Online Master’s Programs in Counseling

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Updated on: 09/20/2018

An online master’s degree in counseling could be the next step for those who wish to further their career in therapy and counseling. The curriculum for this degree is designed to provide the student with a firm grasp of the basic principles of counseling and enable the student to become a counseling practitioner. Learn more about online master’s degree programs in this field along with career opportunities, each program’s curriculum and the best online master’s programs.

Best Online Master's in Counseling 2018-2019

Get Seal Methodology


Best Online Master’s in Counseling 2018-2019

Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors

Data Sources: Eligibility Criteria:
  • Each college must be accredited
  • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
  • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
  • Each college must have at least one online program 1
Ranking Factors:
  • Affordability
  • Quality
  • Flexibility
  • Program

Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.

  • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
  • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
2-Year Schools

We sifted through reams of data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the U.S. Department of Education to create this list of the best online masters degree programs for counseling in 2018. Prospective counseling graduate students should carefully consider the options when deciding on which school to attend. All courses listed are fully accredited.

Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Grace College and Theological Seminary Winona Lake, Indiana $24,768 94% 79% 68% 1 Yes Yes Yes

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.

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2 Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia $23,800 96% 24% 55% 4 Yes Yes Yes

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.

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3 Clarks Summit University South Abington Township, Pennsylvania $23,890 79% 43% 55% 3 Yes Yes Yes

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.

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4 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, Texas $19,992 70% 23% 42% 4 Yes Yes Yes

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.

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5 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, Texas $10,252 72% 67% 81% 1 No Yes Yes

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.

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6 Oral Roberts University Tulsa, Oklahoma $26,700 94% 68% 48% 1 Yes Yes Yes

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.

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7 Missouri Baptist University Saint Louis, Missouri $25,816 98% 51% 44% 1 Yes Yes Yes

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.

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8 Nyack College Nyack, New York $25,000 99% 100% 42% 1 Yes Yes Yes

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.

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9 Huntington University Huntington, Indiana $25,312 99% 89% 60% 1 Yes Yes Yes

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 theMaster 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.

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10 Apex School of Theology Durham, North Carolina $4,800 12% - 100% 1 Yes No Yes

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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11 Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Kansas City, Missouri $7,020 41% 99% 44% 1 Yes Yes No

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary prides itself on serving the Baptist church through education and bases much of its curricular programming on this mission. Because the institution is a seminary, it's expressly focused on preparing students to enter the ministry in a variety of ways. One way that students interested in counseling can do this is through the Master of Arts in Counseling program, which can be completed online. Midwestern's program provides a foundation for students to earn Missouri state licensure in counseling. This 48-credit program includes classes such as Marriage and Family Counseling, Biological Basis of Behavior, Career Development and Counseling, Christian Theology and Counseling, Multicultural Counseling and Research Methods. Aligned with most licensure requirements, students are required to complete a counseling practicum and internship through the program. Students must also complete a capstone. Upon graduating, the program expects its students to have a strong biblical, theological, historical and psychological foundation in Christian counseling, understand developmental issues and trauma experiences in the counseling process, understand the practice of care-giving ministry, identify treatments to common counseling problems, and have the professional skills in diagnosis, treatment, preventative care and all other important elements involved in counseling practice. Students may apply at any time as long as they are able to enroll 1 week before their desired start date. Because of Midwestern's well-established online program, there are strong academic and career support services for distance learning students. To help with cost of the program, financial aid in the form of loans, grants and scholarships is available to qualifying students. Veterans and active military may be eligible for additional financial benefits as well.

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12 Hampton University Hampton, Virginia $23,762 67% 65% 58% 2 Yes Yes Yes

As one of the top historically black universities in the world, Hampton University has a long-standing history that goes back to just after the Civil War. With 150 years worth of prominent alumni (among them Booker T. Washington), Hampton has brought its academic history to online programs, making it easier for busy students to complete a degree. Hampton's online Master of Arts in Counseling program is designed for students to pursue a wide array of counseling careers through a complete overview of the counseling profession. To graduate, students must complete 30 semester hours of 16-week long courses with the requirement of a comprehensive exam. Courses include Assessing and Appraisal in Counseling, Lifespan Development, Group Process Counseling, Treating the Substance Abuser, and Ethics and Legal Aspects of Counseling. Full-time students can expect to complete the program in as few as 4 semesters. In order to be admitted into the program, prospective students must submit a personal statement and writing sample, hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and have taken the GRE within the last 5 years. Students enrolled in Hampton U Online have access to comprehensive student support services, including financial assistance, academic counseling and support, career services and technology resources. While students can complete the degree completely online, Hampton also offers face-to-face courses in the program, so students may choose to take occasional in-person courses. For students who wish to continue their coursework in on-campus programs, they may choose to eventually pursue school counseling, college student development counseling or community mental health counseling.

