Earning an online master's in counseling prepares graduates for careers helping people understand themselves better so they can live happier, healthier lives. Graduates work as school and career counselors, marriage and family therapists, or substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for counseling professionals are projected to grow 22% between 2018-2028. This growth rate eclipses the national average for all occupations.

Jobs for counseling professionals are projected to grow 22% between 2018-2028

Some master's in counseling students also considered earning a master's in social work. Both degrees attract empathetic individuals and lead to careers helping people. However, social work primarily helps people navigate cultural and social institutions and systems, such as connecting a family with food stamps or affordable housing, while counseling focuses on helping people make changes to the way they think, behave, and relate to others.

Read on to learn what to expect from an online master's in counseling program, including typical curricula and concentrations, possible career paths, and certification and licensure requirements.

Best Online Master's in Counseling Programs

Northwestern University

Northwestern University partnered with faculty from The Family Institute (TFI) to develop an MA in counseling. TFI is a behavioral health organization that conducts research, offers clinical services, and administers programs to train the next generation of mental health professionals. Through this partnership, Northwestern administers its MA in counseling to learners online and at its campus in Evanston, Illinois. Students pursuing this master's in counseling learn theoretical approaches and evidence-based practices that equip them to help clients with mental health challenges.

Master of Arts in Counseling


  • Concentrations: Child and adolescent emphasis
  • Credits and courses: The program offers a standard 24-course program for students with counseling experience. Students without experience complete a bridge to counseling program, which requires three additional courses. The school uses a learning-by-doing model in which weekly online sessions and assignments supplement in-person clinical experiences.
  • How long does it take?: It takes nine academic quarters for full-time students and six quarters for accelerated learners to graduate.
  • Field education: Students complete 200 hours of a practicum and 600 hours of an internship at a Northwestern-approved site near them. Students must also engage in two immersions on campus in Chicago to develop their counselor identity and build community with peers and faculty.
  • Cost: $4,672/credit
  • Admission requirements: The program prefers that applicants hold an undergraduate degree in psychology or human services. The program is only open to U.S. residents and citizens.
  • Accreditation: Northwestern University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commision. Its MA in counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Wake Forest University

The Department of Counseling at Wake Forest offers an online MA in counseling with a concentration in clinical mental health. Designed for working professionals, this program enrolls students seeking career changes and those already working in counseling or human services. Renowned counseling thought leaders teach the challenging curriculum, resulting in a 95% pass rate on the National Counselor Exam for graduates. Graduates also receive acceptance to reputable doctoral programs at high rates.

Master of Arts in Counseling


  • Concentrations: Clinical mental health
  • Credits and courses: Students complete 60 credits of classes. In addition to foundation and beginning practice courses, students complete 18 credits of core courses and 22 credits of advanced practice courses focused on clinical mental health.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete this master's in counseling in two years.
  • Field education: The MA requires a 200-hour practicum, including at least 165 hours of field education in a community/mental health or school setting. Students must also complete a 600-hour clinical internship at a mental health counseling site. Students can secure an internship through the school's network of industry partners.
  • Online student support: Wake Forest offers tutoring services and 24/7 technical support.
  • Cost: $1,465/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should have a minimum 2.5 GPA and competitive scores on the GRE.
  • Accreditation: Wake Forest University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its MA in counseling in clinical mental health program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

New York University

NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development sustains a legacy of scholarship and public service, providing graduate psychology and counseling programs administered by the Department of Applied Psychology. Counseling programs incorporate theory, research, and practical applications of counseling strategies.

Students can pursue an MA in counseling for mental health and wellness through Steinhardt's virtual campus. Graduates of this master's in counseling program may work as licensed mental health counselors, facilitators, community leaders, or social justice advocates.

Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness


  • Credits and courses: Participants complete 60 credits of classes. Students enroll as a cohort and complete self-paced assignments, collaborating with peers on NYU's interactive online campus. Faculty deliver the program using live classes and give learners 24/7 access to recordings of past live sessions. The average class size is 15 students.
  • How long does it take?: Students can complete their MA in as few as 21 months. Learners may earn the degree in seven, eight, or 10 terms, depending on when they begin classes.
  • Field education: Students must complete 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of internship experiences at approved sites in their community. Steinhardt offers hundreds of potential sites across the country. Learners prepare for their practicum and internship in a virtual setting where they apply mental health counseling skills in client-therapist role-playing scenarios with a partner.
  • Online student support: Steinhardt offers comprehensive support services, including access to nearly 250 WeWork workspace locations, a dedicated online student support advisor, and 24/7 tech support.
  • Cost: $1,795/credit
  • Admission requirements: Admission into the master's in counseling requires school transcripts. Some experience in the mental health field -- even as a volunteer -- boosts a candidate's odds of acceptance.
  • Accreditation: New York University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MA in counseling for mental health and wellness program is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

