Online Masters Degree in Counseling

Completion of an accredited online master in counseling is often a prerequisite for many counseling jobs, especially those requiring state licensure. Graduate programs in counseling are available in all 50 states. The American School Counselor Association lists 15 online master’s degree programs in counseling as accredited graduate programs for licensure. These programs build on the foundation laid by an online bachelor’s degree in counseling, focusing on different counseling settings and other specializations. The online master degree in counseling prepares graduates for careers as drug abuse counselors, school counselors or private psychiatrists. A field-based service or practicum component is usually incorporated into online counseling masters degree requirements. Some graduates go on to obtain an online PhD in counseling to practice psychology or teach in higher education.

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

To graduate from the best online masters programs in counseling it normally takes 2 years. Thus, about 37 quarter-credit hours of coursework are required.

What are the admission requirements for an online master’s in counseling?

A number of the top online master degree programs in counseling require students to submit the following for admissions purposes:

  • Application form
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Revised Graduate Records Exam scores (Revised GRE)
  • Personal statement or Essay
  • Letters of recommendation

A bachelor’s degree in counseling in a related field such as the following fields, is generally required of candidates for online masters counseling programs:

  1. Psychology
  2. Sociology
  3. Behavioral Science
  4. Social Work
  5. Education

What types of online master’s degrees in counseling can students pursue?

Students can pursue one of several different online masters degrees in counseling at accredited online masters in counseling schools. The following is a list of some of the types of counseling masters degree students typically choose:

  • Mental Health: Students seeking a mental health concentration in their counseling masters degree online program learn more about the therapeutic application of counseling practices. Much of the coursework focuses on topics such as psychopathology, human development, grief counseling and abuse counseling.
  • Educational Counseling: Those students specializing in educational counseling can be licensed for elementary, secondary or postsecondary counseling. The educational counseling specialty requires students to explore issues in child psychology, behavioral development and family counseling.
  • Marriage and Family: This concentration within counseling promotes healthy, holistic relationships among groups or couples. Community counseling, family therapy, family origins and marital systems are studied in this graduate program.
  • Addictions Counseling: Another therapy-based concentration in online master’s degrees in counseling is addictions counseling. Students in this specialty explore gambling addiction, drug addiction, addictive behavior and eating disorders.
  • Community Counseling: Graduate degrees with a concentration in community counseling generally lead to work as personal coaches or aides. Coursework includes subjects such as multicultural counseling, career counseling and group counseling.

What can students expect to learn in an online counseling master’s degree program?

The theories and practices taught by the best online master’s degree counseling programs prepare students to provide state-licensed services at hospitals, schools, churches or a number of other settings. Regardless of location, counseling students learn about behavioral therapies, emotional development and the effect of culture on psychology.

Popular classes taken by students enrolled in top online master programs in counseling include:

  1. Counseling Theories and Techniques- This class explores varying theories of psychology and counseling, including group, drug abuse and educational counseling. Students in this lecture-style course study counselor-client relationships, counseling practices and history of counseling theory.
  2. Group Dynamics- Students preparing for careers in group counseling learn to lead groups through effective therapy sessions. This course explores group psychology, group psychotherapy and practical concepts in group counseling.
  3. Professional and Ethical Issues- Online masters degree counseling programs prepare students for the legal and ethical ramifications of their work. Risk management, legal standards and professional licensing are explored in this class.

What careers can students pursue after graduating from counseling masters programs online?

Counseling master’s programs online graduates can choose from a variety of different job options. Some careers online master’s programs in counseling students can choose from include:

  1. School and Career Counselor- These people help students or professionals work through social, personal and career growth issues. School and career counselors earn an average annual salary of $56,540 in the United States. Expected increases in public school and university enrollment are expected to create a 19% increase in this type of employment between 2010 and 2020.
  2. Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists- These professions are typically combined statistically because of similarities in practice and subject matter. Counselors specializing in either mental health or marriage and family address emotional problems that prohibit healthy relationships between patients and their loved ones. As of May 2011, the average wage for these professionals was $48,710 per year. Employment is expected to increase rapidly, by 39% before 2020, as the population grows and people continue to seek help for mental health issues.
  3. Rehabilitation Counselors- This career path also requires a masters degree as the minimum educational requirement for licensure. Rehabilitation counselors work with patients who live independently and are confronting emotional or physical problems in order to work and contribute to society. A student pursuing this career path can expect to earn an average salary of $37,070 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in this career will grow by 28% between 2010 and 2020, due largely to increased numbers of populations like the elderly and people with disabilities.

