What Is a Master’s Degree in Counseling Online?
An online master’s degree in counseling is a two to five-year course (depending on whether you opt to study full-time or part-time) that allows students to prepare for a career in counseling.
It consists of mostly online learning with in-person practical skill development, making the course much more geographically friendly for students who may not be able to afford to move close to an institution or travel far distances to go to school.
Most master’s degrees in counseling online offer specialization in counseling topics such as family, marriage, child development, eating disorders, mental health, addiction, neurodiversity, and much more.
For some people, a degree in social work may be more aligned with their career goals. Check out our guide on social work vs counseling to see which path is right for you.
Why Should I Get a Master’s in Counseling Online Degree?
As more recognized universities opt to make their programs available online, it's easier than ever for students to graduate with an accredited degree from an online counseling program.
Better flexibility in study schedules, the ability to learn from the comfort of your own home, and reduced tuition fees are just a few reasons so many students are making the switch to online learning. This means many people who may be unable to travel for school or afford traditional school fees can now access an education of equal quality.
Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program
|School and Program Information
MS in School Counseling
GRE scores not required
School counselors help students overcome obstacles and shape successful futures. Walden’s online MS in School Counseling program will give you a solid foundation in school counseling theories, approaches, and best practices while enabling you to gain hands-on experience.Learn More
MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
GRE scores not required
Mental health counselors play a valuable role in helping people cope with life’s challenges. Walden’s online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program can help you become the competent, compassionate counselor you know you can be.Learn More
Online MA in Counseling
GRE Not Required
Prepare to pursue licensure in as few as 18 monthsLearn More
Full-time, part-time, and accelerated track options available
|Grand Canyon University
Master's Degree in Counseling
HLC and NASAC Accredited
✔ 100% Online
Over 14 Specializations Available
Affordable with No Out of State TuitionLearn More
MA: Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CACREP Accredited)
Online with required intensives
Our CACREP-accredited master’s in counseling degree online can help you become an ethical, well-trained mental health counselor with the knowledge, values, and skills you need to empower others to make positive changes in their lives. Online and on campus. Training Champions for Christ since 1971.Learn More
Counseling & Therapy
GRE Not Required
Offering master’s degree programs in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Doctoral degree program available in counselor education & supervision. No GRE required.Learn More
MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
No GMAT or GRE Required
Capella’s CACREP-accredited program is designed to help you prepare for state licensure. Gain knowledge and skills in wellness theory and research, relationship building, assessment and treatment, cultural competence and ethical practice. No GRE required.Learn More
Online MA in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness
GRE not required; Bachelor’s degree and minimum 2.5 GPA required
As few as 21 months to completeLearn More
Master of Arts in School Counseling and Bilingual School Counseling
Bachelor's required. GRE scores are not required.
Offered through the Department of Applied Psychology, NYU Steinhardt’s online master of arts in School Counseling and Bilingual School Counseling prepares students to work as certified or licensed school counselors in a variety of settings. Graduates are collaborative leaders and advocates in elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. You will experience a combination of real-world training, interactive online classes, and course work that can be completed based on your schedule. Complete in as few as 2 years. Study bilingual school counseling (optional). Minimum 2.5 GPA required.Learn More
*Sponsored Counseling Programs
Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs
How Much Does an Online Master’s in Counseling Cost?
The price for your master’s in counseling depends largely on the institution you enroll with. Factors such as private or for-profit colleges, universities situated in expensive locations, and the technology requirements of each course can significantly increase the price. On average, a master’s degree in counseling online costs around $26,621, with prices ranging between $10,000 - $115,000.
The good news is that online degrees are eligible for the same financial aid as an in-person degree, making online learning much more accessible. Additionally, by learning online, you can set your own schedule, giving you the freedom to work a part-time job to help pay your tuition and living costs without having to worry about rushing to class every day.
If you're on a strict budget, shop around for courses online that align with your financial needs. Research their financial aid options, and make sure the course has everything you need for your future career, which is likely to include accreditation and in-person practicum hours.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Master’s in Counseling Degree Online?
The length of time it takes for students to earn their Master’s in Counseling online depends on the study path they choose. For those who choose to study full-time, it takes approximately two years to complete an online master's counseling degree. Students who want or need to study part-time may take up to five years to finish their studies.
The benefit of taking an online counseling master's is that you can set your own schedule and study at your own pace, meaning you can complete your studies in a timeframe that suits you.
