An online master’s in counseling prepares students for professional counselor roles in varied settings, from clinical to organizational. Degrees can differ between the master of arts, sciences, or education in counseling, depending on the school. Each of these graduate-level programs focuses on helping students develop the skills they need as counselors, expand their understanding of human development and psychology, and create a professional identity as a counselor. A master’s degree in counseling equips graduates to provide treatment to those suffering from mental, emotional, and relationship issues.
Completing a master’s degree program in counseling is the first step to becoming a licensed professional counselor. Graduate-level curricula provide the knowledge and foundation that students need to sit for their state licensure exams and require certifications. The specialized curriculum includes courses like Introduction to Counseling, Theories of Psychotherapy, Research Methods for the Counseling Professions, Principles of Psychopathology and Diagnosis, Assessment, Tests, and Measures, Ethical and Legal Issues in Professional Counseling, Crisis Assessment and Intervention, Human Sexuality, Life Planning, and Career Development, Counseling and Advocacy with Diverse Populations, Mental Health Counseling Approaches and Interventions, Applied Research and Program Evaluation in Mental Health Counseling, Advanced Group Counseling, Practicum, and Clinical Internships among other courses.
An online master’s degree in counseling is a good investment professionally. It may lead to licensing eligibility and higher earning potential. There are many counseling programs to choose from, so prospective students need to do their research well. A look at the specializations offered, and the format’s flexibility are some key factors to select a school and program that best suits their needs. Each program’s degree plan will help them charter a career path to gain relevant specialized skill training and career development support. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits most postgraduate counseling degree programs.
There are specific factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right program. Students who pursue their master’s in counseling online could choose between asynchronous or synchronous classes depending on their schedules. Some programs require cohort learning, real-time class involvement, or on-campus participation. Others offer clinical placement assistance, small class sizes, and live online classroom discussions.
Most importantly, an online master’s in counseling helps students earn their degrees without upending their work, life, and study balance. Students are taught by the same faculty and cover the same curriculum as the traditional programs. The online delivery format allows flexibility while maintaining program quality and academic rigor.
Here we have shortlisted the top 30 schools that offer an online master of counseling degree with affordable tuition rates. The ranking has considered accreditation, student support systems, curriculum, and tuition and flexibility. Schools have been rated based on their affordability.
Flexibility of the Program (asynchronous course delivery, hybrid options, part-time/full-time schedule, etc. ) – 1 point per item
Online Student Support Network (faculty mentors/advisors, etc.)— 1 point per item
Accreditation (School-Wide and Program-Specific) – 1 point per item
“Wow” Factor – 1 point
Northwestern University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling program through the Family Institute. The standard program is designed for students with counseling experience. It comprises 24 courses and two clinical experiences: Practicum and Internship. There is also the option of a bridge program for students who do not have an undergraduate degree in psychology or haven’t worked with clients in a counseling setting. The program can be completed on an accelerated full-time, traditional, or part-time basis. Students learn the same curriculum taught on campus via the learning-by-doing model that prepares them for real-world practice as a self-reflective counselor. The CACREP-accredited program challenges them to reflect on their identity and how it affects their approach to Counseling via highly collaborative in-person experiences. Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Wake Forest University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling designed for ambitious students who have the commitment to enact positive social change in the world around them. Students can choose either the Online Masters in Counseling Clinical Mental Health program or the online school counseling master’s program depending on their career goals. The 100% online, CACREP-accredited programs are designed with working professionals in mind. Graduates of this program have a 95% pass rate on the National Counselor Exam. Students learn from nationally renowned counseling thought leaders who train them for a future in Counseling and human services. Wake Forest University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Tuition per credit: $1,510
Seton Hall University offers an online Master of Arts/Educational Specialist in Professional Counseling through its College of Education and Human Services. The 60-credit program is designed for students interested in a career as a professional mental health counselor. The combined Master’s and Education Specialist curriculum provides students with skills and models of intervention grounded in theory. The program also requires two on-site residencies and online coursework, which offers the opportunity to meet face-to-face with professors and peers in the program. The programs provide the necessary education and licensure experience as a professional counselor in New Jersey and most other states. The College is nationally accredited by three professional associations: APA, COAMFTE, and CAEP. Seton Hall is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Tuition per credit: $1,304
Bradley University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling designed for students who are passionate about helping others work in new, more impactful ways. The 60-credit program offers two concentrations – Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Professional School Counseling. The curriculum is structured to blend academic theory with the hands-on experience the profession demands. It prepares students for the National Counselor Exam as they graduate with a direct path to licensure. The career-defining, life-changing education helps hone their skills and opens the door to new opportunities. The CACREP-accredited program offers students the opportunity to study the groundbreaking practice of neurocounseling. Bradley University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition per credit: $930
Bay Path University offers an online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that prepares students to enter the workforce immediately. The 60-credit program has options in advanced trauma-informed counseling, alcohol & drug use counseling, early intervention, or school adjustment counseling. The accelerated format allows students to complete sooner than other Master’s degree programs, and the flexible format allows them to gain an advanced degree as they continue to work. Students gain a comprehensive education and training in mental health counseling and learn about state-of-the-art theories and models of mental health challenges. They develop advanced, cutting-edge counseling skills and techniques to perform as capable and competent counselors. Bay Path University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Tuition per credit: $875
Nova Southeastern University offers an online master’s degree in Counseling through the College of Psychology. The program is designed for the working professional actively involved in or entering the field of Counseling. It offers four concentration options – Applied Behavior Analysis, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling concentration, and Substance Abuse Counseling. The 60-credit Clinical Mental Health Counseling concentration provides education and training for those who will seek employment in such diverse settings as social agencies, mental health clinics, hospitals, personnel offices, and schools. The innovative academic program prepares graduates to seek licensure in Florida and other states. It helps students develop the skills and leadership abilities of counselors who desire to provide, create, and maintain high-quality service delivery. Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC).
