Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of counselors and social workers is projected to increase 19% between 2012 and 2022, which far exceeds the 11% average growth rate for all occupations combined. If you’ve always had a drive to help others, there’s no more exciting time to get a master’s in counseling online.

Counselors help people cope with problems in everyday situations, ranging from problems at school to physical or mental health issues. Professionals who hold a counseling master’s tend to receive a highly specialized education so they can properly counsel or treat a specific subset of people, such as people with specific behavioral issues or environmental stressors in their lives. With a more advanced education and more specific qualifications, professional counselors hold a master’s also command a higher salary than people who only hold a bachelor’s in counseling or a comparable social work degree.

Broadly speaking, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook categorizes licensed counselors into the following occupations: mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, school and career counselors, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors and rehabilitation counselors. It should be noted that in order to practice as a counselor in the U.S. in any of these areas, it is necessary to be licensed; most, if not all, such licenses consider a graduate level education counseling to be a prerequisite. Common licensure bodies include the National Board for Certified Counselors and the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

Our 2016 rankings for best online master’s in counseling can help you make the best decision for your future while maintaining your ethical standards.

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1University of the SouthwestHobbs$$$$$6610 North Lovington Hwy
Hobbs, NM 88240
(575) 392-6561

A private, interdenominational four-year university in Hobbs, New Mexico, the University of the Southwest began as a two-year Baptist college. In 1962, it adopted its current name and began granting bachelor's and master's degrees in arts and sciences, education, and business. Boasting accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, the university grants degrees in more than 50 undergraduate programs and 15 graduate programs, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master's in school counseling program requires students to complete 42 credits of completely online courses, preparing them for licensure as school counselors in elementary, middle, and high school settings. Coursework covers counseling techniques and theories; career development; counseling ethics; and group, family, and child/adolescent counseling.

The curriculum allows learners to focus on the interactions and relations between students and their environments at school to reduce the effect of institutional and environmental barriers. University of the Southwest students who reside outside of New Mexico should contact their state's department of education to determine whether their program meets state licensing and certification regulations.

2Northwestern UniversityEvanston$$$$$633 Clark St
Evanston, IL 60208
(847) 491-3741

A private research university in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University also features campuses in Doha, Qatar, and Chicago. In addition to its undergraduate programs, the university highlights the Pritzker School of Law, Bienen School of Music, Kellogg School of Management, Feinberg School of Medicine, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Medill School of Journalism, plus doctoral programs. Northwestern functions as a large research university, offering an online master's in counseling.

The online counseling program at Northwestern University provides students with a rigorous curriculum focusing on clinical immersion, diversity, and self-reflection, urging aspiring clinicians to develop their own unique professional identities. Students learn various evidence-based practices along with theoretical approaches to best prepare them to help clients coming from all different backgrounds overcome an array of mental health-related challenges. The curriculum follows a learning-by-doing model with weekly online class assignments and discussions coupled with in-person clinical experiences.

3North Carolina State University at RaleighRaleigh$$$$$2101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27695-7001
(919) 515-2011

A public research university located in Raleigh, North Carolina, North Carolina State University at Raleigh belongs to the University of North Carolina system. NC State forms one point of North Carolina's "research triangle," joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. Featuring more than 106 undergraduate programs, NC State also boasts a graduate school highlighting 104 master's programs and 61 doctoral offerings.

Among its array of master's programs, NC State offers an online master's in counseling. The online master of education in college counseling and student development program prepares students for advising and counseling positions at student service agencies in universities and colleges, including in advising offices, career services, counseling centers, and diversity offices. Program applicants must complete an online application, with their resume and an application fee attached.

They must also provide GRE or MAT scores, three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts from prior post-secondary institutions. Online applicants must also reside in the state of North Carolina.

4Wake Forest UniversityWinston Salem$$$$$1834 Wake Forest Road
Winston Salem, NC 27106
(336) 758-5000

Founded in 1834, Wake Forest University functions as a private research university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The university's name derives from its original location in Wake Forest. Its main campus, the Reynolda campus, sits north of downtown Winston-Salem. Wake Forest offers 40 undergraduate majors and a variety of master's programs, including an online master's in counseling.

Students can pursue two online counseling degrees at Wake Forest University: an online master of arts in counseling in clinical mental health counseling, or an online master of arts in counseling in school counseling. Both fully online programs follow an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete their work at any time from any place. This format enables students to continue working as they earn their degrees, offering the most flexible schedule available. Students also enjoy 24/7 access to technical support and tutoring services.

