In today’s uncertain job market, many adults are staying competitive by going back to school. Online degree programs are an enticing option for the working professional who doesn’t have the time to study full-time. However, the sheer number of options for online counseling programs can be overwhelming, so here is a list of the top ten online counseling degrees. All the institutions on this list are regionally accredited and offer either a master’s in counseling, counseling psychology, or social work. Social work degrees were included because these degrees allow graduates to provide counseling services in private practice without the supervision of a psychiatrist in all fifty states. Schools were evaluated based on cost of tuition, US News and World Report rankings, and student reviews.
Recommended Online Counseling Degree Programs
1. University of Massachusetts Online
UMass Online took the top spot due to the variety of its program offerings, the affordability of its degrees, and the high quality of a University of Massachusetts education. UMass Online offers several counseling master’s degrees, including an M.Ed. in school counseling, an M.S. in family therapy, an M.S. in mental health counseling, and an M.S. in rehabilitation counseling. The variety of degree programs allow students to customize their education to their career interests. In addition, the degrees are earned through the prestigious University of Massachusetts system, which ranked nineteen in the world in the Times of London’s 2011 World Reputation Rankings. UMass Online also won the Sloan Consortium Award for the Most Outstanding Online Teaching and Learning Program. At just $475 per credit hour, a UMass Online degree is quite affordable. However, admission is competitive. A bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or above is required, along with one year of volunteer work in a mental health setting and a GRE exam score. This school is best for students with some travel flexibility, because students need to complete two on-campus clinical courses during the first summer of the program. Overall, UMass Online is an excellent option for online counseling degrees.
2. Our Lady of the Lake University
This school has a highly ranked Masters of Social Work program, which offers counselors considerable latitude when it comes to choosing careers. Our Lady of the Lake had the very first school of social work in Texas, and its Masters in Social Work program won the Presidential Award for Excellence from the Council on Social Work Education in 2009. In addition, Our Lady of the Lake offers one of just three social work programs in the U.S. with an emphasis on service to Hispanic families and children. The faculty is highly qualified and willing to help students obtain fieldwork and internship experience in their local area. Tuition is a bit more steep at $760 per credit. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree, a cumulative GPA of 2.5 overall and 3.0 for the last 60 credits earned, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.
3. Lamar University
Lamar University is a well-respected public school in Texas. It offers a Masters of Education in School Counseling aimed towards current educators. Its non-thesis program’s goal is to prepare educators to help students succeed academically and to promote students’ well-being. The out-of-state tuition cost for a three hour course is $831, making this an affordable option for teachers who want to become counselors, but cannot stop working long enough to go back to school. Applicants must have teacher certification and at least two years of teaching experience. Anyone with a GPA of 3.0 or higher for their bachelor’s degree is admitted unconditionally; any applicant with a lower GPA must take the GRE exam.
4. Grace College
Grace College Online offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This three year program focuses on counseling from a Biblical perspective. U.S. News and World Report ranked Grace College as #46 in the Midwest, so this program is a strong option for the student who wishes to incorporate their faith into their practice. Tuition runs at $522 per credit, plus an online course fee of $125 per course, and the degree requires three residency sessions of one week each. All applicants are required to hold a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, pass a background check, and complete a phone interview.
5. Liberty University
Liberty is a private Christian university in Virginia which ranks #65 in the South, according to U.S. News and World Report. It offers a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, as well as a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family therapy. The degrees require both an internship and a practicum. Full time tuition is $565 per credit hour. The Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program requires three courses with 5-day on-campus experiences, while the Marriage and Family Therapy degree requires five of these. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA, 2 professional references, and a writing sample. Students are not required to have related undergraduate degrees, but must have at least six credit hours of undergraduate psychology and three credit hours of undergraduate statistics, which can be completed prior to admission and alongside some of the graduate courses in the program.
6. Northcentral University
Northcentral is a private for-profit university. It was ranked #7 on Guide to Online School’s 2012 Online College Rankings. Northcentral offers the first and only online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Education (CAMFE). The program also offers a California License Track option for California residents. Tuition for the entire degree is $32,400, and admission requirements are a bachelor’s degree and a resume.
7. Walden University
Walden University offers several master’s degrees in counseling, including degrees specializing in addiction, career, marriage and family, and mental health. These categories also have various specializations, so there are programs to suit very diverse interests. Instruction focuses on practical skills, and includes fieldwork and two residencies. The residencies are available at many different locations and dates, so busy students should find them easy to manage. Tuition runs at $440 per credit hour, plus a technology fee of $110 per quarter and two $1550 residency fees. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree and a resume.
8. LeTourneau University Online
LeTourneau is a respected private Christian university. U.S. News ranked it #36 in the West. It offers a Master of Arts in Counseling which advocates using Scripture, prayer, and other Christian tools in counseling practices. This degree would be most fulfilling to a Christian student, as the writing sample shows – LeTourneau would like to know how their applicant’s Christian faith led them to pursue counseling. Tuition is $540 per credit.
9. Mercy College
Mercy College is a private non-profit liberal arts college with several nationally competitive degree programs. It offers a Master of Science in counseling, with several available specializations. Mercy College’s counseling degree is unique in that it offers a bilingual extension. However, it is quite expensive at $806 per credit hour. Admission requirements include an online application and a phone interview.
10. Seton Hall University
Seton Hall University is a prestigious New Jersey school, ranked #83 in the United States by high school counselors according to U.S. News and World Report. It offers a Master of the Arts degree in counseling. The degree takes less than three years to complete, but it is best for students who can easily travel to New Jersey, as two on-site residencies are required. Tuition for the entire degree is $35,500, which includes tuition and room and board for the on-site residencies. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 3.0 GPA, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and GRE exam scores.