Why This Matters

  • THE MEDIAN SALARY FOR A COUNSELOR IS $46,240

    Salaries for counselors have been on the rise over the last several years, with the median salary in 2010 just above $41,000.

  • MORE THAN 40M AMERICANS SOUGHT COUNSELING IN THE LAST YEAR

    An increasing number of Americans are seeking counseling, and that number is expected to continue to rise faster than the number of available licensed counselors.

  • THE DEMAND FOR COUNSELORS IS EXPECTED TO RISE BY 25% OVER TEN YEARS

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to rise by 25%. This represents an additional 79,000 jobs through 2029 and is much faster than the average for all other jobs. Growth is being driven by an increased need for counseling for addiction and mental health.

Our Research

We have assembled a list of the best counseling degree programs, including both undergraduate and graduate programs. Though studying psychology and other counseling-related topics as an undergrad provides additional insights, a master’s degree in counseling can be pursued after earning a bachelor’s degree in nearly any area of study, and becoming a licensed counselor requires a master’s degree. The programs included on our list represent a combination of online and on-campus programs, as well as some schools that offer a choice or combination of the two.

Accreditation is an essential indication that an educational program has achieved a level of excellence in the programming that it provides to students. When it comes to counseling degree programs, most schools have pursued accreditation from one of the six regional accreditation agencies, while others have gone a step beyond and pursued accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs, or CACREP. CACREP itself has been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), an association of 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities that recognizes 60 institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 68 hours to write this article
  • 191 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 212 education programs we compared

The Top 45 Counseling Degree Programs

Best Counseling Degree Programs
01
Western New Mexico University

intelligent score 99.78

Award Intelligent Pick

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Intelligent Pick

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department School of Education

Estimated Cost per Credit In-State: $265.62 per credit; Out-of-State: $330.77 per credit

accreditation National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 575-538-6416

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Fort Valley State University

intelligent score 99.72

Award Most Affordable

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Most Affordable

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department College of Education and Professional Studies

Estimated Cost per Credit In-State: $181 per credit; Out-of-State: $672 per credit

accreditation National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 478-825-6365

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Delaware Valley University

intelligent score 99.52

Award Best Counseling Psychology Focus

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Counseling Psychology Focus

Delivery Format On-Campus

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department School of Business and Humanities

Estimated Cost per Credit $744 per credit

accreditation Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 800-233-5825

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
University of Louisiana Monroe

intelligent score 98.28

Award Best for Geriatric Counseling

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best for Geriatric Counseling

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Science in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department College of Health Sciences

Estimated Cost per Credit $500 per credit

accreditation Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 318-342-1246

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Science in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Adams State University

intelligent score 97.71

Award Best Master of Arts Degree

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Master of Arts Degree

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling programs

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department Counselor Education

Estimated Cost per Credit In-State: $255 per credit; Out-of-State: $435 per credit

accreditation Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 719-587-7626

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling programs

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Lamar University

intelligent score 96.98

Award Best Master of Education Degree

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Master of Education Degree

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Education in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department College of Education and Human Development

Estimated Cost per Credit In-State: $518 per credit; Out-of-State: $927 per credit

accreditation Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 409-880-8661

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Education in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
College of Education and Human Development - UMass Boston

intelligent score 96.87

Award Best Public Research University

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Public Research University

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Education in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department College of Education and Human Development

Estimated Cost per Credit In-State: $768.10 per credit; Out-of-State: $1,499.20 per credit

accreditation New England Association of Schools and Colleges

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 617-287-7600

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Education in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Southwestern Assemblies of God University

intelligent score 95.82

Award Best Clinical Counseling Focus

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Clinical Counseling Focus

Delivery Format On-Campus

Programs Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department

Estimated Cost per Credit $595 per credit

accreditation Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 972-937-4010

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus

Programs Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Vanderbilt University

intelligent score 93.96

Award Best Human Development Focus

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Human Development Focus

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Education in Human Development Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 48-60 credits

Department Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Estimated Cost per Credit $2,025 per credit

accreditation Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 615-322-8407

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Education in Human Development Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 48-60 credits

