The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

Learn what you can do with a master's in counseling psychology, and discover the top programs. Expand your career or start a new one today.
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Updated on June 11, 2024
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  • Most states require you to have a master's in counseling psychology to become a counselor.
  • A master's in counseling psychology can prepare you for different counseling careers.
  • To obtain a license, you must attend an accredited master's in counseling psychology program.
  • The curriculum includes classroom instruction in theory and real-world fieldwork.

States have different requirements for becoming a counselor, but most require earning a master's in counseling psychology, passing a standardized national examination, and completing a certain number of supervised hours. This guide outlines what you can do with a master's in counseling psychology and the top schools to consider.

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

The Best Master's in Counseling Psychology Programs

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#1 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

Framingham State University

  • Framingham, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: New England Commission on Higher Education

Cost per Course: $1,390

Credits to Graduate: 60

Framingham State University, located in Framingham, Massachusetts, offers a master of arts with a concentration in counseling psychology-licensure. Foundational courses focus on counseling approaches, current theories in psychology, and research. Students arrange a culminating internship at a department-approved or affiliated site. Graduates qualify to become licensed mental health counselors.

Admission requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school; a 2.8 overall GPA; a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate psychology courses; and GRE or GMAT scores (waived for applicants with 3.0 overall GPAs).

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$970
Out-of-state
$7,050
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$1,680
Out-of-state
$7,050
Retention Rate
69%
Acceptance Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
4,876
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#2 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

Santa Clara University

  • Santa Clara, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Cost per Unit: $701

Credits to Graduate: 90

At California's Santa Clara University, students can earn their master of arts in counseling psychology in three years. The program prepares graduates to become licensed marriage and family therapists or licensed professional clinical counselors. Five emphasis areas delve into child and adolescent mental health; correction psychology; health psychology; Latino counseling; and LGBTQ counseling. 

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA and submit a statement of purpose, a current resume, and three letters of recommendation. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$52,998
Out-of-state
$52,998
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$23,507
Out-of-state
$23,507
Retention Rate
93%
Acceptance Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
8,616
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
3% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#3 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

Bowie State University

  • Bowie, MD
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Avg. Cost per Credit

In-State | $448

Out-of-State | $730

Credits to Graduate: 48

Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland, offers a master of arts in counseling psychology. The curriculum includes 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours. Coursework includes psychological theories, advanced human growth and development, drug and alcohol counseling, and family counseling.

Admission requires an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field with a 2.75 GPA. Non-psychology majors need 12 undergraduate credits in social sciences. Applicants submit three letters of recommendation and a letter of interest or personal statement. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,647
Out-of-state
$16,338
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,614
Out-of-state
$12,762
Retention Rate
77%
Acceptance Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
6,250
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#4 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

Alaska Pacific University

  • Anchorage, AK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Avg. Cost per Credit: $650

Credits to Graduate: 60

Anchorage's Alaska Pacific University offers a master of science in counseling psychology. Designed for working students, the program prepares graduates to become licensed professional counselors. 

The three-year program combines synchronous online classes with on-campus intensives and supervised practicums. Courses include interventions for anxiety and affective disorders, individual and cultural diversity, and social bases for behavior.

Applicants submit official transcripts with a 3.0 GPA; an essay and personal statement; three letters of recommendation; and authorization for a background check.   

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$20,350
Out-of-state
$20,350
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,700
Out-of-state
$11,700
Retention Rate
56%
Acceptance Rate
91%
Students Enrolled
493
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
#5 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

University of Central Oklahoma

  • Edmond, OK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

Avg. Cost per Credit

In-State | $347

Out-of-State | $764

Credits to Graduate: 60

Edmond-based University of Central Oklahoma offers a master of arts in counseling psychology that prepares graduates to become licensed professional counselors. Focus areas include assessment and evaluation skills; multicultural competence; professional communication; psychological knowledge; and therapy skills.

Courses include advanced social psychology, competency-based counseling, experimental design, and counseling psychology practicums. 

