Best Online Master’s In Counseling Degrees

A master's in counseling online program may feature specializations, including school and mental health counseling.

Best Online Master’s In Counseling Degrees

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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.

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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.

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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.
Career Salary Outlook
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

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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

Auburn University

School Information
Location Auburn, Alabama
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 79%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Auburn University, a public school, offers graduate programs in different fields from the Auburn, Alabama, campus. A leader in online graduate education, the institution offers 20 online master's degrees. Those interested in the elementary education field should explore the M.Ed. in clinical mental health counseling.

The program allows students to earn an advanced degree without sacrificing rigor or other obligations. Recorded video sessions may be available to allow anytime viewing, and faculty may let enrollees complete coursework at their own pace within a given timeframe. Students receive the rigorous academic preparation they expect without sacrificing quality.

Applicants receive acceptance letters at a rate of 81% each year, with variations expected across programs. Degree-seekers usually need a bachelor’s degree in the major or a related field for entry into a master’s program. They may also need to submit official transcripts and letters of recommendation, which the department outlines in its admissions policy.

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Johns Hopkins University

School Information
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Johns Hopkins University has a reputation for developing rigorous online graduate programs. A notable option is the MS in counseling, developed for learners with a bachelor’s in counseling or a related field. This program successfully blends a rigorous curriculum and a flexible online format.

Students enrolled in the master's in counseling program benefit from the school's 6-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. Learners complete a strong curriculum in counseling delivered by faculty with industry expertise. The training learners receive is an important step for career advancement or a doctoral degree in this field or a related one.

Tuition is the same for in-state and out-of-state learners, with students paying $55,350 per annum. The price of tuition is lower if learners qualify for grants and scholarships, which many do at the institution. About 29% of enrollees take out student loans, so there are plenty of ways to fund this degree.

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Boston College

School Information
Location Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 27%
Graduation Rate 94%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The MA in mental health counseling at Boston College maintains a high ranking among similar online programs for students. Learners pursue this degree to build on prior knowledge attained in a bachelor’s program, training specifically related to the field. The master's in mental health counseling provides preparation for a terminal degree such as a Ph.D.

People see the appeal of remote learning, and that is a draw for the school. The program gives them an opportunity to manage various aspects of their lives without sacrificing the advanced education a master’s degree provides. Enrollees also benefit from a learning environment that is student-focused, thereby giving them the attention they need for academic success.

For consideration, applicants need a bachelor’s to apply to this program unless otherwise stated. The admittance rate to this school is 27%, with some differences possible across programs. Popular funding streams for those who qualify include loans and scholarships, and tuition costs Massachusetts residents about $30,600 per year.

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University of Wisconsin-Madison

School Information
Location Madison, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison administers a number of quality online graduate programs. People with a bachelor’s in counseling may want to explore the top-ranked master of science in counseling. Enrollees maintain more control over their schedule by completing the rigorous graduate curriculum remotely.

More individualized attention and opportunities to collaborate with peers are key benefits of the 17-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio that counseling students enjoy. The biggest attraction is the educational attainment acquired when learners complete a rigorous curriculum delivered by counseling experts. Obtaining this degree prepares graduates for more advanced career opportunities than a bachelor's degree typically allows.

Tuition is charged at $10,728 per annum for Wisconsin residents and $24,054 per year for those living out of state. Grants and scholarships help degree-seekers pay for their education if they qualify. The comprehensive suite of financial aid options also includes students loans, which about 29% of the school’s enrollees use to fund some or all of their education.

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