Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs 2024

Counselors help people overcome addiction, relationship problems, and other challenges. Learn more about the best online counseling master's programs.
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Updated on July 12, 2024
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Best Online Master's Degree Programs in Counseling

You've come to the right place to explore the best online master's programs for 2024. BestColleges' independent research and ranking practices help us recommend top programs aligning with in-demand counseling careers. You can also rest assured that our featured online master's in counseling programs provide the same education you'd receive on campus.

Online counseling master's programs offer more than a pathway to a fulfilling career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for substance abuse counselors to grow by 18% between 2022-2032. Careers with this growth rate feature many open positions for recent graduates.

Featured Online Master's in Counseling Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Webster University Ranks No. 1 This Year

BestColleges chose Webster's online MA in counseling as the top program for 2024 for its affordable tuition and higher-than-average retention rate. The university also accepts 55% of applicants.

Webster's counseling program features core curriculum classes in theories of counseling, assessment, and human growth and development. Other coursework includes psychodiagnostics and family systems theory. All degree-seekers earn a concentration in clinical mental health counseling.

Although you do not need a bachelor's in counseling to apply, you must hold a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. Other application requirements include three professional references, a resume, and a three-page essay.

Top Online Master's in Counseling Programs of 2024

We use trusted sources like Peterson's Data and the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools. 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. from our partners appear among these rankings and are indicated as such.

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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#1 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs 2024

Webster University

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

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

Cost per Credit: $752

Credits to Graduate: 60

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

You'll also learn to identify important contexts and trends in relationships and society as a whole. The program is designed for those seeking licensure as counselors and professionals hoping to advance in or change their 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
79%
Acceptance Rate
56%
Students Enrolled
3,024
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#2 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs 2024

Waynesburg University

  • Waynesburg, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

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

Cost per Credit: $715

Credits to Graduate: 60

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

You can take all classes online or opt for a hybrid format. Additionally, you can choose from several loan repayment initiatives to make your 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
72%
Acceptance Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
1,366
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#3 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs 2024

Northwestern University

  • Evanston, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

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

Cost per Quarter: $22,304

Credits to Graduate: 60

Northwestern's online MA in counseling combines ethics, lifespan development, and psychodynamic theory and practice coursework and hands-on training opportunities. You may incorporate an optional child and adolescent specialization in this program. Northwestern also offers a bridge-to-counseling option for those without undergraduate counseling experience.

This online master's in counseling uses rolling admission and a cohort format, offering four start dates per year. Students can choose from accelerated full-time, traditional, or part-time tracks.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$60,276
Out-of-state
$60,276
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$56,067
Out-of-state
$56,067
Retention Rate
99%
Acceptance Rate
7%
Students Enrolled
23,409
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

How We Rank Schools

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.

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%)
  • Student outcomes (30%)
  • Reputation (20%)
  • Diversity and social mobility (20%)

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

More Master's in Counseling Programs

Make sure to research universities with other types of counseling programs, as they may offer concentrations better aligned with your career goals. Waynesburg University's MA in counseling features a concentration in Christian and spiritual counseling. The program also accepts 76% of applicants, making it much less competitive than Webster.

Continue your search for online counseling master's programs with Northwestern University's MA in counseling. The program offers a bridge-to-counseling track for degree-seekers with a bachelor's in something other than counseling or psychology. You can also specialize in working with children and adolescents.

Is a Counseling Degree Worth It?

The best online master's programs provide the education and experience to gain state licensure and start a career. However, working in the counseling field presents many challenges. Consider the following pros and cons before making a decision.

Pros

  • Check Circle
    Counselors help people overcome significant mental health and behavioral challenges.
  • Check Circle
    Many specializations exist, such as school and clinical counseling.
  • Check Circle
    Counselors see their work's benefit to individuals and society firsthand.

Cons

  • X Circle
    You may need to go into debt to help pay for a master's degree.
  • X Circle
    Working with people in crisis can cause heightened stress levels.
  • X Circle
    Counseling sessions may occur outside of regular working hours.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Counseling Program

Both counselors and therapists need a master's degree in counseling. While the two professions used to be considered different, nowadays, any professional practicing psychotherapy is a therapist — including master's level counselors.

Finding the best online counseling master's programs requires comparing cost and flexibility. Some online public universities charge all degree-seekers the in-state tuition rate. They may also use an asynchronous curriculum, a great choice for working professionals.

Program lengths also differ among universities. A typical full-time program takes about two years to complete. Degree-seekers with busy personal or work schedules should consider programs with a 3-4-year part-time track.

Note which online master's in counseling programs hold accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP-accredited master's programs offer a rigorous educational experience.


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 July 4, 2024.

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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