5University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles$$$$$University Park
Los Angeles, CA 90089
(213) 740-2311

In 1880, the University of Southern California was founded as a private research university in Los Angeles, making it the state's oldest such university. Functioning as the largest private employer in the city, USC generates around $8 billion in economic impact. Students can explore a wide variety of program offerings at USC, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of education in school counseling enables students to become school counselors in K-12 settings. This program allows students to explore the challenges impacting today's schools, focusing on children's well-being through the support of their academic, emotional, and social needs. The curriculum follows standards put in place by the American School Counselor Association's National Model for School Counseling.

USC's curriculum focuses on three key areas: college and career readiness, restorative justice, and trauma-informed practice.

6Clarks Summit UniversityClarks Summit$$$$$538 Venard Rd
Clarks Summit, PA 18411-1250
(570) 586-2400

Located in Pennsylvania, Clarks Summit University is a private Bible college offering a variety of degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including high school dual enrollment opportunities, associate programs, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctoral programs. Students enjoy the flexibility to pursue online programs, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of science in counseling program at Clarks Summit University comprises 60 credits of coursework, allowing students to focus on secular theories as they pursue state licensure. Six specialization options allow learners to cater their degree to their personal interests and career goals: general counseling, addictions, therapeutic recreation, marriage and family, hospital chaplaincy, and mental and mood disorders.

Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and at least nine credits of undergraduate studies in theology or Bible and nine in psychology.

7Lehigh UniversityBethlehem$$$$$27 Memorial Drive West
Bethlehem, PA 18015
(610) 758-3000

Lehigh University functions as a private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was established in 1865, featuring coeducational undergraduate programs and a variety of graduate program offerings. The university comprises four colleges: the education college, the business school, the arts and sciences college, and the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Lehigh University recognizes a need for flexibility within higher education, and so features an array of online programs, including an online master's in counseling.

Lehigh's hybrid master of education in international school counseling with state certification program allows students to complete most of their coursework online, with intensive in-person classes added in. U.S. citizens who graduate from the program can earn Pennsylvania certification as school counselors. The curriculum prepares students to work with groups and individuals with diverse backgrounds to help navigate the challenges of living in different cultures.

8University of the CumberlandsWilliamsburg$$$$$6191 College Station Drive
Williamsburg, KY 40769
(606) 549-2200

A private religious college in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands boasts accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from an array of disciplines. The university features four colleges: the Hutton School of Business/Management, the Hutton Center for Leadership Studies, the graduate/professional education program, and Cumberland College, the university's undergraduate school.

Students enjoy the chance to pursue any of a variety of online programs, including a master's in counseling online.

The online master's in clinical mental health counseling at the University of the Cumberlands teaches students to help individuals either one-on-one or in group settings as they deal with emotional or mental health issues. Program graduates go on to pursue careers in private practices, community agencies, hospitals, correctional facilities, and clinical mental health centers.

Through the University of the Cumberlands' curriculum, students learn about child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family counseling, private practice and clinical supervision, and advanced counseling theories and techniques.

9Brandman UniversityIrvine$$$$$16355 Laguna Canyon Road
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 341-9800

Functioning as a private, nonprofit institution, Brandman University boasts regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The school provides educational opportunities for working adults, featuring online programs that afford students the flexibility they need to continue their careers as they earn their degrees. One of Brandman's most prestigious online offerings is its master's degree in counseling online.

The online master of arts in counseling and pupil personnel services credential in school counseling at Brandman University functions as an integrated program meant to streamline the process of becoming a school counselor. Throughout their curriculum, students learn to change the lives of adolescents, challenging them to pursue college, careers, and other future goals.

Degree seekers gain an understanding of the federal and state regulations and laws impacting school district guidance programs, and they learn to implement their personal assets, strengths, beliefs, values, and attitudes.

10Touro University WorldwideLos Alamitos$$$$$10601 Calle Lee #179
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
(818) 874-4115

Touro University Worldwide functions as a nonprofit, Jewish-sponsored higher learning institution. It belongs to a larger system of universities established by visionaries. These schools aim to develop connected, passionate learning communities, allowing students to achieve their individual goals. Touro features both on-campus and online opportunities, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master's in marriage and family therapy at Touro University Worldwide features various track options, allowing students to choose one that best fits their career goals and personal interests. Tracks include a clinical option, a nonclinical option, and a licensed professional clinical counseling track. Each requires students to complete at least 54 credits of coursework, with the clinical and licensed professional clinical counseling tracks also requiring practicum hour requirements.