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13 Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, Illinois $13,200 97% 53% 51% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Lincoln Christian University prides itself on its Christ-centered curriculum in all of its academic programming. This is evident through the MA in Counseling program, which is focused on preparation for clinical mental health providers in an education that is grounded in a biblical worldview. This hybrid program combines face-to-face courses taken in 8-week blocks 1 evening per week, occurring from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., on the Lincoln, Illinois, campus with additional online courses available each semester. The program also offers week-long intensive courses. Both the online and intensive courses are designed for theory-focused students. Students will complete 60 credit hours of coursework, including courses such as Research and Evaluation in Counseling, Developmental Psychology Perspectives for Counseling, Multicultural Counseling, Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling and Introduction to God's Word. Students are also required to complete a practicum and an internship. For the practicum, students participate in 100 hours of supervised clinical training for a minimum of a 10-week period; students, however, must complete several courses before beginning their practicum. The counseling internship is the program's final field experience requirement, where the student completes 600 clock hours of clinical experience in an appropriate counseling setting. Graduates of the program are prepared for state licensure exams and have gone on to work in clinical mental health or church settings. Because of the religious focus of the programming, students are particularly well-equipped to work in ministry. In 2017-2018, 100% of the counseling graduates who responded to a graduation survey reported that they passed the licensure exam and all of them had found employment soon after graduation.

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14 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, Alabama $10,780 56% 53% 68% 1 Yes Yes Yes

The University of Alabama's online education program, Bama By Distance, prides itself on carrying out its global reputation of high quality education within the institution's flexible online learning environment. Students interested in a career in counseling can pursue an MA in Rehabilitation Counseling completely online. The program seeks to prepare students to work with people with disabilities and their families to support them to fully participate in their communities. Rehabilitation counselors provide a variety of support services, including group and individual counseling, case management, advocacy, vocational assessment and consultation services. To graduate, students must complete 60 credit hours of coursework. Full-time students enroll in 9 credit hours per fall and spring terms or 6 hours for summer term and can complete the program in as few as 2.5 years. Students will take courses such as Counseling Theory and Process, Career Development, Vocational Rehabilitation Case Management and Placement, Multicultural Counseling and Psychopathology. In order to graduate, students are required to complete both a practicum and an internship where they will put the theories and skills they've learned in the classroom into practice. The program is geared toward preparing students for all types of settings, including within the public or private sectors and urban or rural communities as well as being able to address a wide variety of counseling needs. In addition, Bama By Distance provides strong academic support, such as academic advising, to online students similar to the support provided on-campus students. There are a variety of scholarships available specifically for graduate students, and financial aid is an option for all degree-seeking students.

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15 Colorado Christian University Lakewood, Colorado $31,366 99% - 41% 2 Yes Yes Yes

As the only evangelical higher education institution in the Rocky Mountain region, Colorado Christian University prides itself on instilling a sense of compassion and social concern while also maintaining high academic standards. This is especially seen through its online Master's in Counseling program. The program is geared toward professional licensure in counseling with a biblical foundation. Students can expect to complete 60 credit hours of coursework in 7-week course blocks. Courses are taught in a synchronous format and are typically held on nights and weekends to accommodate busy, working students. The program can be completed within 2.5 years with intensive study. For students who have already completed graduate-level counseling courses in another program, 12 credit hours can be transferred. Upon completion, graduates are academically prepared to take the National Counseling Exam. Online students should be aware, though, that each state has different licensing requirements, so further research should be done into those requirements. Examples of counseling program core courses includes Counseling Skills, Psychopharmacology, Crisis and Trauma, Social and Cultural Foundations and Theories of Groups, and Group Counseling. All students must complete 9 credit hours toward a practicum/internship and 4 credit hours of residency. Practicum site supervisors across the country (surveyed by the CCU MA in Counseling program) reported that CCU counseling students were more clinically prepared and had higher levels of ethical awareness than other students. Additionally, CCU found that 96% of students found employment within 6 months of graduation.