Lincoln Christian University

Founded as a Bible school, Lincoln Christian University offers educational programs that blend academic rigor and religion. Located in Illinois, LCU offers a hybrid MA in counseling track that educates traditional and nontraditional learners. Students enroll as a cohort and complete the degree by viewing lectures and undertaking supervised clinical training. Graduates may work in clinical mental health facilities or church settings.

Master of Arts in Counseling


  • Credits and courses: Participants complete 60 credits. Faculty incorporate a biblical worldview into this seminary-based clinical mental health counseling program. Material is delivered through a combination of online and face-to-face training. Faculty deliver most classes in eight-week sessions. Students can use elective credits to pursue specialized training in an area of interest.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete this master's in counseling in two years.
  • Field education: Students begin their field experience with a supervised 100-hour practicum over a 10-week period. They then complete a 600-hour internship, including at least 240 hours of direct client service in a counseling setting.
  • Cost: $514/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA.
  • Accreditation: Lincoln Christian University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its MA in counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit University is a Christian college in Pennsylvania that includes a Baptist Bible seminary. The Bible's teachings inform programming at the school, including its online MS in counseling program. Faculty use a biblical counseling model that incorporates all of the skills and competencies learners need for state licensure or entry into doctoral programs in counseling or psychology. The school notes that every graduate from its MS in counseling track succeeds in passing the National Counselor Exam.

Master of Science in Counseling


  • Credits and courses: Students complete 60 credits of coursework. Faculty deliver classes using eight-week sessions. Students study online asynchronously, allowing them to fulfill any ministry, career, and/or family responsibilities.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can earn their degree in two years.
  • Field education: Students must complete a practicum and internship at a site approved by their clinical supervisor. Students can also acquire experience through observation at CSU's on-campus counseling center.
  • Transfer credits: Participants can transfer up to 20 credits into this online master's in counseling program.
  • Online student support: Distance learners gain access to an online writing center and the school's online library.
  • Cost: $550/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should have a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA. Additionally, their undergraduate coursework must include at least nine credits related to the Bible or theology.
  • Accreditation: Clarks Summit University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

The Department of Counseling and Social Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst employs interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches, links theory to practice, and uses a practitioner-scientist approach.

The department offers an online MS in mental health counseling for students unable to attend classes in Boston. The degree prepares learners for counseling careers in various settings, such as hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation agencies, and residential treatment facilities. Graduates of this online master's in counseling program can receive licensure through the Massachusetts Board of Allied Health Professions.

Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling


  • Credits and courses: Learners complete a total of 60 credits. Faculty employ synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods for this program. Students begin the program in the summer, completing one online course and two face-to-face courses during a two-week, on-campus intensive. Faculty deliver the rest of the program online with weekly synchronous meetings that allow students to interact with faculty and peers.
  • How long does it take?: Students can complete their degree after two years of full-time enrollment.
  • Field education: Learners complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship over two semesters. The school approves placement sites at public and nonprofit mental health treatment facilities.
  • Transfer credits: Students may transfer two three-credit courses into this program.
  • Online student support: UMass Amherst offers online students academic support such as writing help, tutorials, and workshops.
  • Cost: $575/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and have completed at least five social science courses. Some students may also need to submit GRE scores. Some paid or unpaid experience in a mental health setting is recommended.
  • Accreditation: The University of Massachusetts Amherst is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Its MS in mental health counseling program is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

LeTourneau University

LeTourneau University's School of Psychology and Counseling develops programs to enhance the lives of individuals, couples, families, and communities. LETU's MA in clinical mental health counseling integrates counseling with a Christian worldview to prepare counselors to care for the psychological and spiritual needs of clients. Students acquire the competencies necessary for Texas licensure as a mental health, school, or licensed professional counselors.