Touro University Worldwide boasts affordable tuition rates. Each track costs $500 per credit, meaning the nonclinical track costs $27,000 in total, the clinical track costs $36,000, and the LPCC track costs $41,000.

11Vanderbilt UniversityNashville$$$$$2101 West End Avenue
Nashville, TN 37240
(615) 322-7311

Named after the New York shipping and rail magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, who provided the initial $1 million endowment for the school, Vanderbilt University functions as a private research university in Nashville, Tennessee. It features a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs and highlights online learning opportunities, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of education with a school counseling specialization at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College emphasizes a rigorous curriculum, which follows a humanistic training model to prepare students to become successful K-12 school counselors. Students gain the ability to translate extensive research and theoretical knowledge into counseling programs, helping children thrive. The program requires students to complete 48 credit hours of coursework, which typically takes 2-3 years.

This curriculum emphasizes critical skills for counselors, such as social and cultural diversity, human growth, helping relationship, research and assessment, career development, and ethical practice.

12Lincoln Christian UniversityLincoln$$$$$100 Campus View Drive
Lincoln, IL 62656-2111
(217) 732-3168

Located in Lincoln, Illinois and featuring extension sites in Normal, Indianapolis, and Las Vegas, the private Lincoln Christian University affiliates with the Churches of Christ and the Christian churches. The university offers co-educational Bible college curricula, featuring on-campus offerings and a variety of online options, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of arts in counseling program at Lincoln Christian University features a seminary-based, clinical mental health counseling focus, with 60 credit hours of required coursework. The program serves both traditional students and working adults, bringing together faculty and students with real-world experiences. The program follows a cohort format, keeping students on track with the same group of peers from beginning to end.

Lincoln Christian's curriculum focuses on basic counseling techniques, allowing students to choose electives that match their interests and career goals.

13Texas A&M University - CommerceCommerce$$$$$2600 South Neal
Commerce, TX 75429-3011
(888) 868-2682

Operating within the Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M University-Commerce represents the system's third-largest higher learning institution. Established in 1889, the university is also the fourth-oldest state college or university in all of Texas. Students enjoy a variety of program offerings at the university, including several prestigious online opportunities, such as an online master's in counseling.

Texas A&M University-Commerce features a master of education in counseling and a master of science in counseling. The master of science program emphasizes school counseling for students interested in pursuing certification as professional school counselors. The master of education program focus student affairs for students who want to work in student services at a college or university.

Both programs feature common core courses, plus electives that cater to students' specific career goals.

14University of West AlabamaLivingston$$$$$Station One
Livingston, AL 35470
(205) 652-3400

A public university in Livingston, Alabama, the University of West Alabama began in 1835 as a church-supported school for young women. It was initially known as the Livingston Female Academy, and has since grown to serve students across several academic divisions and colleges on its 600-acre campus. The university offers associate, bachelor's, master's, educational doctorate, and educational specialist programs.

Students at UWA enjoy the opportunity to earn online degrees, as well, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of science in clinical mental health counseling requires students to complete 60 credit hours of coursework, including nine credit hours in professional courses, 39 in concentration courses, and 12 in elective coursework. Students also complete practicum and internship requirements. Program applicants must complete an online application, submit their official transcripts, and meet all requirements for graduate admission at the university.

15Regent UniversityVirginia Beach$$$$$1000 Regent University Dr
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
(757) 352-4127

Founded by Pat Robertson in 1977, Regent University began as Christian Broadcasting Network University and changed its name in 1990. Headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the private Christian university offers on-campus programs and online options. Online students enjoy a variety of study options, including an online master's in counseling.

Regent University offers a variety of online master's programs for counseling students, including a master of arts in clinical mental health counseling; a master of arts in marriage, couple, and family counseling; a master of arts in pastoral counseling; and a master of arts in school counseling. Admission requirements vary by program, but all students must submit a completed application for admission and provide their undergraduate transcripts.

Active-duty and reserve U.S. Army service members, plus members of the U.S. National Guard, follow separate admissions processes.

16Concordia University - IrvineIrvine$$$$$1530 Concordia West
Irvine, CA 92612-3203
(949) 854-8002

A private Christian university in Irvine, California, Concordia University-Irvine began in 1976 to serve the Pacific Southwest as a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod college. The university provides training for religious education teachers, Christian school administrators, and pastors. Students can pursue a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs at Concordia, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of arts in counseling at Concordia University-Irvine teaches students the skills they need for leverage in their particular professional field. Learners learn to connect with individuals struggling with issues such as anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. They build competency in emotions, relationships, and cognitions, learning to cultivate profound changes.

