Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling

Counseling requires a strong sense of empathy and good listening skills. As a counselor, you can find work in a range of environments, including schools, hospitals, and mental health clinics; duties may vary. Regardless of environment, the primary goal remains the same: to help people work through life’s various challenges using the tools of modern psychology.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for mental health counselors to grow by 19% by 2024, which is faster than average, and most advanced positions in the field require a master’s degree. These schools offer a mix of affordability, convenience, and academic prestige, preparing you for a rewarding career.

Online Master’s in Counseling at a Glance

Fast Facts

Time to Complete 2 years
Credit Hours 36-60 hours
Concentrations
  • Addiction Counseling
  • School Counseling
  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Accreditation Council for the Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs, Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council
Additional Considerations Nearly all degree programs include a clinical experience component, and most counseling positions require state licensure.

30 Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Counseling
Rank School Score Toggle Content
1

Fort Hays State University

Value Score 8.83
Average Tuition $3,094
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 87%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $206

FHSU has prioritized distance education for more than 20 years, with the school’s Virtual College system offering online degrees to more than 6,000 students. FHSU’s online programs are commonly rated amongst the best in the country, and the school’s affordable tuition ranks among the lowest 2% of all U.S. colleges. The college offers an online master’s in counseling degree with two concentrations: clinical mental health counseling and school counseling.

The MS in mental health counseling prepares students to support clients of all ages, and to strengthen communities through social, cultural, and educational efforts. The MS in school counseling focuses on K-12 students, preparing graduates to help young adults develop social and academic skills. Students in the school counseling concentration must visit campus for three, four-day sessions. The mental health counseling students can take half of their required courses online.


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2

Chadron State College

Value Score 8.82
Average Tuition $3,199
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 98%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $178

Based in Chadron, Nebraska, CSC is a small public university with an enrollment of about 3,000 students. Chandron is a top regional provider of online education, offering online tuition with no out-of-state fees. The school’s master's of arts in education, clinical mental health counseling program prepares students to serve as counselors in various health settings. In addition to core courses in family development, crisis counseling, and counseling ethics, students perform two intensive practicum courses and an internship. These additional requirements allow students to gain crucial counseling experience in a hands-on environment.

Courses in the online master's degree in counseling are offered primarily online, though some selections are only available on campus. Applicants to the program must complete an in-person interview in Chadron, and those who are accepted must complete an in-person orientation session in either Chadron or North Platte.


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3

University of Massachusetts - Boston

Value Score 8.68
Average Tuition $2,590
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 31%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $108

Recognized as a top U.S. university, UMass maintains a prestigious distance education program known as UMassOnline. Founded in 2001, UMassOnline offers more than 140 online degrees to students around the world, leveraging the resources of all five UMass institutions to provide accessible, affordable online programs.

The master's of science in mental health counseling program at UMass prepares students for professional counseling positions in a range of community and healthcare settings, from schools and hospitals to clinics and residential treatment facilities. The MS in mental health counseling is organized into a cohort model, allowing students to build deeper connections by moving through the entire program in a close-knit group. Aside from a two-week campus session during the first summer semester, all courses in the program are available entirely online. Graduates are prepared for Massachusetts Mental Health Counselor licensure after fulfilling some additional clinical experience requirements.


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4

University of the Cumberlands

Value Score 8.51
Average Tuition $5,238
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 99%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $291

UC is a private religious college based in Williamsburg, Kentucky, located between Lexington and Knoxville. The school’s online master's in counseling program accepts students year-round, offering a bi-semester system with six start dates throughout the year. The master’s of arts in professional counseling degree offers specializations in clinical mental health counseling and addiction counseling.

Students in the addiction counseling track specialize in counseling, intervention, and prevention as they relates to substance abuse and dependency issues. The mental health counseling track trains students to become well-rounded general mental health practitioners in community settings. Before graduating, all students are required to pass the UC Counselor Comprehensive Exam, which tests knowledge of eight core areas designated by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. There is no additional cost for taking the UC Counselor Comprehensive Exam.


