According to the American Counseling Association, counselors help build a “relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.” As these challenges mount across the country, more skilled and empathetic professionals are needed to help people in their community. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates that the field will expand in the coming decade, projecting 23% job growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. Students who graduate from an online master’s in counseling program learn the academic and professional skills needed to enter or advance within this dynamic field. Additionally, many programs offer curricular options that enable students to earn a degree without compromising their professional or familial obligations.
Choosing a Program
Students pursuing a master’s in counseling online take coursework that builds on foundational concepts in psychology, sociology, and the health sciences. Graduate programs also emphasize ethical concerns and research standards and techniques. Learners gain not only important theoretical knowledge, but also the ability to apply best practices.
Additionally, because much of what counselors do involves interacting with people, practicums represent an important part of the curriculum in master’s degree in counseling online programs. Many schools provide options for students to complete these field experiences in their communities or at their current jobs, while other programs offer intensive on-campus practicum sessions over the summer. These options give distance learners the flexibility to complete requirements without dramatically interrupting their schedules.
Online master’s programs in counseling share many similar characteristics, but they may differ in terms of specialization options. Counseling is a large field and some schools offer a wide variety of concentration areas. Common specializations include clinical mental health, school counseling, marriage and/or family counseling, and substance abuse. Other programs focus on only one particular area, such as professional counseling. Your professional goals determine which online counseling master’s degree best suits your needs.
For career information, skip down:
- What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master’s in Counseling Program?
- Online Master’s in Counseling Careers
- Accreditation for Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees
- Counseling Professional Organizations
Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs
1 George Washington University
Washington, District of Columbia
George Washington University hosts scholars and researchers who come from all over the world to study in the nation’s capital. GWU learners receive a world-class education and engage in internships at esteemed organizations. The school provides a suite of distance learning options for learners who cannot attend classes in the District of Columbia. Students pursuing a career in counseling can specialize in helping people with disabilities by earning the 48-credit master of arts in rehabilitation counseling.
The online program grooms professionals to help people with physical, mental, emotional, or social disabilities integrate into society. The curriculum incorporates counseling theories and practices in rehabilitation services, multicultural counseling, case management, and attitudinal and environmental barriers. The online master’s in counseling examines topics such as career counseling, individual assessment in counseling, counseling interview skills, and the medical and psychosocial aspects of disabilities. A two-semester, 100-hour internship gives students first-hand experience in a counseling setting. The MA prepares learners for professional credentialing such as Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC). GWU’s program boasts a 90% CRC pass rate, which is much higher than the national average. In general, students complete the program in two to three years. Graduates enjoy a 100% job placement rate within six months of graduation. Students should submit bachelor’s degree transcripts and GRE or GMAT scores.
George Washington University is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The online MA in rehabilitation counseling is fully accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE).
2Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center graduates more health care professionals than any other Texas college. The center operates five schools, five satellite sites, and an eLearning platform. TTUHSC offers three online counseling programs: the 60-credit MS in addiction counseling, the 60-credit MS in mental health counseling, and the 60-credit MS in clinical rehabilitation counseling.
All three practitioner training programs prepare counselors to address the needs of patients in diverse settings, especially rural communities. Students learn how to use evidence-based counseling practices to help clients across the lifespan. The programs also prepare learners to take the National Counselor Examination and earn Licensed Professional Counselor licensure in most states. The three programs share core courses in addictions, counseling theories, multicultural counseling, group counseling, counseling and ethical development, and human growth and development.
Students in the MS in addiction and MS in mental health counseling take 12 credits of specialty coursework that cover the neurobiology of addiction, advanced addiction counseling, addiction counseling and ethical development, and professional development in addiction counseling. All three specializations require clinical and practicum experiences. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative 2.7 GPA. Each degree has slightly different requirements. Students do not need to take the GRE for admittance.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Northwestern University is home to about 21,000 students and a dozen colleges and schools. The university operates campuses in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, as well as in Qatar. Northwestern offers a master of arts in counseling in affiliation with the Family Institute. The master’s in counseling online emphasizes clinical immersion, self-reflection, and diversity. The experiential learning model requires students to collaborate with faculty and students during weekly online courses.
Students complete coursework that teaches them how to diagnose, assess, and treat patients. Learners also work with clients during approved supervised placements in their communities. The curriculum immerses students in counseling and psychotherapy; assessment of counseling; outreach, prevention, and advocacy; and cultural diversity in counseling. A specialization in child and adolescent counseling prepares counselors to treat mental health issues in younger clients. During a 200-hour practicum, students learn how to perform clinical responsibilities. In the subsequent 600-hour internship, learners complete clinical duties under the supervision of a professional. Students can complete the program with 18 months of full-time study or 27 months of part-time study. Graduates are qualified to pursue clinical mental health counselor licensure in most states. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in psychology or human services.
