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Licensed counselors help patients and communities by providing assessment, treatment, and advocacy services. Continuing changes in the U.S. healthcare system, as well as an environment where people are encouraged to seek help, contribute to occupational growth in this field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling positions will increase by 22% through 2028, translating to more than 68,500 new jobs.

Although students can attain entry-level counseling and social work positions with associate and bachelor's degrees, they must complete graduate training to qualify for state licensure. Master's in counseling programs offer advanced training in areas like psychotherapy and treatment of trauma disorders. Graduates benefit from greater job prospects and better pay. BLS reports that those with a master's degree earn $12,000 more in average annual salary than individuals with baccalaureate credentials. Experienced counselors who want to occupy senior clinical positions or work as postsecondary teachers and research scientists go on to earn their Ph.D. in counseling psychology.

What are the best counseling programs of 2021? Here are our top 10:

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Rank School Location
1 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
2 Clarks Summit University South Abington Township, PA
3 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
4 Eastern University Saint Davids, PA
5 Concordia University Wisconsin Mequon, WI
6 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, MN
7 Hope International University Fullerton, CA
8 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY
9 Lamar University Beaumont, TX
10 Prairie View A&M University Prairie View, TX
How We Rank Schools

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2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

LeTourneau University

Longview, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

A Christian school in Longview, Texas, LETU offers more than 140 graduate and undergraduate academic programs, including an online MA in clinical mental health counseling. The university boasts a 93% placement rate for counseling graduates.

This program emphasizes a holistic approach involving counseling skills and clinical assessment related to individuals, couples, families, and group counseling. Graduates are eligible for licensure as both a professional counselor and a marriage and family therapist. Coursework prepares students to sit for the National Counseling Exam, and LETU graduates boast a 94% pass rate.

The degree consists of 66 credits, including 45 core credits and six credits of clinical theology coursework. Student's also take 15 credits of specialization classes, choosing from options like addictions counseling and couples therapy, as well as a practicum and internships. Students must also attend a four-day intensive lab held at the Longview campus.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $615/credit
Credit Requirements: 66 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum

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2

Clarks Summit University

South Abington Township, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 60%

Voted one of the most beautiful Bible colleges in the U.S., CSU lies near the Pocono and Endless Mountain regions of Pennsylvania. The school offers 21 master's options for distance learners, including an MS in counseling that prepares students for counseling careers that emphasize biblical teachings.

The program consists of 60 credits and features nine elective classes that enable students to focus on their area of interest. Elective courses include counseling children, spiritual issues in counseling, and understanding and treating addictions. The fully accredited program prepares graduates to sit for the National Certified Counselor exam and apply for licensure as a licensed professional counselor.

Five eight-week sessions are offered annually. While most courses are available entirely online, students must complete three one-week, on-campus modules. Tuition discounts are available for Christian workers and members of the military.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $565/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

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3

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 63%

Liberty — a Christian university located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia — was founded by the late Jerry Falwell in 1971. This school requires no standardized admission testing and has not raised its tuition in several years.

The school's MA in clinical mental health counseling program prepares graduates to obtain their licensure as a licensed professional counselor. All courses are taught from a Christian perspective and include classes such as integration of spirituality and counseling and crisis counseling. The program requires two on-campus intensive courses, while the practicum and a two-semester internship may be carried out in the student's local area.

Students can transfer in up to 30 approved credits. This counseling program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $565/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2.5 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.7 minimum

Contact the School

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4

Eastern University

Saint Davids, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 30%

Initially founded as Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Eastern University now oversees Pennsylvania campuses in St. Davids, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg. The core values of faith, reason, and justice form the basis of all of the school's educational programs.

The university offers an online, 60-credit MA in clinical counseling program for generalists. Students can also choose one of two concentrations. The applied behavior analysis certification track focuses on behavioral assessments, as well as intervention and prevention strategies. It can be completed online and readies graduates for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Examination.

Alternatively, the trauma studies concentration trains students to understand the impact of trauma, as well as the prevention and treatment of traumatic stress. This program features evening classes at the university's main campus, as well as asynchronous online courses.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: MA in Clinical Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $743/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT scores recommended

Contact the School

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5

Concordia University Wisconsin

Mequon, WI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 37%

As a Lutheran Christian university, CUW provides students with an education committed to the wellbeing of body, mind, and spirit. The school's 45-credit M.S.Ed in counseling program offers students the choice of pursuing a professional counseling track or a school counseling track.