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5

Adams State University

Value Score 8.50
Average Tuition $4,428
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 95%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $246

ASU is a public liberal arts college in Alamosa, Colorado, and is designated as the regional education provider for southern Colorado. ASU emphasizes a commitment to underserved student populations like first-generation college students, ethnic minorities, and low-income learners. The school offers an affordable online master's of arts in counseling education with specializations available in either clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. Mental health counseling students learn a range of diagnostic and intervention skills for health and community settings, from hospitals and clinics to private practices and residential treatment facilities. School counseling students prepare to work as K-12 counselors, encouraging academic achievement through counseling, consulting, and student advocacy.

While nearly all courses for the online master's in counseling are offered online, students are required to attend two week-long campus sessions in Alamosa, one during each summer semester. The intensive sessions allow for more in-depth interactions with faculty members and other students, which helps students develop their interpersonal and communication skills.


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6

University of Houston - Victoria

Value Score 8.24
Average Tuition $5,148
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 91%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $359

Part of the University of Houston system, UHV is located in Victoria, about two hours southwest of Houston. Home to around 4,000 students, the college ranks as one of the most affordable in the region, offering students a cheap and well-respected online master’s degree in counseling. The school’s master's of arts in counseling psychology program prepares students to assess the needs of patients and provide high-quality psychotherapy and counseling. The program features a prominent clinical component, meeting the academic requirements for Texas Licensed Professional Counselor certification. Students in the program develop key counseling skills including clinical interviewing, behavioral classification, client evaluation, crisis intervention, and crisis consultation. The degree also includes an advanced counseling practicum that lets students work directly under the supervision of a counseling professional. Graduates are prepared for work in a variety of public and private health settings, from psychiatric hospitals to university treatment centers.


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7

Summit University of Pennsylvania

Value Score 7.54
Average Tuition $6,501
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 66%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $361

Occupying a 141-acre suburban campus in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, SU is a Baptist-affiliated college that offers Christ-centered education to nearly 1,000 students. The college’s master's of science in counseling program prepares students to pursue counseling positions in the health sector and the ministry. The degree is available in a predominantly online format, though it does require nine on-campus credits, offered in week-long modules available during summer semesters.

Summit offers online courses in eight-week blocks, with five convenient start dates throughout the year. Graduates are prepared to sit for the National Certified Counselor Exam and to apply for Licensed Professional Counselor status. The degree typically takes around three years to complete, though Summit also offers a fully online master's of arts in counseling that takes about half the time, intended for students who are not pursuing professional licensure.


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8

Lamar University

Value Score 7.45
Average Tuition $5,724
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 78%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $318

Located in Beaumont, Texas, about 90 miles east of Houston, LU is an emerging university that is home to more than 15,000 students. The school’s esteemed academics and cheap tuition have made it one of the fastest growing colleges in the state, and its online programs are particularly well regarded. LU’s master's of education in clinical mental health counseling teaches students how to provide counseling services to diverse client populations, preparing them for work in clinical health care settings. Primary topics in the program include therapeutic processes, human development principles, mental health strategies, and effective counseling techniques. Students will acquire the necessary skills to help their clients make positive changes in their lives both socially and emotionally. The program also requires students to receive professional preparation and experiential learning components, including an academic residency seminar, internships, and a clinical practicum.


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9

Corban University

Value Score 7.36
Average Tuition $8,295
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $520

Established in 1935, Corban is a Christian college located in Salem, Oregon, about 45 miles south of Portland. Corban University consistently ranks as one of the best Western colleges due in large part to its affordable tuition and respected academic programs. The school is dedicated to community outreach and opportunity, making Corban a popular choice for students interested in pursuing a master's degree in counseling online.

The college’s master's of arts in counseling is a hybrid degree that combines online courses with a once weekly on-campus session. The program offers clinical mental health training from a Christ-centered perspective, allowing students to incorporate biblical values and ethics into their mental health practice. Corban operates the Corban Mental Health Clinic, in partnership with the Salem Free Clinics, providing high-quality mental healthcare to the Salem community. Counseling students intern at the clinic under faculty supervision, where they’ll gain hands-on experience as they offer counseling services to individuals, couples, and groups.


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10

Touro University Worldwide

Value Score 7.19
Average Tuition $9,000
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $500

TUW is an online college that serves students all over the world as a part of the Touro College and University System. Students in the school’s MA in marriage and family therapy gain an understanding of family dynamics, exploring the link between family/marital dysfunction, and mental and emotional disorders. The program offers three different tracks: non-clinical (18 core courses), clinical (20 core courses), and licensed professional clinical counseling (25 core courses). The clinical and licensure tracks both require an additional practicum and face-to-face clinical hours, while the non-clinical track can be completed entirely through online courses. TUW is dedicated to underserved students, and the school offers a range of tuition assistance options for those earning their master's degree in counseling online. In addition to cheap tuition, all applicants to the counseling program receive a waiver for their application fee.


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11

University of Louisiana at Monroe

Value Score 6.73
Average Tuition $5,550
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 44%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $410

ULM is a member of the University of Louisiana System, serving more than 8,500 students from its campus in Monroe. ULM is one of the top online colleges in the state, and the school offers a renowned online master's degree in counseling. The school’s master's of science in counseling program offers two tracks: clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. The clinical mental health track prepares students to provide counseling, educational, and supportive services to diverse client populations, while the school counseling track applies the same skills but for student populations. Both concentrations emphasize the core competencies and skills required for the counseling field, and graduates leave equipped for a wide range of careers in mental health and counseling. ULM also maintains a Community Counseling Clinic staffed by graduate counseling students, allowing them to gain practical counseling experience and offer human services to members of the Monroe community.


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12

Campbellsville University

Value Score 6.50
Average Tuition $8,370
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 89%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $465

CU is a private Christian university that was founded in 1905 in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Today the school enrolls more than 3,000 students of all denominations and is praised as one of the best Christian colleges in the nation. CU’s online master's in counseling is equally as respected in the region. The master's of arts in education in school guidance counseling emphasizes the skills necessary to meet the social, educational, and emotional needs of K-12 students. The program is focused on essential theories and practices of school counseling, and covers topics like group counseling, human development, cultural competency, substance abuse, and college readiness. The program stresses real-world preparation, requiring students to complete 300 hours of clinical school fieldwork as part of the curriculum. Courses are available online, and fieldwork can be performed within students’ own communities.


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13

Bellevue University

Value Score 6.34
Average Tuition $9,270
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 90%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $515

Bellevue is an innovator in online education, enrolling students from all 50 U.S. states and several countries in its distance learning programs. The school is highly specialized for adult education, with students over age 25 comprising a significant portion of its enrollment. Bellevue’s master's of science in clinical counseling curriculum emphasizes the professional skills, knowledge, and industry practices necessary to teach students how to become successful mental health counselors. The program covers foundational topics like counseling theories, research practices, and ethics, along with more advanced courses in disorder diagnosis, cultural diversity, group processes, and both couples and family counseling. The curriculum stresses real-world preparation and includes 100 practicum hours plus 600 clinical internship hours, giving students the hands-on experience necessary to prepare them for professional practice. Students may complete their internship and practicum hours in their own communities as long as they gain approval from Bellevue’s Clinical Coordinator.


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14

Huntington University

Value Score 6.33
Average Tuition $8,798
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 11%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $396

Huntington is an Indiana-based Christian college that offers an online master's of arts in counseling available to all U.S. residents. Online students begin the program with a three-day campus intensive known as the Personal Development Skills Process Group, a counseling and leadership symposium that involves new students, faculty, and members of the public. The core of the online master's degree in counseling is a hybrid of faith and science, simultaneously encompassing neuroscience, biblical scripture, and research-driven methods. Students take courses covering fundamental topics of counseling, including human development, social and cultural foundations, psychopathology, and ethics, along with an extensive clinical practicum and internship.

Indiana students are required to take 60 credits to earn their degree, while out-of-state students may only need to take as few as 48 credits, depending on their state’s licensure requirements. Consequently, online students at Huntington are responsible for understanding their own state licensure requirements and choosing courses accordingly.


