Why This Matters

  • MASTER’S REQUIRED TO WORK PROFESSIONALLY

    Because of the complex, sensitive nature of counseling vulnerable populations, practitioners must have an advanced degree in order to work in most counseling jobs.

  • 22% PROJECTED JOB GROWTH PREDICTED BY 2028

    Counselors specializing in substance abuse, behavior disorders, and mental health counseling have the best job prospects. The U.S. expects to add 68,500 jobs in this sector by 2028.

  • 10% INCREASE IN NEED FOR REHAB COUNSELORS

    Clinical rehabilitation counselors are needed to work with the increasing elderly population as well as military veterans and individuals with disabilities or injuries.

Our Research

This list focuses on master’s degrees in counseling. These degrees are either a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS). Some programs are generalized clinical mental health counseling degrees, while others have a specialized focus in an area like school or rehabilitation counseling.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits counseling master’s programs, while each state grants its own professional counseling license. Some states require students to complete a CACREP-accredited program to be eligible for licensure.

We evaluated both CACREP and non-CACREP-accredited programs. All programs are offered by regionally-accredited institutions. The coursework for all programs can be completed online, but some are also offered in person or as hybrids.

Each program was evaluated on the basis of reputation, flexibility, affordability, faculty, and coursework. We then calculated an Intelligent Score for each degree on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 66 hours to write this article
  • 149 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 331 education programs we compared

The Top 10 Best Online Master's in Counseling Degree Programs

Edinboro University

Intelligent Pick

Edinboro University’s Master of Arts in Counseling is a nationally ranked program that has been recognized by numerous media sources for its quality and affordability. It is rated a Top Program in the Northeast by Best Counseling Degrees, ranked #4 among the 10 Best Deals in Online Master’s in School Counseling Degree Programs by Great College Deals, and ranked #6 in the nation for Best Master’s Degrees in Student Affairs and College Counseling by Best Counseling Degrees. The program is highly customizable, enabling you to pursue your degree online or in person and to choose among five concentrations: school counseling, college counseling, clinical mental health counseling, clinical rehabilitation counseling, or art therapy. These concentrations allow you to tailor your degree to your particular career goals.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $516 (in state); $568 (out of state)
  • Credits required to graduate: 60–63
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 46%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 888-845-2890

Learn more

University of Louisiana Monroe

Best for Addiction Counseling

University of Louisiana Monroe’s Master of Science in Counseling program grants you the freedom to adapt the program to your specific interests and career objectives. The 60-credit hour program includes 30-credit hours of electives, meaning that you get to hand-select half of your classes. You choose to concentrate in one of four domains. The clinical mental health counseling track enables you to call yourself a clinical mental health counselor and qualify for LPC (licensed professional counselor) licensure. The school counseling track focuses on the K-12 setting and enables you to call yourself a school counselor and qualify for school counselor certification and LPC licensure. The addiction counseling track can help you qualify for LPC licensure as well as the specific additional addiction counseling licensure rules of your state. Finally, the combined track allows you to choose two of the three concentrations and build a multifaceted, 75-credit hour degree.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $500
  • Credits required to graduate: 60
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 45%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 318-342-3145

Learn more 

Adams State University

Best for International Students

Adams State University’s Master of Arts in Counseling program offers two tracks: one in clinical mental health and the other in school counseling. The program meets the academic requirements for licensure as a school counselor and an LPC in Colorado. In addition to a core counseling curriculum and specialized coursework in your area of concentration, the program offers a practicum and internship for real-world clinical experience. This clinical experience not only helps you put into practice what you learn in the classroom but also enhances your resume and employability. The program is specially designed to meet the needs of rural, underserved, and culturally diverse populations. It is also welcoming to international students.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $435
  • Credits required to graduate: 60
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 41%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 719-587-7626

