Looking for an online master’s degree in counseling? You’ve come to the right place. Here’s our subjective analysis of online programs for students seeking a graduate degree in counseling, school psychology, educational counseling and other related topics.
These programs are ideal for adult learners who have a bachelor’s degree and a solid background in a helping profession. Some of these degrees also offer programs that can help adults looking to make a complete career change garner the information they need to find success as counselors.
Methodology for Ranking
What does it take for a school to make it to the top? People undoubtedly have different opinions on this question, and it’s important to remember that there’s no one perfect fit for everyone. But for us, we tried to construct an accurate, objective ranking based on the following indicators:
1. Average Tuition (Weighted 15%): Although our primary motivation for this list wasn’t cost, we did want to make sure that most of the schools in the ranking are affordable. We calculated colleges’ average tuition rate by looking at the annual cost reported on College Navigator, a database run by the National Center for Education Statistics. These values are an approximation and can be affected by the number of credits a school expects a student to complete per year, the number of years to degree completion, the fees associated with tuition, and of course how accurately the school reports this information to NCES. See our list of sources for more information.
2. Students Enrolled in the Program (Weighted 20%): This value indicates the number of students at the school enrolled in a graduate-level counseling program compared to the size of the entire student body. Schools with high ratios in this category received higher scores, as this number generally indicates that either students are particularly attracted to the university for its counseling programs, the school emphasizes counseling above other degrees, or both.
3. Unique Programs (Weighted 30%): For this category, we rated each school on a scale of 1-5 based on the uniqueness, breadth, and attractiveness of its curriculum. “1” schools offered no information about their programs, while “5” schools go above and beyond, offering an array of concentrations and specialties, as well as a wide range of courses not typically available at other universities.
4. Accreditation (Weighted 25%): We also scored schools based on their accreditation status, assigning them points based on the number of degree programs they offer that boast accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
5. Guide to Online Schools (Weighted 10%): To round out our ranking, we also considered the reviews offered by the Guide to Online Schools’ selection of counseling degrees. While this served as a great way to confirm quality for some colleges, we kept its weight in the final score low because the website did not offer reviews for every school we considered.
Once we tallied up all the numbers and weighted all categories appropriately, we determined each school’s final score out of a maximum possible 100 points. None of these schools earned a full 100 points, and we wouldn’t expect them to do so. We intentionally considered a breadth of factors that would make it very difficult for a single university to excel across the board. The schools below represent the best of the best, earning significantly more points than those we chose not to include.
Keep reading for our list of the editor’s picks for online master’s in counseling programs.
Top Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs Ranking
Online Master of Education in School Counseling
College Station, TX
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: In-state: $10,623; Out-of-state: $22,196
Those looking to pursue a career as an academic counselor or teaching consultant would be well advised to consider Texas A&M’s online masters in counseling program. Offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, this two-year program features coursework in research techniques, childhood and adolescent development, counseling theories and more. The school counseling track is just one of four related degrees offered at Texas A&M, which boasts one of the oldest counseling programs in the state. This convenient and affordable education is an excellent opportunity for students to take the next step toward their long-term career goals.
Total Score: 54.62
Angelo State University
Online Master of Science in Professional School Counseling
San Angelo, TX
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: In-state: $6,859; Out-of-state: $14,455
The cheap online master’s in professional school counseling program offered at Angelo State University is another promising option. In addition to having one of the lowest tuitions among comparable programs, ASU’s Online Master of Science in Professional School Counseling prepares students to apply for State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), which is vital in pursuing a career in school counseling in the state of Texas. Of course, students are not required to pursue certification. The coursework in the program covers everything from individual counseling to group, career and occupational counseling, providing a wide range of career opportunities beyond graduation. The ASU College of Education is accredited by CAEP.
Total Score: 54.80
Online Master of Science in Counseling and Human Services
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: $7,700
Alcohol and drug addiction is one of the most tenacious problems facing our culture today. You can make a difference with a master’s degree in counseling online from Post University in its Alcohol & Drug Counseling specialization. Whether you are interested in studying the sociological effects of addiction, or working with individuals and groups to provide human services, this program provides a comprehensive look into this important issue. The other specialization available is Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Coursework is offered in convenient eight-week modules and features topics such as the biology and psychopathology of addiction, group and family counseling theory and human services policy. If students are interested, the online master’s in counseling from Post University also prepares students to apply for licensure in the field.
Total Score: 54.98
Online Master of Science in Counseling/Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Working with the mentally ill and their families is an important task that requires specialized training. The master’s degree in counseling online featured by the University of Phoenix will prepare students for meaningful careers in community and human service. Students learn the fundamentals of counseling through a three-week orientation to the profession before moving on to study personality theories, basic clinical assessment, psychopharmacology and more.
Total Score: 56.68
Online Master of Education in Counseling and Development
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: In-state: $8,264; Out-of-state: $15,860
Lamar University offers another cheap online master’s in counseling that should appeal to certified teachers with a bachelor’s degree. The accelerated format of this completely online program allows students to continue acting as educators while they prepare to join their school’s professional support services team. Human growth and development, multicultural counseling, and career development are just some of the courses that will provide educators with indispensable insights and prepare them to make a difference in the lives of young people. The counseling degrees are very popular at Lamar University, and on average over 10% of students at the university are enrolled in one of these programs.
Total Score: 56.85
Online Master of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Studies
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: $4,140
If you are interested in helping people overcome addiction, an online master’s in psychology and addiction studies from Aspen University will help you build a career in addiction therapy. This program was developed to teach students the psychological and neurological aspects of addiction and its treatments, as well as individual and group counseling theories. Both licensed practitioners and students looking to start a career have a lot to gain from this cheap online master’s in counseling. Students seeking certification in the field complete the program with a counseling practicum and already licensed counselors cap their studies with an in-depth research course.