Northwestern University is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).The online MA in counseling is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
4Oregon State University
Oregon State University remains one of only two land, sea, space, and sun grant colleges in the nation. With more than 21,000 students worldwide, Oregon State’s Ecampus offers more than 50 programs and 100 areas of study. The school’s 75-credit master of counseling with an option in school counseling is available in hybrid format. Students take 50% of courses online and the other half through on-campus classes, which take place two times per term on the weekend.
The online master’s degree in counseling prepares school counselors to deliver services to all students and increase college attendance rates among underrepresented groups. The program focuses on individual and group counseling, leadership preparation, systemic change, and advocacy and action research. The sweeping curriculum immerses students in the theories and techniques in counseling, appraisal of the individual, group counseling procedures, addictive behavior counseling, special education issues, and the theory and techniques of child and adolescent counseling. Students take two practicums, during which they spend four to six hours per week in schools. Learners also complete a 600-hour internship over four to five terms. The program only admits students in the summer. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Oregon State is regionally accredited from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The online master of counseling program is fully accredited by the by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
5Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Founded in 1834, Wake Forest University continues its mission to build scholars with character. The school educates approximately 8,000 students on its main campus in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and more students through its online programs. Designed for working professionals, the 60-credit master of arts in counseling features two online tracks: school counseling and clinical mental health counseling. Online students have access to 24/7 tutoring services and tech support.
Both tracks share foundational courses and a common core. Foundational courses examine the theories and models of counseling, lifespan development and the implications for counseling, and research and statistical analysis in counseling. The program core delves into family counseling, cultures and counseling, basic counseling skills and techniques, group procedures in counseling, and advanced counseling skills and crisis management. Each track requires three clinical courses that focus on the specialty area. Students also participate in practicum and internship experiences to hone their skills. Graduates pass the National Counselor Exam at a rate of 98% and enjoy a high acceptance rate into doctoral programs. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA and GRE scores.
Wake Forest is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The online master’s program in counseling is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
6 New York University
New York, New York
New York University, recognized globally for academic excellence, is one of the largest private colleges in the nation. The school educates approximately 50,000 students on campuses in New York City, Shanghai, and Abu Dhabi. [email protected] programs continue the school’s tradition of scholarship and public service in a collaborative online learning environment. Online students may pursue the 60-credit MA in counseling for mental health and wellness or the 48-credit MA in counseling and guidance. The guidance program features two concentrations: school counseling and bilingual school counseling.
Students in the MA in counseling for mental health and wellness learn how to assess individuals and groups, assist clients using techniques such as case conceptualization and practice, and foster relationships that promote client development. Students in the MA in counseling and guidance track learn how to create a nurturing environment for elementary students, provide academic and emotional support to middle schoolers, and help high schoolers achieve academic and postsecondary success. In both programs, students participate in a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship at a setting in their community. Graduates of the online master’s in counseling for mental health and wellness qualify to pursue state licensure in mental health counseling. Graduates of the school counseling program qualify to sit for New York state certification for school counselors, grades pre-K–12. NYU does not require GRE scores for admission.
New York University is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The [email protected] program is fully accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC).
7University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
The University of North Dakota is the state’s oldest and largest college. The school maintains a reputation for scholarship and research excellence. The 50-credit, online MA in counseling with a K-12 school counseling emphasis leads to eligibility for state licensure in North Dakota. The degree may also satisfy licensure requirements in other states. The curriculum prepares school counselors to assist students in elementary, middle, and high school with their academic, personal, career, and social development.
Learners receive a theoretical foundation in counseling, as well as practical experiences that develop their competencies as school counselors. The curriculum, which is committed to social justice and diversity, utilizes the American School Counselor Association’s National Model for school counseling. Coursework includes study of counseling methods, multicultural counseling, group theory and process, the dynamics of addiction, and methods of research. Students engage in practicum and internship experiences in their local communities.
Learners attend live classes at set times in the evenings. All coursework is available online, except for two four-day, on-campus visits in June and July. The master’s in counseling online enrolls new students every spring. Full-time students can complete the program in two-and-a-half years. Distance learners receive support services such as online tutoring, library access, and tech support. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA and GRE or GMAT scores.
The University of North Dakota is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8 Clarks Summit University
South Abington Township, Pennsylvania
Clarks Summit University provides learners with faith-based academic programs. The school enrolls fewer than 1,000 students, giving each learner personalized learning opportunities. In order to maximize flexibility for working students, CSU’s graduate degrees are online or web-enhanced.
The master of science in counseling prepares students to pursue counseling careers or leadership positions in ministry. The hybrid program incorporates classroom learning and practical experiences to prepare students for the National Certified Counselor exam and Licensed Professional Counselor credentialing.
The curriculum covers methods of biblical change, abnormal behavior, behavioral addictions, biblical theology of counseling, theories and techniques in counseling, and evaluation and consultation of mental and mood disorders. Students gain hands-on experience during supervised counseling practicums and a supervised counseling internship. Courses are structured in eight-week sessions. Distance learners can complete the program in three years. While most courses are available in an asynchronous online format, three courses require some on-campus attendance. Online students can participate in extracurricular activities such as clubs, student government, sports, and service organizations. Courses for the online master’s degree in counseling begin in August, October, January, March, and May. Online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. More than 95% of CSU students receive financial aid.
