldview as it relates to counseling philosophy and methodology. The Master of Arts in Counseling consists of 30 hours and is divided into 2 parts: required courses and electives. Bible, Theology and Interpretation and Communications are the 2 required courses, while electives include courses such as Human Development, Career Counseling, Abnormal Behavior, Marriage and Family Counseling, and Methods of Biblical Change. This program was not created for students who wish to pursue state licensure as professional counselors.

  4. Southwestern Assemblies of God University
    Location

    Waxahachie, TX

    Tuition

    $19992

    Southwestern Assemblies of God University offers an online Master of Education in School Counseling. This program teaches students how to identify, evaluate and address emotional, social and cognitive problems within a school setting. To be accepted, applicants must provide copies of teacher service records showing 2 years of teaching experience at an accredited and approved school and hold an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Scholarships and grants are available to eligible students. Students must complete the required 36 credit hours, which involves core courses such as School Guidance and Counseling, Differentiated Learning Strategies, Studies in Classroom Management and Crisis Intervention. Resource courses, such as Introduction to Play Therapy, Principles and Practices of Early Childhood Education, and Personal Lifestyle and Career Development, as well as a 6-hour internship in school counseling are also important components of this program. In order to graduate, students must successfully pass the Graduate Comprehensive Examinations or the Thesis Option. It is important to note that students who complete a Master of Education in School Counseling are not automatically eligible for the School Counseling Certification program or state certification candidacy. They must complete all the certification requirements.

  5. Texas A&M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $10252

    As the state's first public higher education institution, Texas A&M University has established itself as a research university that aims to prepare leaders for the future. The university's online Master of Educational Psychology with an emphasis in School Counseling program prepares students for school counselor certification in Texas. The program takes a unique approach with establishing a strong foundation in child development and a focus on cultural competence and culturally relevant practices in counseling. The 48-credit hour program can be completed within 2 years on a full-time basis. Courses are taught both synchronous and asynchronous depending on the course. The course sequence is set with the first year including core courses such as Foundations in School Counseling, Techniques of Research and Issues in Child and Adolescent Development. The second year includes fewer courses to account for the required practicum in school counseling where students will complete a minimum 400 hours with 200 direct hours where the on-site supervisor must be a certified counselor and have at least 3 years of experience in the field. Because of Texas state requirements for school counselors, the program prefers that incoming students have at least 2 years of teaching experience prior to enrollment. At the very least, the student must establish an affiliation with a school where they would complete their field practicum.

  6. Oral Roberts University
    Location

    Tulsa, OK

    Tuition

    $26700

    Oral Roberts University has offered Christ-centered educational opportunities for more than 50 years with a focus on creating a cadre of alumni who will go out and change the world. The school especially hopes to do this through their Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program designed for students who wish to become professional counselors with a Christian foundation. This program is offered in both in-person or hybrid formats and has 3 concentrations: general professional counseling, marital and family counseling and addictions counseling. Because the program is based within the College of Theology & Ministry, there is a strong foundation in biblical studies and Christian theology. The program describes the hybrid model as a modular format that has several options for delivery methods to maximize flexibility for busy students. The professional counseling degree requires 66 credit hours of coursework to complete over 3 years full time. The marital and family counseling track requires 69 credit hours and the addiction concentration requires 78 credit hours. The concentrations offer the same professional counseling core courses with additional specialized credits. Core course examples include Christian Approaches to Counseling, Crisis, Trauma and Addiction, Group Dynamics and Counseling Diverse Populations. In accordance with licensing requirements, the degree requires a counseling practicum and internship that is related to the concentration. Each of the tracks lead toward professional licensing related to that degree and students may concentrate in more than one of the tracks.

  7. Missouri Baptist University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $25816

    At the heart of Missouri Baptist University's mission is a commitment to diversity. The institution aims to stress the importance of study and service while instilling the value of the worth and dignity of all people. This is a strong focus in the online Master of Arts in School Counseling program. The program is specifically designed for students who want to pursue certification as a school guidance counselor in a public K-12 setting. It also also prepares graduates to continue their studies in a doctoral program. All faculty are Christian and the curriculum is centered around Christian principles and perspectives. Students complete 51 semester hours over the course of 36 months to complete the program. All courses are designed to be taken in a prescribed series. Examples of the core courses includes Foundations of School Counseling, Counseling Skills and Techniques, Advanced Human Development, Group Counseling and Child and Adolescent Counseling. Within the second and third years of the program, students will complete a counseling practicum which is an experiential course in a clinical setting where students will put their counseling skills into practice. Students will gain further experience with supervised elementary school and secondary school counseling internships during their final year. All courses are offered in an asynchronous model so students have the flexibility to complete course assignments on their own time. MBU's Distance Learning Center provides online students with the technology and tools for online learning.