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling


  • Credits and courses: Students must complete 66 credits. The curriculum focuses on professional counseling, applied psychology, and practical theology.
  • How long does it take?: Students can complete the degree in two years of full-time enrollment.
  • Field education: Students complete a 100-hour practicum, including 40 hours of direct client service. After the practicum, students complete 600 hours of supervised counseling services that include 240 hours of direct client services. Before learners can begin the practicum, they must complete an applied lab, ethics, and treatment planning course to determine their readiness for clinical training; they must complete this four-day lab at the Longview campus.
  • Transfer credits: The chair of the graduate counseling programs determines whether an applicant's graduate credits can transfer into this master's in counseling program.
  • Online student support: Students enjoy access to one-on-one tutorial sessions administered by the writing center. Students may also schedule Skype appointments for online tutoring.
  • Cost: $615/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should hold a minimum cumulative 2.75 GPA and at least 12 credits of undergraduate psychology courses.
  • Accreditation: LeTourneau University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology develops graduate programs recognized for excellence and taught by faculty who work as clinicians. This Malibu-based school offers a cohort-based online MA in clinical psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy. Students learn about the social and psychological impacts of socioeconomics on individuals, couples, and families. They learn how to diagnose clients, develop treatment plans, and use counseling techniques to facilitate therapeutic processes.

Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy


  • Credits and courses: Students earn 62 credits, completing a practice-based degree plan focused on clinical applications. A cohort of about 12 students study in a live virtual classroom that employs seminar-style sessions. Learners also receive access to self-paced video lectures that they can download any time through the virtual campus or mobile app.
  • How long does it take?: Students can complete the online master's in counseling in two years of full-time enrollment.
  • Field education: Students engage in four field placements totaling 700 hours of clinical training, including 225 hours working directly with clients. Before their four field placements, students must complete a practicum course that teaches them how to complete case notes, apply various practices, and work with diverse clientele. Program officials help learners find practicum and internship opportunities.
  • Online student support: Online students can talk with student success advisors to learn about virtual learning at Pepperdine and receive tech support. Students also enjoy access to writing specialists who provide tutoring services online. All online students receive a complimentary WeWork Global Access membership that allows them to work and study at any of 240 locations in more than 20 countries.
  • Cost: $1,585/unit
  • Admission requirements: Students should have completed recent psychology courses at the baccalaureate level and submit their GRE scores.
  • Accreditation: Pepperdine University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. Its MA in clinical psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association.

California State University - Northridge

The Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at California State University, Northridge prepares educators and counselors to work with individuals, families, and groups. The department offers a hybrid MS in counseling in marriage and family therapy that provides learners with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience necessary for licensure as a marriage and family therapist and professional clinical counselor in California, as well as in most other states.

The curriculum emphasizes evidence- and strengths-based approaches as students develop proficiencies in various specialties, including parenting, substance abuse, sexual abuse, career interventions, and severe mental illness.

Master of Science in Counseling in Marriage and Family Therapy


  • Credits and courses: Students take 64-67 credits in sequence. Faculty deliver the program using a hybrid format. Students complete the program in a cohort.
  • How long does it take?: Students can complete the online master's in counseling in two years of full-time enrollment.
  • Field education: The MS requires a practicum course that includes at least 40 hours of direct service with clients. Learners then complete a supervised 600-hour internship to acquire hands-on experience in an approved setting.
  • Cost: Tuition rates vary depending on a student's work load.
  • Admission requirements: Minimum 2.5 GPA in the last 60 semester units of a bachelor's degree, SAT or MAT scores for some students, and a minimum "B-" on prerequisite courses.
  • Accreditation: California State University, Northridge is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. Its MS in counseling in marriage and family therapy program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Milligan College

Milligan College is a Christian liberal arts school for aspiring servant leaders. Located in Tennessee, Milligan offers a hybrid MS in counseling with three specializations. Faculty incorporate a Christian perspective into the curriculum and facilitate personalized learning with small classes. Faculty work in the fields they teach, bringing practical experience to the classroom. The addictions counseling concentration receives support from leading healthcare organizations in Tennessee, including Ballad Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee.

Master of Science in Counseling


  • Concentrations: Addictions, clinical mental health, and school counseling
  • Credits and courses: Students must take 60 credits for the addictions and clinical mental health concentrations and 48-54 credits for the school counseling concentration. Learners in the clinical mental health concentration can further customize their degree with electives in areas such as crisis intervention, child and adolescent counseling, child sexual abuse, and psychopharmacology. Students must take some classes on the school's main campus and supplement in-person sessions with online courses.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete the degree in two years.
  • Field education: After a practicum, students in all three concentrations complete a 600-hour internship. In addition to providing counseling sessions to the school community, the Milligan Counseling Center provides internship and practicum experiences for students in the online master's in counseling program.
  • Transfer credits: Students may transfer up to nine credits into the MSC.
  • Cost: $460/credit
  • Admission requirements: Admission requires prerequisite courses in psychology. Students with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA do not need to submit GRE scores.
  • Accreditation: Milligan College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

West Virginia University

West Virginia University's Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling, and Counseling Psychology offers an online MS in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling with a required residency component. Aspiring counselors learn how to help clients manage challenges such as substance abuse disorders, mental illnesses, and physical disabilities. Many of the program's graduates go onto work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as mental health or vocational rehabilitation counselors.

Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling


  • Credits and courses: Students take 63 credits of coursework. The online program's dual specialization immerses students in a dynamic curriculum that includes courses such as couples and family counseling, diagnosis and treatment planning, rehabilitation client services, and career development and job placement. Students must attend a residency on campus in Morgantown.
  • How long does it take?: Students can complete the degree in two years of full-time enrollment.
  • Field education: Participants complete a practicum and 600 hours of field education at clinics, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and/or similar facilities.
  • Online student support: Students enjoy access to enrollment coaches and academic advisors.
  • Cost: $628/credit
  • Admission requirements: Students should hold a minimum cumulative 2.8 GPA and submit GRE or MAT scores.
  • Accreditation: West Virginia University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its MS in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Oregon State University

Since 1976, the Counseling Academic Unit at Oregon State University has offered graduate degrees through its extended campus. Today, the unit partners with OSU's eCampus to offer a part-time master of counseling with specializations in school counseling and clinical mental health counseling, both of which are delivered in a hybrid format.

Students learn from scholars renowned for their research and professional expertise. Faculty's guiding values include social justice, the use of research to inform practice, and identifying new ways to address human problems.

Master of Counseling


  • Concentrations: School counseling and clinical mental health counseling.
  • Credits and courses: Learners take 75-90 quarter credits. The school counseling specialization requires 75 credits, while the clinical mental health counseling specialization requires 90 credits. Students take half of their courses online and half of their courses on campus. The program includes synchronous and asynchronous components.
  • How long does it take?: Part-time students can complete this degree in three years.
  • Field education: The master's in counseling program requires a 100-200-hour practicum to develop learners' counseling skills before they enroll in their internship, which requires 600 hours of field education completed over three terms.
  • Online student support: OSU offers comprehensive services, such as success coaches who partner with students to address issues such as time management and academic skill development. Through NetTutor, students receive access to free online tutoring and an online writing lab. Online students also enjoy access to the library and support services 24/7.
  • Cost: $560/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and previous bachelor's coursework in psychology and human development and family studies is preferred.
  • Accreditation: Oregon State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges And Universities. Its online master of counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

John Brown University

John Brown University is a leader in Christian higher education. This Arkansas-based college offers a hybrid MS in clinical mental health counseling. Students learn from faculty who hold experience as educators, counselors, and clinical supervisors. This degree emphasizes counseling from a Christian worldview, developing students' spiritual growth in conjunction with their proficiency as counselors.

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling


  • Concentrations: Play therapy emphasis
  • Credits and courses: Learners take 64-79 credits. The MS in clinical mental health counseling requires 64 credits. However, students may choose to concurrently pursue an MS in marriage and family therapy by taking a total of 79 credits. Students must complete some on-campus courses at one of three locations: Little Rock, Rogers, or Siloam Springs. Learners complete about one-third of their courses in this master's in counseling program online.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete the degree in two years.
  • Field education: Students complete two practica and two internships that include a minimum of 500 direct client hours.
  • Online student support: Students enjoy access to a variety of services, such as academic counseling, information technology assistance, and career development.
  • Cost: $560/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit GRE scores.
  • Accreditation: John Brown University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Crown College

Located in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, Crown College prepares learners for lives of service and leadership. A top Christian college, Crown offers online graduate programs, such as an MA in counseling that meet the needs of nontraditional learners. Faculty weave a biblical and Christian worldview throughout the program. The curriculum blends theoretical knowledge with collaborative activities and mock counseling sessions that simulate real counseling scenarios.

The program offers a unique elective course in equine-assisted therapy. This fully online degree satisfies the professional counselor requirements in Minnesota and some other states.

