Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Counseling might be the career you've been looking for. Explore our top-ranked online master's in counseling programs to get started.
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Best Online Master's Degree Programs in Counseling

Nick Bognar hated his job so much that he started going to therapy. To his surprise, his therapist eventually suggested a new career — in counseling.

"She told me that I'd be good at it, because I'm creative and attuned," said Bognar. Curious, he did some research. Immediately, he was hooked. "These are the kinds of conversations I want to be having for the rest of my life," he recalled thinking to himself.

Whether you've recently discovered a passion for counseling or you're still exploring potential career paths, this guide can help you navigate your education options.

Discover the top online master's in counseling programs, admission requirements, and more. Take the next step towards a fulfilling career in building relationships and helping others.

Featured Counseling Degrees

Best Online Master's in Counseling Programs

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#1 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Concordia University-Irvine

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $695

Out-of-State | $695

Credits to Graduate: 72

Concordia University Irvine's online master's in counseling in clinical mental health is a biblically based program that students can begin in March or August. During the program, students personally engage with Christian thought leaders and Dr. John Townsend. 

While most classes are taught online, the program has a four-day mandatory residency where students attend eight process-focused growth groups. Overall, students gain skills to help people with mental health conditions move from coping to restoration in an accelerated program that can be completed in 24 to 36 months.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$37,990
Out-of-state
$37,990
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,564
Out-of-state
$8,564
Retention Rate
76%
Acceptance Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
3,710
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
71% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#2 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Crown College

  • Saint Bonifacius, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $610

Out-of-State | $610

Credits to Graduate: 60

The online, Christian-based master of arts in counseling program at Crown College teaches a biblically-based, holistic approach to counseling that considers the effects of multiple factors in a person's life. The flexible program is designed for working students and features multiple start points during the year. 

The program emphasizes healing and satisfies the Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy's requirements for licensure. There is a mandatory four-day summer residency program where students work with experienced faculty on their counseling, assessment, and diagnosis skills.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$27,270
Out-of-state
$27,270
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,350
Out-of-state
$10,350
Retention Rate
73%
Acceptance Rate
65%
Students Enrolled
1,476
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
71% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#3 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

California Baptist University

  • Riverside, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Approved by the California Board of Behavioral Science Examiners

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $800

Out-of-State | $800

Credits to Graduate: 62-68

California Baptist University's online MS in counseling psychology helps students enter the field with a firm understanding of psychology from a Christian worldview. Students can engage in professional clinical counseling in marriage and family therapy or clinical counseling.

The program can be completed in 24 months and teaches students to explore where their personal and professional lives intersect. Students put knowledge into practice during supervised clinical experiences at community mental health arenas, schools, churches, and healthcare institutions.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$34,918
Out-of-state
$34,918
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$13,590
Out-of-state
$13,590
Retention Rate
79%
Acceptance Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
11,489
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#4 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Concordia University-Wisconsin

  • Mequon, WI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Institutional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $690

Out-of-State | $690

Credits to Graduate: 45-60

The primarily online master of counseling program at Concordia University Wisconsin offers students the option to earn a master's degree in school counseling or professional counseling. Those in the professional counseling track can complete optional courses in substance misuse. 

Students are required to take two in-person courses — taught by experienced counselors — during which they have the opportunity to learn skills and strategies in a face-to-face setting. The program utilizes eight-week sessions, and students can start the program at the beginning of any of these sessions.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$31,660
Out-of-state
$31,660
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,628
Out-of-state
$11,628
Retention Rate
80%
Acceptance Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
5,204
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
53% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#5 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Webster University

  • Saint Louis, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $730

Out-of-State | $730

Credits to Graduate: 60

Available in person or online, the master of arts in counseling program at Webster University has a three-decade track record of success. Combining traditional learning with hands-on clinical fieldwork, the program guides students on the ethical, legal, advocacy, and supervisory practices essential to a successful career in counseling. 

