Master’s in Online Internship Programs Guide

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Licensed counselors help people identify their challenges’ causes and develop solutions. The typical professional holds a master’s degree from an accredited university. Online counseling programs’ admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree, standardized test scores, and recommendation letters. Most degrees end with a practicum and internship.

A master’s in counseling online program may feature specializations, including school and mental health counseling. This article helps students choose the right degree by answering frequently asked questions and discussing specializations. Other information covers typical classes and popular careers.View Our Rankings List Here

Frequently Asked Questions About Counseling Degrees

Can I study counseling online?

Many top universities offer a master’s in counseling online program. However, these degrees do require an in-person practicum and internship. Learners may need to adjust their schedule to meet these requirements.

How long does it take to earn a master’s in counseling?

Some full-time programs take three years to complete. Accelerated degrees may take only two years to finish. Part-time learners should expect to graduate in four years, depending on their school’s graduation requirements.

What else can you do with a counseling degree?

Other careers for master’s in counseling online degree-holders include health educator and social worker. These and related jobs may require more education or training.

Featured Online Counseling Programs

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Why Get a Counseling Degree?

Counselors make a positive impact on people’s lives. The career’s other benefits include a high salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that school and career counselors earn over the U.S. average. The BLS projects the need for these professionals to grow 11% from 2020-2030, faster than average.

Online counseling programs bring graduate education to many people who could not otherwise access it. Other advantages include the ability to study anywhere. Many programs feature asynchronous learning. This learning format does not require scheduled meeting times and benefits working degree-seekers.

How Much Does a Counseling Degree Cost?

Most public and private universities charge a per-credit tuition rate. The rate ensures that full- and part-time students pay the same for a master’s in counseling online degree. However, universities charge more for graduate credits than undergraduate credits. Prospective learners on a budget should consider in-state public schools. These institutions offer residents the most affordable tuition rate.

An online degree may come with additional costs, such as a new computer and a faster internet connection. Some schools charge a per-semester technology fee, too. Learners must also budget for commuting to practicum and internship sites. An internship may request a criminal background check, requiring a small fee.

How Much Do Counseling Majors Make?

Salary varies by counseling specialization, employer, and location. School and career counselors earn a median $58,120 annual salary. These professionals make more by working at a K-12 school. California, New Jersey, and Virginia employers offer school counselors $73,590-$81,350, the highest salaries nationwide.

Other careers with an above-average salary include marriage and family therapist. These professionals make a median $51,340 annual salary. Social and community service managers and training and development specialists earn even more. Workers in these positions may qualify for a high-paying job by earning a master’s in counseling online degree.

Courses in Counseling

Online counseling programs require a core curriculum. Students complete these courses before moving on to their specialization. The coursework prepares learners to understand clients’ needs, create solutions, and build productive relationships. All counselors need these skills to help people with their challenges.

The following classes introduce a counseling program’s core curriculum. Course titles and topics vary by program. Other differences include academic experiences, such as in-person practicums. Program websites detail these requirements and provide plan of study options. Prospective students may also contact an enrollment advisor for more information.

  • Theories of Counseling

    Theories of counseling introduces students to the field’s history and practices. Course topics cover proven interventions and the treatment process. Learning outcomes include developing a personal theory of counseling. The outcome guides learners’ educations and careers. A program may require students to complete one or more prerequisites before registering for the course.
  • Multicultural Counseling

    Counselors help people from different cultural backgrounds. Multicultural counseling helps students increase their awareness of groups’ perspectives and unique needs. Assignments cover improving self-awareness and considering privilege. The class focuses on multicultural counseling’s history and different theories. Degree-seekers specializing in clinical mental health or school counseling take this class.
  • Lifespan Development

    Counseling students in most specializations take lifespan development or a similar class. The curriculum includes coursework in different life stages, socialization’s importance, and emotional development. Students examine how physical and mental conditions may impact personality. Assignments cover the latest theories, diversity issues, and developmental research.

Counseling Specializations

Top master’s in counseling online programs offer specializations. Some universities refer to specializations as concentrations or tracks. Options include addiction counseling, forensic counseling, and trauma and crisis counseling. Students complete a specialization by taking upper-level electives and meeting other graduation requirements. The requirements may include a master’s thesis.

Not all schools offer the three specializations below. Consider career goals carefully before picking a program. Prospective students unsure about their professional path should research universities with many specializations. These schools provide academic opportunities and student support services to help learners make the right decision.

  • Addiction Counseling

    Aspiring addiction counselors take classes in counseling addictive disorders, psychopharmacology, and addiction case management. Other coursework emphasizes different addictive behaviors and treatment methods. Field experiences ask students to observe and work alongside licensed addiction counselors. Typical field sites include K-12 schools and community agencies.
  • Forensic Counseling

    Forensic counselors help prisoners and parolees resist returning to crime. Classes include treating forensic populations, conflict resolution, and legal issues and social change in forensic psychology. Some programs focus on treating juveniles or adults. Learners develop their skills through a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship.
  • Trauma and Crisis Counseling

    Many people turn to a counselor after experiencing a traumatic event. A trauma and crisis counseling specialization teaches the best treatment models and intervention strategies. Learners hone these skills by taking courses in crisis management and vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. The latter course prepares students to use compartmentalization when working with clients.