01
Edinboro University

intelligent score 93.5

Award Best Public University

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Public University

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department School of Graduate Studies

Estimated Cost per Credit In-State: $516 per credit; Out-of-State: $774 per credit

accreditation National Association of School of Art and Design

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 814-732-2856

Learn More

Delivery Format On-Campus, Online

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Best in the Northwest
Oregon State University
01
Best in the Southeast
Regent University
01
Best For-Profit University
Capella University
01
Best Bachelor of Arts Degree
Cornerstone University
01
Best Bachelor of Science Degree
Grand Canyon University
01
Best On-Campus Bachelor's Program
Grace College and Seminary
01
Best Bible College
Hobe Sound Bible College
01
Best Marriage & Family Therapy Focus
Lee University
01
Best Faith-Based Curriculum
Mid-Atlantic Christian University
01
Best in the South
University of Missouri
01
Best Biblical Studies Focus
Trinity Baptist College
01
Best in the Non-Continental U.S.
Alaska Pacific University
01
Best Behavioral Health Focus
Arizona Christian University
01
Best Catholic University
Assumption University
01
Best On-Campus Master's Program
Auburn University
01
Best in the Northeast
Clarks Summit University
01
Best in the Midwest
Chadron State College
01
Best Private Research University
Drexel University
01
Best in the West
University of Denver
01
Best Health Psychology Focus
Emmanuel College
01
Most Accessible Classes
Gallaudet University
01
Best Student Affairs Focus
Indiana University Bloomington
01
Alumni Recommended
Lesley University
01
Best Trauma Counseling Focus
Marshall University
01
Best Pastoral Counseling Focus
Messenger College
01
Best Internships
Morningside University
01
Best Large University
The Ohio State University
01
Best Mentorship Opportunities
Point University
01
Best Christian Counseling Focus
South Florida Bible College & Theological Seminary
01
Best for Working Students
Tarleton State University
01
Best Online Bachelor's Program
Toccoa Falls College
01
Best Biblical-Focused Program
Trinity College of Florida
01
Best PhD Degree
University of Minnesota
01
Best for Veterans
Indiana Wesleyan University
01
Best Optionality
University of Arizona

What You Should Know About This Degree

Many people use the terms “counselor” and “therapist” interchangeably, but the two professions are not the same, and neither are the degrees that each pursue. Though both work in the field of psychology and require a master’s degree and supervised experience before gaining a professional license, the coursework for each is very different.

Those pursuing a counseling degree will take courses in counseling theory and techniques, human development, cultural and social issues, and assessment methods. Family therapists dedicate their studies to topics including family therapy, marriage counseling, and child psychotherapy. Both degrees address the topic of professional ethics.

Though every program that we have reviewed carries an accreditation by a respected accrediting agency, it is worth noting that graduates of programs that have been accredited by the CACREP have been shown to score very competitively on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) and much higher than those who graduate from non-accredited programs.

In order to become a licensed counselor, those who have successfully earned their counseling degrees at the master’s level must also log a minimum number of hours of counseling patients under supervision. They must also pass a standardized exam. These examinations and credentialing generally occur at the state level, so it is a good idea to research the requirements and appropriate governing body for your state.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching counseling degree programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Admission to an undergraduate counseling degree program is open to students who have successfully completed high school and whose qualifications meet or exceed the individual school’s standards. Most programs will require a strong score on the ACT or SAT, a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 throughout high school, transcripts sent directly from your high school and letters of recommendation, as well as a personal statement. Admission to a Master’s degree program in counseling generally requires submission of a recent GRE score, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose that describes your goals and reasons for applying to the program, and transcripts from both your high school and your college. If you are currently working, you may be asked to provide a copy of your resume.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Though the majority of the counseling degree programs that we’ve reviewed are offered in person, there are some that are offered online or as combinations of in-person and online. Some of the classes offered online can be taken asynchronously, but the majority of them require that students sign on synchronously and participate with other students and the professor in real time.

Pursuit of a counseling degree represents a significant investment of your time, as well as a financial investment. Fortunately, those who attend accredited programs can take advantage of federal, state, and local financial aid programs. To learn what your eligibility is, start by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).