30 Best Online Masters in Counseling Degree Programs [2024 Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on July 11, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
Ready to start your journey?
Explore Online Masters in Counseling Degrees for 2023. Schools do not require the GRE & accelerated programs are available.

Explore Online Masters in Counseling Degrees for 2024. Schools do not require the GRE & accelerated programs are available.

male counselor talking to a patient

Every community needs trained counselors who can offer support to people in need. To become a licensed counselor, you must earn a master’s degree in counseling or a related field.

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In online counseling degree programs, you can prepare for licensing examinations and learn valuable skills for working with people.

Universities Offering Online Masters in Counseling No GRE Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format. In addition, the schools do not require GRE scores for admission or offer GRE waivers for qualified students.

1. Capella University

Initially founded as The Graduate School of America, Capella University is a university based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Most of the education given by this school is done online.

Currently, it has about 38,000 students; 27% are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs, 47% in master’s program, and 23% in doctoral programs.

  • Master of Science in Addiction Studies
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy
  • Master of Science in School Counseling

2. Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

2. California Baptist University

Established in 1950, California Baptist University was established by the California Sothern Baptist Convention. It is a Christian University based in Riverside, California. It provides a Christ-centered educational experience that combines academics with social and spiritual development opportunities.

According to the latest data, there are about 11,000 students enrolled in this university.

  • Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

California Baptist University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

3. Clarks Summit University

Located in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, Clarks Summit University is a private, Christian university that offers undergraduate and graduate programs. For over 80 years, this institution has prepared career-ready and Christ-centered graduates.

This school aims to equip its students to shape their culture and use their God-given talents to impact the world.

  • Master of Science in Counseling

Clarks Summit University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

4. Cornerstone University

Established in 1941, Cornerstone University is a Christian university located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It aims to empower its students to excel as influencers in a world for Christ by providing its students with a learning community where Jesus Christ is the core.

This university offers graduate and undergraduate programs, and it has two seminaries.

  • Master of Arts in Counseling

Cornerstone University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and the National Association of Schools of Music.

5. Creighton University

In 1878, Creighton University was established by the Society of Jesus in Omaha, Nebraska. Today, this Jesuit university offers high-quality education for people who want to contribute to the world.

It is a place where students, staff, and faculty can prosper in a supportive community dedicated to Jesuit, Catholic traditions and values.

  • Master of Science in School Counseling and Preventive Mental Health

Creighton University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

6. Edinboro University

In 1857, Edinboro University was established as the Edinboro Academy, a training school for teachers in Pennsylvania. Its mission is to develop students professionally, intellectually, and personally to become contributing citizens to the world.

Currently, its total enrollment is more than 4,000 students, and it is the second oldest university in the state of Pennsylvania.

  • Master of Arts in Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Counseling – Art Therapy
  • Master of Education in Educational Psychology

Edinboro University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

7. Grand Canyon University

Founded in 1949 by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, Grand Canyon University is a Christian university located in Phoenix, Arizona. It is the world’s largest Christian university with 20,000 students attending on-campus and 70,000 attending online.

Since its inception, this institution has remained a vibrant university dedicated to Christian beliefs, practices, and values.

  • Master of Education in School Counseling
  • Master of Science in Addiction Counseling
  • Master of Science in Christian Counseling of Substance Use and Addictive Disorders
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling – Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling – Christian Counseling
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling – Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling – Trauma

Grand Canyon University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

8. Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University was established as Gwynedd-Mercy College by the Sisters of Mercy in 1948. It is a Catholic university located in Lower Gwynedd Township, Pennsylvania. It also has locations in Bensalem and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Currently, this school offers over 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

  • Master of Science in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health
  • Master of Science in Counseling – College Counseling Student Affairs
  • Master of Science in Counseling – School Counseling

Gwynedd Mercy University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

9. Liberty University

Liberty University was founded by Elmer L. Town and Jerry Falwell as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971. It is an evangelical Christian university located in Lynchburg, Virginia.

As of 2017, this institution was considered one of the largest Christian universities in the United States. It has over 110,000 students – 15,000 students on its campus and 94,000 students taking online courses.

  • Master of Arts in Addiction Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling
  • Master of Education in School Counseling

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

10. Malone University

Malone University was established by Emma and Walter Malone in 1892 as Cleveland Bible College, a co-educational Bible institute. It is a liberal arts college based in Canton, Ohio.

Despite its Quaker identity, students of this school have diverse religious backgrounds. Malone offers undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as online courses and degree-completion programs.

  • Master of Arts in Education – Clinical Mental Health Counseling

The Higher Learning Commissions (HLC) has reaffirmed the Malone University’s status as an accredited institution of higher education.

11. Medaille College

Medaille College is a private, four-year college based in Buffalo, New York. It offers undergraduate and graduate programs in practitioner-based and hands-on learning environments.

This institution prepares its students for a lifelong commitment to professional success and civic sustainability by giving them access to career training as early as possible.

  • Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Medaille College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

12. Northwestern University

Northwestern University was established by John Evans and eight other businessmen, lawyers, and Methodist leaders in 1851. Initially, it was founded to serve the Old Northwest Territory, which includes the states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and some parts of Minnesota.

This school is dedicated to innovative research, excellent teaching, and the intellectual and personal growth of its students.

  • Master of Arts in Counseling

Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

13. NYU Steinhardt

New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development (NYU Steinhardt) was established as the School of Pedagogy in 1890. In the 1920s, its enrollment increased from 990 to over 9,500 students.

Today, this institution enrolls approximately 5,960 students. Its mission is to advance creativity, innovation, and knowledge at the crossroads of education, human development, and culture.

  • Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness
  • Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance

New York University is accredited by The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

14. Oregon State University

Oregon State University is located in Corvallis, Oregon. It offers over 200 undergraduate programs, including various graduate and doctoral degrees. It is considered the largest university in Oregon, with a total enrollment of over 30,896 students.

Also, this public research university has more minors, majors, and special programs compared to other universities in Oregon.

  • Master of Counseling – Clinical Mental Health
  • Master of Counseling – School

Oregon State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

15. Our Lady of the Lake University

Locally known as the Lake, Our Lady of the Lake University is a Catholic university based in San Antonio, Texas. This institution was founded by the Congregation of Divine Providence in 1895. It was the first institution of higher education in San Antonio to receive regional accreditation. Currently, its total enrollment is over 3,100 students.

  • Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health
  • Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Rehabilitation
  • Master of Arts in Counseling – School Counseling

Our Lady of the Lake University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

16. Palo Alto University

In 1975, Palo Alto University was founded as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in Carpinteria, California. In 2009, this institution was reincorporated, and it was renamed Palo Alto University. During that time, the school also moved to a new campus on Arastradero Road.

Currently, it offers two undergraduate programs and four graduate programs.

  • Master of Arts in Counseling – Marriage, Family and Child
  • Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health

PAU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

17. Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania State University is a land-grant university with various facilities and campuses throughout Pennsylvania. It was established as the Farmer’s High School of Pennsylvania in 1855. It is one of the largest universities in the United States, with a total enrollment of about 97,500 students.

  • Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership

The Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Association.

18. Pepperdine University

In 1937, Pepperdine University was established by George Pepperdine in Los Angeles. In 1972, the university expanded to Malibu, California. This private research university is composed of four graduate schools and one undergraduate school. It is dedicated to the highest standards of Christian values and academic excellence.

  • Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology – Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Master of Arts in Psychology
  • Master of Science in Behavioral Psychology

Pepperdine is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Senior College and University Commission.

19. Regis College

Regis College is a Catholic university located in Weston, Massachusetts. It was established in 1927 as a women’s college. After eight decades of being a women’s college, it finally became co-educational in 2007.

There are about 2,000 students enrolled in the school’s undergraduate and graduate programs. The student-faculty ratio of this school is 11:1.

  • Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis

Regis College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

20. Saint Joseph University

Saint Joseph University, or St. Joe’s, was founded in 1851 by the Society of Jesus as Saint Joseph’s College. Each year, this Jesuit university has a total enrollment of more than 9,200 students. It offers various programs, including a co-op, 12 special-study options, 28 study-abroad opportunities, 60 undergraduate, and 53 graduate programs.

  • Master of Science in Education – Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis

SJU accreditation has been awarded by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

21. Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University is a private university based between Hooksett and Manchester, New Hampshire. It was established by Gertrude Crockett Shapiro and Harry A.B. Shapiro in 1932.

Currently, it utilizes an open enrollment policy that only requires a GED or high school diploma. It also offers a variety of certificate, undergraduate, and graduate programs through its various schools and colleges.

  • Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

22. Touro University Worldwide

Touro University Worldwide is a non-profit university established by philanthropic visionaries dedicated to developing a passionate learning society. This institution provides online and on-campus learning opportunities.

This university offers active duty service members and their families tuition discounts.

  • Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Touro University Worldwide is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

23. University of Dakota

The University of North Dakota is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was founded in 1883 by the Dakota Territorial Assembly, and it is the oldest and largest universities in the state of North Dakota.

This public research university is ranked consistently as one of the best schools for affordability, career outcomes, and educational quality. The university is considered as one of the best psychology schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

  • Master of Arts in Counseling – K-12 School Counseling Emphasis

University of Dakota is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and positioned with Stanford, Harvard, and MIT among the Top 25 Most Innovative Schools.

24. University of Denver

Located in Denver, Colorado, the University of Denver is a private research university established in 1864 by John Evans as Colorado Seminary, and it is the oldest private universities in the Rocky Mountain Region.

It has a total enrollment of about 12,147 students – 5,758 undergraduate and 6,389 graduate students.

  • Master of Arts in School Counseling

The University of Denver is accredited as a doctoral degree-granting institution by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and is authorized to offer post-secondary education in the state of Colorado by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

25. University of Louisiana at Monroe

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a public university located in Monroe, Louisiana. In 1931, it opened as Ouachita Parish Junior College. U.S. News & World Report ranked this university as among the Best South Regional Universities and one of the Top Public Schools in the South Regional Universities.