Clarks Summit University is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
9 University of Massachusetts – Amherst
The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the state’s flagship university, stands as one of the nation’s top public colleges. Recognized for scholarship and research, UMass-Amherst offers degrees through University Without Walls and other eLearning options. The 60-credit online master of science in mental health counseling prepares counselors to practice in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation agencies, and residential treatment facilities.
This online master’s in counseling follows a cohort model. The curriculum covers abnormal psychology, counseling theories and practice, group counseling, diversity in counseling, and the clinical application of human development. Students learn to treat clients with specific challenges in substance abuse, psychopharmacology, sexual intimacy, and couples therapy. An ethics course delves into ethical decision making, client rights, responsibilities of the counselor, and ethical codes of professional organizations.
Students develop competencies through a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship. During the first semester, new students visit an onsite location for a two-week intensive. The program meets the academic requirements for mental health counselor licensure in Massachusetts. Online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, undergraduate coursework in the social sciences, and GRE scores. The program only admits students in the summer. Students who reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, or Minnesota are not eligible to apply.
UMass-Amherst is regionally accredited from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
10 LeTourneau University
Founded in 1946, LeTourneau University blends academic and professional development with faith-based education. LETU, located on a 162-acre campus in Longview, Texas, also has learning centers in Dallas and Houston and offers elearning courses. The school’s hybrid master of arts in counseling features tracks in school counseling, licensed professional counselor, and licensed marriage and family therapist. Students in the master’s in counseling online learn how to incorporate prayer and scripture to help clients address their challenges.
Distance learners must attend a three-day intensive in Longview. The 66-credit curriculum addresses lifespan human development, addictions counseling, research methods, counseling of diverse populations, and human sexuality and sex therapy. A series of clinical theology courses delve into theology for counselors, trauma and theodicy, and the theological and spiritual dynamics in counseling. All students take a course on professional, personal, and spiritual life that examines the process of Christian formation and the role of the counselor in society. Learners participate in practicums, internships, and direct clinical practices. Students may choose to complete academic requirements for the Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist licenses. Students seeking the school counselor specialization must have two years of teaching experience. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA, and some students may have to submit GRE scores.
LeTourneau University is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
11 Liberty University
Liberty University offers more than 550 programs, including hundreds of online options. The school educates more than 110,000 students, including 30,000 military students and 900 international students. The 48-credit master of arts in addiction counseling trains counselors to treat clients with substance abuse challenges. Students learn techniques in substance abuse and addiction counseling, treatment options, and the recovery process.
The curriculum examines topics such as counseling theories, group counseling, addiction and the recovery process, clinical diagnosis and treatment planning, and counseling techniques and the helping relationship. The program requires a supervised, 60-hour internship that lasts for a semester. Students work with LU counselors to find an internship site in their state, choosing from facilities such as hospitals, counseling agencies, and university counseling centers.
Courses follow an asynchronous, eight-week format. Distance learners may attend optional intensives on campus. The online degree meets the requirements for many national and state boards, including Virginia’s licensure requirements for Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Provider. Unlike many graduate schools, LU allows students to transfer in up to 50% of their total credits. Full-time students can complete the program in two years. For admission, the school requires a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Approximately 96% of Liberty students receive financial aid.
Liberty University is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
12 Pepperdine University
Situated on an 830-acre campus in Malibu, Pepperdine University prepares students for lives of leadership and service. The Christian college operates six international campuses and delivers a comprehensive suite of programs through distance learning. Pepperdine’s graduate degrees emphasize professional competencies, critical thinking, and effective communication. The master’s programs follow a scholar-practitioner model, delivered by faculty actively working in their areas of expertise.
The master of arts in clinical psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy incorporates applied methods in psychotherapy and a practice-based study plan. The curriculum consists of 62 to 68 credits and prepares learners to sit for the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist exams in California. The core curriculum delves into the theories of counseling and psychotherapy; techniques of counseling and psychotherapy; trauma in diverse population; the assessment of individuals, couples, and families; and the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.
A series of courses focus on areas of treatment such as substance abuse and family therapy. Students engage in four clinical rotations to develop their skills as counselors. During the practicums, students consult with instructors, present cases using psychotherapeutic models, and receive feedback from other students. Pepperdine works with learners to identify practicum and internship sites in their communities. Applicants with a GPA below 3.0 should submit an exception request form. More than 75% of students receive financial aid.
Pepperdine University is regionally accredited from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges—Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
13 Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University operates learning centers in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. The school offers a comprehensive suite of eLearning options, including the online master of arts in counseling. Students may choose from fully-online and hybrid specializations in community counseling, clinical addictions counseling, and student development administration.