Learn more 

New York University

Best Part-Time Program

New York University’s Master of Arts in Counseling programs offer a combination of flexibility and prestige. The degrees can be completed online either full time or part time. You can choose one of two degree programs: school counseling or mental health counseling. In both degree tracks, coursework includes classes in counseling theory and practice, cross-cultural counseling, and research methods. One of the primary goals of the programs is to help you promote and embody social justice in your community through counseling work. Faculty members are licensed professionals who have received accolades, such as the Outstanding Contribution Award in The Counseling Psychologist from the Society of Counseling Psychology.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $1,942
  • Credits required to graduate: 60–63
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 85%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 855-698-4622

Learn more

Wake Forest University

Best for National Counselor Examination Prep

Wake Forest University’s Master of Arts in Counseling programs benefit from a strong network of industry partners, which can open the door to internships, jobs, and other professional opportunities. You can choose to get your degree in clinical mental health counseling or school counseling, and either can be completed 100% online. These programs are designed with working professionals in mind, so you can pursue your degree without giving up your career. As a testament to the quality of Wake Forest’s program, its graduates have a 95% pass rate on the National Counselor Examination (NCE). Classes are student-centered, and the curriculum emphasizes clinical experience.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $1,560
  • Credits required to graduate: 60
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 88%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 877-830-7283

Learn more 

University of Southern California

Best for Restorative Justice

University of Southern California’s Master of Education in School Counseling program is specifically geared toward people who want to take a whole-child approach to counseling students in K-12 school settings. This online program is an official credentialing program that prepares you to be recommended for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Pupil Personnel Services: School Counseling (PPS-SC) Credential, which is required if you want to be a school counselor in California. Even if you do not intend to work in California, a California credential can make you stand out when applying for reciprocity in another state. The curriculum is structured around three main areas: college and career readiness, restorative justice, and trauma-informed practice. It also includes a 100-hour practicum and 700-hour internship.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $2,035
  • Credits required to graduate: 49
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 92%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges    (WASC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 888-628-1872

Learn more

North Carolina State University

Best Cohort Program

North Carolina State University’s Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is greatly committed to multiculturalism and diversity, both in its student body and in its curriculum. Approximately 20% of students in the program are culturally diverse. Moreover, classes focus on cross-cultural perspectives so that you graduate with the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to successfully counsel people from different backgrounds and walks of life. The program spans three years of part-time, fully online study that requires you to take courses year round, including in summer. During your final year, some on-campus (weekend) classes are required.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $505.28 (in state); $1,504.56 (out of state)
  • Credits required to graduate: 60
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 79%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 919-515-5721

Learn more

Nova Southeastern University

Best for Applied Behavior Analysis

Nova Southeastern University’s ​​Master of Science in Counseling program provides numerous specialization pathways, enabling you to tailor the degree to your specific interests. You get to choose among five concentrations: clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, substance abuse counseling and education, or applied behavior analysis. Depending on which concentration you choose, your degree will require 48 to 63 credits to complete. While the program can be finished 100% online, most specializations also have an in-person or hybrid option. Even the completely online option includes a three-day Residential Institute component, where you benefit from team counseling activities, interactions with faculty, and program support.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $840
  • Credits required to graduate: 48–63
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 48%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 954-262-7563

Learn more 

Liberty University

Best Scholarships

Liberty University’s Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program offers a licensure-track degree that emphasizes not only theory and practice but also ethics and integrity. The curriculum aims to equip you with evidence-based, field-tested skills to use in the real world as a counselor. These skills are cultivated not only in the classroom but also through a thoughtfully designed practicum and two-semester internship program. The degree can be primarily online, but you also get to take part in two on-campus intensives where you can network with peers and interact with faculty in person. Liberty’s online programs have received many accolades, including a “top 5” ranking in Niche.com’s list of top online schools. Liberty also offers a range of scholarships to make tuition more affordable.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $565
  • Credits required to graduate: 60
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 36%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 434-592-4049

Learn more

University of the Cumberlands

Best Internships

University of the Cumberlands’ Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree program offers a generous transfer credit policy, allowing you to transfer up to 18 of the required 60 degree credits. The curriculum includes 48 credit hours of counseling core courses and 12 credit hours of clinical mental health core courses. Your required classes include Legal and Ethical Issues in Counseling, Human Growth and Development, and Marriage and Family Counseling. Additionally, you complete a practicum and two internships to gain real-world, hands-on experience in the field. Compared to similar programs at other colleges, University of the Cumberlands’ degree in clinical mental health counseling is particularly affordable.