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16 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, North Carolina $9,100 48% 48% 78% 2 No Yes Yes

Students living in North Carolina can choose from 3 online programs to earn a Master of Education at NC State University, which is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Coursework prepares graduates for professional licensure in clinical mental health, school counseling or college counseling and student development. Eligibility for all pathways requires the submission of GRE or MAT scores, 3 letters of recommendation and transcripts from undergraduate work. Students will satisfy 60 credits with a minimum 3.0 GPA in order to graduate. Core curriculum covers career development, multicultural considerations, group work, theories of counseling and strategies for clinical assessment. Students will also partake in concentration-specific practicum and internship experiences to fulfill the mandatory 600 hours of fieldwork. The online option is implemented as a cohort model over the course of 3 years, affording students the opportunity to develop a peer support system. Classes are taken throughout the fall, spring, and summer terms. Although most work is completed via the web platform Moodle, students are expected to enroll in a few on-campus weekend classes during their last year of studies. The program also utilizes live web conferencing to practice counseling skills through role-plays and presentations. If you are new to distance education, this virtual tour will acquaint you with navigating your online courses. Online advisors are available to assist in registration, career guidance, tutoring and study skills. Additional resources include access to an online library and media lab, as well as a technical help desk.

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17 Union College Barbourville, Kentucky $25,570 100% 67% 35% 3 No Yes Yes

At Union College, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, 100% of students are awarded school-funded money to assist in tuition costs. Last year, the average financial gift was $22,498. On top of this, in-state and out-of-state rates remain the same for those enrolled in the fully online program to earn a Master of Science in Substance Abuse. The degree entails 60 credit hours, and upon completion, qualifies students for licensure as a substance abuse counselor in Kentucky. Although other states may recognize the school's degree, it's up to you to check for reciprocity agreements in your location of residency. If students have already completed a chemical dependency counselor certificate, certain credits may transfer into the program. Eligibility for admissions requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate coursework and submission of GRE scores. This grade average must be maintained in order for graduate work to count toward credit. Foundational curriculum covers topics of advanced behavioral neuroscience, diagnosing and treatment planning, psychopathology and techniques of counseling. Concentration-specific classes include chemical dependency, psychology of addictions and diversity issues. Students also choose from electives such as forensic psychology, personality theories or family systems. An internship experience must be completed as a component for graduation. Classes are implemented through the web platform Moodle and students can access 24/7 phone assistance for any technical questions. SMARThinking, which is a free online tutoring service for distance education learners, is also available at any time of day. Additional resources can be found through the uLearn webpage.

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18 North Carolina Central University Durham, North Carolina $3,655 82% 67% 49% 3 Yes Yes Yes

Students seeking to earn a master's degree in counselor education can choose from 3 different online pathways at North Carolina Central University. All programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. The MA in Career Counseling involves 48 credit hours focused on vocational theories, career development and educational research. Graduates are trained for employment as career development specialists in colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations. For those interested in working with children, there is an option to receive an MA in School Counseling. This track requires 51 credit hours emphasizing clinical interventions in events of trauma, psychosocial development and counseling children and adolescents. Degree completion qualifies students for K-12 licensure in North Carolina. A final opportunity allows for the completion of an MA in Mental Health Counseling. Following 60 credit hours, students are eligible for licensure as a professional counselor or clinical addictions specialist in North Carolina. For all pathways, you must maintain a 3.0 GPA, complete field experience and participate in 3 brief residencies on the Durham campus. The school expects applicants to demonstrate a minimum 2.7 GPA in undergraduate work, as well as submit GRE scores, 2 letters of recommendation and an essay. If you are unsure of whether distance education is the right choice, you can take Online Learning 101. The modules include an online readiness pre-assessment and a section to acquaint you with navigating web coursework. Additional support for your academic journey include access to the library, Upswing tutoring, career guidance, a veteran's center and counseling services.