All three online master’s in counseling programs include core coursework in theory and techniques in the helping relationship; theory and techniques in group counseling; multicultural counseling; and legal, ethical, and professional issues. Specialization courses include assessment and intervention, theories and treatment of addiction, psychopathology, and career counseling in student development. Students gain professional experience through supervised on-site practicums and community-based internships. Graduates are able to interpret, evaluate, and apply scholarly research; incorporate multicultural awareness in their practice; and integrate faith in the counseling profession.
Students may enroll in the program on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time students complete the program in two-and-a-half years, while part-time students complete the program in three-and-a-half years. IWU accepts up to nine credits from another institution, which are applied toward electives. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, undergraduate coursework in psychology, and adequate GRE scores.
Indiana Wesleyan University is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The MA in counseling is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
14Seton Hall University
South Orange, New Jersey
Seton Hall University, one of the nation’s top Catholic colleges, is nationally recognized for academic excellence. Located in South Orange, New Jersey, the college offers 90 degree programs, including distance learning options. The 48-credit master of arts in school counseling prepares learners to obtain school counselor certification in K-12 settings. Counseling students learn how to provide crisis intervention and disaster coping strategies, as well as help children overcome educational difficulties. The school also offers a 60-credit dual MA and education specialist degree in professional counseling, which prepares learners to assume roles as professional mental health counselors.
Both the MA in counseling and MA/Ed.S. in professional counseling require coursework in counseling theories, abnormal psychology, counseling skills, career development and counseling, and appraisal and assessment counseling. Both also require practicums and internships. The MA/Ed.S. requires additional courses in etiology and treatment of addictions, couple and family dynamics, a seminar in psychopathology, and an additional three-credit internship. The MA/Ed.S. also requires residencies to complement online study. Students in either program take a comprehensive final exam or engage in a capstone project in order to graduate. For admission, the school requires a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, school transcripts, and GRE scores.
Seton Hall University is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The online master’s programs in counseling are fully accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
15Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Nova Southeastern University offers 150 degrees through their main campus in Broward County, Florida, or one of its many satellite locations across the state. The school’s catalog features academically rigorous and competitive professional programs in fields such as clinical psychology. The college’s distance learning program allows students from all over the country to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The master of science in counseling includes specializations in school counseling, clinical mental health counseling, applied behavior analysis, substance abuse counseling, and substance abuse counseling and education. Each specialization requires its own number of credits and unique courses relevant to the track. All specializations except the school counseling track require core courses in counseling theories and practice, human growth and development, research and evaluation for counselors, diagnosis and treatment of adult psychopathology, and group theory and practice. A core course on substance abuse explores the etiology of alcohol and drug dependency with an aim to assess and treat clients.
Each track in the master’s in counseling online requires a practicum and/or internship, during which students spend a specified number of hours each week working with clients in a clinical setting. Students may choose to enroll on a full-time or part-time basis. Potential students should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants should also submit a statement of interest and two letters of recommendation.
Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
16 Touro University Worldwide
Los Alamitos, California
Touro University Worldwide, a Jewish-sponsored system of higher education, delivers programs through a network of traditional and online campuses. TUW’s programs emphasize the school’s commitment to social justice and philanthropic duty. The 54-73 credit master of arts in marriage and family therapy grooms therapists skilled in treating couples and families. Graduates are knowledgeable of contemporary challenges that couples face and understand how to identify and treat mental health problems.
The online master’s degree in counseling does not require any on-campus residencies. Students may choose from tracks in clinical, nonclinical, and Licensed Professional Clinical Counseling. Coursework explores subjects such as couples counseling, psychopharmacology, human sexuality, child-focused family therapy, treatment of trauma in families, and development within the family life cycle. Electives examine topics such as career development counseling and spousal/partner abuse detection and intervention. Learners who pursue the LPCC track take five additional courses to master advanced counseling theories and techniques.
Each track requires students to engage in 225 to 280 face-to-face clinical hours and 300 to 450 hours of practicum experience in their communities. The program meets eligibility requirements for California MFT licensure, as well as licensure in many other states. All students pay the same tuition, regardless of residency. Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. TUW does not require GRE scores.
Touro University Worldwide is regionally accredited from the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
17 Brandman University
Serving nontraditional learners since 1958, Brandman University emphasizes flexible learning. The school maintains 25 campuses in California and Washington, as well as a distance learning platform. The school’s academic programs impart real-world skills taught by scholar-practitioners currently working in their area of specialization. One of the school’s online options is the 45 to 48-credit master of arts in counseling and pupil personnel services with a credential in school counseling.
The curriculum prepares school counselors to guide children in their academic and career planning. The program covers topics such as best practices in counseling, advanced counseling and intervention, culture and community challenges, and consultation and direct intervention. A number of courses delve into specific issues that school counselors face, including leadership and systems change, student transition to work and career, and positive behavior supports. Students in the program engage in practicum experiences to cultivate hands-on skills. Distance learners may choose between a fully-online or hybrid format.
Graduates of the master’s degree in counseling online understand laws and regulations for guidance programs, apply research-based theory in their counseling practice, and create effective counseling programs. The MA reduces the steps necessary for counselor credentialing in California. Brandman supports eLearners with an online writing and math center, multimedia writing and design support services, and technology training. Only California residents are currently eligible for this program. Potential students should hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA. Some students may have to submit GRE, GMAT, or MAT scores.
