As a counselor, the degree you earn provides you with the theoretical and practical knowledge and experience needed to demonstrate your level of expertise in the field. This degree will also help to qualify you for state licensure or certification and clinical positions within the counseling field. Learn how online counseling degrees can help you reach your career goals and make a real difference in people’s lives.
Sponsored Online Counseling & Mental Health Degrees
Why Get a Master’s Degree in the Counseling or Mental Health Field?
Almost 20% of American adults live with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Counselors and mental health professionals help people who are living with mental health disorders or otherwise experiencing difficulties with life, and the field can be extraordinarily rewarding if you want to make a difference in people’s lives.
Each state has its own requirements for licensure to become a counselor, social worker or other type of mental health professional. Check with your state licensing board to learn the specific requirements for licensure in your state.
In online mental health degree programs, you’ll learn from experienced professionals. Supervised field work is also typically a part of a master’s program in mental health or counseling, which gives you real-world experience. Through classroom and supervised field work, you’ll prepare for working with real clients.
Master’s Degrees in Counseling vs. Psychology vs. Social Work
Counseling, psychology and social work are all mental health fields. There is some overlap in the degree programs as well as some key differences regarding curriculum, requirements and program length.
During this program, which typically takes around two to three years to complete, students may learn counseling theories, counseling assessment and counseling methods. Students also typically complete supervised practicums under licensed counselors. Some applicants may be required to complete certain coursework during the master’s program, depending on the state in which they wish to practice.
Master’s Degree in Psychology
A master’s degree in psychology program helps prepare students to get a doctorate in psychology and become a psychologist. Students learn psychology principles, research theory and lifespan development.
Master’s degree in social work programs help prepare graduates to become social workers or earn higher credentials in the social work field. To enter a master’s degree in social work, you typically need to have a bachelor’s degree and meet specific admissions criteria, depending on the university.
Earning your Master of Arts, or MA, in counseling focuses on social sciences and humanities. MA programs in counseling take a theoretical and cultural perspective to understanding human nature and behavior.
Master of Science
Pursuing a Master of Science, or MS, in counseling focuses on a quantitative and analytical approach to human behavior and development. An MS in counseling may also be more focused on research, analysis and evaluation.
A doctorate in counseling helps prepare graduates for research and clinical work in counseling, as well as teaching in higher education or obtaining leadership roles in counseling.
Types of Online Mental Health Degrees
Master’s in Psychology Online
Earning a master’s degree in psychology may prepare you to work with many different clients. In a master’s in psychology program, you may learn about personality development, clinical research and treatment of mental health diagnosis. For any clinical practice, a master’s in psychology helps prepare you for completion of a doctorate of psychology program.
Earning a master’s degree in behavioral psychology may prepare you to help patients with substance abuse, intellectual disabilities and mental health disorders. During a master’s in behavior psychology program, you may learn research methods, applied behavior analysis and principles of behavior.
Master’s in social work programs may prepare you to work with many different types of people, groups and organizations. During a master’s in social work, coursework may include human behavior, research methods, diversity and oppression in a social work context and social policy and services.
Other Online Degrees: Master’s in Human Resources
A master’s in human resources helps prepare graduates for senior positions in human resources (HR) fields. HR professionals work on employee initiatives at a variety of companies, including onboarding, employee benefits and employee engagement projects. A master’s degree in human resources helps prepare HR professionals for leadership roles like HR managers, directors and executives.
Online Learning Structures
Online learning that occurs at a specific set time and day is referred to as synchronous learning, where students within a course are synced with one another in attendance and participation. Synchronous learning elicits an engaging virtual classroom, enlightened with stimulating discussions, live lectures and real-time faculty-to-student interaction.
A common reference when speaking about online degree programs is the ability to log in whenever from wherever and complete coursework. Asynchronous learning allows students to log in and view lectures and coursework at their convenience―considering deadlines, of course.
Clinical Placement Support
For any mental health degree, an on- or off-site internship and practicum experience is imperative to the application and learning of mental health counseling, psychology or therapy. When looking for a mental health degree, you may want to consider programs that offer clinical placement support to assist you in securing an internship that is close to home and supports your growth.
In online master’s degree programs, live classes may help you feel as if you are in an on-campus classroom. With live classes, you may “meet” your colleagues face-to-face via webcam discussions. This also provides opportunities to practice your counseling or therapeutic skills and garner direct feedback from other classmates.
When preparing future mental health professionals, individualized attention is important for the development of skills, understanding of bias and awareness of culture. When comparing programs, you may want to seek a low student-to-instructor ratio or small class size to help ensure the availability of more one-on-one time learning opportunities.
Student Support Services
When on-campus, student support is often close by, perhaps in another building. However, for online students, this may not be true—and finding programs that offer student support services may be a deciding factor for enrollment. In your mental health degree program search, you may want to ensure that universities offer flexible hours, online resources and/or virtual meeting times for online students.
Online Counseling Degrees vs. Hybrid Counseling Degrees
When you enroll in an online mental health degree program, lectures, coursework and interactions with cohort members and university staff is virtual. You will be held to the same standards that are placed for on-campus students such as timely submission of coursework, exam completion and participation. When it comes time to enroll in your field experience or internship courses, which are a requirement of any counseling degree program, you will need to ensure that you meet requirements for both the university and state counseling licensure by pursuing required supervision hours by a licensed, approved supervisor at your clinical site.
Partially online, hybrid counseling degree programs offer some on-campus courses and experiences that are either mandatory or voluntary as a part of completing your degree. Some hybrid and online counseling programs may require that students attend a residency where they will meet other online and on-campus students in an effort to develop counseling skills, network with program peers and meet university staff. Some programs offer access to academic advisors who can help you find fieldwork opportunities, and others have mandatory short-length intensive sessions on campus to fulfill your fieldwork requirement.
All Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees by State
With a counseling degree, you might consider careers such as marriage and family therapist, school counselor, rehabilitation counselor, substance abuse counselor, behavioral disorder counselor, mental health counselor or grief counselor.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a counselor?
What’s the difference between a counselor and a social worker?
Counselors provide clinical guidance and support for people with mental and emotional disorders. Social workers may also provide therapeutic services, as well as recommend social services to help clients undergoing social functioning challenges. Social workers may also work in non-client-facing roles, such as in positions related to policy change. Counselors typically work primarily with clients. Both counselors and social workers must typically obtain a graduate degree in order to get licensed.
What’s the difference between a marriage and family therapist and a counselor?
Both marriage and family therapists and counselors help clients overcome mental health–related issues. Marriage and family therapists work with clients primarily in marriages or in familial units, on issues that affect these groups. These issues may include abuse, addiction and infidelity. Counselors work with individuals who are experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Get a Master’s in Counseling or Mental Health Degree Online
There are a number of online master’s programs related to counseling and mental health. You can attend the program you want from anywhere in the world, without having to relocate to school. Research the requirements of the job you want to have, including licensure requirements and education requirements. You may want to consider counseling programs with specific accreditation, like CACREP, as you’re comparing master’s in mental health or counseling degree programs.