The 25 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs

Completing an online master’s degree in counseling program is more popular than ever. In addition to factors such as cost, accreditation, reputation and flexibility, consider the type of counseling programs offered. Here are 25 of the best online colleges offering a master’s degree in counseling and specific reasons that each institution is included in this ranking.

25. Missouri Baptist University

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Missouri Baptist University is an evangelical Christian university, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Council for Higher Education Accreditation and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The tuition rate of $588 per credit hour for distance learning students in the Master’s of Counseling Degree program is an attractive feature. However, the Master’s of Counseling Degree at Missouri Baptist University is limited to a master’s degree in school counseling program, putting it at the bottom of this list.

24. University of Buffalo Online

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The University of Buffalo offers an online Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling through its Graduate School of Education. It is accredited by the New York State Education Department and the Council on Rehabilitation Education.

One issue with the University of Buffalo online master’s degree program is the difficulty in determining actual tuition and other fees. Site visitors have to click through several links to find actual tuition costs. This, along with the limited program options keeps the University of Buffalo near the bottom, even though other sources may rank it higher.

23. University of the Southwest

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The university of the Southwest is a Christian University offering a Master of Science in Education in School Counseling and a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. The institution is an accredited member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and accredited through the Higher Learning Commission. There are no additional fees for out-of-state tuition and no extra distance learning fees. Tuition is $580 per credit hour.

22. Regent University

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Regent University Distance Education offers the MA degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, MA in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling, MA in School Counseling or Human Services Counseling. The MA online degree in Human Services Counseling consists of 30 credit hours at a cost of $595 per credit hour, while the other MA degree programs consist of 24 credit hours at a cost of $710 per credit hour. It is the only Christian institution offering programs “accredited both by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP).” Online students must complete three one-week residency requirements for all programs except in the MA Human Services Counseling degree. Students in that program attend a week-long residency near the end of their program.

21. Seton Hall University Online

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The Seton Hall University Online program offers a Master’s of Arts in Counseling Degree consisting of 45 credit hours. The M.A./Ed.S online degree program is a combined “Master’s and Education Specialist program,” according to Seton Hall. That program consists of 60 credit hours, completed in less than three years. The cost of the 45 hour M.A. in counseling program is $35,500. The cost for the 60 credit hour M.S./Ed.S degree is just under $45,000. Students must attend face-to-face for four days at the start of the program and again the following year. The cost of the residency is included in tuition costs. Although the cost of the Seton Hall master’s degree in counseling programs exceeds the cost of several other online master’s degree programs, the residency program is shorter, and most costs are covered by tuition fees.

20. Northwestern University Online

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The Master’s of Arts in Counseling at Northwestern University features the opportunity to work a two-year clinical placement at sites near your community. Clinical field training starts shortly after students begin the online program and continues until graduation, giving students the benefit of hands-on learning throughout the program. One unique feature at Northwestern is the options for students at “all levels in the clinical training process.” Students with extensive academic or work experience in psychology or human services fields participate in the Standard Program. Standard program students complete 24 courses. Students in the Bridge to Counseling Program are entering counseling for the first time or have minimal academic or real-life work experience in psychology or human services. Bridge students complete 27 courses over seven quarters. Students in both programs have the option to declare a Child and Adolescent Specialization. Tuition is $16,208 per quarter.

19. Bellevue University

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Bellevue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. While the Master’s of Science in Clinical Counseling Degree is the only master’s level counseling program at Bellevue, other features make it an ideal choice for many students. The 60 credit program includes 100 hours practicum and 900 hours of clinical internship, giving students a wealth of hands-on clinical training under the supervision of a licensed counselor. Tuition is $525 per credit hour. Bellevue is also ranked “among the best in the nation for military students,” according to the site.

18. Palo Alto University

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Palo Alto University makes the list because once a student is accepted, Palo Alto guarantees no tuition increase throughout the duration of a student’s program. Tuition is $19,960 per year. The University offers a Master of Arts Degree in Counseling, with the student’s choice of the Family and Child or Clinical Mental Health emphasis. PAU does require a one-week residency of students in the MA Counseling program. Palo Alto University has regional accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. PAU features a 17:1 student/faculty ratio institution-wide and

17. Nova Southeastern University

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Nova Southeastern University offers the Master of Science in Counseling Degree. Specializations include Mental Health Counseling, Substance Abuse Counseling and Education, Applied Behavior Analysis and Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis. Nova Southeastern University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. One downfall to considering Nova Southeastern is that it has less than a 60 percent acceptance rate, according to Princeton Review. Tuition is $670 per credit hour.

