Top 25 Master’s in Career/Professional Counseling for 2021

A master’s degree in professional counseling prepares students to counsel and support clients as they decide on educational or career paths. Many individuals seek the help of a career coach or counselor to help sort through the many available options. Career counselors use career development theories, facilitation skills, informal and formal assessment, and case management techniques. Licensure is required to become a licensed professional counselor, and earning a license varies from state to state. 

Steps to Become a Career Counselor

  • Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree in behavioral, social science, or human services
  • Step 2: Earn a master’s degree in counseling and specialize in an area of interest 
  • Step 3: Complete graduate and postgraduate internship experience for certification/licensure requirements
  • Step 4: Pass any required exams for certification/licensure
  • Step 5: Apply for and earn extra certifications

What does a Career Counselor do? 

Career counselors help individuals choose the right career path and teach job search skills. They help college students explore their interests, strengths, and abilities to choose the right academic majors. Career development is a lifelong process with many opportunities to improve, helping both the youth and the adults. They help individuals understand their potential to make career and education decisions. They empower clients to resolve life issues in different stages of their life. Counselors with a career specialty also advise professionals to improve their current careers. Their processes involve:

  •  Individual and group counseling sessions
  • Promotion of self-advocacy and determination
  • Providing support for job stress, conflict, loss, and career transition
  • Teaching decision making, conflict resolution, and job searching skills
  • Engaging in career development issues 

Professional counselors work with individuals, families, and communities to support optimal human growth and development. Their overall goal is to help clients make future career and life decisions independently.

Careers can include:

  • School Guidance Counselors 
  • Mental Health Counselors 
  • Substance Abuse Counselors 
  • Marriage & Family Therapists

Master’s Degrees in Career/Professional Counseling

A master’s degree in career or professional counseling blends theory, research, and practical experience. It helps students develop their skills in research, critical thinking, analysis, and counseling. These include a thesis, internship, or capstone experience. Programs may be offered with tracks or concentrations that allow students to tailor their degrees per their career goals. Graduates with a master’s degree in professional counseling are qualified to work with individuals, families, and communities. They focus on addressing conflicts, life issues, human development, and more. 

In this article, we have collated the top 25 masters degree programs in career/professional counseling. We have considered the program and school accreditation, tuition rates, curriculum, faculty experience, formats and flexibility, licensure or certification preparation. Schools have been ranked based on their resident tuition affordability.

Methodology:

Tuition 

  • Net Price Below $10,000: 4 points 
  • Net Price Below $15,000: 3 points 
  • Net Price Below $20,000: 2 points 
  • Net Price Below $25,000: 1 point

Student to Faculty Ratio 

  • Less than 20:1: 1 point 
  • Less than 15: 1: 2 points 
  • Less than 10: 1: 3 points 

Return on Investment (ROI) 

  • Top 500: 1 point 
  • Top 300: 2 points 
  • Top 150: 3 points

Student Support Network (faculty mentors/advisors, writing/technology support, etc.)— 1 point per item

Concentrations/Specializations – 1 point per item

Accreditation (School-Wide and Program-Specific) – 1 point per item

“Wow” Factor – 1 point (anything that would mark a program as unique. Special qualities that make a program “stand out from the crowd”)

#25 Seton Hall University

South Orange, NJ 

M.A. in Counseling/Education Specialist (Ed.S.)

Visit Website 
Points: 5

Seton Hall University offers a Master of Arts in /Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Professional Counseling. The program provides foundational courses for understanding individual and systems behavior. It teaches students:

  • To promote optimal human development and empower clients
  • To use a wellness model to diagnose, counsel, and put in place treatment for their clients
  • Focus on solving personal, interpersonal, career, and other mental health problems
  • Learn skills like career counseling, individual and group counseling
  • Gain knowledge and skills in consultation and lifespan development

The program meets the requirements for licensure in New Jersey and most other states. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: College of Education and Human Services
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: APA, COAMFTE, and CAEP
  • Tuition per credit: $1,304

#24 Texas Wesleyan University 

Fort Worth, TX 

MA in Professional Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 6

Texas Wesleyan University offers a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling. It consists of 60 credit hours of coursework and a minimum of 350 hours of practicum experience. Coursework includes:

