The best online master’s in counseling can prepare you for a career in mental health, substance misuse, child and adolescent counseling, and more.
The best online master’s degrees in counseling can prepare you for varied, rewarding careers in therapy. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 25% of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Around five percent of children from 4-17 suffer emotional and behavioral difficulties too. WIth one of the best online master’s in counseling, you’ll be able to prepare to join the forefront of mental health care remotely, without sacrificing your busy, working schedule.
What will I learn in a master’s degree in counseling?
The best online master’s degrees in counseling are no different from their traditional, campus-based counterparts. Some programs focus on a specific ‘type’ of counseling, such as marriage and family therapy or substance misuse, while others have broad curriculums that allow you to choose a specialization or gain a broad understanding of all areas.
The best online master’s degrees in counseling allow you to meet the necessary academic and clinical requirements to gain professional licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in your state or another state across the nation. Whether you’re already working as a counselor or want to enter the profession after graduation, these degree programs will help get you there.
What are the Best Counseling Degrees?
Accredited Online College uses the most recent data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Each program is scored individually. It’s then compared to all other universities offering that degree to determine the final score you see by each ranking. Accredited Online College considers the affordability, student-to-faculty ratio, and the number of programs offered on-campus and online. To learn more, visit our methodology page.
With Liberty University Online (LU Online), you can get your Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Comprising 60 credit hours, the program can be completed in around 2.5 years on average. You could also transfer up to half of this degree credit total from prior college study.
The program is offered entirely online and is accredited by the CACREP. and it has been ranked one of the best value master’s degrees in counseling by AffordableColleges.com. You’ll study courses such as:
- Human Growth and Development
- Crisis Counseling
- Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
Liberty University is committed to being an affordable option in addition to a great-quality university. Tuition has been frozen for a number of years, and typical undergraduate tuition rates are around $390 per credit hour for full-time course loads. For part-time study, it’s around $455 per credit hour.
At the University of North Texas (UNT), students have the option of a Rehabilitation Counseling Master of Science Online. Studying under the UNT College of Health and Public Science, you’ll complete 60 credit hours over a total of 19 fully online classes. This program has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report for its academic quality.
- counseling ethics and principles
- counseling techniques and theories
- research and program evaluation
- case management best practices
Upon successfully graduating from the program, you will be eligible to gain national certification as a rehabilitation counselor, in addition to state licensure as a professional counselor.
Typical tuition at UNT for Texas residents is just $50 per credit hour, while Oklahoma residents pay $100 per credit hour. Non-residents pay the higher rate of around $458 per credit hour. You can find a tuition and fees calculator on the university’s website for the most accurate estimate of your costs.
#3. University of the Cumberlands
At the University of the Cumberlands, you can enroll in an Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling. This degree is suited toward students who want to pursue careers in counseling for patients with substance abuse disorders. However, you could still work in other roles, including as a health educator, social administrator, community health worker, or postsecondary teacher for example.
This master’s program involves a lot of practical experience, with a 100-hour counseling practicum and two 300-hour internships available as part of the curriculum. Your academic studies will focus on areas such as psychopharmacology, family therapy, addictions, and motivation and change. The program is accredited by the CACREP.
Tuition at the University of the Cumberlands is a single, fixed rate for all undergraduate online programs. You’ll pay just $199 per credit hour, in addition to a bi-termly technology fee of $50. Master’s programs such as this one are charged at a rate of $315 per credit hour.
#4. Lamar University
Lamar University offers an M.Ed. Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree via the College of Education and Human Development. The program has been designed for those who already possess a bachelor’s degree and want to pursue a career as a mental health counselor. Your 60 credit hours of coursework is specifically tailored toward this role.