By completing additional coursework, students can also earn their substance abuse counselor in training credentials through the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, as well as a graduate certificate in Christian counseling. This 15-credit training program may appeal to students interested in counseling in a church or Christian agency setting.

All courses are offered online. As part of the Wisconsin licensing requirement for school counselors, candidates must complete a three-part portfolio. Participants also complete a practicum and an internship, which feature 600-700 hours of direct, hands-on experience.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Education - School and Professional Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $630/credit
Credit Requirements: 45 or 60 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

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6

Crown College

Saint Bonifacius, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

Located in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, Crown College began offering online instruction in 1999. The school's Christian-focused flexible programs benefit students who work full time, with most coursework due each week on Thursday and Sunday by midnight.

In addition to completing online courses, students pursuing Crown's master's in counseling also complete a four-day residency on campus each May. The 60-credit program includes 12 elective credits and a structured, 700-hour internship. Students pursuing this degree may add an alcohol and drug counseling emphasis, which would take up nine of their 12 elective credits.

Courses last eight weeks, and graduates are prepared to sit for Minnesota's licensed professional clinical counselor licensure exam. Crown is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $555/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Contact the School

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7

Hope International University

Fullerton, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

HIU, founded in 1928, became a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in 1993. Based in Fullerton, California, HIU boasts a 14-to-1 student-to-professor ratio, offering students a personalized education. Students can pursue the school's online master's in counseling, preparing for licensure as a licensed professional clinical counselor.

All students must complete at least 280 direct client hours and 50 professional development hours. These two requirements include practice providing therapy to children, individuals, and groups, and attending approved seminars, workshops, personal therapy, and community service. Courses last 8-16 weeks and the program can be completed in 2-3 years.

Participants practice learned counseling skills in community sites where they receive real-world training by mental health supervisors. Before sitting for the licensure exam, graduates must also complete 3,000 supervised hours.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $650
Credit Requirements: 61 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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8

University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 50%

Nestled in the heart of Appalachia near the Cumberland River in Kentucky, UC enrolls more than 18,000 students, making it one of the largest private universities in the state. It also ranks as one of the most affordable. The school offers two online master's in counseling programs, each consisting of 60 credits.

The MA in addiction counseling program is the only online addiction counseling program in the nation that holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. This dual-licensure track prepares students to become a licensed/certified addiction counselor and a licensed professional counselor. Students may transfer in up to 30 approved credits.

Alternatively, UC's online master's in clinical mental health counseling program prepares students for a career as a licensed professional counselor or marriage and family therapist. Students may transfer in up to 18 approved credits.

Some courses may require students to attend synchronous sessions once a week.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master's in Addiction Counseling; Master's in Clinical Health Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $400/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

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9

Lamar University

Beaumont, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 61%

Located in Beaumont, LU distinguishes itself as one of the fastest-growing universities in Texas. Students at LU can choose from two master's-level counseling programs.

The M.Ed. in counseling and development program offers two concentration options. The professional school counselor pathway prepares students for a career in an educational environment. Candidates must possess at least two years of full-time teaching experience to qualify.

Alternatively, the marriage, couple, and family counseling concentration meets the requirements necessary to pursue work as a licensed professional counselor or marriage and family therapist. These concentrations require a one-week residency course at LU, a 15-week practicum, and a 15-week internship.

The M.Ed. in clinical mental health counseling program prepares students to pursue professional counselor licensure, enabling successful graduates to provide mental health and substance abuse care. In addition to practicum and internship requirements, the program includes two five-day residency seminars.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: M.Ed. in Counseling and Development; M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
School Status: Public
Tuition: $300/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2.5 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75-3.25 minimum, depending on the program

Contact the School

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10

Prairie View A&M University

Prairie View, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

PVAMU is a land-grant university located in a small town about 50 miles northwest of Houston, Texas. As part of the Texas A&M University System, it is the second-oldest public institution in the state. The school offers 30 master's and five doctoral programs.

Among these is an online master of arts program that features a school counseling emphasis. This program prepares students to work in an educational setting. The 48-credit curriculum includes 15 credits of core classes, as well as concentration courses like counseling techniques, psychology of abnormal behavior, and organization and administration of school counseling programs.

Participants also complete a school counseling practicum and an internship at a school.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts, Emphasis on School Counseling
School Status: Public
Tuition: $283/credit in state; $787/credit out of state (based on taking eight credits per term)
Credit Requirements: 48 credits
Program Length: 1.5-2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact the School

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11

Concordia University Irvine

Irvine, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 61%

Through the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling, CUI offers a master's degree in counseling in clinical mental health. In this program, students study online with Dr. John Townsend — a well-known psychologist who has written over 30 books — and other master clinicians.

