Master's Degrees in Counseling in California

by

Updated January 4, 2023

Looking for the best Master's Degree in Counseling in California? You should consider these top-tier graduate programs and jobs in the counseling field.

TheBestSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Credit: uschools | E+ | Getty Images

Master's Degrees in Counseling in California

Earning a Master's Degree in Counseling in California

Students should consider the best degrees in California for counseling if they wish to advance their careers. Master's degree-seekers are well-prepared to pursue diverse career paths. Having a master's degree can lead to employment in the workforce or help with entry into doctoral programs.

Master's degree-holders typically earn about $1,574 per week. Master's graduates are more likely to be employed than those with a high school diploma, with an unemployment rate of 2.6%.

Master's in Counseling Programs for You

Working and Living in California in the Counseling Profession

A degree in counseling helps students train to help people resolve life problems and difficulties such as communication breakdowns, marital conflicts, children’s behavioral problems, and substance abuse. Programs also prepare students for further graduate study in mental health professions such as clinical psychology.

The median annual salary in California is $47,920, or $23.04 per hour. This holds true for the state's 16,529,810 employees. On average, the lowest 10% of earners receive $29,780 annually, while the highest 10% earn $130,430. The following is a comparison of the wages for counselors in California.

Key

Counselors in California
Counselors Nationally
All Occupations in California
All Occupations Nationally

Salaries for Counselors in California and Nationwide

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying salary types.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying annual salaries in USD.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
End of interactive chart.

Based on the MERIC cost of living index, California ranks number 49 out of 51 states (including Washington D.C.). The cost of living index measures the average cost of living in the U.S. against specific states in the U.S. These averages are based on 100, and all locations are either above (more expensive) or below (less expensive) that average. In California, the cost of living index currently stands at 139.8, which is 39.8% higher than the national average. Learners interested in relocating to California can use the cost of living comparison to determine the right fit for their situation.

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying values.
Source: Missouri Research and Information Center
End of interactive chart.

Within 10 years, the total employment of counselors is projected to grow by 8.9%. The BLS projects 54,300 counselors in 2020 and 59,200 in 2030. Entry-level education for these positions generally consists of a master's degree.

Master's Degrees in Counseling in California

#1 Master’s Degrees in Counseling in California

California Baptist University

  • Riverside, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Based in Riverside, California Baptist University hosts a top-rated online master of science in counseling psychology. The rigorous curriculum  prepares graduates for leadership responsibilities. A master's degree can also train candidates for roles in new industries.

The curriculum emphasizes theory and practice in counseling. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. Applicants with a background in counseling typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees add to their resume by pursuing internship opportunities at approved locations in their local area. Campus students can access the library and gymnasium, as well as other equipment and facilities available at most institutions. Graduate students can also participate in networking events to expand their professional connections.

California Baptist University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 78%

Total Online Master's Programs: 13

Program Name: Master of science in counseling psychology

Graduate Tuition In State: $12,830

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $12,830

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,930
Out-of-state
$33,930
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
11,317
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
83% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 Master’s Degrees in Counseling in California

California Institute of Integral Studies

  • San Francisco, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Based in San Francisco, California Institute of Integral Studies hosts a top-rated online master of arts in counseling psychology. The program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new careers.

The curriculum emphasizes both practical and theoretical approaches to counseling. Learners individualize the program to prepare for focused careers. Applicants with a background in counseling typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees work with the program to arrange professional internships at approved locations in their local area. Those who attend on campus can enjoy the common amenities and facilities available at most institutions, such as the library or gym. Graduate students expand their professional connections by attending virtual networking events.

California Institute of Integral Studies at a Glance:

Type of School: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: Data not available

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Program Name: Master of arts in counseling psychology

Graduate Tuition In State: $21,708

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $21,708

Average Tuition
In-state
$20,500
Out-of-state
$20,500
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,530
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Master’s Degrees in Counseling in California

Northcentral University

  • La Jolla, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online

Located in La Jolla, Northcentral University offers an online master of arts in marriage and family therapy. The program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing graduates for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. A master's degree can also prepare candidates for opportunities in new fields.

The curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Learners choose electives or a specialization to stand out in a competitive job market. Applicants without a counseling background may need to complete prerequisites.

Online enrollees add to their resume by pursuing internship opportunities at approved locations in their local area. Many institutions provide libraries and fitness centers for use by students living on campus. Internships and other practicum activities build both hands-on experience and professional connections.

Northcentral University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: Data not available

Total Online Master's Programs: 26

Program Name: Master of arts in marriage and family therapy

Graduate Tuition In State: $16,983

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,983

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,064
Out-of-state
$11,064
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
12,471
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#4 Master’s Degrees in Counseling in California

Pepperdine University

  • Malibu, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Graduate students seeking an online counseling degree can enroll in the master of arts in clinical psychology program at Pepperdine University, located in Malibu. Learners train for leadership roles in the field while earning their degree. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new careers.

The curriculum examines theoretical and practical perspectives on counseling. Degree candidates specialize their course of study to prepare for the job market. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in counseling before applying.

