Online Counseling Programs
Online Counseling Programs is your complete guide to counseling degree programs (online and on campus), state licensing requirements and counseling career paths. Learn how to become a licensed counselor in each state with detailed information on degree programs, supervision, examination, and continuing education for current and aspiring professionals.
Explore this site for the most comprehensive information on becoming a practicing counselor. Wherever you may be on your journey to become a counselor, this resource can help guide you through each essential step in becoming a licensed counselor, from academic programs to professional enrichment.
Become a Counselor
A counseling career gives you the opportunity to help others every day, and we are here to help you achieve your professional goals. Our mission is to provide all the information you need to pursue a counseling career, no matter where you live.
+ Step 1 – Pursue a master’s degree
To forge a successful career in counseling, and to receive state licensure, you first need to earn a master’s degree in counseling. This credential, along with a state license, demonstrates to future employers and patients that you are qualified and capable.
- Discover which graduate counseling programs can help you launch your career.
- Explore master’s programs offered online and on campus by top accredited universities.
- Learn about counseling curricula and related studies, such as therapy, social work and clinical psychology.
- Find out how you can specialize your study and focus on a specific type of counseling.
- Learn about admission requirements, applications, tuition, financial aid and scholarships.
+ Step 2 – Obtain licensure
Without a license, most states will not allow you to practice or accept health insurance from patients. To meet state requirements, counseling licensure is necessary. A valid state counseling license serves as proof that a practitioner has met state-determined qualification standards, including a minimum level of education and requisite hours of supervised clinical experience.
- Learn about the licensing requirements in your state.
- Learn how many supervision hours are necessary in your state of interest and how you can fulfill them.
- Find out the details about licensing exams, including costs, study guides and registration.
+ Step 3 – Choose a career path
With a state license and a master’s degree, you’ll find counseling career opportunities in hospitals, mental health clinics, private practices, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, schools, nursing homes, and government and community agencies. Continue to visit this website for guidance as you work toward your educational and career goals.
- Explore the many counseling specialties and the types of patients you can help.
- See where the counseling jobs are in your state.
- Learn about employer requirements and job expectations.
+ Step 4 – Advance your practice through continued learning
A successful counselor stays ahead of the curve and continues to expand their knowledge as their career progresses. Explore professional certification and doctoral programs for counselors.
- Explore PhD counseling programs.
- Understand the value of certification and learn how to obtain it.
SCHOOL PROFILES FOR ALL ONLINE MASTERS IN COUNSELING PROGRAMS
Antioch University Connected
Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Colorado Christian U
Fort Hays University
George Washington U
Indiana Wesleyan U
Liberty University Online
Luther Rice College & Seminary
Medaille College Online
Mid-America Christian U
Montana State U-Billings
North Carolina State U
Nova Southeastern U
Ottawa University Online
Southwestern Assemblies of God U
Texas A&M U-College Station
Texas Southern University
Texas Tech University
University of Alabama
University of Hawaii-Manoa
University of Kentucky
University of Louisiana-Monroe
University North Dakota
University of the Cumberlands
University of the Southwest
University of West Alabama
Western Kentucky University
West Virginia University
Winston-Salem State U
Choosing the Right Master’s in Counseling Program
There are many factors to consider when deciding which university counseling program best suits your goals. Will you continue to work while studying? Do you have family obligations that require flexibility? Will work or familial commitments prevent you from relocating to the school that best fits your educational needs? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, you should explore the many online counseling programs now offered by top-ranked schools.
Unlike some of the online-only colleges that focus on the credential, the dynamic online programs offered by these top-tier schools are immersive programs. Rich online curricula developed by renowned professors are matched with on-site clinical training to help you develop counseling skills.
Online vs. On Campus
The online counseling programs offered at top universities now match the quality and depth of their on-campus programs. They share a core curriculum, but the online programs offer additional learning opportunities and flexibility that the on-campus experience cannot compete with.
- Core Curriculum
In general, whether you choose an online or on-campus program, there is a common core curriculum that includes human development, communication skills, ethical counseling, human sexuality, group therapy and psychological assessment. This ensures that you are learning the essentials of counseling, wherever you take the course.
Quality of programs is a significant concern for many students thinking of pursuing their master’s degree online. Fortunately, there is a growing selection of Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)-accredited online programs to guarantee a quality education, further narrowing any quality gap between online and on-campus programs.
Online programs are stereotyped as boring, unengaging and unmotivating. Watch a video, take a test, check your grades, rinse, repeat. However, the innovative and immersive online learning environment has become the hallmark of programs offered by top-tier universities such as Northwestern University. These programs allow virtual interaction with classmates and instructors, easy access to knowledgeable advisors and campus resources, and incomparable networking opportunities.
The greatest asset of online learning is convenience. Many schools allow you to create your own schedule so you can attend classes, complete clinical training or even take exams when and where it is most convenient for you. This allows you to balance your education with your work schedule, any family obligations or even while traveling abroad.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time Study
Most online programs encourage students to learn at their own pace and thus offer both full-time and part-time programs. They cover the same essential material but give you a choice depending on your personal goals and obligations. Most online programs allow you to learn at your own pace, so you can enroll in a full semester schedule or opt to take a few courses at a time.
- Full Time
For full-time students, an online master’s in counseling program will typically take two years to complete. If you are an advanced standing student, or someone who’s been granted credits from another institution, the program will usually take one year, or three semesters, to complete. Full-time programs trade a larger course load per semester for shorter enrollment time.
- Part Time
Part-time students may need three or four years to complete the degree. Advanced standing students take approximately one and a half to two and half years to complete these programs. Part-time programs are more flexible in that you can spread out your courses over time. Thus, fewer courses per semester over a longer period of time. A majority of part-time programs use the cohort model.
- Graduation requirements, of course, vary by school and the timing will be largely dependent on you. Are you entering the program with transfer credits? Will you be taking courses during a summer semester? Some graduate schools offer accelerated online programs that may allow you to complete your degree in less time with summer courses or experiential learning credits.
Online vs. Hybrid Programs
Some, but not all, online programs are 100 percent virtual. Be sure to check degree requirements and choose the program that best meets your needs for flexibility and hands-on learning.
- With a 100 percent online program you complete an entire degree program online, but will also need to pursue required supervision hours on your own through local clinics and mental health facilities.
- Hybrid programs offer a fieldwork component in conjunction with online coursework. Some programs offer access to academic advisors who can help you find fieldwork opportunities, while others have mandatory short-length, intensive sessions on campus as your fieldwork. These are just a few examples as hybrid programs’ requirements vary by school.
Online courses may be presented synchronously or asynchronously and may use a cohort model or flexible course scheduling. Be sure to understand the learning structure at the schools to which you are applying.
- Synchronous Learning: Synchronous learning requires you to log in and attend classes at specific times as classes are conducted in real time. These types of classes usually require a webcam and limit scheduling flexibility a bit, but the result is an engaging classroom environment.
- Asynchronous Learning: Asynchronous learning allows you to log in and view lectures at your convenience. However, do not forget that there are still deadlines for assignments.
- Cohort Model: Some programs use a cohort-learning model, meaning you are part of a specific class of students that proceeds through the program together. In this instance, there is a set of courses that must be followed in a specific order. This model gives you the opportunity to network and become friends with your classmates and work with them in a collaborative environment.
- Flexible Course Scheduling: This model allows you to choose when you take each required course and lets you vary your course load from semester to semester. Some schools set a limit on the number of years needed to complete a degree. Without the same set of classmates, you are exposed to a diverse range of people and opinions.
Regardless of the preferred online education style at your university, many universities offer access to academic advisors who can help you devise a class schedule and graduation timeline that suits your needs and helps you reach your goals.
In order to obtain licensure, counselors are required to participate for a minimum number of documented hours in supervised clinical fieldwork. Some master’s programs require an on-site practicum or internship for graduation. These hours may be counted toward your state requirement, but depending on your state, you will likely need additional fieldwork hours to obtain a counseling license.
- Practicum: Required practicum hours range from 100 to 300 hours in total. Students have the opportunity to work as counselors in counseling sessions both supervised and independently. They also attend meetings, participate in training, write reports, review tapes, engage in professional development, and more.
- Internship: Required internship hours are about 600 hours in total. Students work under supervision and mentorships and are required to keep records, engage in professional development and complete other real-world counseling tasks.