Brandman University is regionally accredited from the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
18University of Wyoming
The University of Wyoming designs rigorous programs that feature small classes, experiential learning, and affordability. UW offers several programs in a fully-online or hybrid format, including the 61-credit master of science in counseling. The hybrid program features concentrations in mental health and school counseling.
The program trains counseling practitioners to work in hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, community health agencies, and independent practice. Students learn how to assess, diagnose, and create treatment plans for clients. Students become versed in different intervention strategies and prevention programs, including for crises and disasters. The school counseling program prepares counselors to foster academic, personal, and career development in Pre-K-12 students. Both programs share an academic core that covers topics such as play therapy, human growth and development, counseling and addictions, counseling children and adolescents, and advanced issues in counselor preparation. Each concentration requires 12 credits of specialized courses.
This program does include some on-campus components. Learners undergo hands-on training through counseling sessions held at the school’s Counselor Education Training Clinic, practicum courses in the spring semester, and supervised internships. Full-time students can complete the program in two years. UW boasts one of the lowest tuition rates of all four-year colleges in the nation. Applicants should submit proof of a bachelor’s degree, school transcripts, and the GRE for some students.
UW is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online master’s programs in counseling are fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
In 2017, Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University merged to become one school, known as Jefferson. Established as a medical school, Jefferson provides learners with professional education in various disciplines, including architecture, occupational therapy, and psychology. The school’s master of science in community and trauma counseling prepares practitioners to provide services to individuals and communities impacted by traumatic stress or catastrophy. Students acquire education and training necessary for credentialing as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania and other states.
Students choose to take courses during the day or in the evenings and weekends. Most courses are on campus, with some online interactions with faculty and peers. The 60-credit curriculum covers areas such as psychopathology, trauma counseling, the neurobiology of trauma, human growth and development, and addictions theory and practice. Students engage in practicum and internship experiences to hone their counseling skills.
Graduates work in community organizations, institutional settings, governmental organizations, and private practice. Students master the competencies for credentialing and membership from several boards, including the National Board of Certified Counselors, American Counselors Association, and the International Association of Trauma Professionals. Students choose a two-year or three-year degree plan. Learners without a bachelor’s degree can opt for a dual baccalaureate and master’s degree program. Dual degree students complete a bachelor of science in psychology or health sciences and the MS in community and trauma in five years.
Jefferson is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
20Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University offers 50 online degrees, including the hybrid master of science in school counseling. The three-year program prepares school counselors to help students achieve their academic and career goals. The degree meets eligibility requirements for school counselor licensure in Kansas.
The curriculum incorporates theoretic coursework and real-world experiences. All students undergo a supervised practicum and internships. Courses for the master’s in counseling online include lifespan human development, counseling skills development, theories of counseling, psychopathology and diagnosis, and professional and ethical issues in counseling. The program also includes a course in research methods that requires completion of a research paper. Many courses are available online, but some courses are offered on campus. At the end of the program, learners take the the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination. The CPCE focuses on eight core areas, including professional orientation, social and cultural foundations, and helping relationships.
The college admits students in the fall, spring, and summer. FHSU boasts one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation, and all students pay the same rate regardless of residency. For admission, students should possess a bachelor’s degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework, and GRE or MAT scores.
Fort Hays State University is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The MS in counseling is fully accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
21Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Southern New Hampshire University enrolls more than 80,000 online students from around the world. The college offers more than 200 programs on its campus in Manchester and through a virtual arm. The 60-credit master of arts in clinical mental health counseling trains counselors to help clients with behavioral and emotional problems, including addiction and mental illness.
The curriculum aligns with standards set by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Learners study human development, theories of counseling, psychopharmacology, the diagnosis of emotional and mental disorders, and prevention and intervention during crisis and trauma. Students learn to help clients with specific problems such as sexuality issues and substance use disorders. The program also emphasizes culturally relevant strategies and treatments. During a five-day residency on campus, students meet faculty to practice counseling techniques and demonstrate competencies. The program includes a 100-hour practicum at an approved site, which has students work with real clients under the supervision of a licensed counselor. Distance learners receive further hands-on counseling experience through a 600-hour supervised internship conducted at an approved location. Program notables include affordable tuition, a large network of alumni, internship and career opportunities, and comprehensive support services such as tutoring. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. SNHU does not require GRE or GMAT scores.
Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Carlow University, a liberal arts college located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, administers educational programs rooted in the school’s Catholic identity. The school’s 60-credit master of science in professional counseling cultivates mental health counselors trained to work with adults, children, and families. Graduates find work in schools, correctional facilities, and other settings. The program blends on-campus coursework and online learning.
