Online Master's in Counseling Programs

Earning an online master's degree in counseling can lead to new career opportunities. Here, we list the top programs available.
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Updated June 13, 2024

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Are you ready to discover your college program?

Our guide to the best online counseling programs can help you choose the right school for you. With a master's in counseling, you can enter the workforce right after graduating or continue your education in a doctorate program.

Explore the benefits of earning an online master's in counseling, including cost, requirements, and career and salary outlook for graduates.

Popular Online Counseling Master's Programs

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

Best Online Counseling Master's Programs for Affordability

#1 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Liberty University

  • Lynchburg, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit:

Full-time | $565

Part-time | $615

Credits to Graduate: 60

Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, tops our list of the best online master's in counseling programs. Graduates can earn a master of arts in clinical mental health in an average of 2.5 years, satisfying education requirements to become licensed professional counselors. The online curriculum includes two on-campus intensives and a two-semester internship.

Liberty has not increased its tuition in eight years and offers scholarships and flexible payment plans. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, and students can transfer up to 50% of the degree's total credits.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$14,791
Out-of-state
$14,791
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,935
Out-of-state
$7,935
Retention Rate
81%
Acceptance Rate
50%
Students Enrolled
93,349
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
93% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

University of New Haven

  • West Haven, CT
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit: $769

Credits to Graduate: 60

The online master of arts in clinical mental health counseling at Connecticut's University of New Haven takes three years to complete. Grounded in advocacy and social justice principles, the curriculum features entirely online coursework, 700 hours of supervised training, and two residencies. Students can opt to specialize in forensic mental health.

Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school, a 3.0 GPA, a statement of purpose, and two recommendation letters. Enrollees can apply for financial aid and grants.   

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$40,170
Out-of-state
$40,170
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$17,370
Out-of-state
$17,370
Retention Rate
79%
Acceptance Rate
91%
Students Enrolled
6,961
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#3 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Cameron University

  • Lawton, OK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit:

In-State | $272

Out-of-State | $645

Credits to Graduate: 48-60

At Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, students can earn a master of arts in mental health with licensure-focused concentration options in counseling and marriage and family therapy. The curriculum includes core courses in counseling skills, human development, and systems theory; concentration coursework; clinical practicums or practicums in marriage and family therapy; and an embedded certificate in alcohol and drug counseling. 

Applicants submit undergraduate and, if applicable, graduate transcripts showing a 3.0 GPA. Enrollees can apply for federal and state financial aid.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$4,740
Out-of-state
$14,160
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$3,564
Out-of-state
$10,278
Retention Rate
67%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
3,771
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

  • Waxahachie, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit: $545

Credits to Graduate: 60

Pentecostal-affiliated Southwestern Assembly of God University lists a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling among its graduate options. The Waxahachie, Texas-based program prepares graduates for state-licensed professional counselor credentials and doctoral study. The curriculum includes professional and research components and practicum and internship field experiences.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a 2.5 GPA and must submit a personal essay and a letter of recommendation. The university reports that students graduate with 20% less debt on average compared to those at other private schools.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$20,496
Out-of-state
$20,496
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,710
Out-of-state
$10,710
Retention Rate
72%
Acceptance Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
1,985
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
73% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Ottawa University-Online

  • Ottawa, KS
  • 4 years
  • Online

Avg. Cost per Credit: $635

Credits to Graduate: 54

Ottawa University offers a hybrid master of arts in counseling with concentrations in expressive arts therapy, gerocounseling, and treatment of trauma, abuse, and deprivation. Graduates complete 39 core class credits, 15 concentration and elective credits, and 900 field placement hours. The program meets licensing requirements in Arizona, Kansas, and Wisconsin.

Ottawa encourages applicants to contact an enrollment advisor and schedule a professional college advisory session. Submission requirements include undergraduate transcripts showing a 3.0 GPA. Admitted students are automatically considered for institutional scholarships.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$10,856
Out-of-state
$10,856
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,044
Out-of-state
$11,044
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
221
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

New York University

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit: $2,101

Credits to Graduate: 60

New York University's online master's in mental health counseling builds professional skills with coursework, counseling labs, a 100-hour practicum, and a 600-hour internship. Students can graduate in two years, ready to apply for licensure. 