Professionals looking to make a career out of helping people in need can find a spot for themselves inthe field of counseling. Counselors with a master’s degree will have a much easier time getting hired and working in positions that offer top salary. Because counseling is a career which deals with mental state and health, six years of education is necessary to be hired by many organizations, schools, corporations, or to go into private business. Salaries for counseling professionals range from $44,000 to $140,000 on the upper end of the pay grade for different positions. While salary is mainly dependent on job title and location, going to the right school can also be helpful. Here are some things prospective students should look for in a Master in Counseling program.


Counseling professionals will benefit their career by specializing in a niche track. These specialties include clinical mental health, trauma, counseling psychology, professional counseling, school counseling, substance abuse, rehabilitation, and more. Many programs will offer in-field experience for students in their specialty of interest to further skills and help students get a leg up when it comes time to apply for jobs.


High quality counseling is the result of ongoing research into the complexities of the brain, human emotions, and the effects of the environment on the human psyche. Much of the top research in this field is completed at graduate colleges. Professionals who are interested in doing research during their career should prioritize attending a program that is already working on research and getting media and publication attention, as well as offering a master’s in science for counseling. Research projects range widely including subjects such as special education, school psychology, measurement, and more.

Certification Track

Certification is required for many counseling positions as well as better pay. For example, a mental health counselor makes $30,325-$53,872/year, but a licensed professional counselor makes up to $62,848, and a marriage/family therapist (certified) can make up to $140,000/year. Most graduate programs offer a certification track where students graduate ready to take their certification exams or with the qualifications and in-field hours required to be certified on the spot.

University of Louisville

University of Louisville offers graduate degree programs in Counseling. Students can choose from a Master's of Education degree in Counseling and Personnel Services or a Ph.D. in Counseling and Personnel Services. The program trains students who are seeking career advancement into school administration for such positions as guidance counselors, mental health counselors and clinical counseling positions.

University of Washington

University of Washington offers a Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in Counseling. Students are trained in many aspects of social work and counseling including group dynamics, social welfare, interventions, ethics and values and social problems. Through a combination of classwork and field experience, students are exposed to a wide variety of social problems with diverse groups of people, helping them understand multiculturalism and specialized counseling techniques.

University of the Southwest

University of the Southwest offers a Master's of Education degree with specializations in School Counseling or Mental Health Counseling. Classes are small, encouraging group interaction and discussions with faculty. Students are required to complete internships in schools or other community agencies, letting them put their skills to the test in public schools, homeless shelters and other settings.

Rhode Island College

Rhode Island College offers students Master's degrees in School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Programs require up to 60 credit hours to graduate, using a combination of classwork and field experience to train students in counseling techniques. Students participate in research projects and measure their outcomes, giving them insight as to how techniques will work in the field. Internships are held in various places such as adoption agencies, alternative education programs and psychiatric hospitals.

Our Lady of Holy Cross College

Our Lady of Holy Cross College has what is considered to be one of the best counseling degree programs in the country. Offering a Master of Arts in Counseling, the program gives students three choices of concentrations. Students can choose from Community Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling and School Counseling. Students are encouraged to develop themselves culturally and spiritually, and the school's graduates are known throughout Louisiana for their skill and compassion.

Dallas Baptist University

Dallas Baptist University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling and a Master of Education in School Counseling. Dual counseling degrees are also offered in Children's Ministry and Christian Education, allowing those students who wish to pursue further religious studies and employment opportunities within churches and other religious settings.

Heidelberg University

Heidelberg University offers a Master's degree in Counseling that designed for working adults. Most classes meet only one night per week, while some meet on Saturdays. Classes usually last only eight weeks, allowing for quicker completion of the program. The accelerated format lets students earn degrees in as little as one year, and the school is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Kean University

Kean University offers a variety of graduate counseling degrees from which to choose. Students can earn Master of Arts degrees in School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling. Students in all programs are exposed to specialized studies in their field along with supervised field experience of up to 600 hours in an agency of their choosing.

Sioux Falls Seminary

Sioux Falls Seminary helps prepare students to live a Christian life of service to others, and offers a Master of Arts in Counseling for those wishing to help others work through their problems. The two-year program lets students have great flexibility in planning their curriculum based upon their interests. Students complete a clinical experience of three semesters in such settings as hospitals, churches or alternative schools.

University of Redlands

University of Redlands offers a graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Students are exposed to a variety of counseling techniques and theories both in the classroom and in clinical settings. Internships are a vital part of the program, allowing students the chance to work with many different groups of clients and discover where they can best use their skills.

Eastern Mennonite University

Eastern Mennonite University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling for its students. The faith-based program, which combines the best aspects of psychology and religion, allows students to blend together their counseling skills with their faith and values to help clients overcome problems. Students find employment as School Counselors, Mental Health Counselors, Substance Abuse Counselors and Family Counselors in many different organizations.

Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University offers graduate degrees in Counseling for students interested in working in schools, community counseling agencies and other organizations. A combination of classes and field experience is used to give students a complete perspective on the helping profession, enabling them to be comfortable working with a diverse group of clients.

Lakeland College

Lakeland College in Wisconsin offers a Master of Arts degree in Counseling that is unmatched for its flexibility. Designed for working adults, students can choose to attend class one evening per week or on Saturdays over a 12-week period in any semester of their choosing. For those students who prefer online classes, they can select the BlendEd class format, which lets them access their classwork and complete all assignments online.

Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University offers Master of Science degrees in Community Counseling and School Counseling. Both programs use a combination of classroom discussions and field experiences to help train students to work in a variety of settings with very diverse groups. Students can complete clinical experiences in schools, community mental health agencies, hospitals and other organizations.

Mid-America Christian University

Mid-America Christian University offers students a Master of Counseling degree that allows for specialization in Pastoral/Spiritual Direction, Marital and Family Therapy, Professional Counselor and Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling. Students at the school are eligible to receive college credit for real-world experience, helping them reduce the cost of attending school while letting them complete their studies quicker.

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University offers students numerous choices for graduate degrees in Counseling. Students can choose to specialize in Community Agency Counseling, Elementary and Secondary School Counseling, Higher Education Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy Counseling. Using a combination of coursework and internships, students gain the knowledge necessary to work with diverse groups of clients in various settings.

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University offers Master's and Doctoral degrees in Counseling. Students can choose specialties in Marriage and Family Therapy, Family Studies and Child Life Specialist. Affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the school puts a premium on blending one's faith and values in with their studies to create a faith-based approach that will solve problems and nurture souls.

Spring Arbor University

Spring Arbor University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling for on-campus students. Taught from a Christian perspective, the 50 credit program lets students concentrate in School Counseling or Community Counseling. In addition to classroom studies, students are required to complete a 100 hour practicum and a 600 hour internship.

Oregon State University Cascades

Oregon State University Cascades offers a Master of Science degree in Counseling with concentrations in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or School Counseling. Practical experience is strongly emphasized in the program, with students completing practicums and internships in community colleges, community mental health clinics, hospitals and nursing homes and other facilities.

Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University, ranked as one of the best college values in the Western United States, offers students several graduate degrees in Counseling. Students can choose from Master of Arts degrees in School Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling and Community Counseling. Through its philosophy of nurturing people's mind, body and spirit, the school encourages students to work with as many diverse populations as possible to gain a greater understanding of people's lives.

Centenary College

Centenary College offers a 60 credit hour Master of Counseling Psychology degree program for students with an interest in helping others. Meeting the criteria for the New Jersey Professional Counselor Licensure, the program uses classroom discussion to learn counseling theories, then internships and practicums to put those theories to the test.

Waynesburg University

Waynesburg University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling that gives students many options. The classes are offered at three locations in Pittsburgh and at the main campus, meeting two evenings per week for five semesters. The 60 credit hour program lets students specialize in Addictions Counseling or Clinical Mental Health Counseling, using classes and internships to help students gain the necessary skills to help people in need.

William Carey University

William Carey University offers a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology that combines scientific theory with practical experience. Students gain their practical experience in a variety of settings including community mental health agencies, churches, school guidance programs and nursing homes. Students can choose to concentrate in many areas including Christian Counseling, Gerontology Counseling, School Counseling and Community Counseling.

Johnson State College

Johnson State College offers a Master of Arts in Counseling to students who want to make a career of helping others. Students can specialize in school guidance counseling, college counseling or substance abuse and mental health counseling. Internships are required, and are usually individually designed by students and faculty depending upon a person's interest. Courses are offered in the evenings and on weekends, with students having five years to complete the program.

St Marys University

St. Mary's University offers graduate degrees in Counseling for students who want to make a career of helping others. Degrees are available in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, allowing students to choose what area they wish to specialize in. Using classes and internships, students take what they learn in class and put it to the test with actual clients.

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers a Master of Arts in Counseling for those students who want to counsel people from a Christian perspective. A total of 62 credit hours is needed for graduation, with students meeting the educational requirements to become Licensed Professional Counselors in Missouri. Upon graduation, students can find employment as a Pastor, Chaplain or Professional Counselor.

Biblical Theological Seminary

Biblical Theological Seminary offers a Master of Arts in Counseling for students planning on careers in ministry or other religious areas. Students are taught from a Christian perspective about how various counseling techniques and religion are intertwined, enabling counselors to work with clients of very diverse backgrounds in churches, hospitals, schools and mental health agencies.