In addition to a 17-course core, the curriculum offers four specializations that each include three courses. Learners in the forensics concentration receive the training necessary to address the unique mental health challenges of populations in legal or correctional settings. The children and families concentration prepares counselors for work in settings outside of schools. The program covers play therapy, specific interventions, and applied behavioral analysis. The addictions concentration focuses on adults and adolescents with substance abuse challenges. Students in this concentration learn about co-occurring disorders and biological factors that impact addiction. The trauma concentration examines how to assess and implement interventions to help traumatized adults and children.
The online counseling master’s degree meets Pennsylvania’s educational requirements for licensure in professional counseling. The majority of students work full-time. Some students complete the program in two years. Carlow admits new students in the fall, spring, and summer. For admission, students should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and acceptable GRE or GMAT scores. Students with a GPA below 3.0 may qualify for admission if they have relevant work experience, training, or research skills.
Carlow University is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
23University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
The University of Colorado Denver offers programs through its main campus in Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. The school administers more than 140 programs through 13 schools and colleges. CU-Denver’s School of Education and Human Development remains the largest graduate school of education in the state. Students may pursue the school’s 63-credit MA in counseling with a concentration in couple and family counseling.
The hybrid program combines on-campus and online courses, which includes in-person practicum and internship experiences. The curriculum covers a number of topics, including counseling theories, counseling techniques, family therapy, sex therapy, counseling issues and ethics, and mental health diagnosis. Students complete the supervised practicum at CU Denver’s Counseling Center. During the practicum, students engage in counseling practices and receive feedback from licensed clinicians. Faculty deliver courses on campus throughout the week, on weekends, and in hybrid format. Certain courses are available completely online. The program culminates in a comprehensive exam or thesis.
The master’s degree in counseling online prepares students for Licensed Professional Counselor or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist credentialing in Colorado. Students in the program may join the counseling academic professional honor society. The program admits new students in the fall and spring. CU-Denver does not require GRE or GMAT scores.
CU Denver is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online MA in counseling is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Corban University integrates a Christian perspective into all curriculums. Located in Salem, Oregon, Corban offers 50 majors and programs, including online degrees that students can take on a full-time or part-time basis. The 60-credit master of arts in counseling prepares practitioners to meet the mental health needs of the community. The curriculum incorporates clinical mental health training and biblical values. This program follows a hybrid format, with a blend of online and evening classes. The MA prepares learners to sit for the Licensed Professional Counselor exam and meets standards set by the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists.
The online master’s degree program in counseling includes coursework in counseling theory and skills; addictions counseling; family counseling; crisis, disaster, and trauma counseling; and psychopathology, diagnosis, and treatment planning. A course on ethics provides learners with an overview of moral concerns and state laws applicable to their profession. All students must complete a 15-week practicum experience and a 600-hour internship that hones their counseling skills. During the internship, learners observe a counselor at work, engage in training, and meet with clients. Full-time students can complete the online master’s degree in counseling in two years. New students begin classes in the fall as part of a cohort. Applicants must adhere to a Christian lifestyle and hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Corban University is regionally accredited from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The online MA in counseling is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
25 Messiah College
Located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Messiah College provides students with faith-based degrees in the liberal arts, applied arts, and sciences. The school offers more than 80 majors, including several distance learning options. MC’s online graduate degrees allow students to complete coursework at their own pace.
The 60-credit master of arts in counseling prepares practitioners to serve as counselors through one of three specializations: school counseling; clinical mental health counseling; or marriage, couple, and family counseling. The program uses a developmental model. Students take 30 credits of core coursework and 30 credits in their specialization. Core courses include study of counseling theories; counseling techniques; lifespan development; professional issues and ethics for counselors; and assessment techniques for individuals, couples, and families. Although courses are mostly online, students must participate in a weeklong intensive at the Mechanicsburg campus.
The school boasts state-of-the-art counseling rooms that allow professors to tape counseling sessions for students’ professional development. An internship gives students the opportunity to perform counseling duties in their area of specialization. Graduates from the master’s degree in counseling online meet the educational requirements for Licensed Professional Counselor or Marital and Family Therapist licensure. Online learners receive tutoring support, tech support, and career services. Potential students should hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Messiah College is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The online MA in counseling is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
26 Missouri State University
Missouri State University works to develop professionals who are ethical and culturally competent leaders. The school operates campuses in Springfield, West Plains, and Mountain Grove, as well as in China. Missouri State administers a catalog of 100 graduate programs,16 of which students can take through eLearning. The fully-online master of science in counseling features a specialization in school counseling.
The curriculum examines counseling theories and their applications, as well as the knowledge necessary for proficiency in school counseling. Students learn about the helping relationship, child counseling theories, human development and personality, analysis of childhood learning, and appraisal and clinical interviewing.
Students engage in a practicum working alongside counselor educators in a small setting. The practicum takes place on the West Plains campus. Faculty also require students participate in an elementary or secondary school internship, during which they apply their skills. The online counseling master’s degree satisfies eligibility requirements to sit for the National Counselor Examination. With extra coursework and an exam, students meet eligibility requirements for Licensed Professional Counselor licensure. The program admits new students in the fall, spring, and summer. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative 2.75 GPA and MAT or GRE scores.