A rolling admissions process requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA. NYU looks for candidates with paid or volunteer experience in mental health and a commitment to promoting equity and social justice. Financial aid, payment plans, and assistantships help graduate students with costs.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$52,204
Out-of-state
$52,204
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$34,704
Out-of-state
$34,704
Retention Rate
90%
Acceptance Rate
21%
Students Enrolled
52,775
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#7 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Prairie View A & M University

  • Prairie View, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit:

In-State | $346-$363

Out-of-State | $845-$872

Credits to Graduate: 48

Texas' Prairie View A&M University's graduate programs include a master of arts with an emphasis on school counseling that can be completed online. Graduates are prepared to become professional school counselors in diverse school environments or to work in private practice.

Admission requirements include official transcripts showing a 2.75 undergraduate GPA and/or a 3.0 graduate GPA, three recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose. Financial aid options include loans, work-study, scholarships, and fee waivers.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,253
Out-of-state
$22,552
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$5,096
Out-of-state
$14,316
Retention Rate
74%
Acceptance Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
9,248
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
95% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#8 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

University of West Alabama

  • Livingston, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit: $429

Credits to Graduate: 60

The University of West Alabama in Livingston offers an online master's in clinical mental health counseling that students can complete in 2-3 years. The curriculum comprises nine hours of professional courses, 45 hours of clinical concentration courses, and six hours of electives in areas like addictions and family counseling. Concentration hours include an in-person residency, practicum, and internship experiences.

Graduate admission requires official transcripts. Admitted students can transfer up to nine graduate semester credits. Financial aid includes federal loans, work-study programs, payment plans, and outside scholarship opportunities.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$9,100
Out-of-state
$18,200
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,678
Out-of-state
$13,356
Retention Rate
63%
Acceptance Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
5,734
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
82% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Concordia University-Irvine

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit: $695

Credits to Graduate: 60

Southern California-based Concordia University Irvine grounds its online master of counseling program in Christian thought. Students can earn their master of arts in counseling: clinical mental health at Concordia's Townsend Institute and qualify for licensure in most states. The accelerated 24-36-month program features online coursework, a four-day, on-campus residency, and on-site practicums and internships.

To apply, candidates submit official transcripts showing a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school with a 3.0 GPA. Concordia lists graduate merit-based scholarships and employer-paid tuition partnerships.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$37,250
Out-of-state
$37,250
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,121
Out-of-state
$8,121
Retention Rate
68%
Acceptance Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
4,071
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#10 Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

  • Lubbock, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit:

In-State | $265

Out-of-State | $579

Credits to Graduate: 60

The online master of science in clinical mental health counseling at Lubbock-based Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center emphasizes telehealth. Twelve credit hours of practicum and internship experiences combine with courses that include crisis counseling, human growth and development, and treatment planning and case management.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, preferably in a mental health-related field, and a 3.0 GPA. Rolling admissions requires submission of a personal essay and 2-3 recommendations. The School of Health Professions offers scholarships to qualifying students. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,665
Out-of-state
$19,344
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,360
Out-of-state
$16,176
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
5,274
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
62% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Our Methodology

At Affordable Colleges Online, we use a proprietary ranking system and data from reputable sources like the U.S. Department of Education to help you find the best school for your needs. Our most important metric -- affordability -- accounts for 60% of our formula. We also consider academic quality, program offerings, online enrollment, and graduation rates.

This ranking is from 2022. To learn more, consult our school ranking methodology.

Why Get a Master's in Counseling Degree?

As the demand for mental health treatment continues to expand, the counseling profession offers unprecedented opportunities. A master's in counseling provides a path to versatile employment options, career advancement, increased earnings, and personal fulfillment in helping others improve their lives.

An online master's in counseling can lead to a rewarding career as a mental health counselor, addictions counselor, marriage and family therapist, or a similar position. This degree also serves as a stepping stone to a doctorate in psychology.

How Much Does an Online Counseling Master's Cost?

In 2021-22, the average annual cost for graduate tuition was $12,596 at public institutions compared to $28,017 for private colleges and universities. Although tuition takes up the largest slice of your costs, you must also cover additional expenses, such as student fees, textbooks, transportation, and living expenses. An online master's degree can help you save on commuting and housing expenses. Some programs charge online students less expensive in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live.

Graduate students often offset the cost of their degree through financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans. Submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help you qualify for federal loans and government-sponsored grants.