You’ll also need to factor in the time it takes you to complete your in-person practical work. Most colleges ask students to complete 1000 hours of in-person practice.
How to Become a Counselor After Earning a Master’s in Counseling Degree
Before enrolling, it’s important to check the licensure requirements for your state to ensure your program meets your needs. This often means getting your degree from an accredited institution and doing supervised internships. These are standard elements of a counseling master’s program, but it’s vital to ensure your master’s degree in counseling offers them.
Once you graduate, you may be required to pass a state licensure exam. Again, this will vary from state to state.
Finding a job in counseling after completing an online master’s degree can feel daunting, but there are a few things you can do that will really help.
First, make sure to network within the mental health professional community and make connections with potential mentors, clinicians, administrators, or other counselors who may have the inside scoop on potential job openings at their practice in the future. You can network by attending conferences, joining professional counseling organizations, or even reaching out to other counselors on social media.
Another way to boost your employability after your master’s degree in counseling online is to offer your counseling skills voluntarily. Not only will this help you gain more experience as a new counselor and give back to your local community, but it will also put you in front of potential employers.
Finally, don’t forget to keep up with your education. The scientific world of mental health is constantly evolving, and with that comes a need to update your knowledge and approach. Find continuous ways to enhance your knowledge by attending workshops and seminars, taking additional courses on specialized subject matter, and regularly reading scientific journals.
7 Benefits of Master’s Degree in Counseling Online
Prospective students should choose a college that best fits their needs or offers a specialization they are interested in. Most online master’s degree programs across the country will prepare students for counseling licensure and working in the field. Students can also choose from accelerated counseling programs, as well as master’s in counseling programs with no GRE requirement.
Typically, students with undergraduate degrees in psychology or related fields are the best fit for these master’s programs. Those with degrees from other social or humanities-related majors can also complement their degrees with a master’s degree in counseling online if they are interested in pursuing a career in mental health counseling.
Taking an Online Counseling Degree Master’s Program
The flexibility of online college programs has allowed more individuals to return to school and take graduate programs in fields such as counseling. Likewise, those who might already be working in counseling, psychology, or social work may wish to continue their education with an online master’s in counseling degree, with the goal of becoming licensed and advancing their career.
Here are seven of the most valuable benefits of pursuing an online counseling master’s degree:
- High-Quality Programs: Most courses rely on the same faculty and curriculum for in-person, campus-based programs as they do for the online version
- Accreditation: The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) accreditation is a highlight for any counseling program. Many states require accreditation for licensing.
- Premium Learning Experience: A personalized learning environment where students can set their own pace can foster a better education. This is especially true when students feel they don’t thrive in the traditional classroom setting.
- Admissions Benefits: Many programs remove high barriers to admissions/entry, including GRE waivers. Some programs have no GRE requirement whatsoever. This lower barrier to entry means many more deserving students who may struggle with the GRE are still able to pursue their passion for a career in mental health counseling.
- Short Program Length: Most master’s degree in counseling online course providers aim to keep the length of the program to approximately two years, with flexibility included for many programs. This means those who want to pursue full-time studies in a short time can do so.
- Affordability: As students don’t attend a physical location, course tuition fees tend to be lower than their in-person counterparts. Plus, there are plenty of financial aid options for those who opt to take their degrees online.
- Accessibility: No matter where students are in the world, they can pursue a degree from the university or college of their choice, removing the need to upend their lives and move away from home. This is especially useful for international students, those with caretaking responsibilities (including parents and caregivers), and those with mobility issues that prevent them from being able to travel to school every day.
Top Master’s in Counseling Online Programs
Many resources can help prospective students find the right online master’s counseling degree for them. Students should consider factors such as specialization, admissions requirements, program length, and accreditation when doing program research.
Typical Master’s Degree in Counseling Online Coursework
A graduate counseling program includes course modules that break down the many aspects of counseling for the learner. Courses usually cover topics such as:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Grief therapy
Although many degree programs can be completed online, most programs require students to participate in supervised clinical experience prior to graduation. By collaborating with your course provider, you should be able to organize your in-person practicums to take place locally.
Counseling Licensure Requirements
Students who have completed their graduate degree in counseling and associated requirements can normally apply for licensure in counseling. Licensure requirements typically include graduating with a master’s degree from an accredited university, a period of supervised work experience, and completion of a state board exam. However, the requirements may vary from state to state, so students are required to review their own state’s requirements before applying for licensure.
Online Master’s of Counseling Program Specialties
Depending on an individual’s interests, there are specialized course paths that concentrate fully on a specific path. Some of the most popular specializations students can choose to pursue in a Master’s of counseling program are:
- Mental health counseling
- Substance abuse counseling
- Marriage and family counseling
- School or career counseling
Mental Health Counseling Master’s Degrees
A variety of specialty areas are available to students pursuing an online counseling master’s degree. Mental health counseling involves working directly with individuals experiencing mild to moderate emotional distress. Working in this area includes planning and implementing action plans that will contribute to the success of a life improvement strategy. Individuals who earn a master’s degree in mental health counseling are eligible to become a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC).
Check out our online mental health degrees page to learn more about this type of counseling degree.
Marriage and Family Counseling Master’s Degrees
Marriage and family counselors specialize in individual and group therapy. Students in this specialization may focus on topics including conflict resolution and communication as a strategy to improve relationships and understanding within marriage and family units.
Learn more about marriage and family therapy:
School Counseling Master’s Degrees
School counselors work in educational settings and provide students of all grade levels with the counseling and support needed to deal with everyday struggles within the school system. These counselors may also work one-on-one with students to develop effective college plans.
There are many resources that can help prospective students find the right online master’s counseling degree for them. Students should consider factors such as specialization, admissions requirements, program length, and accreditation when doing program research while also considering their career ambitions and the topics they enjoy most.
More information on school counseling can be found on the school counseling master’s degree page.
What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Counseling Degree?
There are many specializations, locations, and positions for prospective counselors to consider. Licensed counselors can work in various environments, including inpatient or outpatient medical centers, hospitals, government facilities, and even private practices. They also work with individuals struggling in various areas of their lives. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many of the positions in this field pay above-average salaries and are projected to experience growth that is faster than average.
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
These kinds of counselors work with groups and individuals in many settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and clinics. While they serve similar populations and sometimes have overlapping services, there are some differences between them. Specifically, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, also known as addiction counselors, work with clients who suffer from drug addiction, alcoholism, and other forms of addiction. Mental health counselors, on the other hand, offer treatment to clients who struggle with conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to the BLS, the median salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is about $49,000. With a growth rate of 18% between 2022 and 2023, employment for these counselors is projected to grow much more quickly than average over the next several years.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Students who complete a Master’s in counseling online may also be qualified to work as marriage and family therapists. In this role, they engage with individuals, couples, and families facing challenges. They offer guidance and techniques for coping with stressful relationship dynamics, trauma, addiction, and low self-esteem.
Marriage and family therapy is experiencing rapid growth. In fact, the BLS projects that employment will expand by 15% between 2022 and 2032. The median annual salary for a marriage and family therapist exceeds $56,000.
Rehabilitation counselors generally work with individuals with physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities. They are commonly employed in rehabilitation facilities, veteran agencies, and senior citizen centers. They may help individuals work through the psychological effects of their disabilities, seek employment opportunities, and develop skills that allow them to live more independently.
The BLS reports that the median annual salary for rehabilitation counselors is close to $40,000 per year, which is slightly lower than average. Rehabilitation counselor jobs are projected to grow 2% between 2022 and 2032, according to the BLS.
School or Career Counselor
Many public and private schools hire counselors who can help students achieve academic success. If you are interested in becoming a school counselor, you may have the option of working with students of different ages, from elementary school to college. In this role, you would help students determine their future career paths, address mental health struggles, and cope with behavioral issues.
School counselors are in high demand, with a projected growth rate of 5%, according to the BLS. They also make above-average income, with a median yearly salary exceeding $60,000.
Clinical Social Worker
Some students who complete a master’s in counseling program opt to become social workers. Professionals in these positions assist individuals with receiving vital services and resources, such as nutrition assistance, childcare, and healthcare. They also help clients cope with significant life events, such as death, divorce, and abuse.
Employment for social workers is expected to grow rapidly over the next several years at a rate of 7%, according to the BLS. The median salary for a social worker in 2022 was $55,350, which is higher than average for all careers in the United States.
Learn more about licensed clinical social work.
Find the Right Master’s Program For You
Counseling is a growing field with increasing career opportunities. If you are interested in obtaining licensure and starting your career as a counselor, an online counseling master’s degree could be a great place to start. Explore our resources for more information on program details, licensure tips, and admissions information.