Missouri State is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online MS in counseling is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
27John Brown University
Siloam Springs, Arkansas
John Brown University, a Christian college located in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, serves students with an education that embraces academics and real-world relevance. The school offers online programs that provide flexible and accelerated learning options. Students may choose from three hybrid programs: the 49-credit MS in school counseling, the 64-credit MS in clinical mental health counseling, and the 64-credit MS in marriage and family therapy.
All three programs share a 22-credit core curriculum. The sequence explores topics such as human development, family of origin, social and cultural foundations, theories and techniques of counseling, and diagnosis and case management. A required course in the Christian foundations of counseling teaches students how to use biblical values, faith, and practice in counseling. All students take either a course in statistics or applied research.
Each concentration requires its own set of courses that prepare counselors for practice in their respective areas. Practicum and internship experiences allow students to build skills under the supervision of an expert. The online counseling master’s degrees allow students to take more than one major or add a certificate in play therapy. Online students are eligible for summer study abroad opportunities. All graduates are prepared to pursue licensure in their area of specialization. Potential students should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.7 GPA and GRE scores. Applicants must also submit recommendations.
John Brown University is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
28Gwynedd Mercy University
Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania
Gwynedd Mercy University, one of 16 Sisters of Mercy colleges in the nation, offers programs rooted in service. The school is situated on a private campus in Gwynedd Valley, near Philadelphia. GMercyU offers several eLearning options, including a 48-credit master of science in school counseling. The program prepares school counselors to help students achieve their educational and career aspirations. The MA aligns with standards set by the American School Counselors Association National Model.
Students learn critical counseling theories and techniques. The curriculum includes a 12-credit educational core, a 30-credit counseling core, and a six-credit practicum. During the practicum, students work in an elementary or secondary school. The program covers topics such as human development, effective communication, individual and group counseling, assessment and intervention strategies, research skills for reflective practice, and social justice advocacy and leadership.
Students take the online counseling master’s degree completely online in an accelerated format. Asynchronous courses are structured in seven-week terms. Graduates can pursue a pre-K-12 school counseling certification. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Online students receive assistance through the school’s Career Development Center, which offers virtual resources, workshops, and help with resumes. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. GMercyU is a military friendly school. Professionals that already hold a master’s degree in education or a related field may apply for the school counselor certification program.
Gwynedd Mercy University is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
29 Dallas Baptist University
Dallas Baptist University filters all of its programs through a Christian worldview. The school offers several faith-based programs, including the 36-credit master of arts in Christian counseling. Graduates are able to find work in churches, ministry-based organizations, and denominational agencies. The theology curriculum delves into biblical servant leadership, applied hermeneutics, systematic theology, Christian history and heritage, and spiritual formation and worship. Professors teach from the textbook and from their own experiences in ministry.
The counseling curriculum focuses on abnormal psychology, lifespan human development, counseling theories and techniques, and ministry mentorship. Students also take elective courses covering topics such as group counseling methods and marriage and family counseling. During a course in Christian counseling, students practice counseling skills and learn firsthand how to incorporate biblical principles in their work.
Learners can take the program in a fully online or hybrid format. Upon completion of the online counseling master’s program, graduates understand how to evaluate psychology theories from a biblical perspective and use Christian counseling skills and techniques. The online master’s program in counseling does not lead to state licensure. Online learners pay the same tuition rate regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency. Applicants should be members of a Christian church and hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also submit a statement of purpose and two letters of recommendation. Distance learners are eligible for financial aid.
Dallas Baptist University is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
30 Golden Gate University
San Francisco, California
For 115 years, Golden Gate University has educated working professionals and adult learners. The school also operates satellite campuses in California and Seattle. Students acquire real-world knowledge from GGU instructors actively working in their field. Approximately 5,000 GGU students take courses completely online, and thousands more take hybrid or web-enhanced programs.
The 60-credit master of arts in counseling psychology prepares practitioners for relationally informed psychotherapy. Using a curriculum that integrates theoretic knowledge and clinical practice, faculty train students to assume counseling roles in hospitals, community mental health hospitals, and private practice. Courses delve into topics such as psychopathology, psychological assessment, theories and applications for therapists, group models of counseling, and the psychodynamic models of counseling.
A course on evidence-based practice immerses students in study of treatment interventions, best practices, and emerging research areas applicable to the treatment of individuals with serious mental illness. Learners participate in a 300-hour clinical practicum, during which they engage in face-to-face counseling and case management duties at an approved mental health facility. Students in the online counseling master’s program must also complete 50 hours of personal psychotherapy with a licensed therapist or clinician. The program prepares graduates for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist licensure. Students may enroll in the program on a full-time or part-time basis. Applicants should submit proof of a bachelor’s degree, school transcripts, and GRE or GMAT scores.
Golden Gate University is regionally accredited from the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master’s in Counseling Program?