Program graduates know how to apply the latest neurological research on the healing process through biblical perspectives.

17Emporia State UniversityEmporia$$$$$1 Kellogg Circle
Emporia, KS 66801-5415
(620) 341-1200

Located in Emporia, Kansas, Emporia State University functions as the third-oldest public university in Kansas and one of six public universities governed by the Kansas Board of Regents. Emporia students can pursue more than 80 programs of study across four colleges, including an online master's in counseling.

The online rehabilitation counseling program at Emporia State University requires students to complete 48 credit hours of coursework, which typically takes 2.5 years to finish. The program follows an online format, allowing students to continue working as they pursue their degrees. Learners also enjoy opportunities to complete practicum and internship requirements, building relevant real-world experiences as they work to earn their degree.

Graduates leave the program equipped with techniques relevant to human development, growth, and disability in a changing social landscape. They know how to implement essential skills and knowledge as they document and apply research methods.

18Nova Southeastern UniversityFort Lauderdale$$$$$3301 College Ave
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7796
(954) 262-7300

A private university in Davie, Florida, Nova Southeastern University comprises 18 schools and colleges, offering more than 150 programs of study. Students enjoy opportunities to pursue a variety of academic disciplines in flexible online formats, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of science in counseling program at Nova Southeastern University serves working professionals who are actively involved in or entering the counseling field. Students can pursue specializations in substance abuse counseling and education, mental health counseling, advanced applied behavior analysis, or applied behavior analysis. Specializing their degree allows students to tailor their program to their specific career goals and interests.

Throughout their curriculum, students develop the skills and leadership abilities to provide, maintain, and create high-quality service and care as counselors. The program's online format allows for flexibility and accessibility, and it provides quality educational opportunities.

19New York UniversityNew York$$$$$70 Washington Sq South
New York, NY 10012-1091
(212) 998-1212

A private research university founded in New York City in 1831, New York University features locations and campuses around the world. Students at the global university can graduate from degree-granting campuses in Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Sydney, and Tel Aviv, among other locations. Learners can pursue any of a variety of programs at NYU, including an online master's in counseling.

NYU's online master's program in mental health counseling prepares students to pursue employment and licensure as mental health counselors. They may work in community agencies, addiction treatment centers, or private practices. Students must complete 60 credits of graduate coursework, along with one counseling lab, 100 hours of practicum experience, and 600 hours of internship experience. Learners complete the program in as little as 21 months, and can begin at any of three start dates throughout the year.

20City University of SeattleSeattle$$$$$521 Wall Street, Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98121
(800) 426-5596

The City University of Seattle functions as part of the National University System and offers campus education around the world. The private, nonprofit institution comprises the School of Management, the Technology Institute, the Albright School of Education, the Washington Academy of Languages, the School of Applied Leadership, and the School of Arts and Sciences. Through these colleges and schools, students can explore a variety of disciplines, including an online master's in counseling.

The City University of Seattle's online master of arts in counseling program requires students to complete 90 credits of coursework in topics such as multicultural counseling, human growth and development, research methods and statistics, personal ethics and law, and counseling theory.

Learners also enjoy opportunities to tailor their degrees to their personal interests and career goals through concentrations in clinical mental health counseling; addiction counseling; marriage, couple, and family counseling; or professional school counseling.

21Dallas Baptist UniversityDallas$$$$$3000 Mountain Creek Parkway
Dallas, TX 75211-9299
(214) 333-7100

Formerly known as Dallas Baptist College, Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas functions as a Christian liberal arts university with a main campus overlooking Mountain Creek Lake. The university also features campuses in Plano and Hurst. Dallas Baptist highlights seven colleges and offers a diverse array of programs, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of arts in Christian counseling at Dallas Baptist University functions as a non-licensure, 36-credit hour graduate program, focused on providing Christ-centered education to prepare students to lead Christian counseling ministries. Learners in the program develop theological and counseling foundations, incorporating biblical principles into counseling ministries.

Dallas Baptist's program caters to students who plan to counsel at denominational agencies, local churches, and ministry-based organizations.

22Medaille CollegeBuffalo$$$$$18 Agassiz Circle
Buffalo, NY 14214-2695
(716) 880-2000

A private liberal arts college in Buffalo, New York, Medaille College emphasizes interdisciplinary coursework, coupled with private university standards. Many of the college's students come from the southern Ontario and western New York regions and enjoy plentiful program offerings, including as an online master's in counseling.

The online master of arts in clinical mental health counseling at Medaille College typically takes students two years to complete. Boasting accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, the college provides students with a solid graduate-level foundation in the principles of mental health counseling. The program meets the New York State Office of Professions educational requirements for mental health counseling licensure.

Program graduates can pursue careers as mental health clinic counselors, hospital/psychiatric center therapists, drug and alcohol program clinicians, private practice therapists, and college and university counselors.

23Texas A&M UniversityCollege Station$$$$$805 Rudder Tower
College Station, TX 77843-1244
(979) 845-3211

Texas A&M University, a public research university in College Station, Texas, became the founding member of the Texas A&M University System in 1948. The land, sea, and space grant institution represents Texas' only institution to hold all three designations. Texas A&M students can explore an array of program opportunities, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of education in educational psychology with an emphasis in school counseling program prepares students to work as highly qualified school counselors at the K-12 level. The fully online program follows asynchronous and synchronous delivery formats, allowing students to complete some work at their convenience and some at set times.

Students undergo an intensive, supervised, two-semester-long internship experience in a private or public school setting. They also complete 400 onsite hours of counseling activities, plus a weekly, one-hour supervision requirement.

24Amridge UniversityMontgomery$$$$$1200 Taylor Rd
Montgomery, AL 36117-3553
(334) 387-70007528

A nonprofit, coeducational, private university affiliated with the Churches of Christ, Amridge University features a main campus in Montgomery, Alabama. Formerly known as Alabama Christian School, the university primarily functions as a theological seminary, training ministers in Bible and Christian counseling. Students also enjoy a variety of online program offerings, including an online master's in counseling.

The online master of arts in professional counseling program provides students with a solid foundation in scientific research, theory, and clinical practice. Students learn to follow professional clinical techniques and approaches, necessary for counselors to offer therapeutic services to groups and individuals. Graduates are prepared to practice counseling in church settings, private practices, governmental agencies, and community agencies.

Alumni leave the program prepared to pursue licensure as professional counselors. They know how to apply their skills and knowledge in therapy across a variety of professional settings, as well.

25Rutgers UniversityNew Brunswick$$$$$83 Somerset St
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1281
(732) 932-1766

One of the Rutgers's three regional campuses, Rutgers University-Newark is a public research university in Newark, New Jersey. The eighth-oldest college in the United States, the university belongs to the Association of American Universities. In 1945, Rutgers transitioned from a private liberal arts college into a state university, later merging with the former University of Newark. Offering a variety of programs, the school highlights an online master's in counseling option.

The online master's in rehabilitation counseling with the clinical mental health counseling track at Rutgers University-Newark equips students with the knowledge and skills to counsel people struggling with developmental, sensory, psychiatric, and physical disabilities. The program's cognitive behavioral counseling approach focuses on helping clients derive strategies and develop skills to change their problematic behaviors and cope with difficult situations.

Students enjoy the flexibility to pursue their degrees part or full time, either on campus, online, or in a hybrid format.

As the counseling sector continues to grow, people holding relevant graduate degrees, like an online master’s degree in counseling, will fill more challenging and thereby more senior roles in sensitive fields. This is especially true in the healthcare sector, as there is much discreet work in the field that only a properly educated and compassionate counselor can handle. Ministry and pastoral counseling has equally high expectations for its counselors, requiring them to have a deep understanding of how to support individuals, families and couples within a specific faith-based framework.

In May 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual wage for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists was $41,500. By 2022, both fields are positioned to see an overall growth of 29% in the number of total jobs, which the BLS largely attributes to the federal government’s health insurance mandate. It also turns out that government positions in the mental health and family and marriage therapy have the highest wages, compared against reported wages in medical facilities and private practices.

School and career counselors median wage for 2012 came in at $53,610, with counselors in any sort of elementary or secondary schools receiving the highest pay. Job numbers are predicted to steadily grow in this subfield, due to ongoing increases in student enrollment at all levels of education.

Coming in on the lower end of wages are substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors ($38,520 median wage) and rehabilitation counselors ($33,880 median wage). The upside is that both position are expected to see a major uptick in jobs to 2022, rehab counseling growing by 20% and substance abuse and behavioral counseling growing by a hefty 31%. Again, the growth of both is largely due to the federal health insurance mandate; it’s also likely pay increases will occur in step with job growth.

An online master’s in counseling degree can help busy professionals change career fields or get needed continuing education so they can earn more and have greater job satisfaction.