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19 Ball State University Muncie, Indiana $8,992 80% 62% 62% 1 Yes Yes Yes

The Department of Counseling Psychology, Social Psychology and Counseling at Ball State University offers a program to receive a Master of Arts in Counseling. Students can choose to work toward licensure within 2 different pathways. The first option focuses on clinical mental health counseling and requires 60 credits for completion. Curriculum explores career theories, psychopathology and psychopharmacology. Students will also participate in 600-900 hours of internship experience. The alternative choice emphasizes rehabilitation counseling and involves 48 credits. Classes cover topics such as the psychosocial components of rehabilitation and appraisal methods in counseling. The Department of Educational Psychology provides an additional opportunity to earn a Master of Arts in School Counseling. This program prepares students for K-12 school counseling licensure within the state of Indiana. Enrollees satisfy 60 credits of coursework in areas of human growth and development, multicultural considerations, group counseling and research. All programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Regardless of concentration, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout their studies. You can utilize a variety of resources to assure you meet the grade requirement. Career coaches are available to assist in job exploration, interview skills and networking opportunities. The HelpDesk has a live chat to answer any questions regarding online classes or technological challenges. You can sign up for free tutoring through the Learning Center. Additionally, there are a number of financial aid opportunities to help in cutting down on tuition costs. This includes graduate assistantships, employer assistance programs and scholarships.

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20 Lee University Cleveland, Tennessee $17,690 78% 87% 51% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Lee University is committed to integrating Christian ideals into their academic programs. As a result, students enrolled in the online option to earn a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Studies will explore coursework such as Christian perspectives in the helping professions. The degree affords graduates the opportunity to work in administrative positions within church ministries or community agencies. Graduation requires you to be in school for an average of 2 years in order to satisfy 36 credit hours with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Curriculum includes topics of systems theory, human sexuality, play therapy and career developments, which prepares students to pass the MAFAM Comprehensive Exam at the end of their program. Online classes, which last for 7 weeks, are delivered in a semi-structured format through the web platform Moodle. Although there are deadlines for assignments, you can access work at your own convenience. A working computer with web capabilities is all you need, as exams don't necessitate a proctor. The student handbook for the Division of Adult Learning contains a wealth of information regarding the admissions process, financial aid, student expectations and resources. Academic advisers are available to assist in registering for classes, management skills and connecting students with disabilities to accommodations and supports. The Center for Calling and Career uses a Christian-based approach to exploring one's goals and strengths. Additional services include the library and a writing center. If you are interested in this program, check out the application checklist. Eligibility includes demonstration of a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies, as well as submission of GRE or MAT scores.

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21 Mid-America Christian University Oklahoma City, Oklahoma $10,692 44% - 38% 3 Yes Yes Yes

Mid-America Christian University is a private, Christian liberal arts college that has recently experienced a great deal of growth, from a little over 900 students to 2,800. The college attributes this to its "life-transforming" degree programs that lead directly to employment opportunities and the substantial number of online degree programs offered. For prospective students interested in counseling, there are 3 emphasis options through MACU's online Master of Science in Counseling program: applied behavior science, clinical mental health counseling, and addiction and substance abuse counseling. This flexible program is offered completely online and can be completed in as few as 2.5 years. To graduate, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA while completing 60-63 credit hours of coursework. Many of the courses, such as Human Development, Psychopathology, and Ethics and Professional Studies, are required for all emphasis programs, but some courses vary depending on the concentration the student chooses. All of the concentrations require a final practicum and internship specific to their emphasis. If students are intending to achieve state licensure, there are three required courses: Human Sexuality and Counseling, Psychopathology Diagnostics and Treatment Design, and Community Counseling. The program is designed to guide students toward becoming licensed clinical counselors. Graduates have gone on to become professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, alcohol and drug counselors, and college professors. Graduates have also started their own clinical counseling practices and have become clinical directors. The program prides itself on a curriculum that's based on results-oriented counseling and provides hands-on practice opportunities from the start. All of the faculty in the program have doctorate degrees and professional experience, so students can be confident their education is rooted in current research and practices.

