Best Master’s in Counseling Degrees

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The Best Master’s in Counseling

Counselors work with different types of people to help them cope with a variety of personal and professional issues. They guide their clients through difficult life transitions by helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Completing a master’s in counseling degree gives you the skills and knowledge to work directly with patients while under the supervision of a licensed counseling professional. If you are passionate about helping others through challenges, a counseling career could be right for you.

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Top 10 Best Master’s in Counseling Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Fitchburg State University Fitchburg, MA
2 Texas Woman's University Denton, TX
3 Concordia University-Chicago Chicago, IL
4 National Louis University Chicago, IL
5 Louisiana State University-Shreveport Shreveport, LA
6 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
7 Barry University Miami Shores, FL
8 American International College Springfield, MA
9 Webster University Saint Louis, MO
10 John F. Kennedy University Pleasant Hill, CA

Quick Look: Best Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

RankSchoolAverage Net Price
1Fitchburg State University$3,828
2Texas Woman’s University$8,587
3Concordia University-Chicago$9,180
4National Louis University$12,096
5Louisiana State University-Shreveport$7,349

In addition to helping people, counselors typically earn higher salaries than the national median for other occupations: $56,310 versus $38,640. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% growth in jobs for qualified counselors, which is faster than the projected 5% average growth rate for all other occupations. Graduates of accredited counseling programs can look forward to a robust job market with plenty of opportunities for professional growth and advancement.

Read on to explore the best mental health counseling programs.

What Are the Top Counseling Degrees?

Many U.S. colleges and universities complete a rigorous and lengthy accreditation process even though it is not required. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process for the nation’s postsecondary schools. Regional accrediting bodies focus on degree-granting two- and four-year nonprofit institutions, while national accrediting agencies focus mostly on for-profit vocational and sectarian schools.

Accreditation speaks to a school’s program quality. Employers know this and consequently often prefer graduates of accredited institutions. Additionally, the ED channels funds only through accredited schools. If you plan to seek financial assistance from the federal government, make sure that you enroll in an accredited school.

The ED and CHEA also oversee organizations that evaluate specific programs rather than entire schools. In the counseling field, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) are the foremost accrediting body for graduate counseling programs. CACREP accredits on-campus and online programs both in the U.S. and overseas.

Best Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

Deciding on a counseling psychology master’s program can sometimes prove challenging. Reliable school rankings can serve as a starting point in the decision-making process because schools have been carefully and meticulously vetted using a clear set of relevant factors. Begin your search for the ideal counseling graduate program from the list of schools below.

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Fitchburg State University
    Location

    Fitchburg, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, offers an accelerated MS in clinical mental health counseling that takes just over two years to complete. The program focuses on human development, psychopathology, psychotherapy, and group dynamics. Graduates qualify to apply for licensure as a clinical mental health counselor in Massachusetts.

    The 60-credit curriculum includes courses like research and program evaluation, counseling techniques and case analysis, and group work and leadership in mental health. The program requires two six-credit internships totalling 600 hours and 100 hours of hands-on experience through practicums.

    The program does not require GRE or MAT scores for admission. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university, three letters of recommendation, a professional resume, official transcripts, and a personal statement. Prospective students must complete undergraduate prerequisite courses in developmental psychology and statistics.

    Fitchburg State University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  2. Texas Woman's University
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students looking for the best master’s in counseling degrees should consider the MA in counseling psychology from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. The unique program takes a multicultural and feminist approach to psychology and prepares graduates for careers in counseling. Graduates can also apply to the university’s doctoral program in counseling psychology. Students gain the skills to work with individuals, families, couples, and groups to promote mental health and well-being.

    The 61-credit counseling psychology degree requires courses like personal and ethical issues in counseling psychology, clinical therapeutic group processes, and a seminar in vocational psychology. Students also need to complete a six-credit thesis or three-credit capstone experience. Learners who do not choose the thesis option must pass a written comprehensive exam. Graduation requirements include a 3.5 GPA.

    Texas Woman’s University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. Concordia University-Chicago
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The division of human services at Concordia University Chicago offers six degrees, including a clinical mental health counseling master’s that emphasizes multicultural competence, professional identification, and reflection. The program prepares graduates for entry-level counseling positions in community agencies, social service agencies, hospitals, and private practice. Graduates meet the requirements to take the licensed professional counselor examination in Illinois.

    The curriculum emphasizes Christian values while providing advanced theoretical and practical skills. The 60-credit MA includes 48 core credits, three electives, and nine clinical experience credits. Students take core courses like counseling interventions and techniques, family systems theory and therapy, and applied psychopathology and diagnosis. The program also requires a passing score on the counselor preparation comprehensive examination as a capstone experience.

    Concordia University Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The clinical mental health counseling program is accredited by the Council of Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs.

  4. National Louis University
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    National Louis University in Chicago, Illinois offers a master of science in counseling for students who want to become clinical mental health counselors or school counselors. The program offers two concentrations: clinical mental health and school counseling.

    NLU’s highly qualified counseling faculty hold extensive academic and professional experience, and students proceed through the counseling curriculum together with the same cohort of classmates. The curriculum focuses on professional ethics, counseling theories and skills, multiculturalism, and advocacy. Students must complete a 100-hour practicum, a 600-hour internship, and 60-67 credits.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university, official transcripts, a resume, three letters of recommendation, and a written statement of goals. Prospective students must also write a human services essay and complete a faculty interview.

    National Louis University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. NLU’s master’s in counseling degrees are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program.

  5. Louisiana State University-Shreveport
    Location

    Shreveport, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The counseling MS from Louisiana State University in Shreveport prepares graduates to work as professional counselors or to enroll in doctoral programs. The program meets the academic requirements to apply for licensure as a licensed professional counselor in Louisiana. The curriculum focuses on professionalism in counseling, scholarship, and clinical excellence and adopts the practitioner-scientist training and wellness models. Students learn to provide mental health services for diverse patients across the lifespan.

    The 60-credit curriculum requires courses like ethics and law in counseling, consultation in human development settings, and career and lifestyle development in counseling. The program emphasizes counseling skills and theory, research design, and methodology. Depending on their academic backgrounds, students may need to complete some prerequisite undergraduate psychology classes.

    Louisiana State University in Shreveport is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The MS in counseling is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program.

  6. Nova Southeastern University
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, offers a master of science in counseling designed both for experienced professionals and learners entering the field for the first time. Students choose from four concentrations: clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, and applied behavior analysis counseling. The program offers full-time and part-time enrollment.

    The curriculum requires 48-60 credits (including 33 core credits) depending on concentration. In each concentration, the core curriculum includes classes like research and evaluation for counselors; psychological testing for individual evaluation; and ethical, legal, and professional issues for counselors.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree (preferably in a related field) from a regionally accredited university and submit a personal statement and two letters of recommendation. Prospective students also must either meet a minimum GPA threshold or take the GRE.

    Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  7. Barry University
    Location

    Miami Shores, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The master of counseling degree from Barry University in Miami, Florida, educates future counselors through a combination of theory, practice, and research. The program promotes multicultural sensitivity and diversity. Students learn to provide professional counseling services to individuals, families, and couples. The program offers three specializations: school counseling; clinical mental health counseling; and marital, couple, and family counseling.

    Experienced faculty members guide students through the program and use their professional networks to help set up internships and practica in the local community. The Dr. Maureen Duffy Family Enrichment Center, an on-site clinic that is part of the university’s CARE Center, offers another opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in the field.

    The counseling MS program accepts applications each fall, spring, and summer. Barry University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The master of counseling is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

  8. American International College
    Location

    Springfield, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1885 as a school to educate immigrants, American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, offers one of the best master’s in counseling degrees. Designed for aspiring professional counselors, the MA in counseling psychology provides the clinical practice and theoretical knowledge students need to qualify for licensure as clinical mental health counselors. The curriculum explores issues like applied psychology, principles of family and group therapy, the biological basis of behavior, and professional ethics.

    Students take classes like research methods and program evaluation, career and lifestyle development, and social and cultural basis of behavior. The program also requires three internships, a practicum, and 18 elective credits.

    Admission requirements include college transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. The program offers rolling admissions and accepts new students three times a year.

    American International College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  9. Webster University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, provides a combination of hands-on experience and classroom learning in its master of arts in counseling program. The degree prepares graduates to work with individuals, couples, children, and families in diverse mental health environments.

    Students choose an emphasis in clinical mental health counseling; school counseling K-12; couples, marriage, family, and child counseling; community counseling; or family life counseling. All degrees require 60 credits, except for the community counseling emphasis, which requires 48 credits. The curriculum varies by emphasis. However, core courses in each emphasis include human growth and development, research and program evaluation, and lifestyle and career development.

    Admission requirements for Webster’s counseling graduate program include a bachelor’s degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants must submit college transcripts, a written essay, three professional references, and a resume. The program also requires a personal interview.

    Webster University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  10. John F. Kennedy University
    Location

    Pleasant Hill, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California offers a master of arts in counseling psychology that takes 2.5 years — or ten quarters — to complete. The flexible program offers both part-time and accelerated options, and students can take morning, evening, or weekend classes. The program’s faculty members have diverse experiences and viewpoints, giving students exposure to a broad understanding of clinical psychology.

    Students can complete the degree in person or through a hybrid delivery method. The 90-credit curriculum includes classes like theories and practices of community mental health; child, adolescent, and family therapy; and diagnosis and assessment of psychopathology. Students can add a 10.5-credit professional clinical counseling specialization. Program graduates meet California Board of Behavioral Sciences requirements and qualify to apply for licensure.

    Admission requirements for the school of psychology include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. The program accepts applications year-round.

    John F. Kennedy University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Why Are More Students Choosing College Online?

Distance education enrollment has increased steadily in the past 14 years. Online learning has transformed the national and global educational arena. Students give several reasons behind their decision to learn off campus, whether they enroll in one course or pursue an entire program completely online.

Many degree-seekers cite flexibility as a key reason for learning online. They can attend class from anywhere with a fast and reliable internet connection. Students also cite affordability as another reason for enrolling in online courses. They save on additional lodging, board, and transportation expenses.

Learners often find online programs to be more convenient since they offer more start dates than onsite programs. Enrollees can begin a program as soon — or as late — as their schedules and finances allow. Online programs also offer more options in terms of enrollment (part time or full time) and course selection (synchronous or asynchronous classes). Finally, online graduates earn the same degree as their on-campus counterparts with nothing on their diploma to indicate that they earned their degree off campus.

Online programs allow learners to meet their educational goals without disrupting their personal and professional lives. Perhaps this is part of the reason online students consistently give their overall student experience a higher satisfaction rating than campus enrollees.

What Are the Requirements for a Master’s Degree in Counseling?

Every school follows its own set of admission and graduation requirements for students pursuing a master’s in counseling degree. Many institutions require online students to submit the same documents and meet the same academic standards as on-campus enrollees.

Colleges and universities typically require applicants to possess a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. Holding a degree in a non-related field may result in enrolling in prerequisite coursework and can add to program length. Many master’s in counseling psychology programs require applicants to have an undergraduate GPA of 2.7-3.0 to be considered for admission. Applicants must also often submit at least two recommendation letters from a colleague or supervisor, transcripts from all schools attended, and test scores from a graduate admission exam like the GRE.

To graduate from a master’s in counseling program, students must complete all required coursework with a satisfactory grade. Some schools require learners to pass a comprehensive test. Most schools require the completion of an internship experience prior to graduation.

What Can I Do With a Counseling Degree?

Completing a master’s in counseling psychology program from an accredited school can lead to an array of career options in several professional arenas. One of the most common options for counseling graduates involves working directly with clients in a one-on-one setting in private practice. Keep in mind however, that until you have a doctorate in the field and complete the required number of practice hours, you must work under the supervision of a licensed counseling practitioner.

Counselors often make excellent training and development specialists for human resource departments of large corporations. Their people skills and familiarity with testing design and interpretation can serve them well in such environments. Many counselors also work in school settings. They may advise junior and senior high school students about college options, or work in a college or university as career counselors. A master’s in counseling opens a variety of possible career options, most of which involve helping people make informed choices.

How Much Money Will I Make With a Degree in Counseling?

According to the BLS, counselors earn a median annual salary of $56,310. As with other occupations, several factors influence salary levels, including job location, industry, and academic and experience levels.

The top-paying states for counselors include New Jersey ($62,860), Nevada ($61,100), Alabama ($59,150), Alaska ($58,800), and Texas ($58,110). Counselors working in an elementary and secondary school environment earn the highest annual mean salary ($61,510) followed by counselors working in nursing care facilities ($60,790). Counselors employed by colleges, universities, and professional schools earn the third highest annual mean salary of $59,220. Counselors working in local government agencies (excluding schools and hospitals) earn an annual mean salary of $59,020.

The data above illustrates the variety of income opportunities open to counselors with a master’s degree from an accredited institution. Earning a postgraduate certificate in a specialized counseling area or a doctoral degree can further improve your income potential.

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