The goal of this ranking is to present readers with information regarding the most affordable online Master’s in Counseling degrees. If you are seeking a career as a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or any position within the field of counseling, you will likely be required to earn a graduate degree in counseling before you can begin to look for jobs. Some graduate programs are left intentionally broad so that students may benefit from a wider range of career prospects, while others are designed with the goal of preparing students to become LPCs. Other programs are built with a strong religious focus and are meant for aspiring ministers or church leaders who would like to use their counseling skills within their church.
Regardless of why a student chooses to pursue a graduate degree in counseling, seeking an online degree will give you greater flexibility in continuing your education. In most cases, online students may take classes at their own pace without worrying about sacrificing work or family responsibilities. Online colleges are also often more affordable than traditional schools since distance learners are not required to pay for a meal plan, parking, room and board, and other expenses other than their tuition. To get started with finding a program that best meets your needs and your goals, check out our list of the top 10 most affordable online Master’s in Counseling degrees.
More and more schools are making it possible to earn an affordable Master’s in Counseling online, so it becomes important to narrow the options down in order to find the best program for you. Rather than spend hours combing through various websites to compare tuition rates, we have done the hard work for you. This ranking was compiled with research completed at the National Center for Education Statistics. By searching the site’s College Navigator database for the term “Master’s in Counseling degree online,” we were able to narrow down an initial pool of 20 colleges to the 10 most affordable based on in-state graduate tuition.
Ranking Affordable Online Master’s in Counseling
10. Bellevue University
Online Master of Science in Clinical Counseling
Bellevue University is a private, non-profit university located in Bellevue, Nebraska. Established in 1966, the school has continually focused on providing adult education and educational outreach. As of 2011, 80 percent of its undergraduates were over the age of 25. The Master of Science in Clinical Counseling degree is a 60-credit-hour online graduate program that prepares students for licensure. Students must complete 600 hours of clinical internship as well as 100 hours of practicum, each with 40 percent direct contact with a client. Online students are responsible for completing these hours under the supervision of a licensed counseling professional.
9. University of Massachusetts Boston
Online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling
Also known as UMass Boston, the University of Massachusetts Boston is an urban public research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. The 120-acre campus is the third largest out of the five schools that make up the University of Massachusetts System. The school offers a 60-credit Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling degree that prepares students to be professional practitioners in a variety of institutions and community settings. The program also meets the academic requirements for licensure as a mental health counselor in Massachusetts, and online students are required to attend two weeks of on-campus study in July to complete two required clinical courses.
8. Liberty University
Online Master of Arts in Professional Counseling
Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is the largest private non-profit university in the U.S. and one of the largest Christian universities in the world, measured by student enrollment. Students may choose from more than 300 master’s, 300 bachelor’s, and 32 doctoral areas of study, available on-campus and online. The 60-credit hour Master of Arts in Professional Counseling is designed to equip students with the training they need to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC), although it does not lead to licensure. The online degree will enhance students’ understanding of human psychology through field-tested techniques, and they will learn best practices for promoting the holistic wellness and mental health of clients in diverse communities.
7. University of Louisiana Monroe
Online Master of Science in Counseling
The University of Louisiana Monroe was established in 1931 and was ranked by U.S. News & World Report on its list of “Best Online Graduate Programs” in 2015. Since its inception, the University of Louisiana Monroe has grown to become the largest university in the state in terms of enrollment, offering online and on-campus undergraduate and graduate degrees in pharmacy, business, the arts, behavioral sciences, and more. The Master of Science in Counseling degree has two concentration options: school counseling or clinical mental health counseling. Both programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and prepare students for careers as consultants, mental health counselors, school counselors, career counselors, art and play therapists, and human resources specialists.
6. Lindsey Wilson College
Online Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development
Lindsey Wilson College is a United Methodist college located in Columbia, Kentucky. Founded in 1903, the school first educated grades one through 12, preparing young people for coursework at Vanderbilt University. Now, Lindsey Wilson offers master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees as well as 20 minor areas. The 60-credit-hour Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development emphasizes core values of multiculturalism and ethics. The program provides students with the theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and clinical skills needed for a successful career in counseling. Students follow eight-week courses and can continue to work while taking online classes.