Students also learn to identify important contexts and trends in relationships and society as a whole. The program is designed for individuals seeking licensure as a counselor and professionals hoping to advance in or change existing careers.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$28,500
Out-of-state
$28,500
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$13,500
Out-of-state
$13,500
Retention Rate
77%
Acceptance Rate
59%
Students Enrolled
6,779
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#6 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Eastern University

  • Saint Davids, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation:  Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $781

Out-of-State | $781

Credits to Graduate: 60

The online master's in counseling program at Eastern University prepares students for licensure as professional counselors in Pennsylvania. Concentrations in trauma studies or applied behavior analysis certification are available for students who wish to specialize. Students pursuing an online counseling degree learn from practitioners and scholars with ample real-world experience.

The program can be completed in two years through an accelerated track. Other completion timelines include a three-year option (full-time) and a four-year option (part-time). Students can attend online classes, in-person evening classes, or a hybrid combination of these formats.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$34,990
Out-of-state
$34,990
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$13,716
Out-of-state
$13,716
Retention Rate
74%
Acceptance Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
4,429
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
74% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#7 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

LeTourneau University

  • Longview, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Institutional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $625

Out-of-State | $625

Credits to Graduate: 66

LeTourneau University's online MA in clinical mental health counseling features a Christian-based graduate program that prepares students to take the Texas state licensure examination. Out-of-state students should check their state's requirements. Graduates have a 94% pass rate on the National Counseling Exam and a 93% graduate counseling placement rate. 

Students prepare to impact the lives of people with mental health conditions — both psychologically and spiritually. Graduates go on to counsel a varied population using ethical practices and holistic approaches based on a Christian worldview.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$32,690
Out-of-state
$32,690
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$16,875
Out-of-state
$16,875
Retention Rate
77%
Acceptance Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
3,209
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
63% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#8 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Waynesburg University

  • Waynesburg, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $715

Out-of-State | $715

Credits to Graduate: 60

Students enrolled in Waynesburg University's master of arts in counseling program complete five semesters of full-time coursework. Participants can pursue an integrated bachelor's and master's of arts in counseling, certificates in addiction counseling or clinical supervision, or an advanced specialty in Christian and spiritual counseling.

Distance learners have the option of taking all classes online or utilizing a hybrid format. Program graduates can choose from several loan repayment initiatives to make their education more affordable. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$26,380
Out-of-state
$26,380
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$16,440
Out-of-state
$16,440
Retention Rate
69%
Acceptance Rate
75%
Students Enrolled
1,470
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#9 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Geneva College

  • Beaver Falls, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $699

Out-of-State | $699

Credits to Graduate: 60

The master of arts in counseling degree program at Geneva College offers three distinct concentrations: marriage, couple, and family counseling; mental health counseling; and professional school counseling. According to school statistics, 99% of Geneva students who take the national counselor exam pass on their first attempt. The program is fully online but employs various interactive and "hands-on" instructional approaches, including role plays, guest lecturers, and "flipped" classrooms.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$29,160
Out-of-state
$29,160
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$12,114
Out-of-state
$12,114
Retention Rate
73%
Acceptance Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
1,315
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#10 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs for 2024

Oral Roberts University

  • Tulsa, OK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Institutional Accreditation: The Association of Theological Schools

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $515

Out-of-State | $515

Credits to Graduate: 36

The master of arts in professional counseling at Oral Roberts University prepares graduates to counsel people with mental health conditions using a biblical worldview. Individuals are also prepared to pursue professional licensure in Oklahoma; out-of-state students should check with their state for licensure requirements.

This hybrid program offers tracks in professional counseling, marriage and family therapy, and addiction counseling. Students complete a combination of online and blended courses, which require attendance on the Tulsa campus for up to one full week of classes. Coursework emphasizes effective counseling with diverse populations, teaches research skills, and provides guided internship opportunities.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$30,300
Out-of-state
$30,300
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,670
Out-of-state
$11,670
Retention Rate
85%
Acceptance Rate
85%
Students Enrolled
4,711
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

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To create this ranking, BestColleges sourced the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard. We then ranked each school according to the top variables college students selected in our College Choice and Admissions Survey. To learn more, check out our full rankings methodology or read the summary below.

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To qualify for our rankings lists, each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution. Each eligible school was then ranked based on a formula measuring:

  • Affordability (30%)
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  • Diversity and social mobility (20%)

In addition, we only included colleges with graduation rates in the top third of all online colleges.

