Updated: July 1, 2016
Who has not, at some point in their lives, benefitted from some kind and generous soul listening to their troubles. Fortunately for us all, we do not have to rely on there being a devoted friend close by whenever we need them. Rather, there is an army of 120,000 licensed professional counselors trained and ready to help us when things get real and Life roundhouse kicks us in the face.
Unfortunately, 120,000 professional counselors are not enough. Demand for mental health services is high and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , that market will only grow over the coming decade. So if your listening skills are frequently complimented—if your friends are blowing up your phone with requests to debrief about their horrible day at work, then maybe it’s time to hang out a shingle and make a profession out of it.
What are the most affordable online master’s in counseling?
There is no shortage of specialties in the field of professional counseling. Some of the most common are marriage/family counseling, guidance/career counseling, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and mental health counseling. But really, whatever misery, uncertainty, or struggle life can throw your way; there is probably a counselor who specializes in it. There are even sports counselors who can help you through devastating post-season losses (take note Golden State Warriors.)
Whatever specialty you have in mind, College Choice has your back with high-quality research into the programs that are going to give you the most value for the dollar. Check out these money-saving programs and see if any are right for you. Also, make sure they fit with your state’s licensure requirements. Now get out there and help people!
Fort Hays State University
Total Tuition: $7,592.10
The top spot for the most affordable online Master’s in counseling goes to Fort Hays State University, a medium size state university located in the town of Fort Hays, Kansas. It has developed a solid reputation for offering a broad range of affordable online degrees. Their Master’s of Science in Counseling offers two different specializations: school counseling and community counseling.
Each specialization is capped by a practicum and internship, allowing students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-life problems. Both programs require three 4-day courses on-campus, so students living far away should take note and plan accordingly. Fort Hays State has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of North Dakota
Total Tuition: $10,575.60
The University of North Dakota is a medium sized public university located in Grand Forks. Their online Master’s of Arts in Counseling with a K-12 School Counseling Emphasis is intended for students pursuing their first graduate degree but also for students that already have a graduate degree in education or counseling but would also like to become eligible for licensure in school counseling.
In addition to 2-3 synchronous online classes per week, students are expected to come to the UND campus four times during summer semester for a four-day workshop. Clinical experience will be gained through a supervised counseling practicum as well as a two-semester supervised school counseling internship at a school of your choosing. The University of North Dakota has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Central Arkansas
Total Tuition: $12,100.50
The University of Central Arkansas is a medium-size public university in the town of Conway. UCA’s 48 credit online Master of Science in Professional School Counseling trains students to develop school counseling programs that align with the highest professional standards. It also aspires to prepare students for leadership and advocacy roles both within their schools and in the wider community.
The degree program has two tracks. One- called the Add-on Licensure Track- is intended for students who want to become school counselors and have already become certified teachers in the state of Arkansas. The other- called the Initial Licensure Track- is for students who have not yet earned their teaching license. Students from outside of Central Arkansas should know that there the curriculum is not 100% online and that there are required face-to-face sessions at the UCA campus. The University of Central Arkansas has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of West Alabama
Total Tuition: $12,870
The University of West Alabama is a medium-sized public university in Livingston, Alabama. Among their online degrees is a Master’s of Science in Adult Continuing Education (MSACE), a degree developed by UWA to help individuals from various fields improve their professional capabilities. West Alabama offers several MSACE degrees relevant to the discipline of counseling: an MSACE in Community Counseling, an MSACE Counseling and Psychology Option, and an MSACE Guidance and Counseling Option.
All of these options help prepare students to understand the best current theories of counseling, assess clients, establish therapeutic relationships, and apply theoretical concepts to clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. Included in the curriculum are a practicum and internship in counseling psychology. The University of West Alabama has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Total Tuition: $13,350
In 2015 Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, was granted university status and renamed Summit University. Though they changed their name, they have retained their strong Christian identity, making this an appropriate choice for those hoping to go into counseling in the context of Christian ministry. In addition to 33 credits of traditional counseling content and six credits of supervised field education, students are required to take nine credits of coursework related to the bible and its relation to Christian counseling.
The program is designed to equip students to take and pass the National Certified Counselor Exam and pursue licensure as a professional counselor. Three classes require students to come to the campus for one week each. Housing is available for those who need to travel to fulfill on-campus coursework. Summit University has been regionally accredited by the Commissions on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Total Tuition: $13,950
Walden University is an online, private, for-profit university headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walden’s Master’s of Science in Mental Health Counseling offers a general education track as well as five specializations in addiction counseling, career counseling, forensic counseling, military families and culture, and trauma & crisis counseling. Their curriculum has been accredited by CACREP, the premier accrediting body in the field.
Walden’s program focuses on teaching the most important counseling theories, exploring the latest in evidence-based research, and giving students the best tools for helping people cope. Supervised field work and a practicum will help people apply what they have learned in the virtual classroom to real clients with real problems. Walden University has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Louisiana-Monroe
Total Tuition: $14,250
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a medium-size public university and one of nine schools that make up the University of Louisiana system. Their Master’s of Science in Counseling offers two emphases: School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Students may also choose to complete a degree with both emphases, giving them more opportunities for licensure and employment. Both have been accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Completing the school counseling track does not limit you to pursuing employment as a school counselor, many also use the degree to become school administrators or educational consultants. The Clinical Mental Health Counseling track prepares students for careers in many fields, including but not limited to human resources, consulting, life coaching, addiction counseling, and group facilitation. ULM has been regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Total Tuition: $14,400
Salem College is a private women’s liberal arts college located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Founded in 1771, Salem College is the oldest continuously operating women’s college in the country. Though it was founded in the colonial era, Salem has stayed ahead of education trends and now offers online programs to both men and women.
Their Master’s of Education in School Counseling prepares its students to work with children of all developmental backgrounds. Online classes will teach students to assess and advocate for students, and internship opportunities will give them the chance to apply what they’ve learned in a real-world environment. The program also requires two weekend seminars on the Salem College campus. Salem College has been regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Grand Canyon University
Total Tuition: $15,000
Grand Canyon University is Christian for-profit university located in Phoenix, Arizona. The majority of its 62,000 students are online learners. Their Master’s of Science in Professional Counseling can be taken as a general degree or with three different emphases: Childhood and Adolescent Disorders, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Trauma.
Covering topics such as counseling theories, cultural diversity, trauma counseling, and addiction, GCU’s program teaches students to help people representing a variety of backgrounds who are suffering from a wide spectrum of problems. Completion of coursework may qualify students in the state of Arizona to become licensed associate counselors, licensed professional counselors, licensed associate substance abuse counselors, and licensed independent substance abuse counselors. Grand Canyon University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Indiana Wesleyan University
Total Tuition: $15,210
Indiana Wesleyan University is a medium sized, evangelical Christian, liberal arts university located in Marion, Indiana. Their CACREP-accredited online Master’s of Arts in Counseling, which can be completed on a part-time or full-time basis, includes six different specializations: addictions counseling, clinical mental health counseling, community counseling, marriage and family counseling, school counseling, and student development counseling and administration.
IWU’s curriculum is focused on developing clinical experience through on-site practicums, supervised field education, and clinical internships. Students near the Marion and Indianapolis areas can choose to do their internships at IWU’s counseling facility which has an outreach to those who could not otherwise afford psychological counseling. Indiana Wesleyan University has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.