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15

Southern California Seminary

Value Score 6.00
Average Tuition $10,260
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 66%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $380

El Cajon-based SCS was founded in 1946 and offers an affordable Christian education that is rooted in biblical study. The school is recognized as one of the top Christian colleges in the state and has also earned praise for its online programs, particularly its online master's in counseling. The online MA in Christian counseling places the practice of counseling in a biblical framework, preparing students for counseling and advising positions in the church or similar settings. The curriculum offers a strong biblical and theological foundation and includes fundamental counseling topics like psychology, human development, and ethics. Students also learn how to interpret the Bible, allowing them to apply biblical knowledge directly to counseling practices. The program is typically completed in 16-24 months, and includes five courses in biblical study and theology, eight courses in counseling, two electives, and one graduate research course.


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16

Grace College and Theological Seminary

Value Score 5.95
Average Tuition $8,592
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 48%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $537

Grace serves Christian students of all denominations from its rural campus in Winona Lake, Indiana. With generous scholarship and financial aid packages, Grace is one of the most affordable Christian colleges in the region, and is regarded as one of the best in the Midwest. Grace’s master’s of arts in clinical mental health counseling offers a foundation in scripture, which teaches the principles of psychology and social sciences through this biblical lens. In addition to essential clinical skills and knowledge, the program stresses the professional and interpersonal competencies needed to start an effective counseling practice. While the online master’s degree in counseling is primarily offered through distance courses, the program does require an annual week-long campus residency. Graduates are prepared to earn their license in mental health counseling, an industry standard for work in both secular and religious settings.


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17

Concordia University - Wisconsin

Value Score 5.53
Average Tuition $9,540
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $530

A private Lutheran liberal arts college in Mequon, CUW serves more than 2,400 online students annually and offers cheap, faith-based education that includes a 25% tuition discount for Christian educators. Students earning their master's degree in counseling online from CUW can choose from two distinct degrees: a master's of science in education – family life or a master's of science in education – counseling.

The family life degree trains students to help families navigate transitions and life events, addressing critical needs through a combination of counseling theories and Christian perspectives. The counseling degree offers specializations in either school counseling or professional counseling, with either preparing students to plan, establish, operate, and evaluate counseling programs in schools and communities. The family life program includes a cumulative capstone project drawing together key program principles, while the counseling program requires both a professional practicum and an internship.


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18

Liberty University

Value Score 5.53
Average Tuition $9,360
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 97%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $565

Liberty University is the largest Christian university in the world, boasting an extensive distance education programs that serves most of the school’s 110,000 students. Liberty is a top online university, and its online master's in counseling program has ranked among the best and most affordable in the nation. Liberty allows students to earn a master's of arts in human services counseling in one of several concentrations, including addictions and recovery, Christian ministry, marriage and family counseling, and military resilience. Liberty’s degree concentrations emphasize the skills necessary for assisting different client populations through a combination of Christian faith and traditional counseling practices. Students in each concentration take core courses including human growth and development, introduction to human services, and multicultural issues in human services, along with specialized electives relating their focus. All online counseling courses at Liberty are offered online.


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19

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Value Score 5.26
Average Tuition $10,080
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 93%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $560

SAGU is a private Christian university based in Waxahachie, Texas, about 30 minutes south of Dallas. Founded in 1943, the college emphasizes a biblical liberal arts education with a theological and professional focus. SAGU is a small college, with an enrollment of around 2,000 students. The school has offered distance education programs for more than 25 years, and its counseling programs earn high praise among institutions of its size. SAGU offers several online master's in counseling degrees, including a master’s of education in school counseling, a master’s of divinity in counseling, and a master’s of science in counseling psychology (clinical) or counseling psychology – human services (non-clinical). Most courses for each degree are available entirely online, through the counseling psychology program requires students to take seven on-campus courses, available for either evening or weekend study.