How Much Do Counseling Master's Graduates Make?

How much you can earn as a counselor depends on several factors, including specialization, degree type, and location. Professionals in the high demand specializations of substance use, behavioral disorders, and mental health counseling make an average annual salary of $53,710 with the highest 10% earning over $89,920 a year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2023. Counseling master's graduates often earn less in their pre-licensure years, with a pay increase following independent licensure.

If you are willing to relocate, you may be able to boost your salary prospects. Alaska ranks as the highest-paying state for substance use, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, with an average salary of $77,430, followed by Utah at $70,310. The District of Columbia, New Jersey, and New York also offer some of the top counseling salaries, at over $67,000 a year.

Common Courses in Online Counseling Programs

A master's in counseling typically requires 60 hours of core courses, concentrations, and electives, and includes a fieldwork experience. Concentrations help you to develop a practice focus in specialized areas, such as addictions, behavioral, mental health, and school and career counseling. While each program offers a unique curriculum, you can expect to take courses like those listed below.

  • Group Counseling and Psychotherapy

    This course explores group dynamics, with an emphasis on theoretical and experiential understanding of purpose, development, dynamics, methods, and skills. Students learn applications to decision-making groups, educational groups, therapy groups, and human-service delivery groups and systems.
  • Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling

    Students in this course develop an understanding of the ACA ethical standards and their application to treatment. Readings and assignments introduce students to professional counseling ethics, decision-making models, and major ethical and legal issues in contemporary counseling practice.
  • Multicultural Counseling

    This course addresses multicultural counseling in a diverse society. Students explore how social and cultural identity issues emerge in counseling, how power and privilege affect treatment, and how microaggressions impact communication and transparency.

Counseling Certifications and Licensure

You need a state-issued license to practice as a professional counselor. While licensure regulations vary by state, all licensing boards require at least a master's degree in counseling, completion of supervised field hours, passing a national exam, and, in some cases, passing a state exam that assesses knowledge of ethical standards and state laws.

Counselors often pursue voluntary certifications to demonstrate their expertise in specific practice areas, such as addictions or mental health counseling. Certifications can help you advance in your career and increase your earning potential. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers three of the most sought-after certifications in the field:

National Certified Counselor

The NCC credential requires a master's or doctorate in counseling from a CACREP-accredited program or an institutionally accredited program approved by the NBCC. Your graduate-level coursework must cover specific content areas, including human growth and development, group counseling theories and processes, and assessment in counseling. All candidates for certification must complete 3,000 postgraduate hours of clinical counseling work experience and at least 100 hours of supervision.

Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor

Only counselors who hold NCC certification may apply for the CCMHC certification. This credential requires 60 graduate-level credits in counseling courses, such as advanced clinical skills, addictions or substance use counseling, and human sexuality counseling. In addition to completing 3,000 hours of clinical experience with clients and 100 supervision hours, you also must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.

The National Certified School Counselor

To qualify for the NCSC credential, you must already hold the NCC certification and obtain endorsement from a professional in the mental health field. You also need to complete specific coursework in school counseling and related areas and 100 hours of postgraduate counseling supervision. All candidates must have two years of experience as a school counselor. This certification also requires a passing score on the National Counselor Examination or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.

Frequently Asked Questions About Counseling Master's Programs

How can I identify the best online counseling program for me?

To find the best online counseling programs, look for indicators of program quality, such as accreditation, course and specialization offerings, and graduation rates. Does the program require in-person components? Is the curriculum offered in a fully online or in a hybrid format? Can you arrange fieldwork placements close to home?

Are the best counseling programs available online?

An online master's in counseling from a respected and accredited school prepares you for a career or doctoral studies just as well as an on-campus degree. Both degrees cover the same content areas, and your diploma does not indicate you completed your studies online.

How long does it take to become a counselor?

After earning your bachelor's degree, it may take three or more years to earn your master's and fulfill state licensing requirements. The time needed depends on whether you enrolled in a master's program as a full- or part-time student and how long you spend completing your internship and postsecondary supervised experience requirements.

What is the best degree to become a counselor?

A bachelor's in psychology, social work, or human services is a good starting point, but you will need a master's in counseling or counseling psychology to prepare for counseling careers, state licensure, or continuing studies in a doctoral program.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by Affordable Colleges Online. Page last reviewed May 28, 2024.

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