Tuition per credit: $815
Messiah University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling that prepares students to become competent counselors who work with clients in various settings. The 60-credit program teaches them to develop their leadership abilities in the counseling field, serve others in the counseling process, and reconcile relationships within the counseling setting. The coursework prepares students to sit for the professional counseling licensure exam (LPC), your marriage and family therapy licensure exam (LMFT), or become a certified school counselor in Pennsylvania. The flexible format is designed for working adults. The CACREP-accredited program is designed to help students excel as clinical mental health counselors, couple and family counselors, or school counselors. Messiah University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education.
Tuition per credit: $710
Regent University offers an online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through its School of Psychology & Counseling. The 60-credit program prepares students to pursue fulfilling licensed-counseling employment in a variety of professional settings. The rigorous curriculum combines models and techniques of Counseling with biblical principles for a balanced and robust approach. Students are well-prepared to sit for state licensure exams and trained to help individuals manage and overcome life issues and guiding them to better mental health. The CACREP-accredited program and its qualified internship settings teach students to apply what they learn into their work. They gain knowledge and skills in human growth and development, group work, research, and professional ethics. Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Tuition per credit: $710
Colorado Christian University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling that equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to become influential and effective licensed professional counselors. The 60-credit program is designed with an evangelical Christian worldview that promotes the study of biblical principles with the whole person’s spiritual and physiological dimensions. The curriculum combines rigorous coursework and professional practice in a comprehensive graduate educational experience. The comprehensive coursework prepares students for professional licensure in the state of Colorado and many other states. The M.A. in Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Colorado Christian University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.
Tuition per credit: $681
Lakeland University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) that prepares students for professional Counseling in various settings. The 60 semester-hour provides comprehensive professional graduate training in clinical mental health, higher education counseling, or school counseling. The clinical mental health emphasis meets the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services requirements for a Wisconsin Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Students are taught by expert faculty who hold terminal degrees and are practicing professionals in the field. They blend in-class instruction with experiential learning through practicums and internships afford ample time for observation and client contact. The program is designed for working professionals who can gain an advanced degree as they continue working. Lakeland University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Tuition per credit:$667
Brandman University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling and Pupil Personnel Services Credential in School Counseling. The 48-credit program comprises an integrated curriculum designed to streamline the process by reducing the steps to becoming a school counselor. Students gain a solid knowledge of the state and federal laws and regulations affecting school district guidance programs. They learn the practical methods that can help change adolescents’ lives by encouraging them to pursue college, career, and dream about their future. They also learn to demonstrate knowledge of personal strengths, assets, values, beliefs, and attitudes; and apply research-based counseling theory to particular problems to create an effective counseling program. Brandman University is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
Tuition per credit: $660
Southern New Hampshire University offers an online M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that provides students with the educational foundation necessary to prepare for the required licensing and entry-level professional counseling exams and post-graduate fieldwork. The 60-credit online Master’s program teaches students to effectively work with clients experiencing a range of behavioral and emotional issues, from child development problems and trauma to addiction and major mental illness. The curriculum aligns with the Council’s standards for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) though it is not currently accredited. It requires two required face-to-face residencies to help strengthen your workforce abilities. Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Tuition per credit: $627
The University of Tennessee at Martin offers an online Master of Science in Education with a Major in Counseling through its College of Education, Health, and Behavioral Sciences. The program offers two concentration options – Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling (CAEP Accredited). The former is a 60-credit curriculum that prepares students for community counseling in hospitals, health centers, community agencies, etc. It meets the state requirements and will be eligible for the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license or the Licensed Professional Counselor- Mental Health Service Provider (LPC-MSHP) license. The latter is a 48-credit curriculum designed for individuals seeking to become a licensed School Counselor in the PreK-12 school system. The University of Tennessee at Martin is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Tuition per credit: $620
Freed–Hardeman University offers an online Master of Science in Counseling that prepares graduates for state licensure, full-time employment, doctoral programs, and to score well on National Exams. Students can choose from either the M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or the M.S. in School Counseling, depending on their career goals. The 61-hour programs are challenging and well-designed to train and create highly successful professional counselors. The CMHC program is designed to train students in counseling-psychotherapy and wish to provide while the S.C. program is designed to train students in counseling students in a school setting. Both are CACREP-accredited and Freed–Hardeman University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Tuition per credit: $610