Why Should I Get an Online Master's in Counseling?

Maybe you already have a bachelor's degree in a mental health field and want professional opportunities beyond entry-level assistantships.

Or, maybe you're looking to make a meaningful career change.

“I went back for my master's degree while I was still a teacher. I knew I wanted to help students in a more holistic way — not just in the classroom. I had no idea how many opportunities a counseling degree would create for me.”

Quanesha Johnson, MA, LPC, NCC, Founder

To work directly with counseling clients, you need a license. To qualify for a license, you need a master's degree in counseling. And an online master's degree is often the most affordable and accessible way to get there.

Benefits of an Online Master's in Counseling

Obtaining an online master's in counseling offers many benefits, including expanding your knowledge of psychological concepts. Several advantages to earning an online master's in counseling degree include:

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    Flexibility and convenience
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    Gateway to doctoral programs
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    Diverse career options, including forensics and school psychology
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    Steady job growth
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    Field training via internships
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    Potential for licensure
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    Higher salary potential (compared to bachelor's level earnings)

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Counseling Online?

Most master's degrees in counseling take two years of full-time study to complete, including a practicum and a field internship. Some online programs offer accelerated tracks that take as little as 18 months.

Course Credits Required

60-72

Field Education Required*

600+ hours
*Depending on your program and specialization

Becoming a Licensed Counselor

Do you want to provide counseling services legally? Of course you do — which means you'll need a license. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally include:

  • A graduate degree from an accredited college or university
  • An additional 3,000 supervised client hours (over a minimum of two years)
  • At least one national licensing exam:
    • National Counselor Examination (NCE)
    • National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE)

Earning licensure can be the toughest part of the process. This is mainly because you have to find ways to support yourself while you get your supervised hours, which are rarely paid. "I waited tables the entire time," said Nick Bognar, MFT.

Pro Tip

Don't put off your exams! Get them out of the way early while your coursework is still fresh in your mind.

How Much Does an Online Master's Degree Cost?

Financing an online master's degree can be challenging, given the many costs and considerations associated with graduate school. Online and traditional programs both require specific costs, such as textbooks, materials, and course fees. However, online students can avoid campus-related fees for activities and transportation.

To offset these costs, you can research various financial aid options. Scholarships and grants award free college funding; Most scholarships are based on merit, while grants are based on economic need. You should also submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for loans and federal grants.

Average Annual Cost of a Graduate Degree

Public Institution

$12,394

Private Nonprofit Institution

$26,621

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

“My biggest piece of advice is to avoid taking out student loans if you can,” said Nirmala Bijraj, LMHC. “Find an accredited program that doesn't cost a lot. Some people think they should pay more for an 'elite' program — but no one has ever asked me where I got my degree. The curriculum is pretty standard across programs. Save your money and focus on gaining strong experience — that's what matters most in this profession.”

How Much Do Counselors Make?

You might assume that when you sign up to become a professional counselor, you're also signing up for a lifetime of low pay. But you're wrong.

There is a persistent belief that you can't — or shouldn't — make money helping people, said Nick Bognar, MFT. And sure, there are a lot of ways to not make money in this business. But there are also ways to make terrific money and have a satisfying career.

Median Annual Salary for Counselors

$61,710

Salary for the Top 10% of Earners in the Counseling Profession

$100,050


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Your counselor salary will depend on your specialization, location, and employer. One of the most popular specializations is education, guidance, and career counseling. Check out the average salaries by state for these counselors.

How to Consider Your ROI

A master's degree is a great way to get access to interesting jobs and better pay. But before you make the grad school leap, take a moment to consider the potential return on your investment.

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    Will your salary cover student loan payments, rent, and groceries?
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    How long will it take you to pay off any loans you might take out?
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    Will you be able to meet your life and savings goals as well as your career goals?

Remember, your counseling career doesn't have to be static, said Nirmala Bijraj, LMHC. If you're not making enough money, you can always level up by adding a new specialization, working with a new demographic, raising your rates, or taking your skills into a new career.