  • Theories of Counseling 
  • Lifespan/Human Growth & Development
  • Techniques of Appraisal & Assessment
  • Multicult/Cross-Cultural Counseling
  • Advanced Human Sexuality & Sex Dysfunction
  • Career Development & Assessment
  • Ethical & Professional Conduct for Counselors
  • Advanced Psychopathology
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Crisis Intervention Counseling
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Disorder Counseling

The curriculum meets eligibility requirements for the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: School of Health Professions
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per credit: $930

#23 Penn State University

State College, PA

Counselor Education M.Ed. 

Visit Website 
Points: 6

Pennsylvania State University offers a Master of Education in Counselor Education. The Career Counseling emphasis prepares students to:

  • Excel as career counselors and career development specialists
  • Work in diverse settings
  • Provide career counseling services to children, adolescents, and adults
  • Gain skills necessary to be an effective professional counselor
  • Gain specific expertise in career development across the lifespan 
  • Specialize in providing career counseling in various settings

Graduates can sit for the National Certification as a Professional Counselor. They also prepare for Licensure as a Professional Counselor. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition per year: $22,464

#22 Carlow University

Pittsburgh, PA

Counselor Education M.Ed. 

Visit Website 
Points: 6

Carlow University offers a Master of Science in Professional Counseling. Graduates prepare to work as professionals who help clients actualize their potential. Students can choose from two counseling tracks like Addictions Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Graduates work in:

  • Outpatient and Residential Mental Health Facilities
  • Individual and Family Services
  • Substance Abuse Centers
  • College and Universities
  • Private Practice
  • Government Agencies
  • Corporations 

There is an accelerated option for students who wish to complete their degree sooner. Students are prepared for licensure as professional counselors in the state of Pennsylvania.

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: College of Arts & Sciences
  • Format: Campus-based/Hybrid/Online
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition per credit: $902

#21 Mount Mary University

Milwaukee, WI

MS in Professional Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 7

Mount Mary University offers a Master of Science in Professional Counseling. Mount Mary’s program participates in the National Board for Certified Counselors’ national certification program. It is one of the only five Wisconsin institutions whose students can earn the NCC credential through this program. They can pursue one of three counseling concentrations: 

  • Clinical mental health counseling (CACREP accredited)
  • Clinical rehabilitation counseling 
  • School counseling

The curriculum prepares students to become Licensed Professional Counselors in Wisconsin. Students may be eligible for licensure in the other states as well nationally. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per credit: $815

#20 Angelo State University

San Angelo, TX

Professional School Counseling (M.S.)

Visit Website 
Points: 7

Angelo State University offers a Master of Science in professional school counseling. It is designed for candidates interested in careers as Texas school counselors. The program helps students:

  • Gain a broad knowledge base
  • Promote the educational, personal, social, and career development of the learner
  • Promotes academic success for all learners and help them excel
  • Acknowledge and respect diversity while helping all students
  • Advocate for all students and the school
  • Show effective professional and interpersonal communication skills

The program is designed to meet the academic requirements to become a Certified School Counselor in Texas.

Fast facts:

  • 48 credits
  • Offered through: College of Graduate Studies and Research
  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: CAEP; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per credit: $778.80

#19 Oakland University 

Rochester, MI

MA in Counseling-School Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 7

Oakland University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling – School Counseling. It is designed for students who wish to work in professional counseling roles with children, youth, adults, and families in school settings. Coursework includes:

  • Introduction to Counseling and Ethics 
  • Diversity and Social Justice Issues 
  • Clinical Counseling Skills 
  • Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy 
  • Individual and Family Development
  • Testing and Assessment in Counseling 

Students who complete the degree and who have a valid teaching certificate may be recommended for counselor endorsement at the K-9, 7-12, or K-12 level. 

