Best Online Master’s in Counseling

Master’s in Counseling Programs, Timelines and Career Possibilities

Online programs typically allow students the freedom to balance school with other aspects of life such as work and family, and can also be more cost effective, allowing students to earn a master’s degree in counseling from distance schools without having to relocate. An online master’s in counseling typically helps to prepare students to become licensed professional counselors and allows them to specialize in areas like school, career, marriage and family counseling, substance abuse and addictive behaviors, and clinical mental health. Find out more below about earning an online master’s degree in counseling, the application process and possible career paths for graduates.

Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees: 2017

With so many high quality online master’s in counseling programs available, it can be difficult to narrow down the options for prospective students. By utilizing the rankings list below, prospective students can compare the best online master’s in counseling programs based on factors like student-to-teacher ratios, costs and graduate rates.

RankSchool Title Net Price Financial Aid Total Programs Student-Teacher ratioGrad RateRanking ScoreSchool DescriptionAdditional Benefits: Placement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience
1Virginia Commonwealth University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
41%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
6
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
56%
Ranking SCORE 96.08
Read more

Virginia Commonwealth University’s counseling program prepares students to make an immediate impact in their profession after graduation. A master’s in counseling will set students up to enter their field after graduation instead of preparing them to go on to continue their studies. There are multiple master’s degree options for students to choose from. Research projects and in-field training are important parts of VCU’s counseling program as it provides students with the real-world experience they need to begin a career as a counselor, no matter what direction they decide to go in.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
2Canisius College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
99%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
68%
Ranking SCORE 95.97
Read more

The graduate counseling department at Canisius College offers a few programs for those looking to study counseling. The master in clinical mental health counseling is accredited by the CACREP, and is designed to prepare students for employment. A Canisius degree offers certification to graduates for counseling jobs in state, and an advanced certificate program offers students with a prior master in counseling the opportunity to become accredited for practicing mental health counseling also in state. Field based practica and internships are offered to students as a part of the counseling curriculum

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
3Indiana Wesleyan University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
50%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
70%
Ranking SCORE 95.34
Read more

The clinical mental health counseling program at Indiana Wesleyan offers students a degree with an opportunity for licensure, with a variety of specializations. An M.A. program in student development administration offers students the option to study online as well as at the schools two locations. A handful of other counseling programs are offered, and they all require and focus on in field experience. IWU’s Department of Counseling offers a number of options for financial aid, including a research-based grant and a number of scholarships.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
4Arkansas State University-Main Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
65%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
39%
Ranking SCORE 94.93
Read more

A degree in rehabilitation counseling gives graduates the knowledge and experience they need to provide quality services to those with a variety of disabilities so they can achieve their own goals. Students learn the medical, vocational and psychosocial aspects of disabilities and how to care for and counsel those with disabilities. Students complete practicum and internship hours as part of their degree program, gaining hands-on experience in a private or public facility. Students must also pass a comprehensive written exam in the last semester of coursework. Founded as an agricultural school in 1909, Arkansas State University provides the theory and experience its students need to be successful after graduation.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
5University of Central Arkansas Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
85%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
41%
Ranking SCORE 94.90
Read more

The University of Central Arkansas offers an accredited M.S. degree in mental health counseling with licensure for employment opportunities in mental health professions in Arkansas. The program offers several research related courses, and practica and internships are included in the counseling curriculum. UCA may offer some financial aid to graduate students. UCA does support a number of student organizations including multicultural support organizations and other multicultural resources, to its students. UCA is deliberately trying to increase and sustain diversity on campus. An academic advising center is available to students.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
6Texas Woman's University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
36%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
47%
Ranking SCORE 94.63
Read more

Those pursuing a master’s degree in counseling and development at Texas Woman’s University can also choose to focus on professional school counseling, a music therapy dual degree or a clinical mental health program. Graduates of this program are eligible to apply for licensure as a professional counselor and certification as a school counselor. Faculty members act as mentors and advisors for students, using innovative teaching strategies and conference-based classes. Admission to the program includes an individual interview with faculty members and participation in a mock group counseling session.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
7North Carolina Central University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
81%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
43%
Ranking SCORE 94.43
Read more

North Carolina Central University offers three MA counseling programs to students. The mental health counseling program is for students that are aspiring to work in mental health settings and provides students with professional licensure and preparation for fields of specialty. The School Counseling program prepares students to work as counselors in the K-12 environment and meets all of requirements for North Carolina licensure. The flexible career counseling program readies students to provide career services in a variety of settings, including colleges, non-profit organizations, and companies. The school received the Most Outstanding Master’s level Counseling Program from the Southern Association of Counselor Education and Supervision.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
8Seton Hall University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
97%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
67%
Ranking SCORE 94.23
Read more

An online master’s in professional counseling from Seton Hall University is a 60-credit, 10-semester program that requires two on-site residencies. These residencies are four days long and allow students to meet with instructors and peers for intensive learning experiences. As a Catholic university, Seton infuses faith and service into all its courses. The school, which was founded in 1856, currently serves about 4,300 graduate students and its student body completes about 40,000 hours of community service each year.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
9South Dakota State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
53%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
56%
Ranking SCORE 94.07
Read more

Part of the College of Education and Human Sciences at South Dakota State University, the Department of Counseling and Human Development offers several areas of specialization to students pursuing a master’s degree in counseling. The Master of Education in Counseling & Human Resource Development option offers a focus in administration of student affairs. The master of science in counseling and human resource development offers focuses in clinical mental health counseling, college counseling, marriage and family counseling, rehabilitation and mental health counseling and school counseling. Finally, the master of science in human sciences offers focuses adult development in the workplace and family and community services. The university is the largest in the state and 95 percent of the students go on to jobs, further education or other related opportunities.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
10University of Southern Mississippi Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
74%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
50%
Ranking SCORE 93.90
Read more

The University of Southern Mississippi’s counseling psychology program has an in-house clinic where students can work with student and community clients under close supervision of working professionals. Students can access specialty training in motivational interviewing, parenting skills, career counseling and anger management and obtain internships through high-caliber organizations. All coursework is delivered via the Hattiesburg campus and the school boasts a 100 percent pass rate on the National Counselor Examination. Students have opportunities to participate and network in a variety of industry-specific professional organizations.

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
11University of Wisconsin-Stout Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
23%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
5
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
52%
Ranking SCORE 93.63
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
12Kansas State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
65%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
58%
Ranking SCORE 93.62
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
13The University of Alabama Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
53%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
67%
Ranking SCORE 93.60
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
14Prescott College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
90%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
45%
Ranking SCORE 93.37
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
15Nova Southeastern University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
94%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
4
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
42%
Ranking SCORE 93.14
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
16Wichita State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
65%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
41%
Ranking SCORE 93.14
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
17Salem College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
63%
Ranking SCORE 93.08
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
18North Carolina State University at Raleigh Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
50%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
71%
Ranking SCORE 93.04
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
19University of Arkansas at Little Rock Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
50%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
19%
Ranking SCORE 93.03
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
20University of South Dakota Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
63%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
45%
Ranking SCORE 92.87
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
21Emporia State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
76%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
42%
Ranking SCORE 92.81
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
22Thomas University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
86%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
14%
Ranking SCORE 92.63
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
23University of Massachusetts-Boston Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
58%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
38%
Ranking SCORE 92.54
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
24Indiana State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
75%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
43%
Ranking SCORE 92.46
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
25National Louis University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
70%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
44%
Ranking SCORE 92.17
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
26Angelo State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
58%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
32%
Ranking SCORE 92.13
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
27Utah State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
51%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
50%
Ranking SCORE 91.91
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
28Wake Forest University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
40%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
87%
Ranking SCORE 91.84
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
29University of Louisiana at Monroe Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
56%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
37%
Ranking SCORE 91.82
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
30Medaille College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
77%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
45%
Ranking SCORE 91.72
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
31University of Mississippi Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
61%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
60%
Ranking SCORE 91.71
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
32University of Kentucky Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
59%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
58%
Ranking SCORE 91.67
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
33Harding University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
91%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
61%
Ranking SCORE 91.55
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
34Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
37%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
86%
Ranking SCORE 91.55
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
35Arkansas Tech University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
56%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
41%
Ranking SCORE 91.48
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
36Marian University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
51%
Ranking SCORE 91.20
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
37Northwestern State University of Louisiana Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
48%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
36%
Ranking SCORE 91.18
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
38Amridge University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
100%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
N/A
Ranking SCORE 91.17
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
39Creighton University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
75%
Ranking SCORE 91.13
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
40Western New Mexico University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
26%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
16%
Ranking SCORE 91.02
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
41Mercy College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
88%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
34%
Ranking SCORE 90.82
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
42University of the Southwest Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
98%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
22%
Ranking SCORE 90.80
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
43University of North Texas Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
54%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
48%
Ranking SCORE 90.78
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
44Texas Tech University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
39%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
3
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
62%
Ranking SCORE 90.76
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
45Washburn University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
58%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
34%
Ranking SCORE 90.70
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
46Liberty University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
78%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
46%
Ranking SCORE 90.64
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
47University of Alaska Fairbanks Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
43%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
1
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
33%
Ranking SCORE 90.64
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
48University of Missouri-Columbia Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
62%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
71%
Ranking SCORE 90.48
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo
49Marist College Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
87%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
80%
Ranking SCORE 90.38
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceYes
50Oregon State University Net
Price
FINANCIAL
AID %
55%
TOTAL
PROGRAMS
2
STUDENT-TEACHER
RATIO
GRAD
RATE
61%
Ranking SCORE 90.21
Read more

Additional Benefits: Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Credit for ExperienceNo

Find an Online Master’s in Counseling Program

Sometimes prospective students need to consider additional factors when searching for an online master’s in counseling program. The search tool below allows students to filter programs based on student population, acceptance rates, number of online programs offered, school type and location of schools across the U.S.

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Acceptance Rate Student Population School Type Online Counseling Programs

Timeline to a Master’s in Counseling

Whether a student is still working on their bachelor’s degree or they have been out of school for a while, it’s never too early to start planning a graduate education. Once research has been conducted and an online master’s in counseling degree program has been selected, it’s time to start gathering all the required pieces necessary for a successful application. Below is a helpful list of common requirements for the application process and a few ideas of what a student can typically expect in an online master’s in counseling degree program once they have been accepted.

Application Process

The application process for an online master’s in counseling degree is often similar among most schools, but each school may vary slightly in what they require. Below are examples requirements typically needed to apply to an online master’s in counseling graduate program.

Undergraduate Credits

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, certain pre-requisite classes are often an entrance requirement for a master’s in counseling degree. This requirement may vary depending on the school, but usually a certain amount of undergraduate credits in behavioral sciences, such as psychology and statistics, will be required. It’s ultimately up to the department to decide what classes will satisfy this requirement.

Graduate Application and Fee

oProspective students will typically need to submit a completed graduate school application and an application fee, which will vary from school to school. The fee generally ranges from $30-$50 and can be deferred until after financial aid is determined if need be. Some master’s in counseling degree programs will have strict application deadlines, and others will accept them at any time during the year.

Transcripts

For an online master’s degree, most schools will require transcripts of all undergraduate work, including any degrees earned. Depending on the school, unofficial transcripts may be acceptable for admittance purposes, and official transcripts may need to be sent later from the registrar’s office upon acceptance. The transcripts usually must include the school’s logo, the student’s cumulative GPA, a list of completed courses and the degree earned.

Standardized Tests

Some graduate schools may require that test scores be submitted, such as the GRE, SAT/ACT or MAT. Depending on the school, test results may be acceptable in place of the required GPA if the student has not met the required GPA minimum, but has a high enough score on one of these tests.

Letter of Recommendation

Students pursuing an online master’s in counseling degree will most likely need to submit two to three letters of recommendation. These are generally letters from professional references like former professors or employers. The letters should typically vouch for the student’s motivation and ability to complete the coursework required to become a counselor and should highlight the applicant’s character, ethics, maturity level, dedication and ability to help others.

Resume

A professional résumé may be required for an online master’s in counseling degree applicant. This should typically include related job experience, extracurricular activities and any clinical experience as an undergraduate.

Personal Statement and Letter of Intent

Applicants may be required to submit a personal statement and/or a letter of intent. Students generally write about their interest in earning the master’s in counseling degree, how their background has prepared them for the program, how they plan to succeed in completing the program and their future goals as a counselor. In addition, students may also be required to write an essay. The topics will vary and are usually set by the school department. Examples of things to write about include why the student thinks he or she is a good fit in the field of counseling, professional interests and goals, autobiographical information and related experience.

Year 1 Milestones

The first year of an online master’s in counseling program typically introduces students to basic concepts, ideas and techniques of counseling that they will often later apply in their third year of study. Below are some learning objectives and milestones students will usually reach in the first year of the program.

Introductory Classes and Specializations

Students will typically become oriented to the counseling profession and learn about specialized areas of counseling with introduction classes. Students may also start thinking about elective classes as well as areas of specialization to move into in their second year.

Assessment Techniques and Theory

Students will often become familiar with assessment techniques in counseling. Assessing, diagnosing and treating are fundamental skills that students generally become familiar with in the first year and may later get hands-on practice with in the third year. Students will typically learn about the history and theory behind the counseling profession and how these apply to current methods.

Ethics

Students will often learn about professional ethics and issues that arise in the counseling profession and how to deal with these issues when faced with these types of challenges further into the program during their practicum, internship and later in their professional career.

Year 2 Milestones

Students will usually begin to sharpen basic skills learned from the first year in the second year of an online master’s in counseling program. They may also complete core requirements and begin to focus on specializations along and a deeper analysis of mental health. Research skills often come into play as students begin planning their independent study projects.

Research Skills

Students will typically learn techniques to gather information. Psychological testing and methods of research and statistics are often covered in the second year that may be used in real world counseling during their third year and in their professional careers as counselors.

Thesis or Independent Study Project

In the second year, students usually begin planning out their thesis or independent study project. Typically, with an online master’s in counseling program, students are given a non-thesis option since they may be earning their degree in a different location than the school. Along with beginning work on this project, students usually deepen areas of interest and specialization that they will focus on for their project as well as for their careers down the road.

Areas of Specialization

Some online master’s in counseling programs are designed so students will choose an area of specialization in their second year. Depending on the program, students will either continue into the third year studying in a more general capacity or they will choose and begin their focus on an area of specialization like marriage and family counseling, substance abuse or career counseling. At this point, students may also research potential internships that coincide with their area of interest.

Year 3 Milestones

During the final year of a master’s in counseling degree program, students will typically wrap-up research and work on their thesis or independent projects and practicum hours and may begin preparing for comprehensive exams. Students will also need to begin preparing for future graduation requirements and may want to begin applying and interviewing for potential jobs.

Independent Study Projects or Thesis

Students usually have been working on their independent study projects or thesis, which usually involve extensive research and time commitments, and will begin finalizing the remaining components. Students will typically work on this project along with fulfilling their practicum and internship hours.

Practicum and Internship

Students will typically need to complete a number of practicum hours and secure an internship to meet their program’s Internship requirements. A certain amount of hours is generally required for both of these courses, and students will usually satisfy these hours working full-time in real world situations. Students will often work with clients under direct supervision of professional clinical counselors and faculty.

Comprehensive Exam

A passing grade on a comprehensive exam is often required for all online master’s in counseling students in order to graduate. This test is usually taken during the last semester after completion of all required coursework. Most programs use the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE), which is primarily multiple choice.

Graduation Requirements and Licensure

During the third year, students will typically prepare for graduation, credentials and licensure requirements. Once students have met the graduation requirements, they will usually be ready to obtain the proper credentials and licensing to become professional counselors. Students will need to research any national and state certification requirements applicable to them as licensure requirements may vary.

Graduation Requirements

The requirements needed in order to graduate with an online master’s in counseling degree are often built into a program’s curriculum, but may vary on exactly when they will take place. In addition to faculty approval for advancement to candidacy and request to graduate, the following standard requirements typically must be met:

Complete Required Amount of Credits

Students must have completed the required coursework and required credits in an allotted amount of time. Depending on the school, online master’s in counseling students typically are given five to seven years to complete the program. In addition, maintaining above a certain GPA throughout the program may also be a graduation requirement.

Complete Independent Study Project or Thesis

Completion and approval of an independent study or thesis project is often required. Online master’s in counseling students are usually given an option of a non-thesis program, which can take the form of an independent study project or research project under supervision of a student advisor.

Complete Fieldwork, Practicum and Internship Hours

Students typically must have completed all required fieldwork, practicum and internship hours, usually totaling 1,200 hours, at an approved facility with proper supervision and must have all necessary related documents turned in. Some states may mandate more hours for licensure.

Pass Comprehensive Exam

Students often must take a comprehensive exam with a passing score to graduate. Most schools use the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE). Online students may need to travel to the school to take the comprehensive exam or may need to find an accredited school in their state that offers it.

After Your Degree: What to do with a Master’s in Counseling

Online master’s in counseling degrees typically prepare students to become licensed professional counselors and can open doors to a variety of career paths. Master’s in counseling graduates may decide to continue their education and pursue a doctoral degree or may go on to work in areas like academia, medicine or mental health or may choose to work in private practice settings as marriage and family, career, academic, school, substance abuse, rehabilitation or mental health counselors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth in this field is expected to be faster than average in the years 2014-2014, which can be encouraging data for those looking to pursue a career in counseling. Below are some examples of what working as a counselor may look like along with expected salary and growth in the field:

Browse Master’s in Counseling Careers
Marriage and Family Counselor

Marriage and family counselors generally provide therapy to individuals and families by assessing, diagnosing and treating mental health and emotional issues. They often help clients with treatment plans to manage, overcome and resolve problems and issues typically relating to relationships and the family dynamic. They usually work in private practices, mental health centers, schools and healthcare settings such as clinics and hospitals.

Mean Annual Wage

$43,190

Growth Potential

19%

Substance Abuse/Behavioral Disorders Counselor

Substance Abuse/Behavioral Disorders Counselors generally work with individuals and groups to manage and recover from addiction and behavior disorders such as alcoholism, drug abuse and eating disorders. They also may work with family members affected by these issues and, at times, may provide prevention and crisis care. They often work in treatment environments such as prisons, outpatient and inpatient facilities, community and mental health centers, and private practices.

Mean Annual Wage

$39,980

Growth Potential

22%

Career Counselor

Career counselors typically work in a high schools, colleges, career centers, government agencies and private practices. They often help students with social skills, academic and future career goals, financial aid, and college and degree selection based on desired outcome. They may help people looking for career changes, job search skills and those working with disabilities enter the work force.

Mean Annual Wage

$53,660

Growth Potential

8%

Source: BLS

Core Principles and Skills Learned in an Online Master’s in Counseling Program

Master’s in Counseling

  • Ability to Assess, Diagnose and Treat Clients

    This is essentially the basis of what counselors do, and many of the core classes in an online master’s in counseling program will typically contribute to students learning these skills. Courses like clinical diagnosis, treatment planning and personality testing will often introduce students to clinical assessment, diagnosis techniques and treatment planning. The required practicum and internship hours may provide the hands-on experience necessary for students to practice and hone these skills they can later apply to their own practice.

  • Apply Research, Statistics and Counseling Theories to Practice

    These are all tools counselors often use to be effective in providing counseling, treatment and resolution to clients seeking help. Theories of counseling and statistics and research methods are examples of courses that can teach students how to gather information, theories and techniques that they can apply to their counseling practice.

  • Ability to Interact With Diverse Populations

    This is an important skill to have as students will often work with a diverse client base during their practicum and internship and later as professional counselors. Classes such as multicultural counseling and community and agency counseling are examples of courses that often contribute to students learning this skill.

  • Strong Professional Ethics

    It is of utmost importance that students and professional counselors follow ethical standards and guidelines in counseling and are familiar with ethical and legal issues and procedures in counseling. Online master’s in counseling students will typically become familiar with a code of ethics for counselors and learn about ethical issues and professional challenges counselors may face in classes like ethical and legal issues in counseling.

Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degrees: 2016

Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-teacher Ratio Grad Rate
Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-teacher Ratio Grad Rate
1 North Carolina Central University 99.79 8% 3 15:1 43%

North Carolina Central University offers three MA counseling programs to students. The mental health counseling program is for students that are aspiring to work in mental health settings and provides students with professional licensure and preparation for fields of specialty. The School Counseling program prepares students to work as counselors in the K-12 environment and meets all of requirements for North Carolina licensure. The flexible career counseling program readies students to provide career services in a variety of settings, including colleges, non-profit organizations, and companies. The school received the Most Outstanding Master's level Counseling Program from the Southern Association of Counselor Education and Supervision.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate43%
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2 Arkansas Tech University 99.47 74% 2 20:1 41%

Students pursuing a master of education in School Counseling and Leadership should consider the program at Arkansas Tech University. Designed to prepare students for licensure in the state of Arkansas and to be completed within three years, the courses in the program include hands on training with real scenarios that educators face. A recent survey found that 86 percent of students of Arkansas Tech University Ozark campus were “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with their experience at the institution. Campus life at the university includes campus recreation, Greek life, leadership programs, and other various student activities.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate86%
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3 University of Alaska Fairbanks 99.41 43% 1 14:1 33%

The University of Alaska Fairbanks, with seven campuses throughout the state, offers a master of education in counseling through their School of Education. The main campus is in Fairbanks, the second largest city in Alaska, and the campus is diverse with students from all over the world. The counseling program at UAF prepares students for Alaska licensure and the option of pursuing either the school counseling track or the community counseling track. The program can be completed through a distance education option, but students are required to take two final classes on the Fairbanks campus prior to graduation.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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4 Indiana State University 99.39 71% 3 20:1 43%

Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana is a college that embraces diversity, integrity, and scholarship. Students wishing to pursue a master's degree in counseling can choose from clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, and genetic counseling. Both the clinical mental health and school concentrations are housed in the Bayh College of Education's department of communication disorders and counseling, school, and educational psychology. The master of science in genetic counseling has grown with the increasing inclusion of genetics becoming integrated with various medical fields. Financial aid is available to students, with 74 percent of students receiving some form of aid.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate83%
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5 Northwestern State University of Louisiana 99.34 76% 2 20:1 36%

At the Northwestern State University of Louisiana, students can study counseling in two concentration areas: school counseling and clinical mental health counseling. Approximately half of the courses must be taken on campus while the other half are online courses and graduates meet the requirements for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Louisiana and “most other states”. NSU boasts and inclusive environment and is recognized as a Military friendly school. Campus life includes athletics, access to restaurants, a wellness and recreation center, and over 100 student clubs and organizations.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate73%
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6 South Dakota State University 99.32 59% 4 17:1 56%

Part of the College of Education and Human Sciences at South Dakota State University, the Department of Counseling and Human Development offers several areas of specialization to students pursuing a master's degree in counseling. The Master of Education in Counseling & Human Resource Development option offers a focus in administration of student affairs. The master of science in counseling and human resource development offers focuses in clinical mental health counseling, college counseling, marriage and family counseling, rehabilitation and mental health counseling and school counseling. Finally, the master of science in human sciences offers focuses adult development in the workplace and family and community services. The university is the largest in the state and 95 percent of the students go on to jobs, further education or other related opportunities.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate92%
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7 The University of Tennessee-Martin 99.24 77% 1 17:1 49%

The University of Tennessee at Martin offers counseling students a sense of community while molding future professionals into “enhancers of human development”. While pursuing a master of science in education, counseling majors can focus on school counseling and clinical mental health counseling; starting in the Fall of 2016 addictions counseling and student affairs and college counseling focuses will also be available. In 2014 and 2015, they were named one of the best online counseling masters programs and the programs are designed to lead to licensure. The programs are also designed with hands on experience, including practicums and internships.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate73%
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8 University of Kentucky 99.22 84% 2 18:1 58%

At the University of Kentucky, students have the choice of pursuing a master's degree in clinical rehabilitation counseling on-campus or through an accelerated distance-learning option. The college also offers master of science in education focused on counseling psychology for students seeking to join a PhD program in counseling psychology. Whether students choose the online option or not, they will graduate the program eligible to sit for their Certified Rehabilitation Counselor exams. The clinical rehabilitation counseling program was established at the university in 1962 and is one of the oldest such graduate programs in the US. The programs offer flexibility to meet each student's needs and coursework is interwoven with field work.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate72%
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9 Creighton University 99.13 96% 1 11:1 75%

Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska is a campus that offers a supportive community in the Jesuit tradition, one of only 28 Jesuit institutions in the United States. Students interested in pursuing a master's degree in counseling can attain a master of science in school counseling and preventative mental health. The degree program offers specializations in elementary, secondary, and pK-12 guidance counseling. The program is flexible, featuring eight-week online courses and a nine month internship period; this flexibility is accompanied by quality instructors with most of the program's faculty being tenured or tenure-track.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate73%
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10 Thomas University 99.10 81% 2 10:1 14%

Thomas University's online master of science in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling is ideal for students seeking the convenience of a distance learning option. Located in the small Georgia town of Thomasville, the university is largely a commuter campus. The student-to-faculty ratio is 10:1 and the student body is ethnically, regionally and internationally diverse. The counseling program prepares students for the national Certified Rehabilitation Counselor exam and to become licensed professional counselors. In addition to the online coursework, students must complete a practicum and an internship. The program also has two scholarships available to it beyond traditional forms of financial aid.

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate60%
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11 Salem College 99.10 93% 1 11:1 63%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate60%
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12 Liberty University 99.08 84% 2 18:1 46%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate22%
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13 Chadron State College 99.03 67% 1 21:1 42%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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14 Medaille College 99.00 91% 2 17:1 45%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate62%
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15 Mercy College 98.92 69% 2 19:1 34%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate72%
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16 Wichita State University 98.91 56% 3 18:1 41%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate96%
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17 Governors State University 98.88 59% 1 10:1 N/A

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate94%
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18 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus 98.86 69% 3 17:1 86%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate50%
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19 Marian University 98.85 81% 1 11:1 51%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate77%
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20 Our Lady of the Lake University 98.82 88% 1 16:1 27%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate50%
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21 University of Massachusetts-Boston 98.82 55% 3 16:1 38%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate71%
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22 National Louis University 98.79 76% 2 12:1 44%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate97%
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23 Indiana Wesleyan University 98.76 55% 5 16:1 70%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth7
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate95%
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24 University of South Dakota 98.75 53% 3 17:1 45%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate89%
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25 University of Wisconsin-Stout 98.63 44% 5 20:1 52%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate91%
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26 The University of Alabama 98.63 55% 3 21:1 67%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate51%
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27 California Baptist University 98.58 85% 2 18:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate80%
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28 Northern State University 98.57 47% 1 18:1 46%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate83%
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29 Concordia University-Wisconsin 98.52 72% 2 13:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate75%
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30 Marist College 98.49 78% 2 16:1 80%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate39%
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31 Southern New Hampshire University 98.20 65% 2 28:1 59%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate84%
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32 Amridge University 94.72 86% 1 10:1 N/A

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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33 Prescott College 94.19 86% 3 9:1 45%

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs3
  • Acceptance Rate69%
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34 Nova Southeastern University 94.17 83% 4 16:1 42%

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth6
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate49%
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35 Union Institute & University 94.09 78% 1 8:1 27%

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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36 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania 93.56 64% 1 19:1 44%

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate99%
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37 Gwynedd Mercy University 93.53 77% 1 13:1 73%

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth1
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate76%
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38 Pacific Oaks College 93.50 74% 2 10:1 N/A

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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39 Mid-America Christian University 93.19 8% 2 11:1 34%

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth2
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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40 National University 93.06 4% 2 20:1 23%

  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance RateN/A
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41 University of Florida 92.43 89% 5 21:1 85%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate46%
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42 University of Central Arkansas 92.15 79% 4 17:1 41%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate94%
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43 Canisius College 92.06 9% 4 12:1 68%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth5
  • # Online Programs4
  • Acceptance Rate80%
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44 Fort Valley State University 92.02 81% 2 17:1 29%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate24%
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45 Angelo State University 92.00 77% 3 19:1 32%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate82%
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46 Arkansas State University-Main Campus 92.00 76% 4 17:1 39%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth7
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate72%
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47 University of Louisiana at Monroe 91.97 7% 3 21:1 37%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs2
  • Acceptance Rate77%
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48 Emporia State University 91.93 78% 3 18:1 42%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth3
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate76%
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49 Harding University 91.92 86% 2 16:1 61%

  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Program Breadth4
  • # Online Programs1
  • Acceptance Rate99%
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Additional Resources

The following is a list of resources that may be helpful for online master’s in counseling students and those thinking about pursuing a career as a counselor.

The American Counseling Association (ACA)

The ACA is a membership-based, non-profit organization for counseling professionals and students designed to promote, develop and advance the field of professional counseling. The website contains various professional and educational resources like job search options, webinars, publications and continuing education opportunities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

The BLS provides a wealth of information on different career paths. Readers can search on specific occupations, including counseling and related occupations, and get an overview or detailed description of what the career entails, expected growth and salaries in areas across the U.S.

The Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE)

The CCE is a non-profit organization that offers business support, licensure and credentials to counseling professionals and organizations. The CCE is an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and offers the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE), which is a standard for graduating master’s in counseling students.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP)

The CACREP is the accrediting body for master’s and doctoral degree programs in counseling. Prospective master’s in counseling students can use this website to learn the value of accreditation when selecting a school and find accredited master’s in counseling programs.