Top 10 Master’s in Counseling Degrees Online 2018

Looking for a high-quality and affordable online master’s degree in counseling? You’ll find exactly that in our ranking of the top ten online master’s in counseling degrees. These programs combine affordability and flexibility, with CACREP-accredited curricula. All of the universities and colleges included in this ranking are regionally accredited, and their counseling degrees are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. We evaluated them based on a number of factors you will find detailed at the end of the article. This ranking was designed to help you choose the online master’s in counseling program that best fits your personal and professional needs.

#1. University of the Cumberlands

Rating: 15

University of the Cumberlands-Online Counseling Master's

Website

The online MA in counseling from the University of the Cumberlands offers mental health counselor and addiction counselor certification specialty tracks. Rolling admissions allow prospective students to apply year round. The program operates on a bi-semester basis with two sessions in fall, two in spring, and two in summer. Students can start the program at the beginning of any one of these bi-semesters. Both specializations are CACREP-accredited and include courses like psychopharmacology and addictions, family therapy in addiction treatment, private practice and clinical supervision, child and adolescent counseling, and advanced counseling theories and techniques.
Tuition: $5,670
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: Best National Universities by U.S. News and World Report
Specializations: 2
Standout Features: 1

#2. Regent University

Rating: 13

Regent University-Top Online Counseling Master's

Website

Regent University offers online master of arts programs in both marriage, couple, and family counseling and clinical mental health counseling. The clinical mental health counseling program prepares graduates for licensed clinical counseling in outpatient care centers, family service centers, hospitals, and private practice. The marriage and family therapy program is geared toward students who want to work with public agencies, private practices, mental health facilities, and church counseling centers. Core classes in both programs include research and statistics, counseling skills and techniques, practicum and advanced skills, and theories of counseling.
Tuition: $12,726
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: Best National Universities by U.S. News
Specializations: 2

#3. Malone University

Rating: 13

Malone University-Top Ten Online Master's Counseling

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Malone University’s online MA in counseling and human development graduates have a fantastic 93-100% board licensure pass rate and 99% employment rate in their chosen field among graduates. Faculty work with students to set up practicum and internship experiences that will help them develop the skills they will need in their planned area of practice. For students who live close to the university and want to take some classes in person, there is also a hybrid version available in addition to the fully online version of the degree. The programs use an identical curriculum.
Tuition: $10,260
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: #75 among Regional Universities Midwest by U.S. News
Specializations: 1
Standout Features: 2

#4. University of Kentucky

Rating: 12

University of Kentucky-Best Online Counseling Master's

Website

The University of Kentucky offers a specialized master’s in clinical rehabilitation counseling program online. The program is accredited by CORE (Council on Rehabilitation Education) in addition to its CACREP accreditation. The program is offered in an accelerated format, meaning students can complete it in just 16 months. Students will take courses like medical and psychosocial aspects of disability, cultural diversity in rehabilitation counseling, rehabilitation research and program evaluation, mental health diagnosis and treatment planning, and a practicum and internship experience.
Tuition: $27,069
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: Ranked #133 in National Universities by U.S. News and World Report
Specializations: 2
Standout Features: 3

#5. University of Louisiana at Monroe

Rating: 12

University of Louisiana Monroe-Best Online Counseling Degrees

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The University of Louisiana at Monroe’s online master of science in clinical mental health counseling strives to meet the education requirements of as many state licensing boards as possible. Graduates who become licensed may work as a mental health counselor, mental health administrator, group facilitator, vocational counselor, addictions counselor, consultant, or even human resources specialist.
Tuition: $18,590
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: Best National Universities by U.S. News and World Report
Specializations: 2

#6. Messiah College

Rating: 12

Messiah College-Best Online Counseling Degrees

Website

Messiah College offers online master of arts degrees in clinical mental health counseling and marriage, couple, and family counseling. Both programs prepare you for licensure in their specific fields in the state of Pennsylvania and meet the licensure requirements for many other states as well. Courses from these programs include professional issues and ethics for counselors, spiritual formation and faith-based counseling, clinical mental health practicum, internship I, and internship II, human sexuality, and contemporary and integrative theories of family counseling.
Tuition: $11,250
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: #4 in Regional Colleges North by U.S. News
Specializations: 2

#7. Lamar University

Rating: 11

Lamar University-Best Counseling Degrees Online

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The online master of education in clinical mental health counseling offered by Lamar University requires two five-day face-to-face residency sessions which also require additional fees. The program offers courses like individual counseling theories and techniques, marriage, couple, and family counseling, group counseling theories and techniques, measurement and assessment, multicultural counseling, professionalism, ethics, and the law, and human growth and development.
Tuition: $13,392
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 90%
Institutional Ranking: Best National Universities by U.S. News and World Report
Specializations: 1

#8. St. Bonaventure University

Rating: 11

St. Bonaventure-Top Counseling Master's Online

Website

St. Bonaventure University’s MS in clinical mental health counseling consists of 60 credits and can be completed in 36 months. Once entering the program students have a 95% program completion rate, and a 98% mental health licensure pass rate. The job placement rate among graduates is 90%. Students will take courses like abnormal psychology, psychological testing and assessment, career counseling, multicultural counseling, and two 3-credit internships.
Tuition: $32,331
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: #21 among Regional Universities in the North by U.S. News and World Report
Specializations: 2
Standout Features: 3

#9. Hodges University

Rating: 11

Hodges University-Top Online Master's in Counseling

Website

Hodges University offers its master’s in clinical mental health degree in both entirely online and blended formats. While the program might meet the licensing requirements for several states, it is primarily focused on fulfilling the requirements of the state of Florida. Students will take courses on counseling theories and practice, career and lifestyle assessment, research and program evaluation, social and cultural foundations of counseling practice, counseling in community settings, and human sexuality.
Tuition: $11,880
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: #87 in Regional Universities Midwest
Specializations: 1

#10. Bradley University

Rating: 10

Bradley University-Top Master's in Counseling Online

Website

Bradley’s online MA in clinical mental health counseling is a 60-hour program that prepares students to take the national counselor examination. Graduates often work in clinical, community, and mental health settings. Students in this program have interned at places like Children’s Hospital of Illinois, Children’s Home in Peoria, and Saint Francis Medical Center. Courses in this program include loss and grief counseling, human growth and development, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, crisis intervention counseling, and psychopharmacology in counseling.
Tuition: $15,300
Percent of Degree Offered Online: 100%
Institutional Ranking: #7 in Regional Universities Midwest by U.S. News
Specializations: 1

 

Counseling Licensure

Each state has its own licensing board that regulates the licensure of counselors. Sifting through government websites to find licensing information can be time-consuming and tedious. However, it’s essential to determine the exact requirements of the state in which you intend to practice before choosing your online master’s in counseling degree. This is even more important if your chosen school is in a state other than the one in which you intend to obtain your license. Thankfully there are resources like counselor-license.com that list all counselor license requirements by state. It’s a great place to start as you continue to research your options.

Counseling Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median earnings of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is $44,170 per year. Job outlook is fantastic, with the field growing at a rate of 19% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than average. If you want more specific information about how much mental health counselors earn in your zip code compared to the rest of the country, check out Career One Stop which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Paying for Your Counseling Degree

Many of the universities ranked here are quite affordable, but even affordable tuition still measures in the thousands these days, so chances are you’ll need to find a way to pay for your program. If you already work in the mental health field, your employer might have a program to help foot the bill, so check with your human resources department. Many companies have tuition assistance programs regardless of what field the degree is in, so even if you don’t work in mental health, check out your company benefits.

Working as a teaching assistant or teaching on a fellowship might still be options if you live close enough to your university of choice. The other main ways to pay for an online master’s degree in counseling are through scholarships and student loans.

The Importance of Accreditation

Regional accreditation is an absolute must-have for any counseling degree. But just as important is Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accreditation. Many states even require students to hold a CACREP-accredited degree in order to become licensed. There are other important accrediting agencies for various areas of counseling, including the Council on Rehabilitation Education for rehabilitation counselors, and
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. While these accreditations are also important, CACREP is the industry standard, which is why we required all schools in our ranking to be CACREP accredited.

Methodology and Sources for Ranking the Top 10 Master’s in Counseling Degrees Online 2018

Tuition

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median earnings of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is $44,170 per year–significantly less than the average earnings of those with other graduate degrees. Because the earnings potential of the profession lags somewhat behind other professions, the cost of the degree becomes an important factor. Thus we awarded more points to schools with lower tuitions.

Under $35,000= 1 Point
Under $30,000= 2 Points
Under $25,000= 3 Points
Under $20,000= 4 Points
Under $15,000= 5 Points
Under $10,000= 6 Points
Under $5,000= 7 Points

Percentage of Program Online

CACREP considers a program to be online if more than 50% of the course work is offered online. CACREP considers 50 of its accredited programs to be online programs. To help filter this down and reward schools that offer all or most of the course work online, we awarded points to schools based on how much of the program is offered online. The flexibility of online coursework is one of the most important attributes of an online program.

70%=1
80%=2
90%=3
100%=4

Institutional Ranking

A university’s overall reputation is a good indicator of the general quality of their programs. We rewarded schools that distinguish themselves in third party rankings, in this case rankings compiled by U.S. News and World Report.

National=2 Points
Regional=1 Point
Liberal Arts= 1 Point

Specializations

Programs with more specializations offer students more options. Each counseling specialization offered by a university is one point.

Standout Features

Unique and beneficial features of the program that help it stand out from the crowd earn one to two points each.

Tuition information was sourced from The National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator

PD Staff
October 2017

This concludes our ranking of the top 10 online master’s in counseling degree programs for 2018.