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22 The University of Texas at Tyler Tyler, Texas $4,896 58% 69% 46% 1 Yes Yes Yes

The University of Texas at Tyler offers an online Master of Arts in School Counseling. In this program, students learn to be creative, effective and culturally sensitive counselors. The curriculum is built around the Texas School Counselor standards and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) guidelines. UT Tyler offers instruction on generating comprehensive developmental counseling programs in a school. Online students learn how to interpret modern concepts in counseling theory and make use of current research and counseling practices in the field. Required courses for the degree include Family Therapy, Cultural Diversity and Advocacy, Mental Health in Schools, Advanced Human Growth and Development and Counseling Children and Adolescents. All master's students complete a practicum and 2 supervised internships. Prospective students must submit all undergraduate and graduate transcripts, GRE scores, a completed department information sheet, a statement of purpose essay and 3 reference request forms. All students must pass an admissions interview, as well. Applicants who already possess a master's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher do not need to submit GRE scores. To receive school counseling certification, all students pass a criminal history background check. Any conviction that is considered inappropriate for a school counselor deems a student ineligible to earn the certification from the state of Texas. Full-time students can complete the 48-credit hour degree in as few as 24 months. Online students have access to the Student Counseling Center, remote library access, leadership development opportunities and career preparation and coaching.

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23 Lindsey Wilson College Columbia, Kentucky $9,503 97% - 35% 1 No Yes Yes

Lindsey Wilson College is a 4-year nonprofit institution established in 1903 and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. This Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development with a Specialization in Mental Health Counseling is an application-oriented program designed to enhance the skills of practitioners currently employed as counselors or those intending on a professional counseling career. Applicants are expected to already possess a bachelor's degree in counseling or a related field. Required core courses include Personal Growth and Development, Counseling Theories and Techniques, Career Education Counseling and Psychopathology. Students in this 60-credit program complete a practicum and an internship with 150 and 300 clock hours, respectively. To specialize in mental health counseling, students must complete the required coursework that is designed to focus on this area. These courses include Diagnosis of Mental and Emotional Disorders, Theories of Addiction and Pharmacology, Treatment of Mental and Emotional Disorders and Systemic Family Therapy. For admission, distance students must complete the Graduate School application online, send official transcripts of each college or university previously attended, submit 3 letters of recommendation and successfully complete an interview with members of the Regional Admissions Committee. Those accepted to the program are admitted on a conditional basis. At the end of the student's first semester, the Regional Admissions Committee conducts a status review to consider each student's unconditional acceptance into the program. Unconditional acceptance is based on academic performance and personal characteristics. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation. Graduates of this program often pursue licensure and work in private practice settings, city and state human services departments, correctional facilities and rehabilitation centers.

School website
24 World Mission University Los Angeles, California $4,500 - - 44% 1 Yes No Yes

World Mission University offers a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling. This is a 2-year program with in-depth coursework for students interested in counseling both families and individuals using a Christian worldview. In total, students complete 47 semester credits. Up to 23 semester credits can be transferred from another regionally accredited institution. This is a non-licensure program and does not prepare students to meet California state requirements for a counseling license. Distance learners can choose to write either a master's thesis or complete a ministry project or counseling course. Applications should include the application fee, one's Christian testimony, 1 professional reference, official transcripts and 2 recent passport-style photographs. All incoming students must also be born-again Christians and participate in a personal interview with the program director. Since much of the instruction at WMU is available in Korean, English proficiency tests are not required for admission. Online programs may also be taken entirely in Korean. Prospective students who do not have a bachelor's degree in psychology or counseling must take a 3-credit bachelor-level prerequisite course in Lifespan Development or Introduction to Psychology. To remain in good standing, online students must maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher. Upon graduation, students demonstrate general knowledge of Christian theology and history, integrate biblical teachings with counseling and psychological evaluations, perform academic research in the field and work with patients from all types of backgrounds and cultures. WMU graduates typically pursue careers working with church organizations and Christian-affiliated schools.