Things to consider:

  • Cost per credit: $315
  • Credits required to graduate: 60
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 67%

More program information:

  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 855-791-7201

Learn more

Other Master’s in Counseling Programs to Consider

Best Online Master's in Counseling Degree Programs
01
California Baptist University Online

intelligent score 88.58

Award

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award

Delivery Format Online

Programs Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Estimated Cost per Credit $745 per credit

accreditation Western Association of Schools and Colleges

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 951-343-3927

Learn More

Delivery Format Online

Programs Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
California Baptist University Online

intelligent score 99.87

Award Intelligent Pick

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Intelligent Pick

Delivery Format Online

Programs Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Estimated Cost per Credit $745 per credit

accreditation Western Association of Schools and Colleges

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 951-343-3927

Learn More

Delivery Format Online

Programs Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Southern California Seminary

intelligent score 88.26

Award

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award

Delivery Format Online, On-Campus

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 81 credits

Department Graduate School of Behavioral Sciences

Estimated Cost per Credit $586 per credit

accreditation Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 619-201-8999

Learn More

Delivery Format Online, On-Campus

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 81 credits

01
Southern California Seminary

intelligent score 99.68

Award Best Licensure Track

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Licensure Track

Delivery Format Online, On-Campus

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 81 credits

Department Graduate School of Behavioral Sciences

Estimated Cost per Credit $586 per credit

accreditation Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 619-201-8999

Learn More

Delivery Format Online, On-Campus

Programs Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Required Credits to Graduate 81 credits

01
Lamar University

intelligent score 99.2

Award Best Professional School Counseling Focus

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Professional School Counseling Focus

Delivery Format Online

Programs Master in Counseling and Development - Professional School 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 Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 409-880-8978

Learn More

Delivery Format Online

Programs Master in Counseling and Development - Professional School Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Lamar University

intelligent score 87.57

Award

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award

Delivery Format Online

Programs Master in Counseling and Development - Professional School 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 Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

more program informationEmail: cos[email protected]
Phone: 409-880-8978

Learn More

Delivery Format Online

Programs Master in Counseling and Development - Professional School Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Lincoln Christian University

intelligent score 87.54

Award

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award

Delivery Format Online, Hybrid

Programs MA in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department

Estimated Cost per Credit $499 per credit

accreditation Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 217-732-3168

Learn More

Delivery Format Online, Hybrid

Programs MA in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Lincoln Christian University

intelligent score 97.41

Award Best Biblically-Focused Program

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Biblically-Focused Program

Delivery Format Online, Hybrid

Programs MA in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

Department

Estimated Cost per Credit $499 per credit

accreditation Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 217-732-3168

Learn More

Delivery Format Online, Hybrid

Programs MA in Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 60 credits

01
Southwestern Assemblies of God University

intelligent score 86.5

Award

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award

Delivery Format Online, On-Campus

Programs Master of Education in School Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 45 credits

Department

Estimated Cost per Credit $585 per credit

accreditation Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 888-937-7248

Learn More

Delivery Format Online, On-Campus

Programs Master of Education in School Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 45 credits

01
Southwestern Assemblies of God University

intelligent score 97.22

Award Best Institutional Financial Aid

Rankings


School Information

Graduation Rate:

Admission Rate:

Urbanicity:

School Size:

No

Award Best Institutional Financial Aid

Delivery Format Online, On-Campus

Programs Master of Education in School Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 45 credits

Department

Estimated Cost per Credit $585 per credit

accreditation Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

more program informationEmail: [email protected]
Phone: 888-937-7248

Learn More

Delivery Format Online, On-Campus

Programs Master of Education in School Counseling

Required Credits to Graduate 45 credits

01

Divine Mercy University
01
Best Public University
Edinboro University
01
Best in the West
Adams State University
01

Angelo State University
01

Grace College and Seminary - Online Education
01
Best School Counseling Focus
University of Louisiana Monroe
01
Best Christ-Centered Program
Divine Mercy University
01

Fort Valley State University
01
Best for Veterans
Angelo State University
01

Bradley University
01
Best Residency
Grace College and Seminary - Online Education
01

Seton Hall University
01
Best Non-Degree Option
Nova Southeastern University
01

University of Arkansas at Little Rock
01

Capella University
01
Most Affordable
Fort Valley State University
01
Flexible Clinical Experiences
Bradley University
01

College of Education and Human Development - UMass Boston
01

Grand Canyon University
01
Best Multicultural Focus
NC State University
01

Clarks Summit University
01
Expert Faculty
Seton Hall University
01

Gwynedd Mercy University
01
Best in the South
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
01
Best in the Southeast
Liberty University
01

University of the Southwest
01

University at Buffalo
01
Best Educational Counseling Focus
University of Southern California
01
Alumni Recommended
Capella University
01

UMass Global
01
Best in the Northeast
College of Education and Human Development - UMass Boston
01

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
01

George Washington University
01
Best for Evening Classes
Grand Canyon University
01
Best Christian University
Clarks Summit University
01

Palo Alto University
01

Concordia University Wisconsin
01
High Exam Pass Rate
Gwynedd Mercy University
01

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
01
Best in the Southwest
University of the Southwest
01

Saybrook University
01
Best Rehab Counseling Focus
University at Buffalo
01
Best for Multiple Locations
Umass Global
01
Best Marriagen and Family Focus
University of the Cumberlands
01
Best Rural Population Focus
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
01
Best Job Placement Rate
George Washington University
01
Most Flexible
Palo Alto University
01
Best Specialization Options
Concordia University Wisconsin
01
Best On-Campus Residencies
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
01
Best Low-Residency Program
Saybrook University
01
Best Exam Pass Rate
Wake Forest University

What You Should Know About This Degree

Counselors work with vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and individuals with mental, behavioral and developmental disorders. It’s a job that relies heavily on compassion, empathy, patience, and interpersonal skills, and it can be mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding. As such, those considering a counseling career should evaluate if they have the right qualities for the job.

Despite being a master’s-level entry field, an advanced degree does not necessarily translate to higher pay for counselors. The median annual salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in 2018 was $44,630, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $28,240 a year. While determining financial return on investment is important when choosing a master’s degree, it’s also key to consider whether the career will fulfill your personal interests and goals.

Even in online programs, there is a hands-on learning component for all counseling degrees. The exact settings and number of hours you have to complete may vary, but it’s important to make sure this component of the program fits into your schedule.

Additionally, because practicums and internships take place in clinical settings, you usually have to pass a background check. Find out what the program’s background check requirements are to ensure you are eligible for the program.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Master’s Degree in Counseling programs:

  • Does this program offer the concentration I want? The counseling field includes many specializations, including mental health, substance abuse/addiction, school, rehabilitation, and couple and family counseling. If you want to specialize, select a program that offers your desired concentration.
  • Will I be eligible for licensure? Most counselors must be licensed in order to practice professionally, although requirements vary by state. Where you earn your degree and the program’s accreditation can affect your ability to become licensed, so it’s essential to understand your state’s licensing requirements and confirm whether your program of interest meets their education requirements.

During the research process, you should also review a program’s admission requirements and deadlines. This will help your application process go as smoothly as possible. You can typically find this information on the school’s website or by contacting their admissions department.

You will also want to research options for funding your graduate degree, including loans, scholarships, assistantships, and employer tuition benefits if you are currently employed.