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20

Mid-America Christian University

Value Score 4.42
Average Tuition $13,560
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 75%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $565

Originally established in Texas, MACU now resides in Oklahoma City thanks to the school’s 1984 expansion project. Today, the college serves more than 2,400 students, offering a liberal arts education rooted in Christian values. The school is dedicated to cheap, accessible education, and offers a range of grants and scholarship programs that are easily viewable online. MACU offers an online master's of science in counseling with five available concentrations: clinical mental health counseling; marital, couples and family counseling/therapy; pastoral and spiritual direction; clinical mental health and addictions counseling; and applied behavioral science. Each concentration emphasizes a Christian perspective toward human services, includes core classes in human development, ethics and professional studies, psychopathology and research methods, along with specialized elective courses. All counseling courses at MACU are available completely online and range from 5–10 weeks in length.


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21

California Baptist University

Value Score 4.33
Average Tuition $10,674
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 24%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $593

CBU is a private Christian college in Riverside and one of the top religious schools in the state. CBU’s master's of science in counseling psychology prepares students for careers in either marriage and family therapy or professional clinical counseling, meeting licensure requirements for both fields in the state. Students learn how to counsel individuals, couples, and families from both a psychological and spiritual perspective, helping clients navigate relational difficulties.

CBU offers online programs in two formats: an asynchronous mode that lets students examine course material and complete assignments at their own pace, and a virtual hybrid mode that incorporates video conferencing for live interactions with faculty and other students. Before graduating, students must complete a comprehensive written exam that tests their general counseling knowledge with in-depth scenarios in topics such as ethics, treatment planning, and diagnosis.


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22

Union Institute & University

Value Score 4.04
Average Tuition $18,672
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $778

Established in 1964 by a consortium of 10 colleges interested in progressive education, UI&U is a nonprofit university that primarily offers low residency and distance education programs to adult learners. The school’s MA in clinical mental health counseling is a hybrid program that combines online learning with one campus residency experience each term, available at locations in either Brattleboro, Vermont or Cincinnati, Ohio. The curriculum includes both self-paced and asynchronous work alongside live sessions that allow students to meet with other students and faculty in-person.

Students complete core courses in counseling theory and practice, appraisal and diagnostic techniques, and helping relationships, along with specialized advanced courses in tests and measurement, clinical consultation, and more. The curriculum also includes a practicum course, multiple internships, and a final capstone course. The program is typically completed in about two years, with graduates prepared for licensure as either professional counselors or clinical mental health counselors.


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23

Ottawa University - Phoenix

Value Score 4.00
Average Tuition $10,710
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $595

OU’s Phoenix, Arizona campus is just one of six across the country, and the university serves a total of 7,000 students through both residential and online programs. Students at OU can choose from two online master's in counseling programs: a master's of arts in counseling and a master's of arts in counseling: addiction counseling. Counseling is a generalized degree that allows students to specialize in one of six areas: Christian counseling, expressive arts therapy, gerocounseling, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling or treatment of trauma, and abuse and deprivation. The addiction counseling program trains students to treat clients with substance abuse and dependency disorders, preparing them for work in hospitals, substance abuse clinics, and private practices.

Students in both programs complete significant practicum courses in clinical or other human services settings. While the addiction counseling degree is available fully online, the counseling degree requires students to participate in two week-long campus residency sessions in Phoenix.


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24

Colorado Christian University

Value Score 3.82
Average Tuition $13,881
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 65%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $610

One of the top Christian colleges in both Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region, CCU serves over 7,000 students through its online programs and a main campus in Lakewood, about 10 miles from Denver. The school’s master's of arts in counseling incorporates online coursework, clinical experience, and expert mentorship to offer students a comprehensive degree that combines both Christian faith and advanced counseling principles. While most courses are offered fully online, CCU does require students to participate in three, five-day residential training sessions throughout the program. These residency sessions allow students to further develop skills in key program areas like group interaction, community engagement, and field experience. CCU’s program is one of the top ranked in Colorado, with graduates scoring 15% higher than the national average on the industry standard National Counselor Exam. Most practicum supervisors also report that CCU students are more clinically prepared than counseling students from other colleges.