Online enrollees work with the program to arrange professional internships at approved locations in their local area. Those who attend on campus can enjoy the common amenities and facilities available at most institutions, such as the library or gym. Graduate students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

Pepperdine University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 32%

Total Online Master's Programs: 12

Program Name: Master of arts in clinical psychology

Graduate Tuition In State: $34,900

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $34,900

Average Tuition
In-state
$57,750
Out-of-state
$57,750
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
42%
Students Enrolled
9,554
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#5 Master’s Degrees in Counseling in California

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Based in Los Angeles, University of Southern California hosts a top-rated online master of education in school counseling. The program builds specialized skills for leadership roles in the counseling field and related industries. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new careers.

The curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives. Learners focus their training by choosing electives based on their interests and career goals. The admission requirements include a background in counseling or a related field.

Online enrollees participate in internships at approved locations in their local area. Common facilities and services offered at most universities, like the library or gymnasium, are accessible to students living on campus. Degree candidates also participate in networking events to expand their professional connections.

University of Southern California at a Glance:

Type of School: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 11%

Total Online Master's Programs: 55

Program Name: Master of education in school counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $46,272

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $46,272

Average Tuition
In-state
$59,260
Out-of-state
$59,260
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
46,287
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Financing a Master's Degree in Counseling

Financial aid can assist you in paying for college. A scholarship, grant, fellowship, or work-study program helps many students lower the cost of a degree. Students may be eligible for federal and private student loans as well as scholarships. The college's financial aid office is a great resource for applicants who need help determining their eligibility for help.

Checklist for Maximizing Your Financial Aid

Average Cost of Attending College in California

There is a large variation in the cost of attending colleges in California. Many institutions within the public and private sectors share some similarities. You can determine whether attending a public institution is right for you by reviewing the information below.

Public 4-Year School Tuition Rates: California vs. National Average

Key

California
National Average

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying salary types.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying annual salaries in USD.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
End of interactive chart.

Considering attending a private college or university? Generally, private schools charge a higher tuition rate. In the graph below, we provide information about attending private colleges in California.

Private 4-Year School Tuition Rates: California vs. National Average

Key

California
National Average

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying salary types.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying annual salaries in USD.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
End of interactive chart.

Federal Student Loan Information

Have you ever considered borrowing student loans to pay for your education? There are a few things you should keep in mind when considering taking out a loan.

You can review the data below to determine what students typically borrow.

Undergraduate Federal Loans
Demographic Percent who borrowed Amount borrowed
Total 66.6% $27,400
Female 69.6% $28,100
Male 62.5% $26,500
White, not Hispanic or Latino 66.1% $26,700
Black, not Hispanic or Latino 85.7% $34,800
Hispanic or Latino/a, of any race 67.7% $25,700
Asian, not Hispanic or Latino 43% $22,700
Other or Two or more races, not Hispanic or Latino 70.4% $28,300
Source: NCES

Online vs. On-Campus

Pros and Cons: Online Degrees

Pros

  • Cheaper tuition
  • Flexible, asynchronous classwork
  • No on-campus fees for parking, tech, etc.

Cons

  • Less structure
  • Minimal peer-to-peer interaction
  • Less facetime with professor
  • No access to on-campus amenities

Pros and Cons: On-Campus Degrees

Pros

  • Gym, library, etc. access
  • Smaller class options
  • Face time with peers and professors

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Transportation or housing costs
  • Rigid scheduling
On-campus and online programs differ primarily in cost and class size. The advantages of online programs include flexibility, affordability, and convenience. Typically, on-campus programs cost more because student fees are optional for distance students. Students often find that many benefits can be gained from attending classes.

Top Counseling Degree Options Available by State
State Degree Level
California Bachelors, phD
Florida Bachelors, Masters, phD
Georgia Bachelors, Masters, phD
Illinois Bachelors, Masters, phD
New York Bachelors, Masters, phD
North Carolina Bachelors, Masters, phD
Pennsylvania Bachelors, Masters, phD
Texas Bachelors, Masters, phD
Virginia Bachelors, Masters, phD
Washington Bachelors, Masters, phD

Private vs. Public

The differences between a public college and a private college are numerous. For example, public colleges typically charge more affordable tuition than private colleges. Students at public universities often use grants and scholarships to cover the cost of tuition and fees. Tuition is charged to students by private institutions, but students with high GPAs or SAT scores are usually eligible for merit scholarships.

It is often the case that private universities feature smaller class sizes. This is beneficial for students who want more individual attention from professors. What are some benefits and drawbacks?

Pros and Cons

Private

  • Unique program offerings
  • Cultural or religious options
  • Local prestige
  • Higher costs
  • Less regulatory oversight

Public

  • Government-issued tuition costs
  • Government funding, benefits, and regulation
  • Oftentimes large classrooms

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the wages for counselors in California?

In-state counselors make a mean annual salary of $46,940 in California.

Are occupations for counseling majors in high demand?

The total number of counselors is projected to change by 8.9% from 2020 to 2030.

Can you earn a master's degree in counseling online? How?

A master's degree in counseling is possible to obtain online. Most schools in today's environment offer at least some online offerings.

How long does it take to complete a master's degree?

Typically, full-time students complete a master's degree within two years of enrolling. It will take longer for part-time students to complete the program.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office