The curriculum is based on the latest neuroscience, as well as biblical principles. Focused lessons cover 20 skills that help counselors create lasting change in clients through the power of relationships, emotions, and perception.

The 60-credit program begins with a four-day intensive in Irvine. Twice a month, students must attend a three-hour virtual classroom that ends in a Q&A session. The program features seven-week online courses, and participants can expect to take one or two classes at a time and spend 10-14 hours on learning activities every week.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health
School Status: Private
Tuition: $615/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact the School

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12

Mid-America Christian University

Oklahoma City, OK Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 52%

Based in Oklahoma City, MACU currently offers more than two dozen programs and distinguished itself as one of the first private universities in Oklahoma to offer online courses over 20 years ago.

The university's online MS in counseling program, with a licensed professional counselor emphasis, is founded on biblical principles and prepares students to work both in Christian ministries and clinical settings. In addition to scientific counseling theories, MACU's counseling program includes spiritual, faith-based fundamentals.

The 60-credit program consists of 18 courses, including child/adolescent psychopathology, career counseling and development, and addiction and chemical dependency counseling. Students also complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship. About 85% of students receive a job offer from their practicum location.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Counseling - Licensed Professional Counselor Emphasis
School Status: Private
Tuition: $642/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum
Standardized Tests: MAT or GRE may be required

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13

California Baptist University

Riverside, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

CBU, located in Riverside's historic Magnolia Avenue district, offers more than 30 master's programs with 45 concentrations. The school operates as one of the top-rated Christian colleges in Southern California.

The university's 60-credit MS in counseling psychology program prepares students to enter professional clinical counseling or marriage and family therapy. Lessons cover psychological and spiritual principles and teach professional counseling topics from a Christian perspective. Students seeking to qualify for the professional clinical counselor designation in California must take six additional credits.

The school offers two learning options. The virtual hybrid format incorporates synchronous online interactions. The asynchronous option enables students to work at their own pace. Students in either format have the opportunity to interact with their peers and their teachers online.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Counseling Psychology
School Status: Private
Tuition: $745/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 or higher for conditional admission, 2.75 or higher for unconditional admission

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14

Lindsey Wilson College

Columbia, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

Located in Columbia, Kentucky, LWC was founded in 1903. Today, the college has over 20 community campuses located throughout Kentucky and has awarded more than 5,000 degrees through its extended partnership program.

The college also offers an online M.Ed. in counseling and human development that provides students with the clinical skills and practical experience needed to become a professional mental health counselor. The program's diverse and multicultural influences differentiate it from other counseling courses.

Classes include counseling Latino clients, multicultural counseling, and Adlerian play therapy. Students must attend a three-day intensive residency session on campus; this prepares them for success by addressing learning resources and providing connections to the college. The 60-credit program features eight-week courses in an asynchronous learning environment.

Graduates earn an M.Ed in counseling and human development with a specialization in clinical mental health counseling. Students may also obtain a certificate in substance abuse if they complete additional coursework.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Education in Counseling and Human Development
School Status: Private
Tuition: $484/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

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15

Adler University

Chicago, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 33%

Adler University — with main campuses in Chicago, Illinois, and Vancouver, Canada — is named after Alfred Adler, a psychotherapist and physician who founded Adlerian psychology. Grounded in the principles of this branch of psychotherapy, Adler's mission focuses on social responsibility, healthy communities, and advancing social justice.

The university's MA in counseling with a specialization in clinical mental health counseling prepares students to work at hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, and other social service agencies. In addition to online courses, the school's counseling program requires two five-day residencies on campus each year.

The school's social justice practicum consists of a 200-hour internship in which students choose a civic-minded field of interest and then work 8-10 hours a week at a related community outreach site. The program's eight-week online courses include synchronous components that require students to attend video conferencing classes at predetermined times.


Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Counseling: Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,366/credit
Credit Requirements: 62 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 or higher is recommended

Contact the School

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Master's in Counseling Program Information

The following pages provide crucial academic information necessary for finding the online counseling program that aligns with your academic interests and career goals. The guides contain descriptions of individual programs and important characteristics like tuition cost, delivery format, and contact information.

Explore Online Counseling Rankings

This counseling career guide offers in-depth details on the profession, including educational paths, certification/licensure requirements, and specialization options. Students also gain insight into the daily challenges counselors face from a working practitioner in the field.