Master of Arts in Counseling


  • Credits and courses: Learners must complete a total of 60 credits. Students can complete the degree entirely online, with the exception of four-day residencies on the Crown campus in May each year of the program.
  • How long does it take?: Students typically complete courses in four semesters, followed by a one- or two-semester internship.
  • Field education: Students complete a 700-hour internship to meet state licensure requirements.
  • Transfer credits: Students should contact the program director to to ask transfer-related questions.
  • Online student support: Online learners benefit from free online tutoring, one-on-one academic advising, and online community groups.
  • Cost: $530/credit
  • Admission requirements: Admission into this online master's in counseling program requires a minimum 2.5 GPA.
  • Accreditation: Crown College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Messiah College

Messiah College is a Christian school located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The School of Graduate Studies offers an online MA in counseling developed by experienced counselors and accomplished scholars. In keeping with the school's values, the program integrates faith throughout the curriculum to promote justice, dignity, and reconciliation.

Messiah facilitates personalized learning with a low student-to-faculty ratio. The master's in counseling program prepares counselors for licensure in Pennsylvania.

Master of Arts in Counseling


  • Concentrations: School counseling, clinical mental health counseling, and marriage, couple and family counseling
  • Credits and courses: Students complete 30 credits of core courses and 30 credits of concentration courses. Students can take most of their courses online and supplement virtual learning with weeklong intensives on campus in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete the degree in two years.
  • Field education: Learners complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour supervised internship in professional settings.
  • Transfer credits: Messiah allows students to transfer in up to 18 credits earned with a minimum "B" grade.
  • Online student support: Students can receive online tutoring through the writing center.
  • Cost: $690/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA and prerequisite courses in subjects such as psychology, human development, and social work.
  • Accreditation: Messiah College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MA in counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University is the world's leading college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Abraham Lincoln signed Gallaudet University's charter, and the school -- located in Washington, D.C. -- has been a beacon for deaf and hard-of-hearing people ever since. The Department of Counseling offers the world's only graduate programs with specializations that train counselors to work with deaf and hard-of-hearing clients.

Established in 1986, the school's MA in clinical mental health counseling trains counselors to address the unique needs of this population in psychiatric hospitals, psychosocial rehabilitation programs, and other facilities. Eligible participants may receive federal funding, stipends, and/or tuition assistance.

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling


  • Credits and courses: Learners take 69 credits of classes. Students complete the first year in a traditional classroom setting at Gallaudet University. In their second year, students complete coursework online, supplementing their studies with fieldwork.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete the program in two years.
  • Field education: Participants complete a 200-hour practicum in a mental health setting with deaf and hard-of-hearing clients in the Washington, D.C., Metro area. They also complete a 600-hour internship in a mental health agency outside of the Washington, D.C., area. Students need at least 280 contact hours to graduate. The department helps students find field placements.
  • Cost: $18,180 per annum
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA, at least nine undergraduate credits in psychology, and enough American Sign Language proficiency to complete an interview.
  • Accreditation: Gallaudet University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MA in mental health counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Eastern University

Located near Philadelphia, Eastern University is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA. The school offers a fully online MA in clinical counseling, which is administered by its Counseling Psychology Department. Faculty integrate psychology and Christianity into the curriculum.

Students acquire an in-depth understanding of the human personality and experience; learn how to implement strategies to positively affect change in individuals, families, communities, and churches; and prepare for professional credentialing in Pennsylvania and other states.

Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling


  • Concentrations: Students can pursue applied behavior analysis (ABA) certification.
  • Credits and courses: Participants must take 60 credits of classes. Students can complete the degree in a fully online or hybrid format. In addition to required courses, students can choose from a variety of electives in areas such as substance abuse counseling and marriage and family therapy. The ABA concentration's course sequence meets the educational requirements needed to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Examination.
  • How long does it take?: Students can complete their degree fully online in three or four years. The department also offers an accelerated track that students complete in a blended format, taking asynchronous online classes and evening sessions on campus in St. David's.
  • Field education: The practicum focuses on psychotherapy integration and includes a 100-hour field placement. Students also complete a 600-hour field placement in their second year.
  • Online student support: Learners receive access to career development resources such as job search software, networking opportunities, and career events.
  • Cost: $725/credit
  • Admission requirements: Admission into this master's in counseling program requires a minimum 2.8 GPA, at least two undergraduate behavioral science courses, and GRE or MAT scores for applicants with lower GPA scores.
  • Accreditation: Easter University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MA in counseling program is fully accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

Concordia University - Irvine

The Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University Irvine was founded by John Townsend -- a psychologist and New York Times bestselling author. The institute offers several degree programs, including an MA in counseling.