Fast facts:

  • 50 credits
  • Offered through: School of Education and Human Services
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Higher Learning Commission 
  • Tuition per credit: $  770.50

 #18 Northeastern University 

Boston, MA

MS in College Student Development and Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 8

Northeastern University offers a Master of Science in College Student Development and Counseling. It aims to create mindful, action-oriented leaders in higher education and student affairs. Students gain practical experience to put the theories and skills they learn in the classroom directly. The program focuses on counseling and college student development. They also learn about the history and philosophy of student affairs along with professional organization and administration. Graduates work in areas like:

  • Academic advising
  • Student activities
  • Orientation
  • Career counseling
  • Cooperative education

At the culmination of the program, students are required to submit a portfolio. It demonstrates their understanding of professional competencies through learning, practice, and reflection. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: Bouvé College of Health Sciences
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Tuition per credit: $755

#17 Olivet Nazarene University

Bourbonnais, IL

Professional Counseling, M.A. 

Visit Website 
Points: 8

Olivet Nazarene University offers a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling (MAPC) program. It prepares students to sit for the two examinations for licensure in the State of Illinois. Required courses include:

  • Human Growth and Development
  • Lifestyle and Career Development
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Social and Cultural Foundation
  • Counseling Theory and Techniques
  • Addictions and Compulsive Behaviors
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in the Counseling Profession
  • Group Dynamics and Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Relations

During the practicum and internships, students take part in individual and group supervision on a weekly basis. The program can be completed in two to three years. 

Fast facts:

  • 48 hours
  • Offered through: School of Graduate and Continuing Studies
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per year: $17,980

#16 Brandman University

Irvine, CA

MA in Psychology, Professional Clinical Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 9

Brandman University offers a Master of Arts in Psychology, Professional Clinical Counseling. It helps students practice their techniques and gain hands-on experience in research. Students also learn to:

  • Apply career development theories and techniques to work/career issues and problems
  • Use assessment techniques and diagnostic assessment to focus on clinical cases
  • Apply ethical and professional decision-making 
  • Study issues in the practice of psychotherapy and counseling
  • Implement theory and techniques to help a group process

It meets the education requirements for licensure in California or certification in other states.

Fast facts:

  • 63 credits
  • Offered through: School of Arts and Sciences
  • Format: Hybrid/Online 
  • Accreditation: CACREP; WSCUC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Tuition per credit: $670

#15 Colorado State University 

Fort Collins, CO

M.A. in Counseling and Career Development

Visit Website 
Points: 9

Colorado State University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling and Career Development. Students complete a core curriculum, a clinical practicum, and an internship. They also choose from three specializations specific to their area of focus. The career counseling specialization: 

  • Equips students to engage in career counseling
  • Help them gain knowledge and skills to help people develop life-career plans
  • Teaches them to focus on the interaction of work and other life roles
  • Educates and trains them to do more than traditional career education and guidance

Students are prepared to pursue licensure in Colorado and other states.

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: College of Health and Human Sciences
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per credit: $584.40 

#14 Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Master’s in Professional Counseling 

Visit Website 
Points: 10

Liberty University offers a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling. It trains students to become excellent guidance and career counselors for various educational settings. The program blends classroom experience and hands-on training to provide a comprehensive education. 

Coursework includes:

  • Orientation to Counselor Professional Identity & Function
  • Human Growth & Development; Multicultural Counseling 
  • Counseling Techniques & the Helping Relationship
  • Career Development & Counseling 
  • Psychopathology & Counseling 

Graduates are trained to help individuals choose the right profession or career path. They are also prepared to sit for licensure exams. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: The Graduate School
  • Format: Campus-based/Online
  • Accreditation: CACREP; CAEP; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per credit: $565

#13 Southeastern University

Lakeland, FL

Master’s in Professional Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 10

Southeastern University offers a Master of Science in Professional Counseling. Students gain the required skills and knowledge to become a licensed mental health counselor in Florida. They are trained to be holistic therapists and provide a higher degree of service. The program teaches students:

  • About the history and theories of diverse psychotherapies
  • The latest developments in mental health skills and strategies, all through the lens of a Christian worldview. 
  • To collaborate with other health care professionals as well as pastors

They gain valuable hands-on experience through internships. Students can apply to take licensure exams and prepare to practice. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: College of Behavioral & Social Sciences
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per credit: $525

#12 Lamar University 

Beaumont, TX

MED. Counseling and Development-Professional School Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 10

Lamar University offers a Master of Education Degree in Counseling and Development. The coursework prepares students for career and certification as a Professional School Counselor. Students learn counseling techniques inclusive of: 

  • Mental health promotion and positive youth development
  • Early mental health intervention and development
  • Substance abuse prevention and intervention
  • Suicide prevention in the school setting

The program places a major emphasis on the Coordinated School Health Model in Texas. It also emphasizes the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) National Model for school counseling. The coursework aligns with national and state credentials for the Texas Education Agency.