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25

Prescott College

Value Score 3.31
Average Tuition $17,760
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 59%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $740

Prescott is a private liberal arts college in Prescott, Arizona dedicated to progressive, experience-based education. The college offers a limited residency master's of science in counseling program with five specializations: clinical mental health counseling, marriage, couple and family counseling, rehabilitation counseling, addictions counseling, and school counseling. Students in all tracks receive an interdisciplinary education that covers mental health issues in a local, global and professional context, emphasizing both academic and cultural competence. The program’s curriculum emphasizes best practices for client empowerment.

Prescott is one of just a few colleges in the country to offer several unique, innovative counseling concentrations, including adventure-based psychotherapy, ecotherapy, equine therapy, and expressive art therapy. Students earning their online master's degree in counseling must attend an orientation session to begin their first semester, along with one weekend-long colloquia session on campus each fall and spring semester. Colloquia sessions typically include student presentations, workshops, seminars and lectures from keynote speakers.


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26

Nova Southeastern University

Value Score 3.23
Average Tuition $15,882
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 55%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $882

Fort Lauderdale-based NSU is the largest independent university in the Southeastern U.S., with an annual enrollment of more than 24,000 students. The school’s online master's in counseling is offered through the Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus, an online platform that brings together the academic resources of several southern colleges and certifies that all programs comply with rigorous academic standards.

The online master's of science in counseling features four specialization areas: mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling and education, applied behavior analysis, and advanced applied behavior analysis. The MS in counseling degree is intended for professionals in the field seeking advanced training. The program trains students to create, provide, and maintain quality human and mental health services, as students develop both clinical skills and hone their leadership styles. The curriculum includes foundational courses such as group theory and practice, individual testing and research, and evaluation for counselors.


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27

Mercy College

Value Score 3.16
Average Tuition $14,952
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 33%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $814

A private liberal arts college in Dobbs Ferry, New York, Mercy’s affordable tuition and rate of graduate success make it one of the top online colleges in the state. Mercy is a leader in online graduate education, and the school is a popular choice for students pursuing an online master's degree in counseling. Mercy offers both a master’s of science in mental health counseling and a master’s of science in counseling with several options for certification, including school counseling, school counseling with a bilingual extension, alcohol/substance abuse counseling, and retirement counseling.

The mental health counseling degree prepares students for clinical licensure, putting them on track for the 3,000-hour externship necessary to become a mental health counselor in New York State. The counseling degree is applicable to careers at schools and other public and private agencies, preparing students to apply counseling techniques of advocacy, assessment, prevention, and intervention to help students and other client populations.


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28

Medaille College

Value Score 3.03
Average Tuition $14,688
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 34%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $816

Based in Buffalo, New York, Medaille is a private liberal arts and sciences college that emphasizes collaborative, experienced-based learning. The school’s enrollment of under 3,000 allows for smaller class sizes and a more student-centered focus than at larger institutions. Medaille’s online master's of arts in clinical mental health counseling features a fixed sequence of 17 courses, 14 of which are weekend courses with the rest available online. The program also requires three semesters of clinical practicum and internship.

The asynchronous online format allows students to complete coursework on their own schedule. However, the program does require five days of campus visits each school year for face-to-face activities. Students gain clinical experience at the Medaille Family Counseling Center, a fully-licensed outpatient treatment facility that offers mental health counseling to families and individuals. Graduates are prepared for mental health counselor licensure in New York State.


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29

Seton Hall University

Value Score 2.53
Average Tuition $19,800
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 20%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $1,100

Home to more than 10,000 students, Seton Hall is one of the country’s top Catholic universities, earning praise for its prestigious online programs. Students pursuing an online master's in counseling from Seton Hall have two options: the master's of arts/educational specialist in professional counseling and the master's of arts in school counseling. The professional counseling program prepares students to become mental health counselors and features primarily online coursework, though students must complete two campus residencies. The school counseling degree prepares graduates to become effective advocates for K-12 students, developing skills as counselors, consultants, collaborators, and leaders. The program includes both a counseling practicum and an internship at a school. Both degrees offer a cohort learning model, in which students move through the course sequence together in a group, completing the program together.