  8. Nyack College
    Location

    Nyack , NY

    Tuition

    $25000

    Nyack College was founded in the late-1800s by a well-known leader in the American missionary movement, Dr. A.B. Simpson. While the institution has evolved and modernized, Nyack still maintains its affiliation with The Christian and Missionary Alliance and is expanding its educational and religious mission to online students. The Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling online program is designed to prepare mental health practitioners for their professions as well as licensure. The 63-credit program takes 3 years to complete. Online students can build relationships with their peers through the cohort model where all students complete the same course sequence throughout the 3 years. Courses are both synchronous and asynchronous. In addition to online coursework, students are required to complete 7-day on-campus residencies each year to meet with fellow students and faculty. Examples of some of the coursework includes Foundations of Mental Health Counseling, Group Dynamics and Therapy, Ethics and Professional Issues and Career Development. In order to qualify for licensure and graduation, students must complete both a practicum and internship. Prerequisites for the program include Introduction to Psychology and Abnormal Psychology. For prospective students, Nyack offers online tools to get a "taste" of the counseling program through free webinars and handouts that provide a glimpse into the coursework.

  9. Huntington University
    Location

    Huntington, IN

    Tuition

    $25312

    Built on a historic relationship with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is a Christian liberal arts institution dedicated to higher education with a strong religious foundation. Huntington also has a goal to make their graduate programs accesible through 6 online master's programs including the Master of Arts in Counseling program. The program delves into the theoretical foundations of counseling, as well as the emotional and spiritual issues involved within the profession. Graduates of the program will also be prepared to pursue counseling licensure (Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Indiana or equivalent licenses for many other states). An element the program highlights is a self-care component where students are encouraged to pursue their own healing and growth through their studies. Almost all of the courses can be completed online with the exception of 2 3-day intensives to be completed on campus. One of which, Personal Development Skills Process Group, will take place the week before students begin their program. The programming for this course includes an all-day symposium for all new students within the Institute for Leadership and Counseling. The student's normal course load is 10-12 credits per semester (15-week courses), which would put students on track to complete the program within 2 years. In order to qualify for licensure, students must participate in both a practicum and an internship that puts them on track to earn the appropriate number of counseling and direct client interaction hours. Prerequisites for the program include 6 credit hours of Biblical studies and 6 credits hours of psychology courses (including 3 hours in Abnormal Psychology). Students without the needed prerequisites can work with Huntington to complete those prior to beginning the program.

  10. Apex School of Theology
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $4800

    Apex School of Theology was founded in 1995 to fulfill a gap in theological education for pastors and laypeople who could not afford the expensive tuition of other seminaries. Apex has continued this model of ensuring an affordable Christian education through its distance education program. The Master of Arts in Christian Counseling program is designed for students interested in counseling in a religious setting. The degree can also be applied to counseling within a community-based setting. This comprehensive program requires 69 credit hours to complete - 60 of which are core "paradigm" courses. Examples of those courses includes Old and New Testament Studies, Foundations in Theology, Family Systems Therapy, Cross-Cultural Counseling and Physiological Bases of Behavior. The program requires a clinical practicum to graduate. Students may also select 1 of 4 ministerial studies electives. Students have a choice to take either the Professional Counselor Track or the Marriage and Family Therapy Track where they will take 4 related courses to their concentration. For example, the Professional Counselor Track offers Interpersonal Techniques in Helping Relationships and Crisis Counseling Theories and Applications courses, while the Marriage and Family Therapy Track offers Marriage and Family Counseling and Children in Therapy courses. Both require an internship specific to the concentration. Note that the school cannot guarantee certification or licensure; regulations vary from state to state.

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With an undergraduate degree in communications and a master’s in education, Emma finds writing for the education vertical to be the perfect niche.

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