The program also involves a practicum and internship, which will give you valuable hands-on experience in a counseling setting. Field experience courses last for 15 weeks in the Fall and Spring and 10 weeks in the Summer semester. They may include:
- school counseling
- marriage, couples and family counseling
- clinical mental health counseling placements
Typical tuition at Lamar University depends on your residency. While Texas residents pay around $682.71, non-residents pay the higher rate of around $1,091.71 for graduate programs. There are additional fees to consider, including a $100 student center fee and $30-per-credit-hour technology service charge for online programs.
The MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at NC Central University is offered entirely online via the NCCU Online campus. Comprising 60 credit hours of course work in total, you’ll be prepared to work as a clinical mental health counselor in non-profit, private, and other settings. The program is classified as a Criteria C institution for licensure as a Clinical Addictions Specialist, and you’ll need to complete three additional courses if you would like to pursue LCAS licensure.
For admission into the program, you’ll need to possess a bachelor’s degree in which you obtained a minimum GPA of 2.7. You’ll also need to evidence your GRE, all official transcripts, and provide two recommendations. You should also be prepared to write an admissions essay as part of your application.
In-state tuition rates at NCCU Online are lower than average, with undergraduates paying around $91.00 per credit hour and graduates paying around $157.11 per credit hour. Out-of-state students pay around $441.62 for undergraduate programs and $669.83 as a graduate student. More information on rates can be found on the tuition page.
At Concordia University Wisconsin, you can enroll in a Master of Science in Education, with either a School Counseling Licensure or Professional Counseling Licensure. You’ll complete between 45 and 60 credits and learn from a faculty that includes instructors with experience in the counseling profession.
If you’re interested in pursuing the SAC-IT (Substance Abuse Counselor in Training) credential with WI DSPS, then you can opt to complete additional coursework to this end. Similarly, you can choose to gain a Christian Counseling certificate during the course of your studies.
Graduate students studying an online program will pay around $646 per credit hour under the Department of Graduate Education. The university has also recently launched four scholarships exclusively designed for adult learners, which range from $150 to $500 per course. You can find more information about scholarships on the university’s website.
Adams State University offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling. Collectively, these programs are accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, CACREP, and The Colorado Department of Education. Upon graduation, you’ll meet the necessary requirements to gain licensure as a school counselor and/or Licensed Professional Counselor.
Core courses in this program focus on the knowledge needed by any counselor, such as lifespan development, group counseling, couples’ counseling, and addictions counseling. Depending on your chosen specialization, you’ll then take courses like Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Diagnosis & Psychopathology, or Comprehensive School Counseling and Professional School Counseling Issues.
Graduate tuition at Adams State University varies for traditional and online programs. Resident, on-campus students pay around $426.19 per credit hour including fees, while non-resident, on-campus students pay around $586.19 per credit hour. For online programs such as this one, you’ll pay around $452.80 per credit hour.
At Winston-Salem State University, you can enroll in a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. The aim of the program is to prepare students to work with those who have physical, psychosocial, developmental, and sensory disabilities. After graduation, you’ll be eligible to enter the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) examination.
Learning takes place online, and this involves both synchronous and asynchronous courses. What’s more, you’ll be able to choose from five concentrations including:
- Rehabilitation Counseling
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Vocational Evaluation
The department has enjoyed an average 97% program completion rate in recent years.
Graduates at Winston-Salem State University pay around $231.08 per credit hour as state residents or $726.91 per credit hour as non-residents. Including all fees, full-time students in this program will pay around $2,824.34 and $8,845.70, respectively. Fees include educational and technology fees and student government fees.
Bellevue University offers a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that’s accredited by CACREP. Students can choose from a traditional, face-to-face program or an entirely online program of study. The curriculum has been modeled on existing licensing standards for clinical mental health counselors, so you can take your licensure examination after graduation.
Courses include those such as:
- Theories of Psychopathology
- Foundations of Addictions Counseling
- Couples and Family Counseling
You’ll also complete 100 practicum hours and 600 clinical internship hours with around 40% of each involving direct client contact. If you’re not located close to campus, you can complete your clinical requirements close to your home.