Webster University

Webster University offers students a Master of Arts in Counseling at its United States campus as well as locations in Switzerland and the Netherlands. The degree combines classroom instruction and practical experience, with students having several concentrations from which to choose. These include Mental Health Counseling, Family Life Counseling, Community Counseling and Marriage and Family Counseling.

Eastern University

Eastern University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling and Master of Science degrees in School Counseling and General Counseling. Taught from a Christian perspective, the program's goals are to create students who are able to leave school and begin making a difference in people's lives.

Hampton University

Hampton University offers Master of Arts degrees in several counseling concentrations. Students can choose from Community and Mental Health Counseling, Pastoral Counseling, School Counseling and Student Affairs. Ranked in the top 100 best psychology programs in the country, Hampton provides students opportunities to use classroom theory in the real world by completing internships in clinics, hospitals, churches and other places.

La Sierra University

La Sierra University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling for students who are ready to make careers of helping others. Affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the school has a long history of graduating excellent counselors from its program. Faculty act as mentors to students, providing them with nurturing and advice on how best to help others and be their best personally and professionally.

Wayland Baptist University

Wayland Baptist University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with two concentrations from which to choose. Students can specialize in school counseling or professional counseling, and allow students to meet the educational requirements necessary to become licensed professional counselors. The program requires 49 credit hours for completion, and includes internships in mental health agencies or schools.

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania offers graduate degrees in Counseling for its students, with four concentrations from which to choose. Students can choose from School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, College Counseling or College Student Personnel. The program is fully accredited, allowing students to sit for licensing exams upon finishing their studies.

Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

Assemblies of God Theological Seminary offers a Master of Arts in Counseling that provides tracks for licensure or non-licensure. The licensure track requires 51-66 credits and prepares students to become Marriage and Family Therapists or Licensed Professional Counselors. The non-licensure track prepares students to work in settings where licensure is not needed, such as churches or community agencies.

Pittsburg State University

Pittsburg State University, with graduate programs that have been highly-ranked by The Princeton Review, offers students graduate degrees in Counseling in a variety of areas. Degrees can be chosen in School Counseling, Community Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Students completing these programs are eligible to sit for the LPC exam in over 40 states.

University of South Alabama

University of South Alabama offers Master of Science degrees in School Counseling and Community Counseling. Students use a combination of classroom instruction and internships to gain the knowledge necessary to help clients of various cultures and socio-economic backgrounds.

Adler School of Professional Psychology

Adler School of Professional Psychology offers graduate degrees in Counseling in a variety of disciplines. Offering programs at campuses in Chicago and Vancouver, students can choose from such programs as Rehabilitation Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling, Community Counseling and Counseling Psychology. Students can also choose a specialization in Military Psychology, learning how to counsel veterans who are experiencing psychological trauma resulting from combat or other actions.

West Texas A & M University

West Texas A&M University offers graduate degrees in Counseling that let students specialize in Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling. The university prides itself on its ability to train students to work with a variety of clients from different backgrounds, enabling students to be well-prepared for employment upon graduation.

New Jersey City University

New Jersey City University offers graduate degrees in Counseling for its students. Master's of Arts degrees are awarded in Counseling, with optional certifications available in Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Associate Counselor and School Counselor Certification. The school is deeply committed to advocating for social justice, and teaches its students to do the same before and after graduation.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University offers a Master of Science degree in Counseling with a concentration in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling. Graduates of the program report having little trouble finding employment upon graduation, with offers coming from public and private community agencies, hospitals, schools and other places.

Columbia International University

Columbia International University offers graduate degrees in Counseling taught from a Christian perspective. The school's method of treating patients is through the heart, the head and the hands. These translate to personal and spiritual development, professional knowledge and research and effective interpersonal and clinical skills.

Truman State University

Truman State University is set to begin offering a Master of Arts in Counseling beginning in January 2014. Available to 25 students initially, classes will meet two evening per week during fall, spring and summer semesters. An advantage to this program is that students will be able to be employed full-time while completing the degree, letting them balance work and family responsibilities.

Missouri Baptist University

Montclair State University

Montclair State University, ranked among the best schools in the country by Forbes Magazine and U.S. News and World Report, offers graduate degrees in Counseling that are some of the nation's best. Specializations include Addictions, Community Counseling, School Counseling and Student Affairs. Students can take day, evening, weekend and online classes.

LeTourneau University

Lenoir-Rhyne University

Lenoir-Rhyne University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling which lets students specialize in Clinical Mental Health or School Counseling. Taught from a Christian perspective, students can take experiences gained in the classroom and community and become well-rounded professional counselors. The program boasts many success stories from its graduates, with some becoming graduate school administrators and others being named Counselor of the Year at their respective employer. Students can design their own curriculums, which gives them added flexibility and the chance to proceed at their own pace.