Total Score: 56.98
Online Master of Arts in Counseling: Rehabilitation Counseling
Little Rock, AK
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: In-state: $7,594; Out-of-state: $14,884
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers a fast-track online master’s in counseling with emphasis in Rehabilitation Counseling that will help students qualify for national certification as rehabilitation counselors (CRC). Students can take this convenient program full-time while still accommodating their personal commitments and work schedules. Aside from two required, three-day, on-campus workshops, the 60 hours of coursework are available entirely online – and asynchronously. Classes cover the fundamentals of rehabilitation and counseling topics, such as career, group and individual counseling, as well as an internship in the field.
Total Score: 57.67
Master of Science in Education – School and Professional Counseling
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: $11,172
If you want to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people in your community, the Online Master of Science in Education – Counseling at Concordia University Wisconsin will prepare you for the career you desire. This is a very diverse program that prepares students for a wide range of counseling opportunities. Students choose to work collaboratively or individually. In 45-48 credits, students can undertake coursework in theories of personality, family and human development, social psychology and more. Practicums and internships round out the theoretical material to produce thoughtful and engaged counselors in any field.
Total Score: 60.19
Online Master of Arts in Counseling, Art Therapy
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: In-state: $12,246; Out-of-state: $16,890
Art therapy is revolutionizing the way we think about human services. At Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, they offer an online master’s degree in Arts Counseling that received Nonprofit Colleges Online’s “Students Before Profits Award.” With this degree, students will qualify for registration as a recognized art therapist under American Art Therapy Association (AATA) requirements. In addition to studying human development and counseling applications, students in this program study the past and present of art therapy around the world, and explore their own research project in the field. Along with an internship, it’s not hard to see why this program is so attractive to artists looking to make a difference.
Total Score: 60.34
Online Master of Science in Education, School Counseling
Graduate Tuition & Fees for 2019-20: $22,500
This completely online degree from the University of the Southwest is a great way to start a career in school counseling that will prepare you for work in both kindergarten classrooms and high schools, and everywhere in between. Whether you will be advising students with their families to overcome domestic issues, or helping students develop a career path after graduation, the University of the Southwest will prepare you for a successful career – even offering preparation to earn licensure in the state of New Mexico. Classes in counseling theories and techniques; counseling ethics; career development; and group, family and child/adolescent counseling are all required to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the field.
Total Score: 61,19
Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees for 2022-23: $497 per credit
Advocates of mental health patients looking to make a difference will be interested in Capella University’s online mental health counseling program. Residencies, field training, and rigorous coursework prepare students for many of the challenges and rewards they will encounter in a career as a mental health counselor. Choose from three specializations including Addition Treatment and Recovery, Child and Adolescent Counseling, and General Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Ethics, law and psychology all come into play in this program, alongside research methods and counseling theories. Capella University’s accredited online master’s in counseling ranking on the Guide To Online Schools is the highest on this list, thanks to positive reviews from students and alumni. All this adds up to an online degree that will prepare you to receive licensure in a very important field.
Total Score: 62.91
Online Master of Arts in Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees for 2019-20: $8,500
If you are looking to pursue a career in faith-based counseling work, Baptist Bible College has an online master’s program that will point you in the right direction. Students develop personally as well as professionally in this program, where they first learn to discover strengths in themselves so that they may identify assets in others. Human development, counseling applications, and biblical studies all provide ample resources for helping to resolve human struggles in many capacities. After completion of this online degree program, students are encouraged to pursue licensure in the state of their choice.
Total Score: 63.07
Online Master of Arts in Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees for 2019-20: $13,440
Indiana Wesleyan University offers another faith-orientated online master’s in counseling, with several unique specializations. Students who enroll in this program can select between the following tracks: Addictions Counseling; Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Community Counseling; Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy; School Counseling; and Student Development Counseling and Administration. All concentrations feature coursework in human development and counseling with an emphasis of Christian values, but they prepare students for many difference career trajectories. IWU also offers certification in the form of an Addiction Counselors Certificate or a Post-Master’s Degree Certificate. In addition, the university emphasizes clinical matters from the start in order to best prepare students for the working world.
Total Score: 67.51
Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Winona Lake, IN
Graduate Tuition/Fees for 2019-20: $7,386
Grace College and Theological Seminary is known for its graduate counseling programs, which have been starting careers and changing lives since 1995. The online master’s in clinical mental health counseling combines the faithful underpinnings of Christian counseling with clinical therapy and diagnosis. Students develop their faith alongside their analytical skills in courses that range from personality theory to the theological foundations of counseling. Students who pursue accreditation after their degree find careers in private practices, schools, hospitals and beyond. The program often attracts applicants who are both emotionally strong and spiritually sensitive, and these learners typically go on to do incredibly meaningful work.
Total Score: 67.58
Online Online Master of Arts in School Counseling
St. Louis, MO
Graduate Tuition/Fees for 2019-20: $10,197
At Missouri Baptist University, educators looking to pursue school counseling can get an online master’s degree that will help them advance their career. Offered in three age group specializations (K-8/7-12/K-12), this degree is a convenient way to focus on the age group you know and understand while accommodating your work schedule. Coursework ranges from classroom assessment and inquiry design to individual, family and group therapy, all of which encourage students to take initiative in the academic environment. Students enjoy the flexibility of taking classes part- or full-time, and regardless of their pace will graduate with the ability to diagnosis, analyze and address students’ concerns and opportunities.
Total Score: 68.34
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