School website
25 Lamar University Beaumont, Texas $6,048 20% 76% 38% 2 Yes Yes Yes

Lamar University is a public institution that currently serves approximately 14,600 students. Established in 1923, this school has been a member of the Texas State University System since 1995. Lamar offers an online Master of Education in Counseling and Development. The curriculum is designed around guidelines set by the Coordinated School Health Model in Texas and the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) National Model. It is an accelerated program, with 5-week self-paced courses scheduled within 15-week semesters. In total, students need 60 credit hours for graduation, including 2 residencies. Each residency consists of a 5-week Blackboard course and 1 weekend-long intensive on campus. Over the weekends, students participate in learning modules, skill development sessions, group projects and receive individual feedback and advising from faculty members. Required courses for this degree include Multicultural Counseling, Human Growth and Development, Substance Abuse Counseling, Research and Program Evaluation and Crisis Prevention. Distance learners must also complete a practicum and internship with 100 and 600 contact hours, respectively. Students who complete the program are prepared for certification as a Professional School Counselor. Many Lamar graduates move on to careers in elementary education, primary education, secondary education and higher education teaching. Applications should include official, sealed transcripts from any previously attended college or university. Prospective students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher do not need to submit GRE scores. All applicants need at least a 2.5 GPA to be admitted. Applicants also need a valid teaching certificate and 2 years teaching experience at a Texas Education Agency-approved public or private school.

School website
26 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Edinboro, Pennsylvania $8,694 74% 95% 52% 2 Yes No Yes School website
27 Clarion University Clarion, Pennsylvania $11,592 41% 94% 51% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
28 University of Tennessee at Martin Martin, Tennessee $8,502 58% 67% 50% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
29 Chadron State College Chadron, Nebraska $3,600 66% - 39% 2 No Yes Yes School website
30 University of North Texas Denton, Texas $5,450 47% 72% 56% 1 No Yes Yes School website
31 Cleveland State University Cleveland, Ohio $9,565 45% 87% 42% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
32 Wayland Baptist University Plainview, Texas $10,620 87% 100% 32% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
33 Southwestern Oklahoma State University Weatherford, Oklahoma $5,316 65% 91% 38% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
34 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, Louisiana $5,738 49% 62% 40% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
35 Mercy College Dobbs Ferry, New York $15,156 83% 78% 32% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
36 Washburn University Topeka, Kansas $8,250 64% - 38% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
37 Fort Hays State University Hays, Kansas $3,398 73% 91% 44% 1 No Yes Yes School website
38 Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, New Jersey $16,536 46% 57% 86% 1 No Yes Yes School website
39 University of Central Arkansas Conway, Arkansas $4,594 54% 90% 44% 1 No Yes Yes School website
40 University of West Alabama Livingston, Alabama $6,390 57% 53% 36% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
41 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, Virginia $10,976 55% 81% 63% 2 No Yes Yes School website
42 Angelo State University San Angelo, Texas $3,783 63% 74% 34% 3 No Yes Yes School website
43 Faulkner University Montgomery, Alabama $9,540 91% 45% 29% 2 No Yes Yes School website
44 Southern Arkansas University Main Campus Magnolia, Arkansas $5,022 80% 69% 38% 2 No Yes Yes School website
45 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, Louisiana $6,490 62% 76% 41% 2 No Yes Yes School website
46 Adams State University Alamosa, Colorado $4,410 71% 99% 26% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
47 Lock Haven University Lock Haven, Pennsylvania $11,592 14% 88% 49% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
48 University of Massachusetts-Boston Boston, Massachusetts $16,863 66% 69% 47% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
49 Prairie View A & M University Prairie View, Texas $4,362 64% 85% 39% 1 No Yes Yes School website
50 Fort Valley State University Fort Valley, Georgia $4,330 15% 26% 35% 1 No Yes Yes School website

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Counseling Program?

Students who enroll in an online master’s degree program in counseling receive the skills and education they need to advance in their careers. Often, this advancement also comes with an increase in earnings potential. Skills that students will learn in a master’s counseling program include:

  • Understanding family relationships and how to navigate complicated dynamics
  • Tools for navigating sensitive topics in mental health
  • A thorough understanding of ethics and best legal practices when counseling
  • Evaluating and addressing complicated family issues for the betterment of all parties involved

What’s the difference between a master’s in counseling and an MBA in counseling?