While online master’s degree in counseling programs generally build from the same pool of required coursework, other curricular specifics — such as advanced classes and capstone requirements — depend on the faculty and departmental focus. Most online counseling master’s programs also prepare students for professional examinations and state licensing requirements; however, you should be sure to check that a program provides the support you need to achieve your goals.
Curriculum for an Online Master’s Degree in Counseling
- Advanced research methodology: This is a foundational course available in most master’s in counseling online programs. It teaches students how to conduct research according to the standards of the field, including how to write a proposal, develop variables, handle human subjects, and apply for funding.
- Professional ethics and law: This class helps students understand federal and state laws, along with mandatory field-specific regulations. Course content may also include a historical look at famous cases that shaped the field.
- Child abuse and neglect: In this course, students learn to identify signs of maltreatment, provide counseling and support to children, and follow through by accessing community resources to ensure that either the family dynamic changes or that a child is placed into a safe environment. These skills prepare students for careers as family therapists, child advocates, and school counselors.
- Human development: Another fairly common topic — particularly for programs based in clinical counseling — this course guides students through the stages of human development, including psychological, cognitive, and biological theories of growth. Students may analyze case studies and begin to develop their own styles of counseling.
- Group counseling: This course trains students to become effective group facilitators, covering the purpose and types of group sessions. Students also learn techniques related to engaging group members and evaluating success.
Certifications and Licenses a Master’s in Counseling Prepares For
- National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification: Students must pass this exam to become a licensed counselor in most states. It consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, which assess the test taker’s ability to provide effective counseling and related services. Eligibility requirements include a traditional or online master’s in counseling and 3,000 hours of post-graduate field experience, 100 hours of which must be supervised.
- National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination: Passing this exam is an integral step to becoming a licensed mental health counselor in many states. The test tasks students with treating clinical issues in 10 simulated mental health cases, each of which is broken down into sections that lead students through the decision making and treatment process. To sit for the NCMHCE, candidates must hold a master’s degree and 3,360 hours of supervised postgraduate work experience.
Online Master’s in Counseling Careers
The counseling field encompasses many professions, and workers can find employment in hospitals as clinical counselors or at colleges and universities as career counselors. They can also develop their own practices as family and marriage counselors. By enrolling in an online counseling master’s program and obtaining the necessary postgraduate experience and licensure, individuals can build a career that is both lucrative and meaningful.
- Genetic Counselor: These professionals provide assessment and support for families whose members find themselves at risk of an inherited condition, such as birth defects or genetic disorders. They guide patients through testing and connect them with healthcare and social support resources. Genetic counselors can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, physician offices, and laboratories. Certified counselors are required to have a master’s degree.
- Median Annual Salary: $74,120
- Projected Growth Rate: 29%
- Mental Health Counselor: These professionals can work in many different organizations, including private hospitals and pubic treatment centers. They diagnose conditions and provide one-on-one support to patients suffering from mental illnesses and related challenges like addiction. They also connect patients to community resources, including outpatient programs and job opportunities. To be a licensed mental health counselor, professionals must obtain a master’s degree or higher.
- Median Annual Salary: $42,150
- Projected Growth Rate: 23%
- School Counselor: Dedicated to the academic success and personal health of their students, school counselors can work in any education environment, from K-12 institutions to colleges and universities, depending on what degree they hold. These professionals provide academic guidance, community support, and career counseling. Many also possess the skills needed to handle cases of child neglect or abuse.
- Median Annual Salary: $54,560
- Projected Growth Rate: 13%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees
Colleges and universities in the U.S. must be accredited to confer valid degrees recognized by most professional bodies and employers. National accreditation is granted by organizations who have received authority from the U.S. Department of Higher Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which determine a school’s eligibility for federal funding and the quality of its programs, respectively.
Regional accreditation, which is usually considered more valuable than national accreditation, is granted by CHEA-recognized agencies and operates on a regional level. Six bodies grant this kind of accreditation in the United States, ensuring that schools meet certain academic and professional standards. Additionally, an online master’s degree program in counseling may hold accreditation from a field-specific institution, such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs or the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.
Counseling Professional Organizations
Professional organizations offer individuals resources, connections, and services to help them build successful careers. Some, such as the National Board for Certified Counselors, oversee accreditation exams and offer test preparation materials and training sessions. Most organizations hold conferences and other networking events where counselors engage with their peers, giving them access to new job opportunities and collaborative research projects. For current students — and recent graduates who have yet to gain extensive work experience — these organizations are a good way to help people jumpstart their careers.
- American Counseling Association: Established in 1952, the ACA is the largest organization for counselors in the U.S. and provides resources including a job board, online research tools, and grant opportunities. The association also hosts an annual conference and expo where professionals can build relationships and present their findings.
- National Board for Certified Counselors: The preeminent organization for the certification of professional counselors in the country, the NBCC also engages in advocacy and research dedicated to protecting the rights of counselors and growing the field.
- American College Counseling Association: The ACCA supports counselors, therapists, and social workers employed in higher education settings. Resources include a job board, networking and conferencing events, and grants for research and projects. The ACCA also houses an extensive digital library.