Online Master's Degree in Counseling
If you want to pursue a master’s degree in counseling without uprooting your life, an online degree may be right for you. Online study is a flexible and convenient option for working adults, distant learners, parents and caretakers. With top-tier universities offering online master’s programs in counseling, online education is becoming an increasingly viable option for aspiring counselors.
Choosing a Program
Online learning has come a long way in recent years. Highly competitive universities often mirror their rich campus curricula online so that it is more accessible to students who can’t relocate or schedule classes around their work or family responsibilities. Several top universities offer fully online and/or hybrid masters programs for counseling students.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) recognizes the value of the better online counseling programs and now lists some of them in its directory. The below schools all appear for their campus-based programs, which are mirrored online. If you select the online option, you’ll also see some other options that meet standards. Make sure the online counseling masters programs you apply to are regionally accredited and recognized by CACREP and/or the Council On Rehabilitation Education (CORE). As with selecting a campus-based program, make sure there are also courses available in your chosen specialization.
Admission requirements vary by program, but are similar to requirements for on-campus programs. A bachelor’s degree is always necessary. Other requirements may include prerequisite courses, a minimum GPA and score on the GRE test.
SCHOOL PROFILES FOR ALL ONLINE MASTERS IN COUNSELING PROGRAMS
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
George Washington University
Governors State University
Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School
Indiana Wesleyan University
Lindsey Wilson College
Lock Haven University
Luther Rice College & Seminary
New York University
North Carolina Central University
North Carolina State University
Ohio Christian University
Palo Alto University
Texas A&M University
Texas Tech University
Union Institute and University
University of Alabama
University of Hawaii-Manoa
University of Kentucky
University of Louisiana-Monroe
University of South Dakota
University of the Cumberlands
Wake Forest University
West Virginia University
Western Kentucky University
Winston-Salem State University
Customizing Your Study
Just as with the traditional campus-based counseling masters programs, their online counterparts allow for some curriculum customization. Beyond the required core courses, you’ll have the opportunity to choose some elective subjects that focus on a specialized area such as grief counseling, marriage and family, substance abuse, etc. Additionally, you’ll have some input and options regarding your field placement, the one part of your program that cannot be completed online. Just as with the campus-based programs, an academic advisor may help you find a placement suitable to your curriculum and interests.
And don’t think that because it’s part of an online program that the field placement will be easier. Just as it is with traditional programs, the online program’s field placement is the most rigorous aspect of the master’s curriculum.
There is a common misconception that online programs are less interactive, however this is no longer the case. Online counseling programs use a highly immersive technology that allows for frequent interaction with classmates, instructors and advisors. The rich virtual environments that are a hallmark of high quality online programs allow for robust networking and learning opportunities.
Some programs offer a hybrid option, where you can meet on campus periodically for a special lecture, project or exam. Others incorporate a cohort model where you are part of a group of students who begin the program together and stay connected throughout. This lends itself to study groups, group projects and wonderful networking opportunities.
- 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.