16. Mercy College

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Students at Mercy College can obtain a Master of Science in Counseling Degree. The program features several specializations including Counseling, Counseling with Certification in School Counseling and a Bilingual Extension Mental Health Counseling, Advanced Certificates in Alcohol/Substance Abuse Counseling and Retirement Counseling. The 48 hour Master’s degree in Counseling prepares students to become a New York state-certified counselor in a school setting, while the 60 hour Master’s in Mental Health prepares students to become a New York state-licensed mental health counselor. Tuition for Master’s level programs at Mercy College is $828 per credit hour.

15. Adler University

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Adler University offers excellent options in their Master of Arts in Counseling programs. Students may concentrate on a Master of Arts in Counseling: Art Therapy, a unique option. Other specifications include Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Sport and Health Psychology, Forensic Psychology or Rehabilitation Counseling. Adler is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The Master of Art in Counseling Global Campus programs are taught 100 percent online. The site could improve by making tuition information easily available online.

14. Grace College

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Grace College and Theological Seminary offers the Master of Arts Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program, developed in 2010, is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) through 2020. While students complete the bulk of their work online, students attend an annual residency at the Winona Lake, Indiana. The residency lasts seven to ten days. Tuition per credit hour is $553.

13. University of North Dakota

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Among the several master’s degrees in counseling specifications offered at the University of North Dakota, the Master of Arts in Counseling with a K-12 School Emphasis is the only specification offered online. One of the perks you get as an online student is that you pay the residency tuition rate, regardless of where you live. The cost of tuition for online students is $477.52 per credit hour. The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Among the faculty at UND, 94 percent hold the highest degrees in their field.

12. Northcentral University

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Northcentral University offers a distance-based Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s degree. The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program provides the education and clinical training needed for students to obtain their licensure as a marriage and family therapy therapist. The Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT), online degree program, is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and is the first online MFT program to receive this accreditation. NCU also features a one-to-one teaching, model.

There is no physical residency and the program only consists of 45 credit hours. Students living in states that require more than 45 hours may add additional courses to meet requirements. Tuition in the MAMFT program is $2,544 per course or $38,510 tuition for the entire program. Tuition may vary when considerations such as transfer credits are taken into account.

11. UMass Online

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UMass Online offers the Master of Education degree in School Counseling, Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling, Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and the Master of Science in Family Therapy. Each of the online Master’s in Counseling programs is 60 credit hours. Tuition is $495 per credit hour. UMass is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. UMass received a 21st Century Best Practices Award from the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), an Excellence in Online Programming award from the Sloan – C Excellence Awards. The Times of London ranked UMass the 19th highest-rated university in the world. One downfall is that although all details of the program are still listed on the site, clicking on the link to the Master of Science in Family Therapy reveals that the program is “temporarily not admitting students to the program.” Students in the UMass Master in Counseling programs complete a two-week on-site session during the program.

10. Wake Forest University

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Wake Forest University offers three online master’s degrees in counseling options, including the Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health, the Master of Arts in Counseling – School Counseling or the Master of Arts Degree in Human Services. Accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), Wake Forest continually ranks among the top online university master’s degree programs. Wake Forest ranks #27 in the U.S. News & World Report 2015 Annual Guide to America’s Best Colleges and 35th for “best value.” Wake Forest indicates that 100 percent of graduating students sitting for the National Counselor Exam passed the test. Tuition is $1300 per credit hour.

9. LeTourneau University

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LeTourneau University boasts having been named “in the top tier” of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Master of Arts in Counseling Degree gives students the option of choosing between specializations in School Counseling, Licensed Professional Counselor or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Students attend a three-day intensive learning event on the main campus in Longview, Texas. Tuition for each of the Master’s in Counseling Degree programs is $595 per credit hour.

8. Assumption College

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Assumption College offers the Master of Arts in Counseling degree in School Counseling. The college also offers the M.A. in Counseling Psychology, which Assumption College points out is “considered among the top graduate Counseling Psychology programs in the country.” The program focuses on the integration of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and is the only M.A. program in the country to offer fully-integrated CBT curriculum. The M.A. in School Counseling meets initial licensing requirements for a school guidance counselor (PreK-8 or 5-12). The M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling at Assumption College is ranked among the top 50 graduate-level rehabilitation counseling programs in the country. Tuition is currently $625 per credit hour with the exception of the Rehabilitation Counseling Program tuition which is only $480 per credit hour.

The Assumption College website either lacks some important information or it is buried somewhere, making it difficult to find. General admission requirements and a list of FAQs should be easily visible. Instead the “Admissions” link gives details on how to apply and where to send application fees, but not requirements for admission to the graduate program.

7. Post University

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Considering itself a “pioneer” in online and hybrid education, Post University offers the Master of Human Services degree program. Students choose from the following counseling specialization options: Forensic Mental Health Counseling, Alcohol and Drug Counseling or Clinical Counseling within Organizational Settings. These unique offerings help boost Post University up in the rankings on this list. Post University accreditations include the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. Tuition is $570 per credit hour.

6. Fort Hayes State University

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The Fort Hayes State University Virtual College is an award-winning online university including “Best Online,” U.S. News & World Report, 2014. The University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The Master of Science in Counseling Degree requires three 4-day on-campus courses in Hays, Kansas. However, tuition is in the lowest 2 percent in the entire country. Tuition is just $253.07 per graduate credit hour.

5. Auburn University

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The U.S. News & World Report 2015, Best Online Graduate Programs, ranked Auburn #8 in the country. The Master of Science in Rehabilitation tuition rate is $574 per credit hour. Auburn University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling program is also accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education. The program also ranks #17 in the health disciplines category of the 2012 U.S. News & World Report “Best Graduate Schools.”

4. Liberty University

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Liberty University offers an outstanding selection of online Master’s in Counseling programs with specifications to suit just about every prospective student. The Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling features specifications in areas such as Addictions and Recovery, Life Coaching and Marriage and Family Counseling. There are unique options within this program, including Crisis Response and Trauma and the Military Resilience option. The Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling offers similar specifications but also includes options such as Discipleship & Church Ministry. Liberty University also offers the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling Degree. Some programs require a partial on-site instruction. Liberty offers a student/professor ratio of 17:1 in its online programs. The Christian institution charges $590 per credit hour tuition for full-time online graduate students and $540 per credit hour for part-time students.

3. Capella University

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Capella University boasts a 95 per cent Alumni satisfaction rate with 86 percent of its professors holding doctoral degrees. Capella offers considerable variety in the Master of Science Counseling programs. Students decide whether to pursue the Master of Science in Addiction Studies, the Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling, the M.S. in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy, an M.S. in School Counseling or the M.S. in Human Behavior. Capella University offers a “Straightforward Approach to Program Costs,” which lists tuition costs and other fees and is easy to locate. Tuition for master’s degree programs ranges from $387-$737. Capella University has received numerous awards and other recognition, including selection as a Military Friendly School for 2010 by G.I. Jobs Magazine and numerous awards for excellence.

2. Thomas University

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Thomas University outranks nearly every other college and university offering an online Master in Counseling degree. The 63 hour Masters of Clinical Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling program is fully online. Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Thomas University ranked in the Top 25 Wise Choice Schools and also received the 2014 Most Affordable Counseling Degree Online Badge. Thomas is also among the “Best Counseling Degrees” for online schools and the 2015 Online Master in Counseling Programs.

1. Walden University

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No one surpasses Walden University when it comes to Master of Counseling degree programs. Walden is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and offers several Master of Counseling degree options. Students prepare for an M.S. degree in Addictions Counseling, School Counseling, Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling or Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The variety of specializations, as well as several other reasons, put Walden University in the top spot. One reason is that 97 percent of employers indicated they would hire another Walden graduate. Instruction is 100 percent online, with flexible class times. Additionally, Walden is a younger University rising through the ranks from its humble beginnings in 1970 as an experiment.