Admission specifies a preferred 3.0 overall undergraduate GPA (or 3.0 in the last 60 hours attempted), a verbal and quantitative GRE score of 290, and a 3.5 in the writing section.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,686
Out-of-state
$17,573
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,000
Out-of-state
$17,008
Retention Rate
72%
Acceptance Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
14,132
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#6 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

California State University-Bakersfield

  • Bakersfield, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Avg. Cost: 

In-State | $4,164-$7,176 per year

Out-of-State | adds $264 per quarter or $396 per semester

Credits to Graduate: 60

California State University, Bakersfield's master of science in counseling psychology meets California's education requirements for licensed marriage and family therapists or licensed professional clinical counselors. The curriculum emphasizes counseling theories, effective treatment approaches, and cultural diversity.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and a 3.2 GPA for the last 60 hours of study. Before beginning the program, accepted students must complete six undergraduate psychology courses, including abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, and introductory statistics. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,176
Out-of-state
$16,680
Retention Rate
83%
Acceptance Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
11,745
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#7 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago

  • Chicago, IL
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission; Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

Avg. Cost per Credit: $1,368

Credits to Graduate: 60

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology's master of arts in counseling psychology offers six concentration areas:

  • Child and adolescent treatment
  • Health psychology
  • Latino/a mental health
  • Marital and family therapy
  • Trauma and crisis intervention
  • Treatment of addiction disorders

Students can complete the program in two years studying full time or three years studying part time. The curriculum includes field practicums and internships.

Admission requirements include a 3.0 undergraduate GPA; a C or higher in psychology and research methods; a resume or CV; an essay; and three letters of recommendation. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$11,160
Out-of-state
$11,160
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$22,212
Out-of-state
$22,212
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,285
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#8 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

University of Kansas

  • Lawrence, KS
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit:

In-State | $416

Out-of-State | $998

Credits to Graduate: 60

The University of Kansas, located in Lawrence, offers a master of science in counseling psychology with a concentration in mental health counseling. The curriculum includes assessment, career development, counseling theory, group counseling, professional issues, and a practicum. Graduation requires a research project, thesis, or comprehensive exam.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA (or a graduate degree with a 3.5 GPA) and transcripts; a letter of intent; a resume; and three recommendation letters.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$10,092
Out-of-state
$26,960
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,989
Out-of-state
$23,951
Retention Rate
86%
Acceptance Rate
91%
Students Enrolled
26,744
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#9 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

Northeastern University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: New England Commission on Higher Education

Avg. Cost per Credit: $1,752

Credits to Graduate: 60-63

Northeastern University in Boston offers a master of science in counseling psychology with full- or part-time enrollment options. The curriculum prepares students to become licensed mental health counselors with opportunities to focus on child and adolescent counseling, early intervention, or research in counseling psychology. Advisors assist students in finding field placements at area health facilities and agencies.

Admission requires an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field; a 3.0 GPA; transcripts; three letters of recommendation; a resume; and a personal statement.  

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$54,360
Out-of-state
$54,360
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$25,264
Out-of-state
$25,264
Retention Rate
97%
Acceptance Rate
20%
Students Enrolled
22,905
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#10 The Best Master’s in Counseling Psychology Programs

Angelo State University

  • San Angelo, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Avg. Cost per Two Semesters

In-State | $7,246

Out-of-State | $14,808

Credits to Graduate: 60

Based in San Angelo, Texas, Angelo State University offers a master of science in counseling psychology that helps prepare graduates for careers as licensed professional counselors or licensed psychological associates. 

Students can choose between thesis and non-thesis tracks. Both options include supervised practicums and required courses in cognitive behavioral therapy, marriage and family psychotherapy, and multicultural counseling and psychology.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA. Those with lower GPAs may be admitted under a GPA/GRE-based formula. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$4,412
Out-of-state
$14,228
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$4,119
Out-of-state
$11,481
Retention Rate
71%
Acceptance Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
10,775
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

What Can I Do With a Master's in Counseling Psychology?

Many graduates with a master's in counseling psychology earn a license to become a counselor. They may also earn a doctorate to become a psychologist or pursue a career in social work, coaching, or other related fields. Most counselors specialize in a particular type of counseling, such as with a master’s degree in school counseling, substance use disorders, family counseling, or phobia treatment.

Where Can I Work With a Counseling Psychology Degree?

  • Private Practice: You can work in private practice with partners or as an independent practitioner. This career offers the most independence, but you must also manage other aspects of your practice and provide counseling services.
  • Mental Health Centers: Mental health centers may cater to a particular area of counseling or multiple specialties. They might be run by larger organizations such as health systems, local governments, or nonprofits.
  • Schools and Colleges: School and college counselors focus on students' needs or, in a K-12 setting, students and their families.

How Much Can I Make With a Master's in Counseling Psychology?