Oregon State University offers an online Master of Counseling (M.Coun.) program with an option in school counseling. The 75-credit program is designed in a hybrid format for Oregon and Washington residents making it more accessible. Fifty percent online and fifty percent via classroom meetings are held two weekends each term in Wilsonville, Oregon. The unique and well-established program prepares students to utilize skills in individual and group counseling, consultation and system change, leadership, advocacy, and action research. They learn to emphasize empowering young adults, increasing college-going rates among under-represented populations, and delivering comprehensive school counseling program services to all students.
Tuition per credit: $590
University of Massachusetts (UMassOnline) offers a Master of Education in Counseling online degree designed to meet the needs of students wishing to enter the Counseling field. The 60-credit program operates on a cohort model whereby all participants complete the same program of study. The curriculum meets the academic requirements for certification and School Counseling Licensure in Massachusetts as a School Counselor. It requires two weeks of on-campus study during the first summer of the program to complete two clinical courses while the remaining coursework is online. The program is approved by the Massachusetts Department of Education. The University of Massachusetts is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Tuition per credit:$575
Clarks Summit University offers an online Master of Science in Counseling program that prepares students for state licensure and professional practice. The 60-credit program emphasizes a biblical counseling model and consists of 51 credits of required coursework and nine credits of elective courses. It boasts of a 100% success rate of its graduates passing the National Counselor Exam on the first try. Students are trained to competently deal with secular theories without comprising biblical truth as they prepare for professional work or doctoral work in Counseling or psychology. The fully accredited degree requires students to complete supervised practicum and internship requirements. Clarks Summit University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Tuition per credit: $565
Liberty University offers an online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through its School of Behavioral Sciences. The 60-credit program is designed to equip students with the specialized training they need to gain state licensure and become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). The coursework enhances their understanding of human psychology through field-tested techniques. They are trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental health and behavioral problems. They learn the best practices for promoting the mental health and holistic wellness of clients in diverse communities. As licensed mental health professionals, graduates of this CACREP-accredited program help people heal from emotional trauma, overcome harmful behavior, and prescribe mental health treatments. Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Tuition per credit: $565
Grand Canyon University offers an online M.S. in counseling degree through its College of Humanities and Social Science. The 74-credit program prepares students to counsel various clients from diverse backgrounds and meet the requirements for licensure. The MS in Counseling degree offers four emphases to choose from – the Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders, Emphasis in Christian Counseling, Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy, and the Emphasis in Trauma. Students are trained to work with clients who are impacted by psychological, social, behavioral, and emotional issues. GCU’s graduate-level online counseling programs were developed to meet the academic requirements established by the National Board for Certified Counselors and the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Tuition per credit: $550
Palo Alto University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling through its Department of Counseling. The 93 quarter credits program has two areas of emphasis- Marriage, Family, and Child and Clinical Mental Health, both of which are CACREP accredited. In addition to these, students must complete at least a 100-hour practicum and two 300-hour internships during the program. The school’s excellent faculty are committed to providing education at the highest levels of quality. The curriculum is designed to provide the tools for individuals to become qualified and trained clinicians. This program’s California graduates can pursue both the Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) licenses. PAU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Tuition per unit: $544
The University of Louisiana Monroe offers an online Master of Science Degree in Counseling designed to train competent professional counselors. The 60-credit program has two options for degree concentration – Clinical Mental Health Counseling (Child, Adolescent, Adult) and School Counseling (Elementary, Secondary). Both programs are CACREP accredited, and students also have the option to specialize in both areas. The School of Health Profession’s (SHP) Counseling Programs is further accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The curriculum is designed to train students to provide supportive, educational, and counseling services to individuals from diverse backgrounds in a wide variety of settings. The University of Louisiana at Monroe is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Tuition per credit: $500
Capella University offers an online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that is designed for students who are passionate about helping others navigate through life’s many challenges. The 90 total quarter credits curriculum covers the theories and practical skills with applied clinical and residency experience students need to evaluate and treat mental health disorders. The curriculum meets today’s highest industry standards. The CACREP-accredited program includes 10 Core courses, 7 Specialization courses with 2 Residencies, Practicum, and 2 Internships. Students emerge with the training and confidence to pursue state licensure and positively impact patients’ mental, behavioral, and emotional health. Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition per credit: $487
