An online master’s in counseling can be a gateway to a lucrative and rewarding career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment opportunities for counselors will grow by 20 percent between now and 2024, far faster than the average growth in the industry. In addition, counselors can expect to earn an annual average income of between $40,000 and $70,000.
Substance abuse counseling, in particular, is currently facing a massive shortage of practitioners in the U.S., which can lead to increased opportunities for qualified candidates with an online master’s degree in counseling. The field also offers unique opportunities for counselors looking to work with children, including helping boys express emotions in healthy ways, counseling children through divorce, and exploring emerging foster-care-related mental health practices. Other possible counseling occupations include social workers, community service managers, and school psychologists or counselors.
The Value of a Masters in Counseling Degree
Obtaining licensure as a counselor requires a master’s degree from an accredited CACREP/CORE program. Requirements will vary, sometimes considerably, from state to state, which is why it is recommended that students interested in an online master’s in counseling consult their state licensing board before fully embarking on a program. In any counseling degree, official accreditation is not only crucial to the quality of the program but invaluable in preparing counselors to take the next step toward a counseling career.
The time it takes to complete a counseling degree may differ from student to student, and is based on a number of factors, including education, licensure and professional experience. Pursuing a master’s in online counseling through the now-merged CACREP/CORE program typically requires a bachelor’s degree. Counseling programs offered by CACREP/CORE can take anywhere from 12 months to two years to complete, and require hundreds of internship hours. Though not necessary for licensure, additional study can lead to a doctorate degree, as well as advanced opportunities for professional growth in the field.
Advantages of Online Masters in Counseling Degree Programs
Online counseling degree programs are currently among the most popular in online education. Prospective students seeking an accredited online master’s in counseling have several high-quality options to choose from, with a number of the top counseling programs in the country now being offered online. Some are entirely online, with practicums and internships arranged in the student’s home community. Pursuing a top online master’s in counseling program can help students maintain employment and/or family responsibilities while earning their degree.
How We Rank Online Masters in Counseling Degree Programs
Online master’s in counseling degree programs and the colleges that offer them can vary widely in terms of quality, name recognition, and value. To assist those looking for high-quality accredited online master’s in counseling programs, we’ve put together this ranking of what we consider to be the very best schools offering master’s in counseling degrees online in 2017. Our rankings are based on publicly available data, evaluated according to several different criteria, including market reputation, accreditation, student satisfaction, ratio of students to instructors, and tuition. All schools in our rankings are regionally accredited, the highest form of accreditation a school can achieve. Read more about our rankings philosophy and find a list of our other top college and degree rankings on our rankings page.
Program: Northwestern’s online Master of Arts in Counseling prepares students to become self-reflective practitioners who offer clinical mental health counseling to clients in a range of professional settings. Northwestern University is dedicated to preparing the next generation of counselors, including aspiring counselors who will enter the field for the first time. Neither prior counseling experience nor GRE scores are required for admission to Counseling@Northwestern.
Regional Accreditation: Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
Program: The field of mental health counseling can offer immense personal satisfaction as well as excellent career opportunities. This CACREP-accredited online master’s program in mental health counseling offers a rigorous curriculum of online course work, residencies, and field experiences designed to prepare students for state licensure eligibility. Students develop the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to assess and treat mental and emotional disorders and promote optimum mental health.
Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Assessment – For more than 40 years, Walden University, an accredited institution, has helped working professionals reach their educational goals.
Program: Prepare for a career as a professional counselor with Walden University’s CACREP-accredited master’s in clinical mental health counseling program. Examine a range of topics related to the counseling field, including assessment, legal and ethical concerns, and intervention, and prepare to help individuals and groups with family, mental health, career, military services, forensic, and educational issues.
Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Assessment – This small, private New Mexico school offers an affordable online masters in counseling with intimate class sizes and a faith-oriented perspective.
Program: University of the Southwest’s online master’s degree in education mental health counseling is a 48-credit-hour degree program designed for students interested in pursuing a career as a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC). Students will develop a thorough knowledge of basic counseling theories and techniques, and learn how to apply them with a diverse range of clients and settings. Required practicums and an internship can be completed in a variety of mental health systems, as arranged by the student with the approval of the school.
Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
*The schools listed above are sponsored. Sponsored school listings are distinct paid advertisements and are clearly marked with a “SPONSORED” or “FEATURED” tag to distinguish them from editorially ranked schools. Learn more about how rank schools or contact us with questions.
To determine the best online Master’s in Counseling programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 3 best online Master’s in Counseling programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.