The curriculum incorporates neuroscience, research, and biblical content from Townsend's books and teachings. The MA in counseling program teaches learners the skills needed to help clients deal with complex challenges, such as depression, relational problems, and addictions. Students in this fully online program acquire the diagnostic skills needed to treat these issues with appropriate therapeutic approaches. The program can lead to licensure in most states.

Master of Arts in Counseling


  • Credits and courses: To graduate, students must complete 60 credits. At the beginning of the program, learners attend a four-day, three-credit intensive at CUI to connect with other members in their cohort. Experiential assignments allow students to collaborate with classmates, and learners use elective credits to gain expertise in areas such as psychopharmacology.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete the program in two years.
  • Field education: Participants complete two 100-hour practica and a 600-hour internship that includes direct service hours.
  • Online student support: The institute's faculty and fellows provide learners with ongoing access to their expertise, including answers to questions about course material.
  • Cost: $595/unit
  • Admission requirements: Admission into this master's in counseling requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Accreditation: Concordia University Irvine is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. Its MA in counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Regent University

One of the nation's top Christian colleges, Regent University offers undergraduate and graduate programs to thousands of students worldwide. The school delivers several online counseling degrees in an intimate learning environment. Regent offers an online MA in clinical mental health counseling.

Students examine psychological issues from a Christian perspective while gaining the skills necessary to become professional counselors. This program prepares learners for state licensure in Virginia and some other states.

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling


  • Credits and courses: This degree requires 60 credits. Students can complete their program mostly online, with the exception of two one-week residencies. These residencies allow students to network with peers, participate in workshops, and work with faculty. Students can choose whether to attend each residency in January or August.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students generally earn their degree in two years. Those who seek to accelerate degree completion can complete both the January and August residencies in their first year.
  • Field education: Students develop advanced skills during a course that requires a practicum in a mental health or school setting. Participants also complete at least 600 field hours under the supervision of a trained mental health or marriage, couple, and family professional.
  • Online student support: Online students enjoy access to networking events and coaching and consultation services.
  • Cost: $710/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a field such as counseling or psychology, earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Accreditation: Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its MA in clinical mental health counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Corban University

Corban University is an independent Christian college located in Salem, Oregon. Counseling faculty at Corban boast significant clinical experience in various specializations, including PTSD, play therapy, depression, bipolar and personality disorders, and marriage and family therapy.

The hybrid MA in clinical mental health counseling meets standards established by the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists. Faculty blend counseling theories and practice with biblical values. Learners study topics such as ethical practice, social and cultural diversity, and research methodology and its application in practice.

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling


  • Credits and courses: The curriculum consists of 60 credits. Students enroll as a cohort and complete the program in a hybrid format with online courses supplemented by evening on-campus courses in Salem. Cohorts start each fall.
  • How long does it take?: Students can complete the degree in two years of full-time enrollment.
  • Field education: Students complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour, two-term internship. Students spend about 240 hours of their field experience working directly with clients.
  • Online student support: Academic support includes free proofreading of papers and academic tutoring.
  • Cost: $620/credit
  • Admission requirements: Admission into this online master's in counseling program requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and a character reference.
  • Accreditation: Corban University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges And Universities. Its MA in clinical mental health counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Bradley University

A private college in Peoria, Illinois, Bradley University offers more than 185 academic programs. The school offers an online MA in counseling with specializations in clinical mental health and professional school counseling. Students acquire the competencies needed to serve as skilled and socially responsible counselors in a variety of mental health, community, and educational settings.

A key feature of counseling education at Bradley involves a groundbreaking practice called neurocounseling, which examines the impact of counseling on brain function. Faculty use instruction, demonstrations, and simulations to teach students how to administer interventions that help clients improve brain function by managing emotions and behaviors. This degree prepares learners to sit for the National Counselor Exam.

Master of Arts in Counseling


  • Concentrations: Clinical mental health counseling and professional school counseling
  • Credits and courses: Counseling students complete 60-61 credits. All students take core counseling courses and 6-8 credits of specialty courses in clinical mental health or professional school counseling. Students also complete two one-week, campus-based residencies in addition to online learning. The first residency takes place in the first term.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete the degree in two years.
  • Field education: Students complete one 100-hour practicum and two internships totalling 600 hours.
  • Cost: $910/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA over their last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework.
  • Accreditation: Bradley University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commision. Its MA in counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University maintains a significant presence in Florida with a main campus in Fort Lauderdale and regional campuses across the state. The school's College of Psychology employs distinguished faculty with various specializations and research expertise. The college offers graduate programs in counseling and experimental, forensic, and clinical and school psychology. The online MS in counseling offers several concentrations, including mental health counseling and applied behavior analysis.

