Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs | 2022’s Degrees
Completing a master’s degree program in counseling is the first step to becoming a professional counselor. Although there are some bachelor’s level degrees with a focus in counseling, in order to become a licensed professional counselor, you need to complete a graduate level education then pursue your state’s counseling licensure process.
Master’s in counseling degrees and master’s in counseling online degrees offer a specialized curriculum, with a primary focus on one centralized topic. A Master of Arts, Science or Education in Counseling focuses on shaping your professional identity as a counselor, developing core competencies and expanding your understanding of human development and psychology.
There are many master’s in counseling online degree programs aspiring professionals can choose from. Considering factors such as accreditation, online student support services, clinical placement assistance, small class sizes and live online classroom discussions can help you select a program that aligns with your lifestyle, interests and professional goals.
Earn your MA in Counseling from Northwestern in as few as 18 months
Accelerated full-time, traditional, or part-time tracks available
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness
Aspiring mental health counselors are prepared to pursue licensure with NYU Steinhardt’s MPCAC-accredited online counseling master’s. Students can earn their degree in as few as 21 mos. GRE not req.
Prepare to become a mental health counselor
Accredited by the MPCAC
As few as 21 months to complete
GRE not required
Graduate School of Education and Psychology
Master of Arts in Psychology
Pepperdine University’s online Master of Arts in Psychology program prepares students to pursue doctoral study or a career in human services.
Open to all undergrad majors
No GRE required
Can be completed in about 18 months
USC Rossier School of Education
Master of Education in School Counseling
The University of Southern California Rossier School of Education offers a Master of Education in School Counseling online for aspiring K-12 school counselors. The program can be completed in less than two years and there is no GRE requirement.
Degree types include Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Education, offered at public or private institutions. Applicants can also choose between programs offered on-campus, online or at multiple locations. Learn more about online counseling degrees.
Lastly, the curriculum must include both a practicum and an internship. The practicum must be at least 100 supervised clock hours over a full academic term of 10 weeks, with 40 clock hours of direct service with clients. The internship must be a minimum of 600 supervised clock hours, with 240 hours of direct service.
While specific admission requirements will vary from school to school, at minimum you’ll likely need to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in order to apply to a master’s in counseling degree program. Schools may not have specific requirements when it comes to what candidates studied in their undergraduate programs, but a bachelor’s degree in psychology, or a bachelor’s degree in social work and related fields may be useful to prospective students.
It may also be helpful to have some experience in the mental health field, such as paid or volunteer experience in settings including psychiatric centers and crisis centers. Below are a few of the basic requirements you may need when applying:
Undergraduate coursework in psychology
Types of Counseling Jobs and Counselor Salary Info
You may settle on a counseling specialty before or after completion of your degree program. If you already know which field you would like to pursue, search for online counseling programs that offer the specialty, such as online school counseling programs.
If you are unsure about which career you would like to pursue, review our guide on 10 different counseling careers to help you gain insight as you make a decision. Most online counseling programs, when accredited, will offer some of the same basic counseling coursework. Keep in mind, however, that career-specific online counseling programs may better prepare you for post-graduate counseling licensure.
Mental Health Counselor
Role: Provide psychoeducational and therapeutic support, engaging in assessments, treatment planning and crisis management while taking a client-centered approach. Mental health counselors care for the short-term and long-term well-being of individuals, couples, families and groups, and are dedicated to the optimal functioning of all persons under their care. A master’s in clinical mental health counseling is useful for this career path.
Role: Support child and adolescent development in individual and group meetings, with a focus on the academic, personal, social and career growth. Skilled school counselors are good communicators with the ability to empathize and guide students through challenges they may face both at school and at home. A master’s in school counseling will prepare applicants for this career.
Role: Focus on helping individuals make decisions about career pathways through exploring their interests, strengths and skills to develop a personalized plan incorporating individual interests and professional goals. A master’s in career counseling can prepare future counselors to build these necessary skills.
Role: Guide college students through their academic, social and personal goals while addressing mental health, substance abuse, suicide prevention or relationship challenges. College counselors have strong interpersonal and organizational skills, and serve as effective advocates for their students. A master’s in college counseling and student affairs may be most aligned with this career path.
Role: Work with military personnel and their families providing psychoeducational services to promote mental health and address challenges of the military lifestyle. This may include providing therapeutic services, off-site counseling for service members deployed overseas and recognizing if a referral for further help is needed, such as psychiatry, drug treatment or a support group.
Role: Address conditions of clients with physical, emotional, developmental or mental disabilities to develop treatment plans for adjustment or healthy development. A master’s in rehabilitation counseling/clinical rehabilitation counseling may be suitable for those who want to pursue this career path.
Role: Address challenges that children and adolescents experience, such as learning disabilities, behavioral or social issues, or difficulties at home. Child counselors create open, accepting environments for children to explore any issue, working diligently to develop appropriate strategies for clients to overcome life’s hurdles.
Role: Assist individuals dealing with loss, illness or experiencing significant change through individual and group sessions. Grief counselors are able to demonstrate compassion and empathy to support clients through difficult times.
Role: Help clients achieve and maintain abstinence, reestablish their lives and use healthy coping skills through commonly used aversion therapy, solution-focused brief therapy and social skills training. A master’s in addiction counseling can help prepare future counselors for this career path.
Accreditation, Counseling Certification and Licensure for Masters in Counseling Programs
Master’s in counseling programs that are accredited by the CACREP typically meet state licensing requirements. CACREP accreditation implies that university counselor training and educational programs have met the minimal professional standards to practice as an independent counselor.
Earn a master’s in counseling or equivalent from a CACREP-accredited degree program.
Complete the state licensure examination mandated by your state counseling board.
Complete the number of supervised postgraduate hours mandated by your state counseling board.
Complete any other requirements mandated by your state counseling board, such as a background check.
Apply for licensure as an LPC from your state counseling board.
Secure employment as an LPC.
The CACREP recognizes the quality and standards of counselor education programs that are set by the profession. Through a self-assessment, counselor education programs submit information pertaining to the learning environment, the professional counseling, professional practice, evaluation of the program, coursework offerings, counseling career-specific content and doctoral standards for counselor education and supervision programs. CACREP accreditation rests with the counseling degree program and not the university. This is an important distinction to make for universities that offer several counseling degree programs.
The MPCAC accredits programs in the psychology and counseling fields that are science-based in education and training. MPCAC also promotes the integration of science and clinical practice—preparing counselors to provide scientifically-based, culturally responsive counseling services.
Factors to Consider in Choosing Your Online Counseling Program
Note: Factors comparing online master’s in counseling programs were created by 2U.
A master’s in counseling from an accredited online program can help set you up for a counseling position in the public or private sector, or a career transition. This comprehensive list of online schools was curated to provide the most accurate and helpful information on all types of CACREP-accredited master’s in counseling degree programs online. In order to help you find the best online counseling program for you, we’ve listed all programs encompassing five different factors, including support services and class sizes.
For online counseling programs that are career-specific, such as an online master’s in school counseling or an online master’s in clinical mental health counseling, CACREP has “entry-level specialty area” content standards for accreditation. These standards include curriculum that supports the specific profession (for instance, models of school counseling programs or addiction and mental health co-occurring disorders).
Substance abuse and addiction counseling online programs are accredited by the National Addictions Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC). One addiction counseling program from the University of the Cumberlands is accredited by CACREP. Generally, accreditation by some governing body is important for online counseling programs in order to ensure quality, credibility, and value.