According to Payscale, the average salary of a counselor with a master's in counseling psychology is $59,000 as of June 2023. The typical pay range is $45,000-$80,000. Salaries vary based on geographic location, certifications, and job demand.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 22% job growth for substance misuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors between 2021 and 2031. This growth is fueled by the opioid crisis and the large unmet need for mental health services.

What to Look for in a Counseling Psychology Program

The right master's in counseling psychology depends on your goals and interests, along with the program's length, reputation, and cost. This guide identifies the top programs in the following areas:

Program Curriculum

The curriculum should match your specialization interests, including core courses and electives. Because state license requirements vary, you need to check that the program matches the state where you plan to practice.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a third-party review process to ensure that graduates of a master's in counseling psychology can practice effectively and safely. Attending an accredited program is also vital for getting a license.

Program Length

If you plan to work while studying, you need a program whose timing and pace match your needs. Many programs are available for part-time as well as full-time students.

Practicum or Internship Placement

Supervised fieldwork such as practicums and internships is vital to your learning. Some programs offer support to students looking for placement.

What Can I Expect From a Master's in Counseling Psychology

Most full-time students can finish a master's in counseling psychology in two years, while part-time students can graduate in 3-5 years. Master's in counseling psychology programs combine theoretical courses and fieldwork, where students observe and practice under the supervision of a licensed counselor or psychologist. Programs often include a capstone project or thesis.

Master's in counseling psychology programs have different approaches to fieldwork placement. Some programs provide direct placement or support for students in finding a placement. Other programs may require students to find their own placement. Generally, on-campus programs are more likely to provide placement or extensive support than online programs.

If you want to become a counselor, a master's in counseling psychology can be your terminal degree, but if you want to become a licensed counseling psychologist, you need a doctorate in psychology.

What Are the Admission Requirements for Counseling Psychology?

Most master's in counseling psychology require a bachelor's degree or extensive coursework in counseling psychology. Many programs require a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and some require standardized test results, such as GRE or MAT scores.

Admission Materials

Most schools require transcripts for all college-level classwork, an application with an essay or personal statement, at least two references, a background check, and an application fee. Some schools allow you to submit unofficial transcripts while applying, but you must send an official transcript before enrolling.

Education

Most master's in counseling psychology programs admit students with any major related to counseling psychology, such as psychology, sociology, social work, anthropology, or similar disciplines. Schools may also accept students with substantial coursework in these areas if their degree is in another discipline.

GPA

Most programs require or strongly prefer a GPA of 3.0 or higher. More competitive programs may require 3.2 or higher. However, many programs have some flexibility, and you may be eligible for conditional admittance if your GPA is below the threshold and other admission factors indicate your potential.

Entrance Exam

While some schools require GRE or MAT scores, some may waive them for students with a higher GPA. Other schools may accept but do not require them.

How Much Does a Counseling Psychology Master's Cost?

The average tuition for public schools costs $12,400 per year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The average tuition for private schools doubles at $26,600 per year. You can also expect to pay student fees and expenses for buying or renting books and any needed travel to the campus or fieldwork.

You may be eligible for various scholarships and grants from your school or other organizations, such as government programs, foundations, nonprofits, or corporations. In addition to scholarships, you may be eligible for loans.

Total Average Tuition Per Year

Public Institution

$12,400

Private Institution

$26,600

Source: NCES

Everything Else You Need to Know About Counseling Psychology Programs

What is a counseling psychologist?

A counseling psychologist provides counseling for clients to help them with specific situations or causes of emotional or mental distress. Unlike psychiatrists, counseling psychologists are not authorized to prescribe medication. Most counseling psychologists specialize in a particular type of counseling, type of client, or both.

What is the difference between a counseling psychologist and a clinical psychologist?

A clinical psychologist specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, while a counseling psychologist specializes in helping clients deal with specific situations. For example, a counseling psychologist might help a client having difficulty adjusting to a life change.

Can you earn a counseling psychology master's degree online?

Many master's in counseling psychology online deliver the theoretical coursework online, either synchronously (live courses) or asynchronously (pre-recorded courses). However, you must complete fieldwork in person.

Do you need a doctorate to work in counseling psychology?

In most states, you need a doctorate to become a counseling psychologist, but you can earn a counseling license with a master's degree. Some states have different standards for different types of counseling, especially substance use counseling, so be sure to check with your state's licensing board.

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