Master of Science in Counseling


  • Concentrations: Students can pursue concentrations in mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, substance abuse counseling and education, applied behavior analysis, and advanced applied behavior analysis. In some cases, students can complete two concentrations.
  • Credits and courses: The MS requires 48-60 credits, depending on the concentration. Students may enroll on a full- or part-time basis, completing the degree fully online except for field experiences.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete the degree in two years.
  • Field education: All students complete practica and counseling internships to develop advanced skills in interviewing, assessment, and intervention.
  • Transfer credits: Learners may transfer up to six graduate credits into this master's in counseling program.
  • Cost: $790/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should have a minimum 2.5 GPA over their last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework.
  • Accreditation: Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Seton Hall University

Located in South Orange, New Jersey, Seton Hall University is one of the nation's top Catholic colleges. The school's Department of Professional Psychology and Family Therapy administers a fully online MA/Ed.S. in professional counseling. The degree prepares learners for careers as professional mental health counselors. Participants learn skills and intervention techniques grounded in theory. The combined MA and Ed.S. coursework meets the academic requirements for professional counselor licensure in New Jersey and most states.

Master of Arts/Educational Specialist in Professional Counseling


  • Credits and courses: The master's track requires 48 credits and the Ed.S. requires an additional 12 credits of advanced coursework. Students supplement online learning with two four-day residencies on campus, where they meet face-to-face with faculty and peers. Students complete the degree in a cohort.
  • How long does it take?: Students complete 20 courses over 10 terms.
  • Field education: Students complete a 100-hour practicum and three internships totalling 900 hours.
  • Cost: $765/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should hold a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA and submit GRE or MAT scores.
  • Accreditation: Seton Hall University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its MA/Ed.S. in professional counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Lakeland University

Lakeland University is a private liberal arts college in Plymouth, Wisconsin. Affiliated with the United Church of Christ, Lakeland specializes in programs for nontraditional learners, functioning as a state leader in evening, weekend, and online education. The school offers a hybrid MA in counseling with three specializations. Students can complete this program online or at seven centers throughout the state in cities such as Green Bay and Milwaukee.

Master of Arts in Counseling


  • Concentrations: School counseling, clinical mental health counseling, and higher education counseling and student affairs
  • Credits and courses: Students take 48-60 credits, depending on their specialization. The school counseling emphasis leads to licensure and certification as a Wisconsin school counselor. The clinical mental health counseling emphasis meets the education requirements for the Wisconsin licensed professional counselor credential. The higher education counseling and student affairs emphasis meets standards established by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education and the American College Personnel Association.
  • How long does it take?: Most students earn their degrees within three years.
  • Field education: Students complete a 125-hour practicum and two internships totalling 600 hours.
  • Cost: $627/credit
  • Admission requirements: Admission into this online master's in counseling program requires a minimum cumulative 2.75 GPA.
  • Accreditation: Lakeland University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Louisiana at Monroe

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a leader in distance education, offering coursework through ULM Online. ULM's Department of Counseling faculty are experts in areas such as school counseling, trauma work, play therapy, and family and couples therapy. Faculty use scientist-practitioner and humanistic models to develop highly skilled school and clinical mental health counselors.

The MS in counseling offers school and clinical mental health counseling tracks through ULM Online. Graduates possess the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to pursue successful counseling careers. They can find employment in diverse settings, such as schools, nursing homes, and government facilities.

Master of Science in Counseling


  • Concentrations: School counseling and clinical mental health counseling
  • Credits and courses: Learners take 60 credits of classes. The school counseling curriculum meets the educational requirements for school counselor licensure in Louisiana, while the clinical mental health counseling curriculum meets the educational requirements for the licensed professional counselor credential in Louisiana.
  • How long does it take?: Full-time students can complete their online master's in counseling in two years.
  • Field education: Students complete at least 100 hours of a practicum and a minimum of 600 hours of an internship over two semesters.
  • Cost: $803/credit
  • Admission requirements: Applicants should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit GRE scores.
  • Accreditation: The University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its MS in counseling program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

What to Expect From an Online Master's in Counseling Program

Accreditation

Students should look for an online master's in counseling program that holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP evaluates counseling programs for their academic quality and professional and financial stability.

Attending a CACREP-accredited program presents practical career advantages. Many state counseling licensing boards prefer or require counselors to hold a CACREP-accredited degree.