5. Adams State University
Online Master of Arts in Counseling
Founded in 1921 as a teacher’s college, Adams State University is located in the San Luis Valley, home to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve, and currently offers undergraduate and graduate programs in areas such as education, business, art, history, and counseling. The Master of Arts in Counseling degree is a 60-hour program that meets the state academic requirements for licensure as a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or school counselor in Colorado. Students may choose from two degree emphases: school counseling or clinical mental health counseling, and the program is available entirely online. Distance learners will, however, need to commit to two one-week summer residency intensives on-campus in order to earn their degree.
4. University of the Cumberlands
Online Master of Arts in Professional Counseling
University of the Cumberlands is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and enrolls approximately 7,000 students per year. The private, religious college was founded in 1889 as the Williamsburg Institute with a mission to educate and prepare leaders for service to the greater community. The online Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program is a fully accredited program that adheres to this mission, preparing students to become licensed professional counselors (LPCs). Two specialty tracks are available: clinical mental health counselor or addiction counselor certification. Students can expect to take core courses in counseling during grief and crisis, human growth and development, and psychological assessment in clinical practice.
3. Antioch University
Culver City, California
Online MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Antioch University grew out of Antioch College, which was founded in 1852 and gained its independence from Antioch University in 2009. Antioch University Online is a 100 percent online learning environment that offers graduate programs as well as bachelor’s completion degrees. The 39-credit-hour online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling includes online courses, an intensive residential colloquium, and experiential learning in fieldwork that is focused on the development of students’ professional identities. Students take 13 classes, receiving training in eight core areas such as research and program evaluation, assessment and testing, group counseling and group work, counseling and helping relationships, and career development. Students may earn the degree within three years taking full-time classes.
2. Hampton University
Online Master of Arts in Counseling, General Counseling
Founded in 1868 by white and black leaders of the American Missionary Association following the Civil War, Hampton University was established with the goal of providing education to freedmen. It is home to the Hampton University Museum, the oldest museum in Virginia and the oldest museum of the African diaspora in the country. The Master of Arts in Counseling, General Counseling concentration gives students an overview of the field of counseling. Although this 30-semester-hour degree only offers foundational coursework, students may use it to seek certification as a qualified mental health provider in Virginia. Other available counseling concentrations include school counseling, student affairs and college student development counseling, and community mental health counseling.
1. Angelo State University
San Angelo, Texas
Online Master of Science in Counseling Psychology
Angelo State University, founded in 1928 as San Angelo College, offers more than 30 graduate and 100 undergraduate programs. It is situated on the second-largest campus in the Texas Tech University System. In 2017, The Princeton Review named Angelo State one of “The Best 380 Colleges” for the ninth consecutive year. The Master of Science in Counseling Psychology is a 60-semester-hour program that prepares students to become licensed professional counselors (LPCs) or licensed psychological associates. Students will take courses in areas such as group counseling, research methods, developmental psychology, addictions counseling, ethics and law, cognitive behavioral therapy, and counseling methods and techniques.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Career Options For an Online Master’s in Counseling Degree?
- School Counselor
- Career Counselor
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Mental Health Counselor
- Clinical Therapist
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Marriage and Family Counselor
- Clinical Pastoral Counselor
- Child and Adolescent Counselor
- Addiction Counselor
- Gerontological Counseling
What Are the Various Disciplines of Counseling?
The type of counseling most people think of — and the type most students will learn to do if they pursue a degree in counseling — is the discipline of mental and behavioral health. However, there are a number of other disciplines of this field that are important to consider when thinking about a career as a future counselor.
First, mental health counselors are the most generalized. These professionals work with patients of all backgrounds who are struggling with a variety of problems. Counseling psychologists have similar jobs, though they are typically required to hold a doctoral degree to practice, and they may specialize in assisting patients who have been diagnosed with clinical disorders.
School counselors help students excel in their studies while planning for the future. Career counselors advise individuals on making personalized career choices, preparing for a role, and securing a position. Both school and career counselors may also help clients cope with stressful environments or situations that might happen during the course of their studies or job preparation.
Rehabilitation counselors help disabled clients. A debilitating illness or injury can cause a number of drastic emotional and physical changes. Counselors working in this specialized field help patients find healthy ways to cope with these changes by helping them understand, teaching them strategies to live more independently, and working to resolve emotional issues while transitioning into a new career or academic path.
Behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors work specifically with patients who are suffering from a behavioral disorder or addiction. Not only must these professionals address the unhealthy behavior or substance abuse itself, but they must also tackle the underlying causes that led the patient to engage in this behavior in the first place. For instance, a person with an eating disorder may have an unhealthy perception of his or her body image, while a patient addicted to drugs or alcohol may be self-medicating to cope with sadness or depression.
Family and marriage counselors help improve communication within families. These counselors work with troubled child-parent relationships, siblings, unmarried or married couples, or even entire family units. Since family dynamics have a significant impact on individuals’ lives and they can be quite complex, health patterns of communication and family relationships are particularly important to one’s emotional and social wellbeing.
How Much Can You Earn in This Field?
The average salary for a professional working in the field of counseling ranges from $30,000 to $80,000. For instance, rehabilitation counselors can expect an average yearly salary of $34,000 per year. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earn an average of $43,000 per year, while school counselors earn an average of $55,000 per year. Genetic counselors earn substantially more, reporting an average median pay of $77,000 annually. It is important to take endorsements, certifications, licensures, and specializations into consideration when comparing salaries as some professionals may be more qualified and, as a result, receive higher compensation than others in the same industry.
Why Choose Online Learning for a Master’s in Counseling Degree?
For many individuals, enrolling in a full-time master’s degree program at a physical location can be challenging, particularly for students who are already working part- or full-time or have personal responsibilities that make a structured schedule difficult on-campus or at a set location. However, thanks to modern technology, distance learning programs make it easier than ever for students of all stages of life to pursue a graduate degree. Whether you are looking to completely change careers or you are already working in a related field, aspiring counselors who are considering pursuing a master’s degree should consider these five advantages of enrolling in an online program:
1. Decreased Costs
Although tuition rates for online degrees are usually comparable to programs offered on-campus, students may save in overall costs in a number of ways. One major financial advantage is that pursuing an online degree eliminates the costs of commuting. Since students learn in their homes or local communities, they do not need to travel to get to class, and they ultimately save on parking passes, gas, and expenses. Students may also eliminate the costs of room and board, meal plans, certain class materials, and more.
2. Flexible Schedule
One of the most well-known advantages of an online master’s degree in counseling is that students can complete some, if not all, of the coursework at the place and time of their choosing. For instance, if you work during the day, you can listen to lectures and do coursework at night. Similarly, if you shuttle kids to and from after-school activities, you can devote the evenings to your education. Regardless of where students may work and live, those pursuing an online graduate degree can manage their schedules to meet their goals and become professional counselors through online degree programs.
3. Increased Retention
It goes without saying that everyone learns in different ways. Though one student may retain information very well from writing texts, others may find that they prefer to gain information from listening to lectures. Many students find that the format and structure of online learning actually helps them to learn better by retaining more information. Delivered through tools such as infographics, webinars, and video lectures, the multimedia approach used in online programs helps students to assimilate materials in ways that meet their preferences and learning styles. If a student is still struggling, most lectures are easily accessible online and can be reviewed at any time.
4. Engaging Class Discussions
Discussions in traditional classrooms are limited to the time in which all students are physically in the classroom. However, in a distance learning program, conversations about the coursework evolve over time, and students may add different perspectives to lesson prompts as they think of them. Synchronous video tools and discussion boards allow students to add comments and ask questions that they wish to have answered as well as to respond to others’ thoughts. Professors use synchronous video tools to conduct online sessions that provides clarification on difficult concepts and explain materials to help students. Faculty and students are, as a result, able to come together from many time zones and locations at pre-scheduled times. Faculty can also post recordings of these classroom sessions for students who could not attend, thus emphasizing active learning by “flipping” the classroom.
5. Virtual Skills
In today’s digital age, virtual skills are critical in every industry. By pursuing an online counseling degree, students learn to develop these skills, improving their knowledge of the latest virtual tools as well as their online communication abilities. These skills enable students to more effectively interact with employers, coworkers, clients, and others when they obtain a position of employment as a counselor following graduation.
If you are ready to embrace your passion for helping others, consider earning a graduate degree in counseling. With a positive job outlook, solid starting salary, and a number of specialization areas for nearly any interest, the field of counseling is showing promise for the future. There are many highly rated and accredited degrees and programs from which to choose, including a number of affordable online master’s in counseling degrees designed for students who may not be able to meet the physical or scheduling demands of an on-campus program.