2022 Best Online Master's in Counseling Degrees
The following list presents the top schools for online master’s in counseling degree programs. An online master's degree in counseling is designed to train students for careers that are dedicated to helping clients manage life's challenges and achieve emotional well-being. Earning a master's degree is also a necessary step for national counseling certification and state licensure. Professional counselors help clients identify and solve problems in order to modify unhealthy behaviors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annuage pay for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $48,520, with a 23% demand in job prospects for these specialties.
2022 Best Online Master's in Counseling Degrees
|Rank||School||Salary Score||Median Starting Salary|
|# 1||Virginia Commonwealth University||100||$64,254|
|# 2||Northwestern University||95||$54,060|
|# 3||Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies||93||$52,906|
|# 4||Southern New Hampshire University Online||89||$51,100|
|# 5||University of Phoenix||83||$49,344|
|# 6||University of Southern California||77||$47,828|
|# 7||Mercy College||74||$47,163|
|# 8||Lamar University||73||$46,927|
|# 9||Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online||67||$45,806|
|# 10||Capella University||65||$45,453|
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2022 Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees
#1 Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a four-year public university that offers an online Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling. Totaling 60 credit hours — including 40 credits of didactic courses, nine internship credits, and three elective credits — the program prepares students to sit for licenses and certification exams to become Licensed Professional Counselors in Virginia, a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, or a Nationally Certified Counselor. In addition students must complete a total of 3,400 hours of supervised practice hours before sitting for a licensure exam to become a licensed counselor in Virginia.
At VCU, students can take an accelerated or part-time version of the program, depending on their obligations outside of school. It's also important to note that VCU adheres to a hybrid learning format, which includes online and in-person instruction.
#2 Northwestern University
Northwestern University (NU) is a medium-sized nonprofit offering an online Master of Arts in Counseling. The program comprises 24 credit hours, a 200-hour practicum, and a 600-hour internship. In addition, the program has a Child and Adolescent emphasis for students who want to counsel adolescents during their careers. Some of the core courses include Counseling Methods: Skills for Counseling and Psychotherapy, Psychopathology in Counseling, Cultural Diversity in Counseling, and Career Development. Students must submit transcripts (official and unofficial), letters of recommendation, resume or CV, statement of purpose, essay, test scores, application fee, and a current photo to apply for the program.
NU's online coursework prepares graduates to become clinical mental health counselors, and it's offered at a full- or part-time pace. Although most of the course is offered online, there are some in-person immersion requirements, including clinical experiences.
#3 Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies
Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies is a private nonprofit offering an online Master’s in Addiction Counseling. Totaling 60 credit hours, the program lasts two years on a full-time schedule, though part-time options are available. The curriculum is designed to train students in managing and coordinating their future patients' mental health and addiction concerns based on treatments supported by evidence. For example, coursework may cover trauma-informed treatment and recovery management.
At Hazelden, the addiction studies program is offered every January, May, and September, providing flexibility for students to complete the online coursework on their own schedule. While the program is entirely online, students must still attend two in-person, on-campus residencies, and each lasts four days. In addition to the residency requirements, students must complete 900 hours of clinical or internship experiences before graduation.
#4 Southern New Hampshire University Online
Southern New Hampshire University Online (SNHU) is a private nonprofit that offers an online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling for students interested in working in the clinical mental health field. The 60-credit-hour program provides flexibility and 24/7 access to all coursework and resources for students with busy schedules. In addition, the program requires students to complete two five-day, in-person residencies; a 100-hour practicum; and a 600-hour internship before graduation. Graduates are trained to become licensed professional counselors.
At SNHU, the coursework combines 90% online learning with 10% of face-to-face work in a hybrid format. The in-person requirements include two in-person residencies. In this way, students may enjoy asynchronous coursework that they can complete at their own pace while also benefiting from residencies that provide real-world experiences.
#5 University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix (UoPX) is a private, for-profit institution offering an online Master of Science in Counseling/Clinical Mental Counseling that prepares students for roles in the clinical mental health field. The 60-credit-hour program lasts approximately 35 months, with students gaining skills in human development, research, diversity, psychotherapy, and more. In addition, the program meets the qualifications for graduates to sit for California’s Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) exam to gain licensure. To achieve acceptance into the program, prospective students must complete an admission readiness assessment that takes six weeks, where they must develop a graduate portfolio.
At UoPX, online students have 24/7 access to their coursework, which they can finish at their own pace. Their virtual learning environment offers the opportunity for students to gain one-on-one connections with faculty and experience team-building with peers.
#6 University of Southern California
The University of Southern California (USC) is a large, private nonprofit offering an online Master of Education in School Counseling for students who desire to become K-12 school counselors. The 49 credit-hour program lasts approximately two to three years, with the option to be a full- or part-time student. In addition, students are required to complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship during the program. Areas of focus for the program include College and Career Readiness, Restorative Justice, and Trauma-Informed Practice. The application requirements for the program include the following: a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, transcripts, resume, letters of recommendation, GPA of 3.0 or higher, statement of purpose, and two short-answer responses.
At USC, students have scheduled live classes in a digital format on a weekly basis, which is paired with asynchronous coursework that students may complete at their own pace. After completion of the online program, graduates are eligible for the Pupil Personnel Services Credential within California.
#7 Mercy College
Mercy College offers an online Master of Science in Counseling for students interested in becoming K-12 school counselors. The program requires 60 credit hours, with students eligible to sit for the exam to become licensed or certified New York school counselors after graduation. Coursework covers counseling intervention for children and adolescents, counseling and ethics, research methodology, and multicultural perspectives. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, a minimum 3.0 GPA, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement.
At Mercy, full- and part-time schedule options are available to students, encouraging working professionals to further their studies. Mercy's coursework is 100% online, with 24/7 flexibility.
#8 Lamar University
Lamar University (LU) — a medium-sized, public institution — offers two online master's of education in counseling programs: (1) Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and (2) a Master of Education in Counseling & Development. The latter program has two concentration options: Marriage Couple & Family Counseling and Professional School Counseling. Each program totals 60 credit hours and lasts approximately 30 months, with the ability to start the program throughout the year. An online application, application fee, minimum 3.0 GPA, and official transcripts are required for admission to each program.
At LU, coursework meets the requirements to become a Licensed Professional Counselor and/or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Texas. It also includes a residency, 15-week practicum, and 15-week internship.
#9 Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online
Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) is a private nonprofit offering an online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling for students pursuing a career in this field. The three-year, part-time program offers a range of courses, such as Diagnosis of Mental Health Issues, Group Theories and Processes of Counseling, and Assessment of Individuals. Students must complete a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship during the program’s duration. In addition, students must attend two mandatory residencies during their first and second year. Admission requirements include a standard application, application fee, essay, official transcripts, and three letters of recommendation.
At TCSPP, coursework is offered through the instructional website Canvas in both asynchronous and synchronous formats.
#10 Capella University
Capella University — a medium-sized, private, for-profit institution — offers three online counseling degree programs: (1) a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, (2) Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy, and (3) Master of Science in School Counseling. All three programs, which are 72 credit hours each, offer online coursework but also require completing in-person residencies, internships, and practicums. Career paths for these programs include school counselor, mental health counselor, and substance abuse/addiction counselor.
At Capella, all coursework for each program is provided through the instructional website, Guidepath.