Online Master’s in Counseling Psychology Degrees

Reviewed by: Megan Kelly, MA, LMHC

For those who have a passion for psychological theories and human behavior, a career in counseling psychology could be a great fit.

Counseling psychology involves applying knowledge of psychological principles to the practice of counseling of individuals from all stages of life.

If you are interested in counseling psychology, you should understand what it takes to become licensed in your state. Generally speaking, to become a counselor, you must have a minimum of a master's in counseling psychology (or related counseling program), which is where this guide will start.

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Why Consider a Master's in Counseling Psychology Online Degree?

According to the Society of Counseling Psychology, “Counseling Psychology is a specialty within professional psychology that maintains a focus on facilitating personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span. The specialty pays particular attention to emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns.”

Counseling Psychology can be a great way for professionals to reach out to others in their time of need, which is why some students find that a degree in counseling psychology can set them on the path to a satisfying career that can last a lifetime. The compensation level can also be attractive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary for a counseling psychologist was $82,180 as of May 2020. Additionally, the job outlook can be promising. BLS data notes that this field is growing at a rate of 8% annually, which is roughly the average for all professions.

So if you're looking for a career that pays well and has lots of job opportunities, earning an online counseling psychology degree is a good idea. Not only will an online counseling psychology degree allow you to find work in a field that interests you, but you can also study for it with fewer disruptions to your day-to-day life.

When you get an online counseling psychology degree, you don't have to commute to campus since you can watch videos and complete online lessons from your computer at home. This saves you time and gas money, and it often means you can still work traditional weekday hours at your job since you can typically do your schoolwork at night if necessary. As a result, getting an online counseling psychology degree may be your best option if you're busy but want to start a new career soon.

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Steps to Obtain an Online Master's in Counseling Psychology

As you look to complete an online counseling psychology degree program, there are a few basic steps to be aware of.

1. Earn an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field.

While an undergraduate degree in psychology isn’t a requirement for every master’s program, it’s highly preferred by many counseling psychology online degrees, and can set you apart from the competition. Generally speaking, an undergraduate degree will take about four years to complete. This degree provides the foundational concepts and skills you will build on when enrolled in an online master's in counseling psychology program.

Note: to be accepted into an online master's in counseling psychology program, you may need to maintain a certain GPA of 3.0 or above during your bachelor's program, typically 3.0 or above. Make sure you check on admission requirements for each master’s degree program you plan to apply to.

2. Choose an online master's in counseling psychology program.

Next, start researching programs that match your unique career goals and needs. Select the online counseling psychology degree program that is best suited for your professional goals, as well as your lifestyle and schedule. It may be helpful to ask others who have completed a counseling psychology degree which program they recommend.

3. Consider your future.

As you prepare for an online master's in counseling psychology program, consider whether you might also want to pursue a doctoral-level degree. Some online master's in counseling psychology programs have built-in pathways to a doctorate degree.
Although a doctoral path isn't required to be successful in this field, it may open more doors and give you access to higher-paying jobs down the road.

4. Complete coursework and research for your online master's in counseling psychology degree.

For most students, completing an online master's in counseling psychology degree takes around two years total. However, this can vary by program.

Path to an Online Master's in Counseling Psychology Program

Most master's level programs can be completed in about two years and require anywhere from 45-80 credit hours for completion. This will include coursework, practicum and internship, and for some programs, a capstone project or thesis will be required.

Consider the GRE Entrance Exam

In recent years, online programs have become available in great numbers, making the decision process much more fluid for aspiring students. Some of these online programs may require that you complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for admission, but many counseling programs waive the GRE, and many don’t require the GRE at all.

Completing Coursework and Educational Experiences

Once you have been accepted into the online master's in counseling psychology program, you will be expected to take part in coursework that includes classroom discussions, interactive class meetings, individual quizzes and homework, and online exams. Online master's in counseling psychology programs typically allow students to engage in self-directed learning and self-driven assignments to encourage autonomy and independence.

Gaining Experience After Earning an Online Counseling Psychology Degree

In the field of counseling psychology, it is important that students gain the skills to independently navigate patient diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. At the conclusion of your online master's in counseling psychology program, you may be expected to take part in a cumulative project or research proposal that exhibits your skills in the field.

Each program will have a specific project or evaluation to determine whether you have the necessary knowledge for graduation and future licensure. After you have completed all of these requirements, you will be on track to fulfill a one-to-two-year work experience requirement, as well as to sit for the qualifying board exam for licensed counselors.

Online Master's in Counseling Psychology Admission Requirements

The admissions requirements for an online master's in counseling psychology program can vary depending on the university. It can sometimes be challenging to decipher what you need to be granted admission based on the school you're applying to without leaving out any crucial steps.

To give you a better idea of what to expect when applying to programs, take a look below at some of the requirements for an online master's in counseling psychology degree program.

Undergraduate Requirements

Some online counseling psychology degree programs require that students hold an accredited undergraduate degree in psychology, counseling, or a related discipline. Accreditation is highly encouraged at every point of the educational process for those who plan to pursue licensure, and some students who do not receive degrees from accredited programs may be denied licensure or may need to take additional coursework to fulfill requirements.
Not only does the title of your degree count during this requirement, but your performance may also be weighed. Some schools require that students achieve a 3.0 or higher GPA to be accepted into their programs.

GRE Requirements

As mentioned above, while it is not required by every school, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) could be a requirement for the university you choose for your graduate degree. The exam was designed to test the skills of undergraduate learners prior to entering graduate-level programs. Scores are provided after students have completed the test, which can then be forwarded to schools during the application process.
Schools that require the GRE for an
ononline master's in counseling psychology will have the requirement listed on their website and may have acceptable scores listed as well. If you must take this exam for the program you choose, you can take it during or after completing your undergraduate degree.

Transcripts, Letters of Recommendations, and Resume

If you decide to enroll in an online master's in counseling psychology program, you are likely to need to submit copies of official transcripts from any college or university you've attended. This is part of the initial degree verification process and is required for all degree programs. Some programs may require letters of recommendation, which can be drafted by previous professors or even employers if the field you work in is relevant to the degree program. Some colleges may also require that students also submit an official resume. This is usually only requested if students are required to have some work experience as part of the college admissions process.

Essay Questions and Personal Statements

Another common requirement for online counseling psychology degree programs is the completion of essay questions and personal statements. Essay questions are usually formatted to reveal your reasoning for choosing the field, what you can contribute to the field, and experiences that have helped you grow into a more knowledgeable professional. In lieu of essay questions, some schools may require that you write a personal statement, which can include more about your own personal experiences and how they are related to your interest and investment in counseling psychology.

Online Master’s Degree Program in Counseling Psychology and Coursework Overview

Once you have been admitted into an online master’s program in counseling psychology, you may find that you are entering into an educational experience that is different from your undergraduate education. At the master’s level, students may be given the opportunity to take a more self-directed approach to learning through the use of convenient online formats.

During the course of your online counseling psychology degree program, you may be expected to take part in interactive class lectures, complete assignments and submit them via an online portal, and post discussions and respond to classmates on a regular basis. Some of the other features of online counseling psychology degree programs, including length and courses, are noted below.

Program Length

The length of an online master’s in counseling psychology program can be different depending on what you prefer as a learner. Many master’s degree programs provide students with the option of pursuing a degree at an expedited rate — between one to two years — while others can be expanded depending on the needs of the student. Since this degree program can require anywhere from 45-80 credit hours for completion, the standard completion time is between two to three years for students at full-time enrollment.

In addition to the time spent on coursework, most programs require students to participate in practicum and internship experiences, many of which are conducted in designated locations during the program. The practicum requirement may include the need to be present on-campus or may be set up through local organizations. The requirements for each program’s practicum should be listed clearly on their website or in other informational materials about the program.

Sample Courses for Online Master’s in Counseling Psychology

As you move forward in your online master’s in counseling psychology program, you can take courses that are both specific to counseling and relevant to the field of psychology as a whole. The theories and principles associated with the diagnostic assessment and treatment of patients should be taught in detail throughout your experience. If you plan on choosing a separate specialization in counseling psychology, you may see a slight change in your curriculum. Some of the more common generalized courses for an online counseling psychology degree are below.

  • Psychopathology in Counseling: In this course, students learn theoretical models of abnormal and normal behavior in human psychology and counseling, including learning the definitions, causes, and treatments of mental disorders. Students also learn diagnostics and specific features of the major mental health conditions and symptoms..
  • Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: Students in this course can take a look at different theories of counseling. This course covers theoretical frameworks that surround counseling and the implementation of psychotherapy techniques and interventions.
  • Cultural Diversity in Counseling: This course can provide students with a better understanding of our diverse society from a counseling provider’s standpoint. This course seeks to help students learn about their own internal biases, while giving them a framework to set aside biases and opinions in their work with clients and communities.

Specializations  within Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology is a broad field that includes the treatment of all people. If you have an interest in working with a particular population or want to work in a specific focus area, you may find that choosing a specialization for your degree can be beneficial. One major benefit of choosing a degree emphasis is the extra expertise and education you receive. This can set you apart from others when applying for careers in your specialized area of practice once you’ve earned your online master’s in counseling psychology.

Specializing within a traditional or online master’s in counseling psychology program allows students to become more familiar  with their area of interest, without sacrificing time and effort while learning a more generalized practice. If you are undecided about a particular emphasis, our experts have provided a few specializations for you to consider. These areas are some of the most common areas of specialization for counseling psychology students.

Marriage and Family Therapy

Counseling professionals who specialize in marriage and family therapy play a large role in managing attachments and connections within the family unit. If you have an interest in providing hands-on counseling to families in need, this is a great place to specialize.

Behavior Therapy

The field of behavior therapy is likely to become more prominent in the coming years. Specializing in behavior studies and therapy can help provide you with helpful methods for observing, assessing, and changing unwanted or harmful behaviors in patients.

Women’s Counseling

Women’s counseling is a great option if you want to counsel women through difficult periods in life. Support through marriage, childbirth, and menopause is a large portion of what is addressed in this line of work.

Child and Adolescent Counseling

If you want to work with children and adolescents throughout your career, you may find this emphasis to be of interest. Counselors in this domain focus on the emotional and developmental needs of children and adolescents in school and at home.

Master’s in Counseling Psychology Careers and Salaries

One of the best ways to determine if you should get an online master’s in counseling psychology degree is to think about what you can do with it. It’s important to consider whether this degree will lead to a job you want — with the salary and job stability you deserve. One of the most common ways to use this degree is to become a psychologist or a counseling psychologist, which typically requires additional education through a doctorate program. 

Counseling Psychologists Career Overview

A Counseling Psychologist is a professional dedicated to helping individuals, groups, and families overcome emotional, mental, and behavioral challenges to improve their well-being and quality of life. They apply psychological theories and techniques to assist clients in understanding and resolving their issues, such as anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and life transitions. Counseling Psychologists conduct assessments, provide therapeutic interventions, and develop treatment plans tailored to the individual needs of their clients.

They work in diverse settings, including private practices, schools, hospitals, and community health organizations. Their approach is often holistic, focusing not just on alleviating symptoms but on fostering overall personal growth, resilience, and well-being.

This career requires strong empathetic skills, a deep understanding of human behavior, and the ability to apply various counseling methods effectively. With a focus on both preventative and remedial interventions, Counseling Psychologists play a pivotal role in enhancing mental health and supporting individuals through life’s challenges.

Counseling Psychologist Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for this role in 2021 was about $82,510. This is typically the highest paying option for people who have an online counseling psychology degree, though you can increase the salary by gaining more experience in this field over time. 

You can also specialize in working with certain populations. For example, you can become a school psychologist and make about $80,180 per year, or you can work in a hospital and make about $96,290 on average. 

If you want to mostly work with married couples and families, the likely salary would be about $51,000, according to the BLS. If you use your online counseling psychology degree to work in sociology, you could make $92,910, or you could become a survey researcher and make around $60,000. Clearly, your online master’s in counseling psychology degree will leave you with several well-paid career options.

Who Should Consider an Online Master’s in Counseling Psychology?

If you have a passion for assisting people through difficult times, counseling psychology could be a great option for you. This field can be a primary choice for those who have a deep interest in the practice of counseling and the theoretical components of psychology.

This guide outlined some of the requirements, educational programs, time frames, specializations, and salaries that you can expect from a career in counseling psychology. There are many educational programs that can help set the foundation for you to progress on your path and fit your personal needs as well.

Sources:
American Psychological Association, “A Career in Counseling Psychology”
American Psychological Association, “Counseling Psychology”
American Psychological Association, “Pursuing a Career in Counseling Psychology”
PayScale, Counseling Psychologist Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists

List of Online Masters in Counseling Psychology Programs

Capella University 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters 🗗 Doctorate

Pepperdine University 🗹 Online

Pepperdine University 🗹 Online

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters

MS Psychology
NECHE Accredited

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters 🗗 Bachelors

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters

Counseling Career Guide

Still Looking for a Counseling Degree?

Here are some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page you will find a detailed write-up of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.


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