Curriculum in an Online Master's in Counseling

Earning an online master's in counseling prepares graduates for most professional counseling careers, including clinical counseling. Students explore foundational theories of psychology and counseling, professional ethics, and practical counseling skills.

Programs often focus on the conscious and unconscious factors that affect people and their decision-making processes. Students learn about counseling research methods, advocacy, multiculturalism and diversity, and case management. Learners gain active listening, interpersonal, speaking, and analytical skills while developing compassion and empathy. Most programs also emphasize the creation of a professional counselor identity.

Curricula in online master's in counseling programs vary by school. Typical classes include human growth and development, psychopathology and diagnosis, and treatment and case management. Students often specialize in a subfield of counseling, like school counseling, mental health counseling, career counseling, or marriage and family therapy.

Most online master's in counseling programs include practicum and internship requirements in addition to coursework. Most state licensing boards require prospective counselors to complete an internship. CACREP also stipulates that master's students complete a supervised internship working with clients.

Professional learning experiences like practica and internships give students the opportunity to put theory into practice and work with clients under the supervision of an experienced counselor. Students must often complete around 600 internship clock hours, including direct and indirect client contact, individual supervision, record keeping, and personal growth and professional development work. Many online counseling master's programs help distance learners set up a clinical internship in their local communities.

Master's in Counseling Concentrations

Graduate students in counseling usually select an area of specialization or concentration. This allows them to focus on a specialized subfield of counseling that aligns with their professional interests.

  • School Counseling

    This concentration gives learners an advanced understanding of professional counseling in school settings and working with K-12 children and young adults. Specializing in this area often leads to a career as a school counselor after graduation.

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling

    A clinical mental health counseling concentration prepares students for careers as mental health counselors. Counselors in this specialty typically work in a clinical setting. Coursework explores assessment and treatment of mental health disorders in patients.

  • Substance Abuse Counseling

    Students who concentrate in substance abuse counseling learn how to provide treatment to people struggling with addiction and alcoholism. After graduation, they can work as substance abuse counselors.

Online Master's in Counseling Careers

Graduates of online master's in counseling programs can pursue many counseling careers. Some of the most popular job titles include school and career counselor; marriage and family therapist; and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor.

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help K-12 students succeed in school. They focus on addressing issues like bullying, planning for college, drug abuse, and eating disorders. Career counselors help their clients find appropriate careers. They guide them through the job search, resume writing, and interview processes.

Median Annual Salary: $56,310

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help people deal with problems in their marriages or other family relationships. They may help clients work through situations like divorce, layoffs, or other difficult life changes.

Median Annual Salary: $50,090

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Counselors who specialize in substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health work with people struggling with drug addiction, alcoholism, and a variety of mental or behavioral problems. They help clients modify their behaviors and live healthier lives.

Median Annual Salary: $44,630

Certification and Licensure Requirements

Graduates of online master's in counseling programs can pursue certification, licensure, or both. The following sections look at the similarities and differences between these two options.

Licensure

Most states require graduates of online master's in counseling programs to earn licensure before they can practice. Earning a license proves professional competency to potential employers.

Licensure requirements for professional counselors vary by state. Students should check with the state counseling licensing board in the state where they plan to work to learn specific criteria. Applicants seeking a professional counseling license must often meet the following requirements:

  • Hold a master's in counseling from a CACREP-accredited program or its equivalent

  • Complete two years or 2,000 hours of post-master's professional experience and 100 hours of supervision

  • Earn a passing score on the National Counselor Exam

Every state requires licensure of mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and public school counselors. Some states also require school counselors to hold a teaching license. Licensure requirements for other specialties, like substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling, vary by state. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers more information about state licensure.

Certification

A voluntary process of demonstrating knowledge, skills, and experience, certification communicates professional competence to potential employers and colleagues. Certification differs from licensure because it is not a legal requirement. Many counselors pursue both certification and licensure.

Counselors can earn certifications to differentiate themselves from other professionals and to demonstrate specialized skills and knowledge that extend beyond licensure requirements. Certification can prove especially important for individuals specializing in a subfield of counseling, such as school counseling, substance abuse counseling, or grief counseling.

NBCC offers many voluntary credentials, including the National Certified Counselor credential and specialty certifications like Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Master Addictions Counselor, and National Certified School Counselor.

Typical requirements for certification include a master's degree in counseling or a related field from a regionally accredited school, completion of coursework in specified content areas, postgraduate counseling supervision, and work experience. Candidates must also earn a passing score on a national counseling exam.

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