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: Department of Counseling
  • Format: Online/Hybrid
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per 3 credit hours: $ 1,554

#11 Northern Illinois University 

DeKalb, IL

MS in Education in Counseling 

Visit Website 
Points: 11

Northern Illinois University offers a Master of Science in Education in Counseling. It prepares students in the theory, techniques, and information needed by a professional counselor. The curriculum blends core courses with a specialization core supervised practicum and internship. Students select from one of the following specializations:

  • Specialization in School Counseling
  • Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Students who choose the thesis option must enroll in a Master’s Thesis. The curriculum meets the academic requirements set by the Illinois State Board of Education and the National Board for Certified Counselors. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 semester hours
  • Offered through: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Higher Learning Commission 
  • Tuition per hour: $492

#10 Capella University 

Minneapolis, MN

MS in School Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 11

Capella University offers a Masters of Science in School Counseling. The program includes online course work, residencies, and clinical experiences. It trains students to inspire and guide the youth towards fulfilling careers. The curriculum blends theory-based coursework and in-person learning experiences. Students learn to:

  • Administer and interpret career assessments
  • Plan and manage comprehensive career counseling and development programs
  • Develop life, career, and employment plans for the youth
  • Work with diverse populations

The curriculum covers the knowledge and skills to help students pursue licensure as a school counselor.

Fast facts:

  • 72 total quarter credits
  • Offered through: Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Format: Campus-based/Online
  • Accreditation: CACREP; CAEP; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per credit: $487

#9 Florida State University 

Tallahassee, FL

Career Counseling – MS/EdS 

Visit Website 
Points: 11 

Florida State University offers a Master of Science/EdS in Career Counseling. Students gain advanced understanding and training in the field. They learn through an interaction between theory, practice, and research. They learn about:

  • Career advising
  • Career counseling
  • College teaching
  • Workshop and outreach presentations
  • Program development

A partnership with the FSU Career Center allows students to gain hands-on experience in the profession. They are prepared and confident in their abilities to help others find their path. Upon completion, graduates go on to work in career counseling, academic advising, career placement, and professional counseling. 

Fast facts:

  • 63 credits
  • Offered through: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition per credit: $479.32

#8 University of Missouri 

Columbia, MO

Career Counseling Psychology (MEd)

Visit Website 
Points: 12

The University of Missouri offers a Master of Education in Career Counseling Psychology. This degree is part of the counseling psychology program. Career Psychology provides the theoretical basis for this program. It prepares students to:

  • Practice in a variety of professional settings
  • Apply the scientific-practitioner model of training
  • Practice theory through hands-on learning in MU’s Career Center
  • Qualify for Missouri’s curricular requirements for Licensure as a Professional Counselor (LPC)

Graduates work in college careers or advising centers, student affairs, or business settings. They focus on defining or developing career roles for students or employees. 

Fast facts:

  • 45-57 credits
  • Offered through: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per credit: $394.90

#7 North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC

MED in College Counseling and Student Development

Visit Website 
Points: 12

North Carolina State University offers a Master of Education in College Counseling and Student Development. It prepares students to become college counselors who advocate for the development of all students. The program emphasizes:

  • Scientist-Practitioner Model
  • Developmental Theory
  • Diversity, Multiculturalism, Anti-Racism, and Social Justice
  • School-College-Community Collaboration Model
  • Clinical Counseling Theory and Practice

Students develop the competence to lead, serve, and advocate for college students. They focus on the academic, career, personal, and social development of their students. The program leads to North Carolina counseling licensure. Graduates enjoy many career options in diverse settings. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based/Online
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per year: $11,672

 #6 Texas State University

San Marcos, TX

Master’s in Professional Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 13 

Texas State University offers a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling. It provides training and knowledge to meet academic requirements for credentialing and professional work. Students can choose from three concentrations within the program: 

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC)
  • Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling (MCFC)
  • School Counseling (SC)

Each concentration meets the academic requirements for licensure and certification in Texas. Students are trained to become involved and committed counselors for their patients. Graduates become licensed practitioners in the state. They can also take licensure exams in other states if they so wish. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
  • Tuition per credit: $347.34

#5 California State University, Sacramento  

Sacramento, CA

MS in Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 13

California State University, Sacramento offers a Master of Science in Counseling. Students have the option to specialize in Career Counseling. They gain the knowledge and skills to work as effective counselors and career development specialists. They learn to bring about holistic career development choices in the youth. They aid in the career decision-making process that integrates personal, social, and career needs. Graduates work in a variety of settings: 

  • Community-based agencies
  • Educational institutes 
  • Private practice
  • Non-profit organizations

The program aligns with the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) license in California. It also prepares them for Certified Career Counselor (CCC). 

Fast facts:

  • 60 units
  • Offered through: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per 6 units or less: $1,665

#4 University of Oklahoma

Norman, OK

Master’s Professional Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 14

The University of Oklahoma offers a Master of Education in Professional Counseling. It is designed for students who wish to become credentialed as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Oklahoma. The program integrates counseling theory, research, and practice. It offers four tracks: 

  • A 60-hour track that meets the state of Oklahoma LPC requirements
  • A 45-hour Drug and Alcohol counseling track 
  • A 45-hour School Counseling track
  • A 45-60 hour Counseling Research track that offers a thesis option

The program creates a strong foundation of counseling knowledge. It fosters understanding, critical thinking, and ethical decision-making.

Fast facts:

  • 45-60 semester hours
  • Offered through: Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per year: $6,946

#3 Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi 

Corpus Christi, TX

Master’s in Professional Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 14

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi offers a Master of Science in Professional Counseling. Each students’ personal and professional development is reviewed by faculty. Graduates show basic knowledge, personal, communication skills, interpersonal skills, and counseling skills. The program offers training in three major areas:

  • Addictions Counseling
  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Marriage, Family, and Couples Counseling

The curriculum meets the relevant Texas Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) educational requirements. Students who complete the marriage, couple, and family counseling emphasis will also meet Texas Licensed Marriage, Couple and Family Therapist (LMFT) educational requirements. 

Fast facts:

  • 60 credits
  • Offered through: College of Education and Human Development
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per credit: $200.53

#2 California State University, Northridge

Northridge, CA

M.S. in Counseling 

Visit Website 
Points: 15

California State University, Northridge offers a Master of Science in Counseling with an option in career counseling.  It prepares students to be counselors in a variety of settings. The specialization courses are grounded in career development theory and career development theory process. Students receive training focused on: 

  • Career resources and program development
  • Approaches to developing organizational-based career development programs
  • Consulting
  • Individual and group career assessment
  • Ethical and legal issues
  • Career development of special populations

Graduates are prepared for licensure in California and for practicing as professional counselors. 

Fast facts:

  • 76 credits
  • Offered through: Michael D. Eisner College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CACREP; WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Tuition per year: $6246

#1 University of West Alabama 

Livingston, AL

M.A. in Counseling and Career Development

Visit Website 
Points: 16

The University of West Alabama offers a Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling. It prepares students to serve as school counselors in P-12 educational environments. This degree does not lead to certification by the Alabama State Department of Education. But, it is a good fit for those seeking employment opportunities in a school setting or other similar settings. Concentration courses include:

  • Professional Orientation 
  • Introduction to School Counseling 
  • Techniques of Counseling 
  • Career Development and Counseling
  • Counseling Children and Adolescents 

Graduates train to provide assessment, advocacy, evaluation, and many other counseling services. 

Fast facts:

  • 48 credits
  • Offered through: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based/Online
  • Accreditation: CACREP; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per year: $3,021

Related Rankings: