Counselors help their clients address challenges such as physical and psychosocial disability, addiction, mental health issues, interpersonal challenges, delayed development, and arguments in relationships. They often administer therapy and work with clients to find viable, long-term solutions to their problems.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 23% increase in job opportunities for counselors by 2026. This rate is much higher than the national average growth rate, 7%. The BLS also projects a 13% increase in job opportunities for school and career counselors. These professionals work in diverse settings, including schools, private practices, nonprofits, and community centers.
Online master’s in counseling programs teach students valuable skills in assessing, treating, and monitoring the condition of their patients. These degrees feature coursework in counseling techniques, human development, and psychopharmacology. Students may also choose to focus on a particular area, such as school counseling, clinical mental health counseling, addiction counseling, or marriage and family counseling.
See our rankings methodology page.
College Choice Score: 100
Cost per Credit Hour: $487
Capella University offers three online master’s in counseling programs: marriage and family counseling, clinical mental health counseling, and school counseling. The programs feature both online and on-campus courses in subjects such as human sexuality, group counseling, counseling children and adolescents, addictive behavior, and counseling diverse populations. The curriculum also includes 5-7 specialization courses. All three programs require two week-long residencies. Capella’s Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredited counseling degrees meet standards set by state professional counseling associations and honor societies. Counseling students also complete 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours. Capella accepts 12-20 transfer credits, depending on the specific program. Students may also choose a master of science in addiction studies.
College Choice Score: 95.88
Cost per Credit Hour: $510
One of the best online schools for psychology and counseling, Walden University offers several programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Students may pursue an online master’s in school counseling, clinical mental health counseling, or marriage, couple, and family counseling. Within these programs, Walden offers diverse specializations in fields such as career counseling, forensic counseling, trauma and crisis counseling, and military families and culture. Learners may also take courses in forensic psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, and developmental psychology. Walden’s online courses include case studies, simulations, and videos on current challenges in the field. During the practicum component, students apply their knowledge under the supervision of a counseling expert. Students may transfer in 37-45 credits.
Seton Hall University
College Choice Score: 92.75
Cost per Credit Hour: $739
Seton Hall University offers two online counseling programs: an MA/Ed.S. in professional counseling and an MA in school counseling. The unique MA/Ed.S. combines hands-on counseling skills with theoretical knowledge of etiology, psychopathology, and systemic family dynamics. The MA in school counseling holds approval from the New Jersey Department of Education. Learners in the school counseling program complete an internship in a school. Both programs include courses in multicultural counseling, abnormal psychology, group counseling, and appraisal and assessment in counseling. Counseling students move through courses as part of a cohort. The MA/Ed.S. does not accept transfer students.
University of North Dakota
College Choice Score: 91.09
Cost per Credit Hour: $477.52
Focused exclusively on counseling K-12 students, the University of North Dakota’s program teaches individuals how to foster social, academic, career, and personal development in an educational setting. The curriculum features courses in educational collaboration, career counseling, multicultural counseling, and child and adolescent counseling. All students complete a school-based practicum and internship at a site in their local communities. Online courses follow a synchronous format. The 48-credit program requires two four-day visits to UND during the summer. UND’s online master’s in school counseling holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The program leads to state licensure in North Dakota, and may meet requirements for licensure in other states.
College Choice Score: 89.08
Cost per Credit Hour: $540
Liberty University offers 23 online counseling programs, most of which focus on pastoral counseling. Students may specialize in addictions, crisis response, life coaching, theology, military resilience, school counseling, leadership, or ministry. The 60-credit professional counseling program qualifies students for state licensure as a licensed professional counselor. Students attend three intensives on Liberty’s campus in Virginia. The two-semester internship provides learners with the state-reported hours necessary for licensure. Students may transfer in up to half of the credits required for a degree. Liberty’s on-campus counseling program holds CACREP accreditation, and the online program is currently undergoing review.
University of Massachusetts Boston
College Choice Score: 82.32
Cost per Credit Hour: $505
Home to more than 50 interdisciplinary research institutes and centers, UMass Boston conducts research into psychology across the lifespan, child development, and the genetic and social impacts on behavior and health. The school offers two online master’s in counseling programs: an MS in mental health counseling and an M.Ed. in school counseling. Students complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship. Distance learners join the program as part of a cohort of local, national, and international students. Students in certain states may not enroll in online courses. Both programs meet academic requirements for licensure in Massachusetts.
College Choice Score: 80.22
Cost per Credit Hour: $275
Counseling students at Lamar University can choose from three online master of education programs: clinical mental health counseling; counseling and development with a specialization in professional school counseling; or counseling and development with a specialization in marriage, couple, and family counseling. All three programs require 60 credits of coursework in topics such as group counseling, abnormal human behavior, crisis prevention, and psychopathology. Graduates qualify for licensure in Texas, and may qualify for licensure in other states. Students complete 1-2 residencies, an internship, and a practicum. The clinical mental health counseling program holds CACREP accreditation.
Grace College and Theological Seminary
College Choice Score: 76.42
Cost per Credit Hour: $568
Rooted in Christian teachings, the clinical mental health counseling program at Grace College harmonizes Scripture and counseling. Courses include theological foundations in counseling, gender and sexuality, spirituality in counseling, and psychopathology. Students also examine social and cultural issues, including ethnic heritage, religion, socioeconomic status, age, and disability. During the annual residencies, students gain skills in evaluation, spiritual development, and interpersonal relations. The 60-credit master’s degree in counseling online holds CACREP accreditation. Students must complete a portfolio, comprehensive exam, and a practicum. Distance learners progress through courses as part of a cohort.
Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion
College Choice Score: 71.15
Cost per Credit Hour: $507
Indiana Wesleyan University, an evangelical Christian college, offers four online counseling master’s degrees: clinical addictions counseling, community counseling, school counseling, and student development counseling and administration. Students apply a Christian worldview to challenges such as the opioid crisis, divorce, poverty, youth pregnancies, and eating disorders. Students complete 36-48 credits. Graduates may work in faith-based agencies, churches, college administration, K-12 schools, rehabilitation clinics, community centers, and hospitals. IWU’s programs hold accreditation from the National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), CACREP, and CAEP. The school encourages students to apply for scholarships and research grants. Not all programs lead to licensure; students should review the details of each curriculum.
College Choice Score: 71.08
Cost per Credit Hour: $615
LeTourneau was originally founded to educate veterans returning home after World War II. The interdenominational Christian university now educates both servicemembers and students not affiliated with the military. Students interested in earning their master’s degree in counseling online can choose from two tracks: school counseling or clinical mental health counseling. Both programs cover topics such as psychopathology, lifespan human development, psychological testing, and psychopharmacology. The school counseling program features courses in cognitive-behavioral therapy, diversity in schools, and teaching children and adolescents. The clinical mental health program covers topics such as human sexuality and sex therapy, family assessment, and addictions counseling. Applicants to the school counseling program must have at least two years of teaching experience.
University of the Southwest
College Choice Score: 69.06
Cost per Credit Hour: $599
Both online counseling degrees at the University of the Southwest fall under the master of science in education program. The clinical mental health counseling program features a wide array courses in areas such as play therapy, Christian counseling, human sexuality, crisis and trauma interventions, and psychopharmacology. Students can choose from a 48-credit option or a 60-credit option. The school counseling program focuses on the interaction between students and their environment, particularly barriers to student success. School counseling students also learn how to provide career advising, conduct psycho-educational assessment, lead play therapy, and develop school programs. Both online master’s in counseling programs prepare students for licensure in New Mexico.
Nova Southeastern University
College Choice Score: 68.82
Cost per Credit Hour: $705
NSU boasts a large and diverse psychology department with an institute for cross-cultural counseling, an institute of trauma and victimization, accredited predoctoral internships, and continuing education courses. Students earning their master’s degree in counseling online can choose from several concentrations, including substance abuse counseling, substance abuse counseling and education, applied behavior analysis, clinical mental health counseling, and school counseling. Learners complete 48-60 credits, depending on their area of concentration. Students may also choose to take semester-length or intensive courses through NSU’s campuses in Florida. NSU students and faculty conduct research in areas such as lie detection, school phobia, dissociation, co-occurring disorders, and assessment of minority students.
Fort Hays State University
College Choice Score: 66.99
Cost per Credit Hour: $253.07
FHSU’s hybrid counseling programs combine online and on-campus coursework. On-campus courses occur on Fridays and Saturdays so that students can continue to work or meet other obligations. Students may choose from clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. The curricula include courses in lifestyle and career development, social and cultural foundations of counseling, educational research, counseling skills development, and psychopathology and diagnosis of mental disorders. The programs also include a course on management of counseling programs and agencies. Students complete a practicum, an internship, and skills seminars. Both programs prepare students for licensure in Kansas.
Grand Canyon University
College Choice Score: 65.90
Cost per Credit Hour: $500
GCU hosts a diverse array of online counseling programs, including options in addiction counseling, Christian counseling of substance use and addictive disorders, clinical mental health counseling, and mental health and wellness. The clinical mental health program features specializations in child and adolescence disorders, Christian counseling, marriage and family therapy, and trauma. The mental health and wellness program includes options in community mental health administration, Christian ministry, family dynamics, grief, and prevention. Students complete 34-62 credits, depending on the program. GCU accepts transfer credits for up to one-third of the program. The mental health and wellness program does not lead to licensure.
Wake Forest University
College Choice Score: 64.66
Cost per Credit Hour: $1,340
Wake Forest boasts CACREP accreditation and a 98% pass rate on the national counselor exam. The school offers two online counseling degrees in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. These 60-credit programs examine advanced therapeutic techniques and incorporate hands-on clinical experiences. The curricula feature courses in lifespan development, cultures and counseling, crisis management, family counseling, and appraisal procedures. Alternately, students may enroll in the master’s in human services program. This 39-credit option focuses on administration and program planning for organizations that provide counseling services. Students in this program also receive skills in career counseling, group counseling, and counseling different cultures.
College Choice Score: 63.70
Cost per Credit Hour: $858
NCU’s marriage and family therapy program features specializations in child and adolescent family therapy, couple therapy, LGBTQ couple and family therapy, medical family therapy, and military family therapy. Students may also choose a special California licensure track. NCU offers 52 start dates each year, so students can begin their education as soon as possible. The curriculum includes a practicum, an internship, and clinical supervision activities. Students complete 48-60 credits, depending on the licensure requirements for their state. NCU’s program holds accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and the International Accreditation Commission for Systemic Therapy Education (IACSTE).
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
College Choice Score: 62.97
Cost per Credit Hour: $420
One of the most famous and well-regarded schools in the country, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center conducts research in fields such as medicine, pharmacy, biomedical sciences, and nursing. The school offers three online master’s in counseling programs: addiction counseling, mental health counseling, and clinical rehabilitation counseling. The clinical rehabilitation counseling program focuses on empowering people with disabilities to live independently, make informed choices, and build careers. These counselors provide support to clients with physical conditions, psychiatric challenges, chronic diseases, and social disabilities. Both the addiction counseling program and the mental health counseling program teach students how to provide distance services.
University of Louisiana at Monroe
College Choice Score: 60.87
Cost per Credit Hour: $475
ULM allows students pursuing their master’s degree in counseling online to specialize in clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, or both. The CACREP-accredited program encourages students to create their own scholarly contributions to the field. Courses include maladaptive behavior, human growth and development, counseling the chemically dependent family, treating psychological trauma and PTSD, and counseling special populations. Students also examine legal and ethical issues, interpersonal communication, and methods of counseling. The curriculum includes a practicum and a research course. ULM’s counseling program holds accreditation from CACREP and CAEP.
Oregon State University
College Choice Score: 60.82
Cost per Credit Hour: $521
Oregon State University offers two options for potential counseling students: an online master’s in school counseling and an online master’s in clinical mental health counseling. The school counseling program requires 75 quarter credits, the equivalent of about 50 semester credits. The degree focuses on advocacy, action research, systemic change, and individual and group counseling. The clinical mental health program requires students to attend 10 personal counseling sessions in order to understand counseling from a client’s perspective. Learners also complete an internship, attend conferences, undergo training, and take a national exam. Online students must attend weekend classes on the Salem, Oregon campus twice per term.
The University of Alabama
College Choice Score: 60.76
Cost per Credit Hour: $360
One of the leading institutions in distance education, UA maintains dozens of online degrees. The school’s online MA in rehabilitation counseling focuses on supporting clients with disabilities. The 60-credit degree prepares future counselors to lead individual and group counseling, manage cases, advocate for clients, conduct vocational assessment, and provide assistive technology. Classes include career development; lifespan development; and medical, functional, and environmental aspects of disability. Students also complete a practicum and an internship. The program features live class lectures so that students can engage with professors and their peers in real time. The MA holds CACREP accreditation. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and a 300 on the GRE.
Missouri Baptist University
College Choice Score: 60.59
Cost per Credit Hour: $588
An evangelical liberal arts institution, MBU incorporates a Christian perspective into all of its programs. The school’s online master’s in school counseling examines different therapies for K-12 children, including bibliotherapy, art therapy, play therapy, aggression replacement training, and sand tray therapy. The program includes an internship in an elementary or secondary school setting. Other courses include multicultural counseling; human development; program implementation and leadership; substance abuse counseling; and crisis, trauma, and disaster counseling. The program caters to busy students, including working professionals. On average, MBU students only pay half of tuition costs.
College Choice Score: 59.71
Cost per Credit Hour: $548
CUW’s online master’s in school counseling prepares students for licensure in Wisconsin, and may meet requirements for licensure in other states. Courses include helping relationships, research and evaluation in counseling, social psychology, and addictions counseling. The curriculum also includes several Bible-based courses, including Christian perspectives in psychopharmacology, Christian perspectives on family development, Christian reconciliation, and current topics for pastors and church workers. The program features three 200-hour internships in an elementary, middle, and high school. Students must successfully complete the Praxis II exam prior to graduation. Distance learners may access the school’s scholarships for adult and nontraditional learners. CUW does not require the GRE.
University of the Cumberlands
College Choice Score: 59.12
Cost per Credit Hour: $400
Founded in 1888 by Baptist ministers, UC focuses on strong work ethic and liberal arts enriched with Christian values. Despite its large student body of 10,000 learners, UC maintains small class sizes and a 17-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school offers two online master’s in counseling programs: clinical mental health counseling and addiction counseling. The clinical mental health counseling program features specialized courses in private practice, marriage and family counseling, child and adolescent counseling, and advanced theories and techniques. The addictions counseling program offers courses in family therapy in addiction treatment, motivation and change, psychopharmacology, and spirituality and values in counseling.
Virginia Commonwealth University
College Choice Score: 58.24
Cost per Credit Hour: $430
VCU’s master of science in rehabilitation and mental health counseling focuses on research, service, and ethics. Students learn how to promote personal, social, and economic independence for individuals with disabilities. The school partners with community agencies and consumer and professional organizations in order to support rehabilitation efforts and help students gain hands-on experience. The 60-credit program follows an asynchronous format, so students can access lectures and class notes anytime. Students must also complete 100 hours of fieldwork and 600 hours of internship. The program also explores how to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act, effectively manage cases, and identify psychosocial and medical aspects of disability.
College Choice Score: 57.80
Cost per Credit Hour: $574
Auburn’s CACREP-accredited clinical rehabilitation counseling program prepares students to serve youths and adults with physical and psychosocial disabilities. Students pursuing their master’s degree in counseling online can choose either a master of education or a master of science. The 60-credit program focuses on helping individuals successfully work, live, and socialize in their local community. Students must visit campus for at least one week per semester in order to interact with professors and fellow students. During the Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum, students discuss post-high school employment, education, advocacy, and independent living for people with disabilities. The program also cooperates with the school’s Office of Accessibility.