Both a master’s in counseling and an MBA in counseling focus on counseling and communication skills. However, a master’s in counseling degree focuses mainly on direct interaction with the individuals under a counselor’s care. An MBA in counseling focuses some on patient care, but also explores the business aspect of the career. Individuals working as counselors in mental health facilities, hospitals or other large organizations may find the added business focus of an MBA in counseling suits their career goals, while individuals with private practices and working in school settings may find a master’s in counseling suits their needs the best.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in counseling program?

Precise curriculum coursework will vary slightly from school to school, but in general, many online master’s in counseling programs focus on similar topics and coursework. Common courses to master’s in counseling degrees include:

Introduction to Mental Health Counseling

Students are introduced to the mental health counseling profession in this course. Students explore the history, philosophy and theoretical foundations of the profession, as well as the scope of practice, credentialing and other professional issues. The focus of this course is on students as future mental health counselors.

Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories

Students in this course summarize the history and explore the primary concepts of the major approaches to counseling and psychotherapy in current use. The empirical foundations of each theory are examined and examples are supplied showing how each method is applied to clients. Limitations of each approach are also explored.

Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling

Students in this course are provided with an introduction to the field of professional counseling and the foundations of counseling. Students explore the history, philosophy, cultural dynamics and trends in professional counseling. They examine consultation as well as client and counselor advocacy, focusing on the counselor’s role as social change agent. Students also examine and apply ethical standards of the counseling profession, including the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics and counselor ethical decision-making processes.

Couples and Family Counseling

Students in this course are introduced to concepts and applications in theoretical perspectives and techniques, classical schools of thought and recent developments in couples and family therapy. Students explore culture, gender and ethnicity factors in family development. They also review and compare theoretical frameworks in couples and family therapy, including psychosocial, psychodynamic, transgenerational, strategic, cognitive-behavioral and social constructionist models.

Prevention, Intervention and Consultation

Students in this course are provided with an inquiry into prevention and intervention programs for individuals, groups and communities. Students consider cultural, social, psychological, family, organizational and political factors bearing on the mental health and development of people in various settings, including schools, communities, and organizations. Theoretical frameworks guiding prevention and intervention are explored, including constructivist and ecological-developmental perspectives. Students gain experience in developing prevention-oriented programs within diverse systems.

Counseling Addictive Disorders

In this course, students examine historical perspectives and current trends in addiction treatment, as well as the biological and environmental influences on the etiology of addiction. Techniques and processes for assessment and diagnosis are examined in the context of individual, group and systemic perspectives, with attention given to developmental and multicultural influences on addiction. Influences of public policy and advocacy on addiction and treatment are also examined.

What exams or projects should I expect?

In addition to the standard coursework, students can generally expect to perform about 100 hours of practicum and 500-600 hours of internship studies. Some counseling courses also administer a comprehensive board exam after all other requirements have been satisfied while others do not. Most counselors will undergo a final licensing exam before they are released to practice in a professional setting, such as the Marriage and Family Therapist Licensure program.

What specializations are available in a master’s in counseling program?

There are many specialties that fall under the umbrella of a master's degree in counseling. Some possible specialties include:

Couples and Group Therapy

The counselor facilitates a couple or group in a therapeutic setting to help them work out their differences or interact with each other. Counselors do not act as a judge, but rather help patients to understand one another and open new lines of communication.

Grief Therapy

Counselors help grieving persons to examine their feelings and work through their grief in a constructive manner.

Addiction Therapy

Counselors help patients to deal with their addictions, whether they be drugs, alcohol, pornography or some other vice. In many cases, their patients will have been referred to them by law enforcement or other authorities.

General Mental Health Counseling

Counselor will help patients to work through general mental health issues, such as depression, ADHD, family problems or other issues. This specialty covers a wide range of possible issues and requires the counselor to be proficient in a number of areas.

What Can I do with a Master’s in Counseling Degree?

All counselors work in some degree with individuals who require counseling services. But, not every counseling position has the same role. There are multiple careers within the counseling field. Some careers that counselors can pursue include:

Mental Health Therapist

A mental health therapist works with children and adults to develop and implement treatment plans based on the individual patient’s needs. The therapist also maintains clinical records, works case management and may intervene in some mental health crises.

Substance Abuse Counselor

A substance abuse counselor is an individual who specializes in treating patients with some form of chemical dependency- often alcohol or drugs. The counselor not only works to create individual treatment plans for each patient but may also engage with family members acting in supporting roles.