As an online graduate student at Bellevue University, you’ll pay tuition of around $610 per credit hour. You should also consider additional costs, including around $1,680 in online fees and other fees that you can find on the university’s website.
At the University of Alabama, you can enroll in a Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling that’s offered entirely online. It’s a master’s degree that has been ranked twice by U.S. News & World Report for its graduate and veterans graduate education quality.
While you’ll study online, you’ll benefit from live lectures and clinical experiences that impart valuable, hands-on experience in counseling. You’ll complete a total of 600 clinical hours as part of an internship experience. Courses include:
- Substance Abuse Counseling
- Rehabilitation Counseling
- Individual and Group Appraisal
- Case Management
For admission into this master’s degree program, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. You will also need to evidence a minimum GRE score of 300 or 50th percentile result from the MAT. Tuition costs for this program are around $440 per credit hour.
The University of West Alabama offers a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling via their online campus, UWA Online. Comprising 60 credit hours in total and 8-week courses, you can earn your master’s in around two to three years on average. The program is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in clinical mental health counseling.
You’ll complete a total of 9 credit hours in professional courses and 45 hours in concentration courses, including those such as:
- Techniques of Counseling
- Counseling Children and Adolescents
- Diagnostic Techniques in Counseling
For admissions consideration, you’ll be expected to submit a portfolio that includes an essay describing your career goals. You’ll also need to provide three recommendations and complete a video interview.
UWA Online charges graduate tuition of around $429.00 per credit hour for master’s degree programs. You’ll also need to cover a technology fee of $60 per session and clinical experience fee of $50. Rates are competitive compared to other nearby universities, with a handy comparison on the university’s website highlighting the value for money gained.
The M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at LeTourneau University comprises 66 credit hours and is offered entirely online. For admission, you’ll need to have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited institution, with a minimum GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
You’ll complete 45 credit hours of core curriculum coursework in areas that cover basic and advanced knowledge. Courses include:
- Research Methods
- Counseling Skills and Techniques
- Lifespan Human Development
These will help ground you in the key skills and knowledge required by counselors. You’ll advance your understanding with courses such as:
- Group Counseling Methods
- Counseling Diverse Populations
Typical graduate tuition for an online student is around $10,890 to $19,200 annually, with your total cost depending on whether you are transferring credits from prior college-level study. Books and supplies may come in at around $1,755 too. A more detailed view of program costs can be found on the university’s website.
Prairie View A&M University offers a Master of Science in Educational Administrations (MSED). Unlike some master’s programs, this program can be completed in as little as one year, comprising just 30 credit hours. The MSED is designed for students who don’t intend on becoming a certified principal.
Alternatively, you can enroll in the Master of Arts Emphasis on School Counseling (MA) or Master of Education in Educational Administration (MED) programs. These comprise 48 credit hours and 36 credit hours, respectively. The first focuses on the eight core areas specified by the CACREP, while the second is for students who intend on becoming certified principals.
To obtain a closer estimate of your full costs, you can use the tuition calculator on the university’s website. Typical online tuition for a graduate student is around $576.97 per credit hour, which includes an installment fee, scholarship fee, and university services fee.
Accredited by the CACREP, the Master of Science in Counseling (M.S.) at the University of Louisiana offers four separate concentration areas. These are:
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- School Counseling
- Addictions Counseling
- Combined Option
The program comprises 60 credit hours and can be completed entirely online, with no residency requirement.
Students interested in a particular field can also opt to select from 30 elective courses that can be used to specialize at a greater level within a specific area. Should you choose the Combined Option, you’ll specialize in two areas as opposed to one. However, this option involves a total of 75 credit hours of study. You can also pursue LPC licensure and school certification.
Tuition for ULM Online programs is straightforward, with a single rate for all programs. As a graduate student taking an online program, you’ll pay around $500.00 per credit hour, with undergraduates paying $400.00 per credit hour. This includes all fees, with no surprises.
Mid-America Christian University offers a Master of Science in Counseling with a Licensed Professional Counselor Emphasis. Biblical principles are woven into the curriculum of this program that is intended to prepare you for work in a number of clinical settings or Christian ministries. All classes are available online, though you also have the option of attending weekly campus-based classes in Oklahoma City.
While faith-based principles are used throughout the program, all classes are instructed in scientific methods. Your instructors also draw on real-world experience in counseling settings, and many instructors are licensed counselors too. Admissions criteria are fairly relaxed, with a lower GP and test score required than many other institutions.
MACU offers competitive tuition rates and a number of scholarship options to help you cover the cost of your graduate degree. Typical graduate tuition at MACU costs around $400 to $642 per credit hour. Scholarships, while competitive, are generous; you can find more information on scholarship awards on the institution’s website.
Clarks Summit University offers a Master of Science in Counseling that is available as a traditional or fully online program. In addition to having a strong academic foundation and core courses in counseling, the program will prepare you to take the National Certified Counselor (NCC) examination. This means you’ll be able to gain Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) licensure.
As a Christian university, Clarks Summit allows you to customize your studies so that you can focus on areas related to your personal and spiritual goals. You can choose a concentration and electives that best suit your preferred ministry or career. You’ll also have access to recordings of real counseling sessions that take place in the on-campus counseling center.
Clarks Summit is committed to avoiding any hidden fees as part of their tuition and fee schedules. For online and graduate programs, the tuition rate includes all technology and general fees. You’ll pay around $475 to $585 for graduate programs via distance learning, with this program costing the full rate of $585 per credit hour.
#17. Thomas University
Thomas University offers a fully online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling with a clinical focus. It’s dually accredited by both the Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP), making it the only program to hold such dual accreditation in the state. After graduation, you’ll be prepared to gain licensure as a professional counselor, in addition to the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC).
Class sizes are small and intimate; there’s a faculty-to-student ratio of just 1:10 in all core classes, and the ratio is even smaller during fieldwork. Should you choose to do so, you can opt to specialize in alcohol and addictions counseling by taking on 12 graduate level credits as part of your program.
Typical tuition for online graduate programs is around $725 per credit hour, slightly higher than the $524-570 for other online graduate programs. You can get the most accurate net cost of attendance by using this online calculator, and you can find textbook expenses using the online bookstore.
#18. Concordia University-Irvine
At Concordia University Irvine, you can enroll in a Master of Arts in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health via the Townsend Institute. Accredited by CACREP, this program will teach you how to assess and treat those struggling with mental health issues. You’ll learn more than 20 skills for transforming relationships, cognition, and emotions, and creating lasting change.
On the accelerated program, you can complete this program in 24 to 36 months. You’ll take courses such as:
- Human Growth and Development
- Theories of Counseling
- Clinical Psychopathology and Diagnosis
- Theory and Practice of Assessment
Courses are available entirely online and last for 7 weeks at a time.
Graduate tuition for this online program comes to around $670 per credit. The university also offers a Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision for students who are interested in pursuing further study. A comprehensive list of tuition and fees can be found on the university’s website.
California Baptist University offers a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology via the distance learning campus, CBU Online. There’s an emphasis on marriage and family therapy or professional clinical counseling, and the curriculum takes a Christian worldview in its teachings. After graduation, you can take the necessary examinations to obtain licensure in California as a marriage and family therapist or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).
The program has been ranked as one of the best master’s in psychology, in addition to CBU Online being designated as one of the best colleges in California. You can choose to study entirely online via asynchronous learning or in a virtual hybrid format, which sees you working synchronously with your cohort.
You will complete a total of 60 credits in this program that takes an average of around 24 months to finish. Tuition is charged on a per-credit basis, with the typical graduate tuition for an online program coming to around $45,000 annually. This is around $745 per credit hour.