Career and Salary Outlook for Counselors

A master’s prepares learners for different careers, depending on their specialization. The jobs below feature a high projected growth rate. They show just a few of the opportunities professionals with a master’s degree can pursue.

The following job descriptions introduce only some of each career’s typical job responsibilities. Click the links to learn more about each job. Students can also work with a school’s academic and career advisors to help them choose the right career.

  • School and Career Counselors

    Most school and career counselors work in a K-12 school. Typical job duties include working one-on-one with students. They help students address academic and behavioral issues, explore career paths, and identify professional interests. These professionals maintain records and collaborate with educators. School and career counselors need a master’s degree and state-issued license to practice.
  • Mental Health Counselors

    Mental health counselors evaluate clients’ mental health through conversations. Their findings help clients access appropriate resources, such as a psychiatrist. Many of these professionals work at an outpatient mental health center or a private practice. Mental health counselors need a license to open a private practice.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors

    Rehabilitation counselors work with clients with a physical or mental disability. They help clients access outside services, such as job-placement assistance and medical care. Other tasks include monitoring clients’ progress by keeping records. A rehabilitation counseling specialization prepares learners for this career. Professionals also need a license.
CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
School and Career Counselors$58,12011%
Mental Health Counselors$47,66023%
Rehabilitation Counselors$37,53010%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Featured Online Counseling Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Licensure for Counseling

Requirements to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC) vary by state. Typical requirements include a master’s degree and some professional experience. Candidates in California must earn at least 60 graduate credits and meet specific prerequisites. They then spend at least 3,000 hours working under an LPC. Candidates spend this time administering tests, leading group counseling, and attending conferences.

California counselors take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) after meeting education and experience requirements. Many states require the NCMHCE and a state-specific law and ethics exam. Those who pass the NCMHCE apply for licensure. As of November 2021, California charges a $250 initial licensure fee.

LPCs maintain their license by completing continuing education (CE) courses from approved providers. California requires 18 CE credits annually for the first six years. New LPCs must take specific CE courses on HIV and AIDS counseling. LPCs submit their CE paperwork and renewal fee every other year.

Best Master’s in Counseling Degrees

  1. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, WI



    UW offers a master of science in counseling with a focus on counseling in community and agency environments. The curriculum emphasizes knowledge in ethics, multiculturalism, and social justice. Graduates leave the program prepared to work as fully licensed professional counselors in Wisconsin. 

    Course topics include abnormal behavior and psychopathology, the psychology of mindfulness, and advanced assessment techniques in counseling psychology. Students must complete 60 credits of coursework to earn their degree. As part of their coursework, students gain clinical experience through a supervised practicum and internships. 

    Students may complete the program on a part- or full-time basis, with full-time students typically completing the program in two years. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree and complete three credits of introductory psychology. Graduate admission also requires a 3.0 GPA on the last 60 semester credits. UW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. Auburn University

    Auburn, AL



    A public university in Auburn, Alabama, Auburn offers a master of education in clinical mental health counseling. Students can complete the 60-credit program in as few as five semesters. The practice-based program readies graduates to treat patients in various settings, including inpatient, outpatient, and educational settings. 

    Course topics include advanced assessment and diagnosis in counseling, crisis intervention in counseling, and counseling diverse populations. Students then complete their 700-hour practicum and internship requirements at an assigned site, with options including correctional facilities, family and children services agencies, and substance abuse centers.

    Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.7 to qualify for admission, but admitted students hold on average a 3.5 GPA. Auburn is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

  3. Boston College

    Chestnut Hill, MA



    A private Jesuit research university in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, BC offers a master of arts in mental health counseling. Students develop a strong foundation in mental health theory, counseling skills, and best practices. The program also emphasizes social justice and multiculturalism. 

    Students hoping to earn licensure as a mental health counselor in Massachusetts must complete 60 credits of coursework, including a year-long practicum internship at a school, clinic, or other organization in the Boston area during their second year. Students seeking a foundation in counseling as they pursue other related careers may complete the program with 48 credits, including an internship component. 

    BC is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

  4. Northeastern University

    Boston, MA



    Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern offers a master of science in counseling psychology. Students in the program choose from four concentration areas, including healthy psychology; early intervention; child and adolescent psychology; and culture, gender, and political psychology. Students can complete the program in about 2-3 years. 

    Required core classes include understanding culture and diversity, group counseling, and community counseling psychology. Elective courses include human sexuality, reality therapy, and advanced clinical interventions. Students also complete a 40-hour practicum consisting of supervised client contact and an internship providing 20 hours a week of field experience. 

    The counseling psychology program meets requirements for graduates to become licensed mental health counselors. Applicants need a minimum GPA of 3.0 and an undergraduate degree in psychology (or equivalent) to qualify for admission. 

    Northeastern is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  5. Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD



    Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins offers a master of science in counseling. Students may choose between two concentration options: clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Students can complete the program in about 3-5 years.

    The clinical mental health concentration prepares students for service in clinical and community settings. The school counseling track helps counselors working in K-12 schools, with a focus on urban school settings. Course topics include diagnosis in counseling, diversity and social justice in counseling, and psychopathology.

    The school provides students with clinical experiences through its partnerships with school districts and other mental health settings. Students must also complete a 600-hour internship.

    Graduates gain the knowledge needed to become fully licensed clinical professional counselors in Maryland, as well as other states. Johns Hopkins is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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