In-Home Therapist

An individual working as an in-home therapist travels on location to communicate directly with patients. Often, in-home therapists work with families and children. In-home therapists offer the same services as office-based therapists, including support, treatment plans and writing clinical reports.

Group Therapist

A group therapist works with a group of individuals to help resolve patient issues. Group-therapists often work in institutions, such as a mental health care facility or a school. A group therapist requires skills in understanding, interpersonal skills and a firm grasp of ethics.

School Counselor

School counselors work with students in a school setting to help resolve any issues that may arise. A school counselor may work with students individually, in a group or even in a family setting. School counselors may also guide students in making choices for the future, regarding issues of employment, safety or other life choices.

It’s important for individuals in counseling careers to keep up with changes and trends in the industry. One way to keep up with the latest research in psychology and counseling is through professional organizations. Professional organizations not only inform counselors of changes to the industry, but also provide networking opportunities. The following are examples of organizations that counselors can join.

American Counseling Association

The American Counseling Association is the world’s largest association for professional counselors. This program is designed to help members ensure ethical practices, protect those who use counseling services and work as advocates for the profession. Members have access to continuing education, networking and access to ACA publications.

International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC)

IAMFC is an international professional organization for counselors specializing in marriage and family counseling. The organization provides a forum for members to discuss family-related therapy issues, collaboration among peers and distributes media and publications for members to use in their own practices.

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)

AAMFT is a professional organization in the United States for family and marriage therapists. The organization works to promote awareness on family counseling topics, works with lawmakers and acts as advocates for families in need. The organization also provides member services, such as networking, a job board and program accreditation.

American School Counselor Association

The American School Counselor Association is a professional organization focusing on the issues and needs of school counselors. Members can find resources for professional development, school-specific publications, network with other members and join a community of fellow professionals.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Counseling?

Career Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Licensed Mental Health Counselor Less than $34,000 $43,300 More than $63,000 +23%
Substance Abuse Counselors Less than $29,000 $38,243 More than $51,000 +23%
Marriage and Family Therapists Less than $35,000 $48,790 More than $67,000 +23%
School Counselor Less than $36,000 $55,410 More than $71,000 +13%
Social Worker Less than $31,000 $47,980 More than $54,000 +16%
Rehabilitation Counselor Less than $30,000 $34,860 More than $64,000 +13%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall job growth for those who get a master’s degree in counseling looks very promising. Marriage and family therapists have the highest projected rate of growth at a projected 23% between 2016 and 2026, while school and rehabilitation counselors have the lowest at 13%. However, both of those growth rates are much higher than the national job growth rate of 5-8%.Obtaining a master’s degree in counseling will not only increase job opportunities, but it also commands a higher salary. The median salaries for counselors with a bachelor’s degree range from $40,000 to $65,000, while individuals with a master’s degree in counseling have a median salary from $50,000 to $85,000.

Online Master’s in Counseling Program Accreditation

Accreditation by either the Council for Accreditation of Counseling or Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council is strictly voluntary, although some states require this accreditation for online master’s degree programs in counseling. CACREP provides accreditation for both masters and doctoral programs, while MPCAC only accredits master’s degree programs that “educate students in the science-based practice of counseling and psychological services.” CACREP also maintains that counseling is a distinct profession and separate from psychology, while MPCAC accredits programs that have instructors that have been trained in psychology or other fields outside of counseling.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Counseling Degree

Student or personal loans can be used to pay for a master’s degree if no other options are available, but there are many grants and scholarships available. Below is a list of a few options students can examine to help with the cost of earning an online master’s degree in counseling:

  • Federal Financial Aid

    Students who enroll in online master’s degrees in counseling are eligible to apply for government financial aid by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form determines eligibility for federal loans and grants. Additionally, many schools require a FAFSA application before students can apply for a graduate assistantship.

  • Counseling Scholarships

    Many counseling professional organizations also offer scholarships to students in specific degree plans. Graduate departments at individual schools may also offer scholarships to students attending their programs. Female students of American Indian descent can apply for American Indian Graduate Center Fellowships. Students can also find scholarships through the American Counseling Association and the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries.

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