#20. Eastern University
At Eastern University, the scope for focusing your counseling education is broad. You can enroll in a Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling, with a concentration in either Applied Behavior Analysis Certification or Trauma Studies. Alternatively, there’s a Master of Education in School Counseling and a Master of Science in School Psychology. Finally, a number of post-master’s certifications are offered in areas like:
- Professional Counseling
- School Counseling
- School Psychology
Admissions requirements are fairly lenient, with the master’s degrees commonly requiring a minimum GPA of 2.8 on a 4.0 scale for admission, though 3.0 is required for online or accelerated tracks. You will also be expected to have completed two prerequisite undergraduate courses in behavioral science.
At Eastern University, all master’s degrees and certifications in counseling, education, or psychology are charged at the same rate of tuition. You’ll pay around $762 per credit hour for these programs. Typical fees include a $187 per semester fee for any graduate counseling programs.
Lindsey Wilson College can help you to get your master’s degree in counseling via distance learning. At the LWC Online campus, you can earn a Master of Education (MED) in Counseling and Human Development, which is accredited by CACREP. All courses are offered online in 8-week blocks, and you can also choose to earn a Certificate in Substance Abuse Counseling simultaneously.
For admission into the program, you’ll be expected to submit an application with your transcripts from a bachelor’s degree, in addition to three recommendations. You will also have to complete an interview. If enrolled, you’ll study courses such as:
- Multicultural Counseling
- Personal Growth & Development
- Life Cycle Development in Individuals & Families
The program was recently ranked in a list of the Most Affordable Colleges for Counseling Degrees Online. Credits can be transferred for up to 25% of the required credit hours to reduce the cost of tuition. For graduate programs, tuition of around $484 per credit hour is due.
#22. Crown College
Crown College offers a Master of Arts in Counseling that incorporates Christian practices and values. You’ll study key skills required by counselors, while also understanding how to help others understand the spiritual side of their lives. By completing this program, you will satisfy the academic requirements needed for licensure as a professional counselor in Minnesota and many other U.S. states.
Coursework focuses on key areas such as:
- addictions counseling
- family counseling
- diversity and ethics
You will also complete a 700-hour internship experience that’s needed as part of your licensure requirements. The program has recently been ranked as one of the best counseling programs by study.com.
At Crown College, typically undergraduate students pay around $425 per credit, while graduate programs cost around $575 per credit (MBA degrees charge $600 per credit). The university offers some grant and scholarship options to help cover the cost of earning your master’s degree.
Hope International University offers an Online Master of Science in Counseling program. It has been ranked by PsychologyDegreeGuide.com as one of the 20 best graduate counseling programs in the country, and it will prepare you for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) licensure after graduation.
Courses last for between 8 and 16 weeks, though there’s a lot of flexibility to accommodate your schedule. This fully online program can be tailored to be finished within two or three years. You’ll also gain 3,000 supervised clinical hours’ worth of experience, which is needed for licensure.
Tuition for graduate programs at Hope International University varies. Those studying a Master of Arts pay the lowest rate of tuition at around $525 per credit hour. For this Master of Science program, you will pay around $650 per credit hour. For a list of fees and other costs, check out the university’s tuition and fee schedule.
At Indiana Wesleyan University, you can earn your Master of Arts with a Major in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This 60-credit-hour program is a licensure track that will prepare you to gain your counselor’s licensure after graduation. It’s accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and offers several practicum experiences for hands-on experience.
You’ll study courses that are common among counseling curriculums and essential for any counselor including:
- Multicultural Counseling
- Issues in Addiction Recovery
You’ll also have the opportunity to study more focused courses in:
- family counseling
- couples’ counseling
Other concentrations are available if your interests lie elsewhere. For example, you can major in Clinical Addictions Counseling, Community Care, Marriage and Family Counseling, or School Counseling instead. An additional track is available, which allows you to major in Student Development Administration and focus on counseling skills and techniques in the field of student development and higher education.
