Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Programs

A master’s degree in mental health counseling prepares individuals to become a mental health counselor and meet the mental, emotional and behavioral health concerns of different populations by use of
psychotherapy, therapeutic support, assessment, treatment planning and crisis management.

Sometimes referred to as clinical mental health counseling, a graduate degree is required for counseling licensure and practice in the United States. When choosing your online master’s in mental health counseling program, some factors you may wish to consider are accreditation, online student support, clinical experience placement assistance, class sizes, and live discussions.

Is an Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Right for You?

An online counseling degree is just one of the many graduate degrees available via distance learning. But is an online master of mental health counseling degree right for you? If you’re asking yourself that question, it might be helpful to start with some of the traits and characteristics of online students:

  • Self-motivated learners capable of studying in a nontraditional online class setting
  • Comfortable working independently
  • Organized and good at meeting deadlines
  • Prefer flexible class schedules
  • Have a computer and internet access

Does this sound like you? If so, you may be a fit for an online master of mental health counseling degree program.

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Insights into the Full List of Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs Online

Adams State University

Department of Counselor Education and Family Therapy

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Alamosa, Colorado

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelors degree
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay
  • Official transcripts
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Adams State University

Antioch University

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Culver City, California

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 3+ years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Official transcripts
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay
  • Writing assessment
  • Interview
  • TOEFL (for international applicants)
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Antioch University

Bellevue University

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Bellevue, Nebraska

Name of Degree: Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • CV/resume
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Statement of interest
  • Official transcripts
Learn more about the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Bellevue University

Bradley University

College of Education and Health Sciences

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Peoria, Illinois

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts
  • Online application
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Two short essays
  • Virtual interview
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Bradley University

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Chicago, Illinois

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Part-Time

Length of Program: 3 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Personal essay 
  • Official transcripts 
  • Three letters of recommendation 
  • TOEFL (for international applicants) 
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Cornerstone University

Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Name of Degree: Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2+ years

Credits: 72

Concentrations:

 Addictions, Interdisciplinary Studies, Trauma

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts 
  • Two letters of recommendation 
Learn more about the Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Cornerstone University

Edinboro University

Master of Arts in Counseling

Edinboro, Pennsylvania

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60-63

Concentrations:

Art Therapy Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, College Counseling, School Counseling

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcript
  • Three references
  • Bachelors degree
  • Personal essay
  • Interview
  • Portfolio and credits in Studio Art and Psychology (for Art Therapy track)
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Counseling from Edinboro University

Grace College

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

WInona Lake, Indiana

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree  
  • Background check 
  • Official transcripts 
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Grace College

Hodges University

Nichols School of Professional Studies

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Fort Myers, Florida

Name of Degree: Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2.3+ years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts
  • Valid ID
  • Admission essays
  • Financial aid documents
  • TOEFL iBT score minimum of 79 (international students)
Learn more about the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Hodges University

Indiana Wesleyan University

Division of Graduate Counseling

Master of Arts in Counseling

Marion, Indiana

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 1.5+ years

Credits: 36-48

Concentrations:

 Addictions,  Clinical Mental Health Counseling,  Marriage and Family Therapy,  School Counseling,  Student Development Administration,  Community Care

Lamar University

Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Beaumont, Texas

Name of Degree: Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2.5 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts
  • US citizenship
  • Essay
  • One letter of recommendation
Learn more about the Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lamar University

Lindsey Wilson College

School of Professional Counseling

Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development

Columbia, Kentucky

Name of Degree: Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Official transcripts 
  • Interview 
  • TOEFL (for international applicants) 
Learn more about the Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development from Lindsey Wilson College

Lock Haven University

Department of Social Work and Counseling

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

Name of Degree: Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations:

 Child and Adolescent Counseling,  Military and Veterans Counseling,  Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts 
  • Three letters of recommendation 
  • Statement of goals 
  • Interview 
Learn more about the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lock Haven University

Malone University

Graduate and Professional Studies

Master of Arts in Education in Counseling

Canton, Ohio

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Education in Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 1.5+ years

Credits: 48-60

Concentrations:

 Clinical Mental Health Counseling,  School Counseling

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Official transcripts 
  • Two references 
  • Autobiography 
  • Interview 
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Education in Counseling from Malone University

Messiah University

Master of Arts in Counseling

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2+ years

Credits: 60

Concentrations:

Clinical Mental Health Counseling,  Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling,  School Counseling

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Official transcripts 
  • Statement of purpose 
  • Admission questions 
  • Course prerequisite in behavior science (9 credits) 
  • Two letters of recommendation 
  • CV/resume 
  • Interview 
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Counseling from Messiah University

Montana State University of Billings

Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling

Billings, Montana

Name of Degree: Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 3 years

Credits: 66

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts 
  • Personal essay 
  • CV/resume 
  • Three letters of recommendation 
Learn more about the Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from Montana State University of Billings

North Carolina Central University

School of Education

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Durham, North Carolina

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Official transcripts 
  • Two letters of recommendation 
  • Essay 
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from North Carolina Central University

North Carolina State University

College of Education

Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Raleigh, North Carolina

Name of Degree: Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Part-Time

Length of Program: 3 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts
  • Bachelors degree
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL (for international applicants)
Learn more about the Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from North Carolina State University

Regent University

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Background survey
  • Unofficial/official transcripts
  • Three references
  • Valid ID
  • Interview
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Regent University

Thomas University

Division of Counseling and Psychology

Master in Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling

Thomasville, Georgia

Name of Degree: Master in Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2+ years

Credits: 60

Concentrations:

Alcohol and Addictions, School Counseling

Admission Requirements:

  • CV/resume
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts
Learn more about the Master in Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling from Thomas University

Union Institute and University

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Cincinnati, Ohio

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2+ years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelors degree
  • Official transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • CV/resume
  • Three references
  • Interview
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Union Institute and University

University of Louisiana Monroe

College of Health Sciences

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Monroe, Louisiana

Name of Degree: Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • CV/resume 
  • Letter of interest 
  • Three letters of recommendation 
Learn more about the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from University of Louisiana Monroe

University of Massachusetts in Boston

College of Education and Human Development

Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Boston, Massachusetts

Name of Degree: Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations:

 Adjustment Counseling

Admission Requirements:

  • Official transcripts 
  • Statement of purpose 
  • CV/resume 
  • Two letters of recommendation 
Learn more about the Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling from University of Massachusetts in Boston

University of the Cumberlands

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Williamsburg, Kentucky

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations:

 Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling,  Child and Youth Services

Admission Requirements:

  • Baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university 
  • Official transcripts 
  • Application Fee 
  • 3.0 GPA Requirement 
  • Personal statement 
  • Two (2) letters of recommendation 
  • TOEFL scores for International applicants 
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from University of the Cumberlands

Wake Forest University

Master of Arts in Counseling

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Name of Degree: Master of Arts in Counseling

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 2 years

Credits: 60

Concentrations:

 Clinical Mental Health Counseling,  School Counseling

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree 
  • Personal statement 
  • Three letters of recommendation 
  •  Interview 
Learn more about the Master of Arts in Counseling from Wake Forest University

Mental Health Counseling Program Accreditation

For any online degree in the helping professions, accreditation offers the mark of approval for meeting career standards in best preparing future professionals. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Programs (CACREP) and the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) set standards for online master’s in mental health counseling programs that meet the needs of clients and the changing landscape of the profession, and incorporate research trends in mental health.

CACREP Accreditation

CACREP-accredited online master’s in clinical mental health programs meet general standards and specialized curriculum aspects such as:

  • History and the Development of Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Including Theories, Models, and Techniques of Counseling.
  • Role of the Clinical Mental Health Counselor, such as Advocate for Persons with Mental Health Issues.
  • Principles of Biopsychosocial Case Conceptualization.
  • Neurobiological and Medical Foundations of Addictions and Co-Occurring Disorders.
  • Etiology, Nomenclature, Treatment, Referral and Prevention of Mental and Emotional Disorders.
  • Understanding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and Mental Disorders (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
  • Psychopharmacological Medications.

CACREP curriculum retrieved from CACREP Standards, Section 2: Professional Counseling Identity.

MPCAC Accreditation

MPCAC accredits a handful of online master’s in mental health counseling programs and has more science-based standards in education and training. Curriculum requirements for accreditation are:

  • Professional Identity and Ethical and Professional Standards.
  • Evidence-based Theories and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy.
  • Multiculturalism and Diversity.
  • Theories of Psychopathology and Other Systems.
  • Tests, Measurements and Other Behavior Assessments.
  • Research Methods and Program Evaluation.
  • Career Development.
  • Biological Basis of Behavior.
  • Development Basis of Behavior.
  • Social, Organizational, Community Basis of Behavior.

MPCAC curriculum retrieved from MPCAC 2017 Standards.

Online Student Support Services

An integral aspect of online learning is having the support of the university and program department on your schedule. Some online master’s in mental health counseling programs have online specific student support, with an understanding of the need for flexibility to meet your needs. Unlike on-campus students with office visits, as an online student you should have access to faculty and student support staff when you are logged in. These online student support offices may have extended office hours, virtual meeting times, and an array of online resources to support you and your graduate education.

Clinical Experience Placement Assistance

To complete your accredited online master’s in mental health counseling program and obtain licensure, you must finish a clinical experience of internship hours. These types of experiences will give you the opportunity to put your learned skills and knowledge into action. Even with previous experience, sometimes landing an internship can be difficult. For online learners, some universities do not have specific internship placement teams—only offering services to those on-campus students. However, there are programs that support their online learning students in finding internship placement sites close to your home, no matter where you call home.

Small Class Sizes

To increase your support as a distance learner, smaller class sizes provide opportunistic interactions between you, your peers and your instructor. For online master’s in mental health counseling programs, having your instructor available for one-on-one discussions may increase your understanding of course content, the role of mental health counselors, and developing as a practicing professional. When the ratio is 15:1 or less between students and instructors, professors may also be able to provide more one-on-one discussion and face time with you.

Live Discussions – Synchronous Learning

There are two types of online learning: synchronous and asynchronous. In asynchronous online master’s in mental health counseling programs, students log on at any time to submit their coursework, participate in discussions, and ask their instructors questions. Synchronous learning allows students and instructors to meet online at a predesignated time to interface virtually. Typically this occurs weekly. Some online master’s in mental health counseling programs will incorporate the two types of learning to ensure that online students have time to ask questions live and also work on their assignments and studies offline.

Curriculum

Course titles and descriptions vary by program. When comparing master’s degrees in mental health counseling, be sure to look at the required and elective coursework and consider how the curriculum will prepare you to become an effective mental health practitioner. Does the curriculum integrate theory, philosophy and technical skills that are consistent with the competencies of professional counselors?

You might also evaluate a graduate program’s curriculum on how well it aligns with education requirements for licensure in the state where you wish to practice as a mental health counselor. For example, CACREP requires mental health counselors to complete graduate courses in the following content areas:

  1. Counseling theories and models related to mental health counseling.
  2. Settings and roles of mental health counselors.
  3. Inpatient, outpatient, aftercare and the mental health counseling services networks.
  4. Substance use disorders.
  5. Government policies relating to mental health counseling.
  6. Cultural factors.
  7. Crisis intervention.
  8. Diagnostic processes.
  9. Psychological tests and assessments.
  10. Record-keeping and third-party reimbursement.

Concentrations

You may be able to tailor your degree and focus your education to the clients you plan on serving after graduation. Specializations and focus areas may include:

  • Addiction counseling.
  • Career counseling.
  • Forensic counseling.
  • Trauma and crisis counseling.
  • Couple and family counseling.

Is a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Worth It?

People who successfully complete a master’s degree in mental health counseling can help individuals and families across different cultures, backgrounds and circumstances. Not all counseling jobs require a master’s degree; the value in earning a graduate-level degree in mental health counseling is the skill set and knowledge it will provide. A master’s degree in mental health counseling may signal to potential employers that you are serious and deeply knowledgeable about how to help people live happier, more functional lives.

Counselors work in different facilities, depending on their specialty. Settings may include hospitals, schools, prisons and private practices. Your specific counseling concentration is up to you to decide. What are you most passionate about?

Here are some of the careers students can pursue after earning a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors help people navigate their struggles with mental and emotional health, developing personalized therapy sessions that examine the roots of their problems and provide solutions to help people overcome them.

The median salary for counselors is $48,520 per year as of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Advanced degrees and professional certifications may increase earning potential for mental health counselors.

Learn more about how to become a mental health counselor.

School Counselor

School counselors look after the well-being of students in the education system, ranging from elementary schools to colleges and universities. They develop programs to help students deal with emotional difficulties they experience as a result of school-related stress.

One of the most important responsibilities of the school counselor is to make life easier for students with behavioral and mental illnesses. Students with learning disabilities or autism aren’t always suited for traditional learning environments, and counselors help create settings in which they can thrive.

The BLS has two important statistics about school counselor jobs that people in this field may wish to consider: The median annual salary for school counselors was $60,150  a year in 2021, and employment is expected to increase by 11% from 2020 to 2030.

While a master’s in mental health counseling may help prepare you for a career as a school counselor, some states have counseling certification standards that require a master’s degree in school counseling to become a school counselor.

Learn more about how to become a school counselor.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors help people struggling with drug and alcohol misuse. This means spotting the mental and emotional turmoil that people with addiction experience and helping them push past it. Helping clients better manage their distress also reduces the likelihood of a relapse.

Another part of the substance abuse counselor’s job is measuring clients’ road to recovery and sobriety. The goal of treatment is to ensure that clients never relapse back into addiction or the behaviors that result from it.

The BLS reports the median annual salary for substance abuse counselors was $48,520 a year in 2021. Education requirements depend on where you work: In some states, the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or other related fields. However, counselors with a master’s degree can provide more services and potentially earn more as a substance abuse counselor.

Learn more about how to become a substance abuse counselor.

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

A marriage and family therapist helps married couples and family members solve their differences and form healthier, stronger relationships. They encourage families and couples to talk about their problems with one another in the open during sessions. This is the key to helping the therapist develop a solution that helps all parties better understand each other.

According to the BLS, here are the salary and projected employment growth for marriage and family therapists:

  • The median annual salary is $49,880 per year.
  • The number of jobs in this field is expected to grow 16% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for most jobs.

Note: while you can become an MFT with a master’s in mental health counseling, you can also choose a different degree path, such as an online MFT degree.

Learn more about how to become a marriage and family therapist.

Geriatric Counselor

A geriatric counselor provides services to seniors who suffer from problems related to aging. Counselors in this field help clients cope with the realities that come with old age, such as:

  • Depression
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Marital problems

Geriatric counselors also look for signs of depression and anger in seniors. Mental health counselors can help seniors understand depression as a real illness for which they can provide treatment.

FAQs

How much does a mental health counselor make a year?

While the BLS does not keep statistics on mental health counselors in particular, the agency does so for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors as a group. According to the latest BLS statistics, the median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors was $48,520  in 2021 —more than the average for all occupations of $45,760.

Why Become a Mental Health counselor?

According to a handout from the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition, 77 million people in the United States live in areas experiencing a shortage of mental health professionals (PDF, 77 KB), with 30 million having no access to mental health treatment in their counties. These people are forced to contend with mental, emotional and relationship issues without the benefit of a mental health counselor’s knowledge, skills and experience. Becoming a mental health counselor is one way to address this gap in mental health care.

What is the job outlook for a mental health counselor?

As mentioned, the BLS does not keep statistics on mental health counselors specifically, but the agency indicates employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors is projected to grow by 23% from 2020 to 2030—much faster than the 8% average for all occupations.

What is mental health counseling?

The BLS describes mental health counseling as a form of treatment for anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress, suicidal impulses, and other mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems. Mental health counselors work with individuals, families, couples and groups to evaluate problematic behavior, develop treatment plans and monitor recovery.

What degree do I need to be a mental health counselor?

As noted by the BLS, licensing requirements for mental health counselors vary by state. All states require counselors to have a master’s degree in mental health counseling, clinical social work, psychology or a similar subject. In order to be credentialed by the National Board for Certified Counselors  (an optional qualification in addition to state licensure), applicants must have a master’s degree in counseling with at least one course in professional orientation to counseling and at least six semester hours, or 10 quarter hours, of supervised field experience.

What can I do with a mental health counseling degree?

Graduates of a master’s in mental health counseling degree program who choose not to pursue careers as mental health counselors do have other options. In addition to substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, the BLS indicates occupations that require the same level of education as a mental health counselor include marriage and family therapist, rehabilitation counselor and school and career counselor.

What skills do you need to work in mental health?

According to the BLS, the skills and qualities important to working as a mental health counselor are compassion to understand clients’ difficulties; interpersonal skills to develop productive working relationships; ability to listen well and understand clients’ needs; patience to manage their negative emotions; and communication skills to clearly express evaluations, treatment options, follow-ups and other necessary information. The BLS also notes that many counselors have coped with their own difficulties before becoming professionals, giving them special insight into the circumstances of their clients.

Information last updated April 2022