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30

Northwestern University

Value Score 2.28
Average Tuition $46,836
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 13%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $5,555

One of the top universities in the country, Northwestern operates a main campus in Evanston, Illinois, along with satellite locations in both Chicago and Doha, Qatar. The school’s master's of arts in counseling combines a traditional theoretical education with in-depth clinical training experiences, helping students become skilled, self-reflective mental health counselors. The program offers both a standard track for students with an academic background in counseling, and a bridge track for students with no experience in the area. The degree also offers an optional child and adolescent specialization, which includes extra courses in child and adolescent counseling, psychotherapy, and human growth and development.

Regardless of program track, students gain experience through immersive clinical training, including hundreds of hours of practicum and internship work. All classes are available entirely online, but the program does require two weekend-long campus immersion experiences in Chicago. Students can also complete practicum hours at approved local clinical sites.


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What Will I Learn in My Master’s in Counseling Program?

Sample Coursework

Students gain general skills in the assessment of human behaviors and strategies for helping patients alleviate emotional and psychological problems. Students typically gain hands-on experience through a clinical experience that allows them to work in a counseling facility.

  • Counseling Theories Students explore the history of counseling and psychotherapy theories, examining the uses and limitations of different theories in the application to patient treatment. Students also gain the skills to assess current theories and research for use in their own practice
  • Multicultural Counseling This course centers on diversity in counseling populations and the relationship between identity and counseling practices. Students examine the roles of race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other factors on counseling strategies, including their impact on patient/counselor relationships
  • Human Growth and Development Students gain a broad perspective on the human lifespan, exploring developmental maturation throughout different life milestones, including childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and late adulthood. The course typically covers issues of environmental influence, social development, and learning
  • Group Counseling This course centers on the practice of group counseling, giving students a comprehensive overview of approaches to group therapy for varied populations and age groups. Students explore various approaches to group counseling and theories of group dynamics and group processes
  • Counseling Practicum Most counseling programs require students to perform an internship or practicum experience (often multiple experiences) at a licensed counseling facility. Available locally for distance learners, these experiences build skills through the application of theoretical learning in counseling practices

Concentrations

Most students earning their online master’s in counseling choose a concentration, which allows them to gain deeper knowledge in one specialized area. These concentrations typically correspond to different career paths, determining which type of counseling practice graduates pursue.

  • Addictions Counseling

    This concentration focuses on addictive behaviors, covering concepts of addiction assessment, treatment, prevention, and clinical skills. Students gain an understanding of the psychology of addiction, exploring its origins and solutions

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling

    Falling closest to the general perception of counseling, this concentration trains students to assist patients with emotional and psychological problems, and often includes the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness

  • School Counseling

    This specialization trains graduates to serve as school counselors in K-12 settings, offering emotional, social, academic, and career assistance to students, like family issues, bullying, and college selection

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Counseling Graduates

MASTER’S IN COUNSELING CAREERS

Graduates with an online master’s degree in counseling are prepared for work in a range of positions and fields, including mental counseling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and public education. Counselors in all fields draw on a similar skillset; empathy, communication, and compassion are all important. Counselors in all fields deal with psychological and emotional issues from patients, making the work unpredictable and mentally taxing. The following list outlines some of the most popular occupations for counselors.

Mental Health Counselor

$44,170 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Mental health counselors help patients overcome mental and emotional problems, both internally and with family members and other relationships. Their main role is to listen to client’s problems and offer strategies to help them improve their lives. A master’s degree is the minimum requirement for most positions in the field.

Projected Growth Rate 19%

Substance Abuse Counselor

$41,070 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Abuse and addictions counselors assist patients who suffer from alcoholism, eating disorders, drug addiction, and other issues. Working environments include mental health centers, private practices, and prisons. Addictions counselors give clients the skills to modify behavior and conquer addiction.

Projected Growth Rate 22%

Rehabilitation Counselor

$34,670 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Rehabilitation counselors work with patients who have physical, emotional, developmental, and mental disabilities, helping them manage these issues and live independently. They may help elderly patients adjust to physical ailments or illnesses, or help veterans readjust to civilian life. A master’s degree is typically required for most rehabilitation counselor positions.

Projected Growth Rate 9%

School Counselor

$54,560 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

These counselors typically work in K-12 schools, both public and private, helping students develop the social, academic, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and life. They may also work in higher education settings, counseling students on academic and career success.