What Jobs Can I Get With an Online Master's in Counseling?

That's what's so cool about this degree. It gives you so many options.

You can work in hospitals, colleges, schools, government agencies, or [a] private practice. You can be a consultant, a coach, or write books. There's a lot of flexibility. Over time, you'll discover your personal niche. These days, I specialize in non-monogamy and open relationships. It's fascinating, said Bijraj.

Some other popular careers for licensed counselors include:

Job Outlook for Counseling Degree-Holders

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports faster-than-average job growth across counseling specializations between 2022 and 2032, including:

  • 5% projected job growth for school and career counselors
  • 15% projected job growth for marriage and family counselors
  • 18% projected job growth for substance use, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors

Is a Master's Degree in Counseling Worth It?

“Yes. Because this job is about so much more than just being in the counseling office. On a good year, I'll see maybe 150 people — but there are 7 billion people on this planet who need help. So I try to push what I've learned out into the world wherever I can: I have a podcast, I do speaking engagements, and I share what I know with my entire community.”

Dr. Saudia L. Twine, Ph.D., LPC, LLMFT, NCC, Minister

“I'll be honest: If you aren't an active and enthusiastic consumer of therapy in your own life, you probably don't have any business becoming a counselor. You can't be an unexamined person and do this job. So much of it is a soft science that requires you to watch people try and fail, over and over again. Be prepared for the work to be tough. But it means you get to be a therapist — which is honestly the best thing ever.”

Nick Bognar, MFT

“Historically, society doesn't value work that it can't either consume or profit off of. Mental health work hasn't been valued, in that sense. But the narrative is finally starting to shift: Celebrities talk openly about mental conditions. Young people do, too. TikTok therapists have huge followings. Demand for people like us is really growing. Collectively, we are starting to understand how important this kind of work is.”

Quanesha Johnson, MA, LPC, NCC

“This degree teaches you how to see people: How to understand the human condition — what makes us tick, what hurts us and heals us. Can you grasp how powerful that is? It's a skill you can leverage into a million different careers. I used that skill to build the largest divorce mediation firm in San Diego. When I sold that company, I opened a private relationship counseling practice. I set my own rates, I make great money, and I make people's lives better. Completely worth it.”

Nancy Fagan, Relationship Therapist, LMFT


Still Looking for the Right Fit? Explore Similar Programs

Admissions Requirements for a Master's in Counseling Program

Programs typically require:

Counseling vs. Social Work

Both a master's degree in counseling and master's degree in social work qualify graduates to work as licensed therapists. But there are some important differences:

Counseling vs. Social Work
Factor Counseling Social Work
Focus Primarily focused on one-on-one care and building a relationship with the client Typically focused on connecting a client, family, group, or community with the resources needed to thrive
Practice Practice has a tight mental health focus with emphasis on clinical education and theory Practice has broader focus that includes advocacy, addressing societal problems, and influencing public policy
Licensure Licensure typically requires a degree from a CACREP or MPCAC accredited master's program Licensure typically requires a degree from a CSWE accredited program
“For me, the main difference between counseling and social work comes down to relationships and rapport. Social workers take a more macro approach to care: How do I connect this person to the people, resources, and opportunities they need? Counseling is all about direct care. I never want to be even a degree removed from providing that intimate human touch.”

Quanesha Johnson, MA, LPC, NCC, Founder

Frequently Asked Questions About a Master's in Counseling

What specializations are available with an online master's in counseling?

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You can choose from several specializations in an online master's in counseling, including education, career counseling, guidance, marriage and family therapy, and addiction counseling.

What degree do you need to enroll in an online master's in counseling program?

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You need a bachelor's degree to apply to an online master's program in counseling. Fortunately, many programs accept applicants regardless of their undergraduate field of study.

What is the highest-paying specialty for a master's in counseling?

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Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors report the highest average pay with annual salaries of $64,200 or $30.87 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Are there in-person requirements for an online master's in counseling program?

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Yes. Online master's in counseling programs typically require that you complete internships or practicum experiences in person. It is important to speak with program coordinators to learn about what services are available to help you find local placements.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed December 4, 2023.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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