#25. Adler University
Adler University’s Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is a CACREP-accredited program taught by experienced counseling professionals. The curriculum includes 62 credit hours’ worth of study, with significant clinical experience too. You’ll be expected to complete a 200-hour social justice practicum, a 100-hour clinical practicum, and a 600-hour clinical internship before graduation.
As part of customizing your program, you will also get to choose two electives from a range of options. These include courses such as:
- Child & Adolescent Counseling
- Psychedelic-Assisted Counseling
- Animal Assisted Therapy
- Asian Meditation Therapies
The program has some of the most unique electives available at the forefront of clinical mental health therapies.
At Adler University, tuition is charged each term based on the number of credits being taken. In this program, you can expect to pay tuition of around $89,390 annually, which includes all fees. Tuition will be higher in the first year, reducing in the second, and finally being at its lowest in your graduating year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I become a counselor with a bachelor’s degree?
Some kinds of counseling opportunities are open to graduates whose highest level of academic attainment is a bachelor’s degree. You’ll find that requirements for different roles will vary from one state to the next, and from one opportunity or employer to the next, but you can still find entry-level work with a bachelor’s degree.
The majority of roles within the counseling field will ask for a bachelor’s degree as a minimum. For example, you could work as an addiction counselor or a school or college counselor. However, bear in mind that a master’s degree is normally required if you want to work as a mental health counselor.
With this exception, you might be surprised to find that there are roles out there that won’t require you to have a degree at all. Some counseling administrative positions will accept a high school diploma or a certification. However, to be a licensed, professional counselor, the best online master’s in counseling will provide you with extensive knowledge and training in a variety of subdisciplines.
What license do you need to be a counselor?
Licensure or certification is required in most cases to become a counseling practitioner. While some entry-level positions or administrative roles won’t ask you to gain additional licenses, most counseling fields mandate that you’ve passed an exam and gained licensure or certification to practice.
Most states will have two kinds of counseling licenses, which you’ll have read about above. One is the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), or similar, and the other is intended for graduates of master’s degree programs. The LPC is often the first kind of licensure that new graduates will seek. It is also one that the best online programs in counseling will prepare you to sit for.
To be eligible to sit the examination for the LPC and indeed other licenses, you will typically need to have met a certain number of supervised clinical experience hours. This is why master’s degrees in counseling have a practicum, internship, or both as part of the requirements. This will ensure that you graduate, in most cases, with enough experience to go straight into your licensure examination.
How much do counselors make?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a reliable source of information on average salaries for a range of professions. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for counselors working in substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health was around $47,660 in May 2020.
According to the same data, the earning potential for the highest 10 percent of earners was around $78,700 or higher, and the lowest 10 percent of earners made below $30,590. The highest salaries were seen in government agencies, while the lowest was in residential mental health and substance abuse facilities.
Getting your master’s degree in counseling will put you in the best position to seek higher earning potential, as you’ll improve your skills and knowledge, and you’ll be able to compete for the most respected and high-paying positions available. You might also consider taking any additional courses, licensures and certifications offered alongside your degree program.
What type of counselor should I be?
If you’re not sure which field of counseling is best for you, then consider asking around. Friends, family, and work colleagues can be a good source of inspiration to draw from. Failing that, the best accredited institutions have admissions advisors who can support you; some even have information days, allowing you to ask questions!
You should also think about the type of clients that you’d like to work with. Addiction counselors focus on problems related to substance abuse, gambling, sexual addictions, and so on. Mental health counselors work directly with clients who have been affected by a number of emotional, developmental, and mental disorders.
You could also consider career counseling, which involves helping people to choose their ideal careers. Or, you could work as a rehabilitation counselor and assist those who live with disabilities. This is not an exhaustive list, but you should think about your ideal kind of work and the type of clients with whom you’d like to be involved day today.