Projected Growth Rate 8%

Social Worker

$46,890 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Social workers help individuals and communities deal with everyday problems, from family issues to work. While a master’s degree is not typically required for social work, professionals with advanced degrees are more likely to find higher paying leadership positions. Clinical social workers with a master’s may also diagnose and treat mental and behavioral issues.

Projected Growth Rate 12%

Licensure and Certification

Counselors in all states must pursue licensure to practice professionally, but requirements for examination and required schooling can vary between states. Typically, an online master’s in counseling program will meet all requirements for state licensure, though students attempting to work in a different state should consult the local licensing board. Counselors can also pursue various industry certifications, which demonstrate professional achievement and can lead to more career opportunities.

  • National Certified Counselor

    Indicating significant experience in the field of counseling, the nationally-recognized NCC designation is available only to professionals who possess master’s degrees and at least 3,000 hours of counseling experience

  • Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor

    A professional standard for mental health counselors, the CCMHC designation also requires a master’s degree and at least 3,000 hours of clinical experience

  • Certified Rehabilitation Counselor

    The CRC designation is the premier credential for rehabilitation counselors and must be renewed every five years

JOB PLACEMENT

While the counseling field is typically driven more by passion than by profit, a master’s degree is a common choice for professionals looking for greater responsibility, job opportunities, and pay. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce reports that counselors who receive a master’s degree go on to earn an average of 43% more than those with a bachelor’s. Many higher paying careers in the field also require professional licensure. A master’s degree also gives graduates more options when it comes to job placement, opening opportunities in a range of positions and industries.

MASTER’S IN COUNSELING SALARY

Salaries for counselors can vary widely between industry, position, and experience level, but location also plays a significant role. The following chart ranks the highest paying states for mental health counselors, using data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In general, rural states with lower population levels tend to offer the highest salaries.

State Annual Median Salary
Alaska $65,500
Utah $61,000
Wyoming $58,000
Oregon $55,600
New Jersey $53,400

Financing Your Online Master’s in Counseling Program

You can save on tuition and transportation costs by earning your master’s degree in counseling online, and with options to finance your degree, it can be even cheaper. Counseling jobs are in high demand, and there are several grants and scholarships aimed at students pursuing a graduate degree in the field. Filling out your FAFSA gives you access to range of scholarships, work study options, and student loans. Below is a list of scholarships available to counseling students.

David Pilon Scholarship for Training in Professional Psychology

Overview Available through the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS), the David Pilon Scholarship for Training in Professional Psychology is intended for grad students pursuing psychology or counseling.
Amount Offered $1,000
Scholarship Deadline May 2018
Eligibility Requirements Student must be a member of APAGS and be enrolled at least half-time.

APA Society Convention Research Awards

Overview Offered by Psi Chi, the International Psychology Honor Society, the APA Society Convention Research Award is available to students who have completed an original research project in counseling or psychology.
Amount Offered $500
Scholarship Deadline January 2018
Eligibility Requirements Student must submit a completed research project and be able to present the project at the American Psychological Association conference if selected.

Graduate Student Research Award

Overview Graduate Student Research Award, made available through the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, is intended for graduate students pursuing original research in marriage or family therapy.
Amount Offered $2,500
Scholarship Deadline January 2018
Eligibility Requirements Student must present a research proposal for a related project and be able to travel to present their research at a conference.

Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Scholarship

Overview Presented by the Melanie Foundation, the Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Scholarship is intended for students pursuing either graduate or doctoral study in the mental health field.
Amount Offered $2,500
Scholarship Deadline January 2018
Eligibility Requirements Students must be enrolled in an accredited mental health program and demonstrate a desire to assist the mental health of communities.

Ronald D. Lunceford Scholarship

Overview Offered by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, the Ronald D. Lunceford Scholarship is intended for ethnic minority students pursuing studies in marriage and family therapy.
Amount Offered $4,000
Scholarship Deadline January 2018
Eligibility Requirements Student must be an ethnic minority and be enrolled in an accredited program leading to marriage and family therapy licensure.