Lindsey Wilson College offers an online Master of Education degree in Counseling and Human Development through its School of Professional Counseling. The 60 credit program is designed for individuals who enjoy helping and want to make a difference. The program emphasizes core values of ethics and multiculturalism and provides students the clinical skills, practical experience, and theoretical knowledge essential for a successful career in Counseling. Students gain both the necessary knowledge and skills to be a professional mental health counselor. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Graduates are committed to helping people achieve the most of their human potential and live life to the fullest. Lindsey Wilson College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Tuition per credit: $474.00
The University of North Dakota offers an online M.A.in Counseling (K-12 School Counseling Emphasis) designed for working professionals who wish to work as a school counselor. The completion of the 60-credit program leads to eligibility for the state department of education licensure in North Dakota and may be compatible with licensure requirements in other states. It also includes at least two credits of written independent study or scholarly project that needs to be approved by the faculty advisor. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The Master’s degree is approved by the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices for School Counselor Competencies (ESPB). The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition per credit: $463.89
North Carolina State University offers an online Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through its College of Education. The CACREP-accredited program is designed for counseling professionals working in clinical mental health capacities. The 60-credit curriculum focuses on the traditional core of developmental theory and the design and implementation of preventive interventions, clinical counseling theory and practice, and multicultural diversity. It prepares professionals in different fields to promote the wellness and benefits of the clients. Students participate in individualized field experiences appropriate to their area of study, enhancing their competence in theory and practice. North Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Tuition per credit: $462
Adams State University offers an online M.A. degree in Counseling through its Department of Counselor Education. The 60-hour program provides students with a comprehensive theoretical knowledge base, sound practical and relational skills, personal and professional dispositions to deal with a diverse clientele and a strong counselor identity that they need to work in various professional settings. The CACREP-accredited program offers emphasis in Clinical Mental Health or School Counseling. Students can choose the one that best suits their career goals. The curriculum meets the state academic requirements for licensure as a school counselor and a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado. Adams State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition per credit: $435
West Texas A&M University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling through its Department of Education. The 60-credit program is designed to prepare ethical, culturally competent counselors to provide professional counseling services in various clinical settings. They also obtain a strong understanding of diversity issues and address the needs of a progressively growing diverse population. Students serve their internships in faculty-approved settings like mental health centers, multipurpose mental health agencies, facilities for clients with dual diagnoses, along with state hospitals and training schools. Students are to sit for the licensure or certification exams in various states. West Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Tuition per year: $9,803
Lamar University offers an online Master of Education in Counseling and Development with a Specialization in Professional School Counseling Online. The 60-credit program is designed to prepare school counselors to serve the career, academic, personal, and social needs of culturally diverse students in the K-12 schools. Taught by the same award-winning faculty who teach on campus, students learn to identify risk factors and incorporate developmental, ethical, legal, and gender-appropriate strategies and techniques to meet children’s and adolescents’ counseling needs. It includes one residency, a practicum, and internship of 15-week each. The curriculum meets the educational coursework for the School Counseling Certification and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Texas. Lamar University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Fort Hays State University offers an online Master of Science Degree in Counseling- School Counseling through its Department of Advanced Educational Programs. The 48 hours program qualifies students for an Initial School Specialist License in Kansas. Students develop academic and social skills to prepare for challenging careers in the changing world environment. The curriculum allows them to delve deep into the theory behind many issues that arise with youth as they grow and develop, identify the major theories of career development, and apply the concepts of career counseling, and gain experience in real-world situations through practicum and internship. The program is accredited by the Kansas State Department of Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Fort Hays State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition per credit: $298.55
Western New Mexico University offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling that provides students with a strong foundation of current theoretical knowledge and practical counseling skills that prepare them to work as counselors in diverse settings. The 60-credit hour program helps them develop the skills needed to provide innovative and effective counseling experiences for clients from a multicultural society. They can choose from four concentrations – Mental Health, Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, School Counseling, and Substance Abuse Counseling. The program is offered with personalized learning through small class sizes and low student to teacher ratios. Students work in various settings, including schools, community mental health centers, state agencies, clinics, hospitals, and private practice. The program is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). WNMU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Tuition per 3 credit hours: $748.41