Published October 2016
If you’d like to earn your master’s or Ph.D. in counseling in California, take a look at these top-ranked schools. For actors and actresses, writers and directors, California – specifically Hollywood – has long been a land of opportunity. More recently, Silicon Valley has emerged as a career springboard for many an aspiring tech guru. But this West Coast state provides a haven for another industry as well: counseling!
Although there’s no single counselor education landmark to match the cultural recognition of Hollywood or Silicon Valley, there are plenty of top-notch universities scattered all across the state – from San Diego to Sonoma – that have the ability to help you launch a successful career in clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, marriage and family counseling, and many other areas of this helping profession.
Click here to see the methodology we used for this best master’s in counseling degree ranking.
8. University of San Diego
San Diego, CA
School Counseling, M.A.; Clinical Mental Health Counseling, M.A.
Between the University of San Diego’s two accredited master’s in counseling degrees, this school is able to provide an impressively comprehensive survey of psychological and counseling-related topics. On the school counseling side, students can concentrate in Pupil Personnel Services (PPS), which requires 48 units of study, or combine the PPS credential with training to be a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (15 additional credits, or 63 in total). For aspiring Clinical Mental Health Counselors, an engaging, hands-on curriculum – which includes a minimum requirement of 725 supervised clinical hours – will transform them from curious amateurs to seasoned professionals.
Tuition & Fees: $25,192/yr
7. California State University-Sacramento
School Counseling, M.S.; Career Counseling, M.S.; Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling/Therapy, M.S.
If Sacramento is a little too “SoCal” for you, there’s good news; plenty of other colleges, including California State University at Sacramento, also have top counseling master’s degree programs. CSU Sacramento’s counselor education program finds its strength in extensive faculty experience, community service, and public outreach. These values manifest themselves throughout the program; for example, the curriculum relies heavily on practicum experiences, field study, seminars, and portfolio projects that encourage students to start thinking in real terms. CSU Sacramento is also one of just schools on this California master’s in counseling list to offer a specialization in Career Counseling.
Tuition & Fees: $12,602/yr
6. California State University-Fresno
Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling, M.S.
Maybe Sacramento is a little too far north for you. If so, try splitting the difference and head about two hours back down south to Fresno, California. Here, at CSU Fresno, you can access what very few schools offer: an accredited master’s degree in counseling devoted entirely to marriage, couple, and family relationships (the university does provide tracks in school, student affairs, and college counseling that are not CACREP accredited). Along with this access, CSU Fresno counseling students benefit from a number of specialized facilities, such as the Fresno Family Counseling Center and the Reading Laboratory.
Tuition & Fees: $12,041/yr
5. California State University-Fullerton
Clinical Mental Health Counseling, M.S.
Are you noticing a theme yet? The third out of five CSU universities on this top master’s in counseling degree ranking, Cal State Fullerton’s program shares plenty of similarities with its sibling schools. But there are also plenty of differences – namely, that the Fullerton campus is the only school in the CSU state system with an accredited master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This program will prepare you to become a licensed professional clinical counselor, but it also meets state educational requirements to train licensed marriage and family therapists. The curriculum’s crossover appeal, plus flexible scheduling that includes evening classes, summer sessions, and part-time enrollment options, make CSU Fullerton an attractive choice for grad students of all types.
Tuition & Fees: $12,167/yr
4. California State University-Northridge
Student Affairs, M.S.; Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling/Therapy, M.S.; Career Counseling, M.S.; School Counseling, M.S.
Instead of traveling south of Los Angeles to Fullerton, you could head about the same distance in the other direction and find yourself in Northridge, home to another CSU campus. One of the most striking features of this top master’s in counseling degree program is the sheer variety of specializations on offer – four, to be exact. The School Counseling track offers training for grades K through 12, while the College Counseling option emphasizes job opportunities at community colleges and universities. In comparison, the Career Counseling track will prepare you for work in schools but also industry and government. Throw in the Marriage and Family option and you’ve got a comprehensive program that easily covers the entire spectrum of human development.
Tuition & Fees: $12,299/yr
3. California State University-Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
M.S. in Counseling, Option in School-Based Family Counseling
After mentioning the Fullerton and Northridge campuses, it seems fitting that we also include the CSU school sitting right between them: Cal State Los Angeles. This university ranks as the best masters in counseling degree program of any CSU branch on our list, primarily due to its long history in counselor education (the university first earned CACREP accreditation in 1978!). With age comes wisdom, as they say, and the College of Education has sagely leveraged their experience in the field to develop a truly unique degree option. Officially labeled a “School-Based Family Counseling Program,” this M.S. in Counseling will qualify you for both LPCC and MFT licensure and comes with a PPS credential as well CWA advanced authorization.
Tuition & Fees: $12,085/yr
2. San Francisco State University
San Francisco, CA
Career Counseling, M.S.; Gerontological Counseling, M.S.; Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling/Therapy, M.S.; College Counseling, M.S.; School Counseling, M.S.
Enough about Los Angeles! If you’d like to trade a city of celebrities for a city of culture and bohemian character, San Francisco is right up your alley. For aspiring counselors, this move may take them to San Francisco State University, the leading source of counseling graduate degrees in California – at least when it comes to variety, that is. Five separate accredited programs prove that SFSU has been working hard to make sure its curriculum meets the highest national standards. And the sheer size of this program comes as a major benefit to students, who can immerse themselves in the active department through extracurriculars like the Counseling Student Association as well as workshops, events, and conferences throughout the year.
Tuition & Fees: $12,206/yr
1. Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park, CA
Clinical Mental Health Counseling, M.A.; School Counseling, M.A.
Sonoma State University: it’s the northern-most school on this California master’s in counseling degree ranking in terms of both geography and score! SSU clinches the #1 spot with high scores in all categories, with completion, job, and exam pass rates that hover between 90-100% for both accredited programs. This track record of high performance stems from a thorough, grounded curriculum that makes sure students have a solid understanding of counseling theories and techniques, research and evaluation, and multiculturalism before they advance to more career-specific training. Such an approach, combined with early involvement in actual counseling settings and a “commitment to self-exploration and personal growth” earn Sonoma State top honors as the best counseling master’s degree program in California.
Tuition & Fees: $13,060/yr
This concludes our ranking of the best graduate degrees in counseling in California.
You might also like: The Top 10 Online Marriage and Family Counseling Degree Programs
Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators