Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Programs Online

All Online Mental Health Counseling Programs 2020

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 all of the United States. When choosing your online master’s in mental health counseling, some factors you may wish to consider are accreditation, online student support, clinical experience placement assistance, class sizes, and live discussions.


Sponsored Master's in Mental Health Counseling Graduate Schools Online

Sponsored Master's in Mental Health Counseling Graduate Schools Online
University Name Mental Health Counseling Program Type Type of Online Class Program Length Total Credits
New York University Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness Live 1.5 - 2 Years 48-60 Credits
Northwestern University Master of Arts in Counseling Live 1.5 - 3 Years 60 Credits

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All Online Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs

Online Master's in Mental Health Counseling Programs
University Name Mental Health Counseling Program Type Type of Online Class Program Length Total Credits
Adams State University Master of Arts in Counseling, Specialization in Mental Health Counseling Not Live 2.5 Years 60 Credits
Antioch University Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 3 Years 60 Credits
Bellevue University Master of Science in Clinical Counseling Not Live 2 - 3 Years 60 Credits
Bradley University Master of Arts in Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Live 2 - 3 Years 51 Credits
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 3 Years 60 Credits
Cornerstone University Master of Arts in Counseling Not Live 3 - 4 Years 69 Credits
Edinboro University Master of Arts in Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 2 - 3 Years 60-63 Credits
Grace College Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 2 - 3 Years 60 Credits
Hodges University Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Live 2.5 -3 Years 60 Credits
Indiana Wesleyan University Master of Arts in Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 2.5 - 5 Years 36-60 Credits
Lamar University Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live N/A 60 Credits
Lindsey Wilson College Master of Education in Mental Health Counseling Not Live N/A 60 Credits
Lock Haven University Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Live 3 - 4 Years 60 Credits
Malone University Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 3 Years 60 Credits
Messiah College Master of Arts in Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 2 - 4 Years 60 Credits
Montana State University-Billings Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Not Live 3 Years 60-66 Credits
New York University

Sponsored

Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness Live 1.5 - 2 Years 48-60 Credits
North Carolina Central University Master of Arts Counseling, Specialization in Mental Health Counseling N/A N/A 60 Credits
North Carolina State University Master of Education in Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Live 3 Years 60 Credits
Northwestern University

Sponsored

Master of Arts in Counseling Live 1.5 - 3 Years 60 Credits
Palo Alto University Master of Arts in Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Live 3 Years 93 Credits
Regent University Master of Arts in Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 2 Years 60 Credits
Thomas University Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Not Live 2 - 4 Years 60 Credits
Union Institute and University Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Live 2 Years 60 Credits
University of Louisiana - Monroe Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling N/A 2 Years 60 Credits
University of Massachusetts - Boston Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling Live 2 - 3.5 Years 60 Credits
University of the Cumberlands Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling N/A 2 - 3 Years 60 Credits
Wake Forest University Master of Arts in Counseling, Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Not Live 2 - 3 Years 60 Credits

Start your mental health counseling career by requesting information from one of our sponsored programs:

counseling at northwestern
Earn an MA in Counseling from Northwestern and Become a Mental Health Counselor. No GRE Required.

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counseling at NYU
Earn your master's in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness online from NYU Steinhardt. GRE not required.

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

Adams State University

Alamosa, Colorado

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • Completion of five consecutive semesters
  • Maintain a 3.0 GPA
  • Complete 12-credit hour internship

Admission Requirements

  • Completed online application with $30 fee
  • Official transcripts from baccalaureate degree
  • Two letters of professional recommendation
  • Personal statement, 3-5 pages typed, double-spaced on your past helping experiences, future goals in the helping profession, and personal qualities that will enable you to be an effective counselor
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75

Antioch University

Keene, New Hampshire

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Two intensive week-long residencies
  • A semester-long practicum (100 hours)
  • A three-semester internship (900 hours) 

Admission Requirements

  • A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7
  • International students must live in the U.S. and have a TOEFL score of 550 for the paper-based test or 79 for the Internet-based examination
  • Supplementary admissions statement
  • Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Completion of an admissions interview with a faculty member

Bellevue University

Bellevue, Nebraska

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100-hours practicum
  • 600-hours internship
  • Residential and online students are responsible to complete practicum and clinical internship hours under supervision of a licensed counselor.
  • Candidates for the master’s degree program must have completed a prerequisite requirement of 6 credit hours in the behavioral sciences.

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, or a U.S. equivalent degree from a nationally or internationally accredited college or university
  • GPA of 2.5 or better from the most recent 60 credits of coursework earned toward the bachelor’s degree OR
  • GPA of 3.0 or better in previous graduate level coursework earned toward the graduate degree
  • May require letters of recommendation and essays in certain circumstances

Bradley University

Peoria, Illinois

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60-61 Semester Credit Hours (CACREP Accredited curriculum)
  • Completion of 750 hours of supervised experiences: practicum - 100 Hours, internship - 650 Hours
  • Two required campus-based residencies

Admission Requirements

  • Completed graduate online application  with $40 application fee
  • Admissions essays on one of the following:
    • Achievements and work experience relevant to one's interest in and capacity for graduate study
    • Career objectives and how this graduate program at Bradley University will assist in attaining these goals
  • Official transcripts from an accredited baccalaureate university or college
  • Maintained a 3.0 GPA for the last 60 credit hours of undergraduate work
  • Three professional letters of recommendation - one must be a current supervisor
  • Official GRE or MAT scores may be used if other requirements are not available
  • Complete the program's online screening interview.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Chicago, Illinois

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Required Core Courses: 51 credits
  • Electives: 9 credits
  • Total Program: 60 credits
  • Two, four-day residencies at the Chicago campus.
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • GPA of 3.0
  • A course in psychology, with a grade earned of C or better
  • A course in either statistics or research methods, with a grade earned of C or better
  • An interview with Program Director/Department Chair and/or designee
  • Application/Apply Online
  • Application Fee: $50
  • Two-page essay
  • Official College/University Transcripts from all regionally accredited schools where degrees have been earned
  • Official transcripts
  • Three Letters of Recommendation from professors and/or supervisors

Cornerstone University

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 69 Credit hours
  • 100 hour practicum experience
  • 600 hour internship experience

Admission Requirements

  • Application
  • Official undergraduate transcripts with at least a 2.5 GPA from an accredited university
  • Ministry Reference
  • Personal Reference

Edinboro University

Edinboro, Pennsylvania

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60-63 credits
  • A degree student may not be admitted to Candidacy until:
    • At least 12 semester hours of degree credit have been completed
    • An Application for Admission to Candidacy has been filed with the advisor
    • The student has maintained a minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Comprehensive examination
  • Cpstone project in one designated class
  • 12-credit internship of 600 hours of on-site experience

Admission Requirements

  • Online graduate application and application fee
  • An official transcript verifying an earned bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Three letters of reference and contact information to be submitted via online application
  • Writing sample of up to 500 words
  • Admissions interview

Grace College

Winona Lake, Indiana

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • Completion of practicum and internship
  • Attend a seven to ten day reisdency on campus annually
  • Comprehensive "exit exam" 
  • Development of a portfolio

Admission Requirements

  • Official transcripts from an accredited undegraduate university
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Complete online application
  • Two references, one professional and one spiritual
  • Pass a background check
  • Resume Submission
  • Phone Interview

Hodges University

Fort Myers, Florida

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 coursework credits
  • 150-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship
  • Four weekend-long residencies

Admission Requirements

  • Official transcripts from an accredited undergraduate program
  • Completed application with $50 fee
  • Interview
  • Admission Essay
  • Online Learning Study Eligibility form

Indiana Wesleyan University

Marion, Indiana

Program Overview

Program Requirements: 60 credits

Admission Requirements

  • A bachelor’s degree and official transcripts from an accredited college or university
  • An undergraduate grade point average of 3.0
  • Six credit hours in Psychology, of which three credit hours must be in Abnormal Psychology (Developmental Psychology for Student Development Counseling and Administration)
  • Six credit hours in Bible
  • GRE taken within five years of application to the program. Verbal (V) score of at least 146 required.
  • Submit an autobiography
  • Three recommendations

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Lamar University

Beaumont, Texas

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 credits
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship
  • Attend two residencies

Admission Requirements

  • Complete online application and pay a one-time application fee of $25
  • Official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended*
  • Applicants for the MEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling need a GPA of 2.75 (cumulative or last 60 hours)
  • Students must have a valid state-issued teaching certificate upon enrollment
  • Applicants must have at least two years of teaching experience
  • US Citizen or Permanent Resident

Lindsey Wilson College

Columbia, Kentucky

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • 150-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Official transcripts from baccalaureate degree
  • Online Application

Lock Haven University

Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Undergraduate degree in psychology or related discipline
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Work and/of life experience surrounding clinical mental health counseling
  • Personal interview
  • Completed online application
  • Official transcripts from previous universities
  • Three letters of professional recommendation, at least one discussing your ability to succeed academically
  • Statement of Professional Goals - one page in length

Malone University

Canton, Ohio

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited university
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Completed online application
  • Official transcripts from previous universities
  • Two Professional References
  • Autobiography - Two to three pages
  • Personal interview

Messiah College

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • Maintain a 3.0 GPA
  • Recommendation of graduation from advisor
  • Six credit internship and one practicum
  • Attend at least one professional counseling conference
  • Attend two one-week, one campus sessions

Admission Requirements

  • Official transcripts verifying baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution
  • Completed application with $30 fee
  • Minimum cumulative undergraduate 3.0 GPA
  • Personal statement of purpose, 300-500 words
  • Two recommendations
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • 150 word answers to four essay questions
  • State Authorization (Messiah can NOT accept online graduate students taking classes while living in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, or Wisconsin)

New York University

New York, New York

Program Overview

Program Requirements:

  • 60 Credits
  • Completion of 700 hours of field work

Admission Requirements:

  • Completed online graduate application
  • Application Fee: $75, priority application timelines are $45
  • Statement of Purpose: Introduction of your goals, interests, career plans and reasons why you are pursuing a master's degree in counseling.
  • Current Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Transcripts from every postsecondary school uploaded. If admitted, you will need to provide official copies.
  • Two letters of recommendation from academic references.
  • If your native language is not English, you will need to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores.
Learn more about NYU's mental health counseling online program, request information directly from Counseling@NYU.

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North Carolina Central University

Durham, North Carolina

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited university
  • Minimum GPA of 2.7
  • Completed online application with $40 fee
  • Two Recommendations
  • GRE Scores
  • Application Essay

North Carolina State University

Raleigh, North Carolina

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • Internship completion

Admission Requirements

  • Official transcripts verifying baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution
  • Online and Department Application with fee
  • Resume
  • GRE or MAT scores
  • TOEFL for International Students
  • Three Academic Recommendations

Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • Enrollment in:
    • The Standard Curriculum: 24 courses OR
    • Bridge to Counseling Program: 27 courses included coursework to orient students to key theories of the field
  • 200-hour Practicum
  • 600-hour Internship

Admissions Requirements

  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
  • Unofficial transcripts
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Current Resume
  • Statement of Purpose
  • One Supplemental Essay
  • Recent Photo
  • Official scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if post-secondary work was outside the United States
Discover Northwestern University's online master of arts in counseling program by requesting information from Counseling@Northwestern.

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Palo Alto University

Palo Alto, California

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 90 Quarter Credits
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship
  • One week summer residency
  • Coursework completion of a B grade or better

Admission Requirements

  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited university
  • Official transcripts from previous universities
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA recommended
  • Completed online application with $50 fee
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation - academic or professional
  • Interview with the program director via videoconference

Regent University

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 credit hours
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship

Admissions Requirements

  • Bachelors from a regionally accredited college or university
  • A minimum of a 3.0 GPA for all undergraduate coursework
  • Complete application online and pay application fee
  • Submit official and unofficial transcripts and test scores
  • Writing sample
  • Recent resume or curriculum vitae
  • Pre-admissions workshop

Union Institute and University

Cincinnati, Ohio

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 credit hours
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship
  • Three 3-day residencies
  • Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examiniation

Admissions Requirements

  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited university
  • Official transcripts from previous universities
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA recommended
  • Completed online application
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Personal Statement: Personal and professional goals
  • Professional reference - at least one from a person who can evaluate potential for clinical work
  • Individual Interview

University of Louisiana-Monroe

Monroe, Louisiana

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 credit hours
  • Internship

Admissions Requirements

  • A minimum combined score of 900 on the GRE General Test or a minimum combined score of 290 on the new GRE General Test
  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.0 overall or on the last sixty semester hours of undergraduate course work
  • A bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Complete an application online, submit official transcripts from all schools attended, and submit a score from either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Administration Management Test (GMAT)
  • Have official transcripts sent directly from the issuing institution or evaluation agency in a sealed envelope or send electronically

University of Massachusetts - Boston

Boston, Massachusetts

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship
  • One Two-Week Summer Session

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application
  • Official Previous Transcripts
  • Minimum 3.0 Undergraduate GPA
  • GRE/MAT Scores
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Intent
  • Resume
  • Personal Interview

University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, Kentucky

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 credit hours

Admissions Requirements

  • Completed Graduate Application and payment of the associated fee
  • A completed Bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on (a lower GPA may be acceptable for conditional admittance)
  • Official transcripts must be received for all coursework
  • Submit a 500-word Statement of Purpose for graduate study
  • Submit two letters of reference

Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Program Overview

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • 200-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Complete online application with $75 fee
  • Official transcripts verifying baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution
  • Undergraduate GPA greater than 2.5
  • GRE Scores
  • Three Letters of Recommendation

Is an Online Master of Mental Health Counseling Degree 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
  • Has 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.

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, the changing landscape of the profession, and incorporate current researched trends in mental health.

CACREP Accreditation

CACREP accredited online master’s in clinical mental health programs met general standards as well as 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 have more science-based standards in education and training. Curriculum requirements for accreditation are:

  • Professional Identity & Ethical and Professional Standards
  • Evidence-based Theories and Practice of Counseling & 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

In order to complete your accredited online master’s in mental health counseling program and obtain licensure, you must complete 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 site 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 the availability of your instructor 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 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 you wish to practice as a mental health counselor. For example, CACREP requires mental health counselors to complete graduate level 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

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling?

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 $46,240 per year as of April 2020, 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 is $57,040 a year, and employment is expected to grow by 8% from 2018 to 2028.

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.

Online School and Guidance Counseling Degree Programs

University of Southern California Logo

Earn your Master of Education in School Counseling online from top-ranked1 USC Rossier.


  • No GRE Required
  • Prepare to Pursue Your School Counseling Credential
Explore the University of Southern California
University of Denver Logo

Earn your Master's in School Counseling online from University of Denver.


  • No GRE Required
  • Complete in as few as 24 Months
Explore the University of Denver
Vanderbilt University Logo

Earn your M.Ed. online from top-ranked2 Peabody College.


  • Prepare for counseling licensure
  • Part-time or full-time schedules available
Explore Vanderbilt University
New York University Logo

Earn your master's in school counseling online from NYU Steinhardt.


  • No GRE Required
  • Complete in as few as 18 Months
Explore New York University

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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 addicication 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 is $46,240 a year. Education requirements depend on where you work: In some states, the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree. 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 growth for marriage and family therapists:

  • The median annual salary is $49,610 per year.
  • The number of jobs in this field is expected to grow 22% from 2018 to 2028, 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.

Pepperdine University is accepting California applicants for their online MA in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy. Explore the MA program by requesting information directly from OnlinePsychology@Pepperdine

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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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not keep statistics on mental health counselors in particular, the agency does so for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors all together. According to the latest BLS statistics, the median annual wages for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors counselors is $44,630—more than the average for all occupations, which is currently $38,640.

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 above, the BLS does not keep statistics on mental health counselors in particular, but the agency indicates that employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors is projected to grow by 22% between 2018 and 2028—much faster than the average for all occupations, which is 5%.

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. That said, 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 ten 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: 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.