  • Master of Science in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health
  • Master of Science in Counseling – School

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, post-baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees.

26. University of Southern California

Established in 1880, the University of Southern California is a private university located in Los Angeles, California.

For the school year 2018 to 2019, the school had about 20,000 students enrolled in undergraduate programs. Also, it has about 27,500 students (graduate and professional) enrolled in various programs, including law, business, medicine, and pharmacy.

  • Master of Education in School Counseling

The University of Southern California has been fully and continuously accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) since March 6, 1949.

27. University of Tennessee – Knoxville

Established in 1794, the University of Tennessee – Knoxville is a public university based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Currently, it has 10 undergraduate and 11 graduate colleges, and its total enrollment is 28,000 students.

In its rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked this institution as #112 among all the national universities in the United States.

  • Master of Science in Educational Psychology – Adult Education
  • Master of Science in Educational Psychology – Applied Educational
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Science in School Counseling

Since 1897, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has been continuously accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

28. University of West Alabama

The University of West Alabama is a public university based in Livingston, Alabama. It was established in 1835 as the Livingston Female Academy, a church-supported school for women.

Currently, this institution offers over 60 undergraduate and 10 graduate degree programs. Aside from that, it also hosts lectures, concerts, intercollegiate athletic events, commencement exercises, and theatrical productions.

  • Master of Education in School Counseling
  • Master of Science in Adult Continuing Education – Counseling and Psychology
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Science in Family Counseling
  • Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling

The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award bachelor’s, master’s and education specialist degrees.

29.Vanderbilt Peabody College

The Peabody College of Education and Human Development (Vanderbilt Peabody College) is one of the 10 schools and colleges in the Vanderbilt University. It is known as a first-rate research institution committed to public service, policy, and education.

U.S. News & World Report has ranked this university as one of the best graduate schools In the United States.

  • Master of Education in School Counseling

Vanderbilt Peabody College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

30. Walden University

Walden University is a public benefit corporation and online university based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was founded by Rita and Bernie Turner in 1970 for teachers and working adults to pursue their doctoral degrees.

Currently, this institution is administered by Laureate Education, Inc., and it is part of its international network of universities.

  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Science in School Counseling

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Online Masters in Counseling Programs

During your master’s studies, you can choose a degree track that’s designed to prepare you for a particular type of counseling. By selecting a concentration, you’ll have the opportunity to take classes that directly apply to your future career goals.

Click on the specialization that most interests you:

Each of these areas of study can prepare you to help people with specific issues or from a specific viewpoint.

Addiction Counseling

male counselor talking to a teenager in his office

If you want to work with people who struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, consider earning your master’s degree in addiction counseling. You can also use this training to counsel people with gambling addictions, sex addictions, or eating disorders.

Common courses for this concentration cover topics like the science of addiction, methods of preventing drug abuse, procedures for assessing patients, and strategies for addiction treatment.

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Other important topics of learning in this field of study include how to deal with co-occurring mental health disorders and how to counsel family members who have addicted loved ones.

This can be a difficult field to work in as your clients may relapse more than once, but it can also be very rewarding as you get to see people recover from and fight off their addictions.

Christian Counseling

counselor holding a bible while talking to a couple

A degree in Christian counseling can help prepare you to run a faith-based counseling practice that incorporates biblical principles.

You may provide many of the same types of services as other counselors, such as marriage and family therapy or addiction counseling, but you can do it with a Christian worldview.

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Your studies may include an overview of many counseling disciplines. For example, you may take classes like Crisis Intervention and Anger Management. You may also take theology classes so that you’ll have a biblical foundation for your counseling services.

With this degree, you may provide counseling services in churches or private practices.

Marriage and Family

female counselor talking to a family

With a concentration in marriage and family therapy, you can prepare to help people improve some of their most important relationships.

Classes in this concentration are designed to help students learn about human lifespan development, clinical assessments, relationship theories, and sexuality. This concentration covers how to perform group counseling in addition to one-on-one therapy.

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The curriculum may include courses like Therapy for Couples, Counseling in Multicultural Settings, and Youth Counseling.

In your professional practice, you may frequently work with families in which one or more people are dealing with addictive behaviors or mental health disorders, so you’ll most likely take classes on those topics as well.

Mental Health Counseling

counselor and his patient in an office

Providing comprehensive treatment for people who have mental health disorders can require special skills.

For a concentration in mental health, you’ll likely take courses like Psychopharmacology, Counseling Ethics, and Crisis Counseling. You’ll need to learn how to administer assessments, create treatment plans, and lead therapy sessions.

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This is usually a clinical program track, so fieldwork may be especially important for this concentration.

Potential job settings after graduation can include private practices, healthcare clinics, hospitals, community agencies, and residential facilities.

Rehabilitation Counseling

female counselor talking to a father and child in an office at a hospital

As a rehabilitation counselor, you can help people develop skills for successful independent living. You could work with people who have mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, physical disabilities, or developmental disabilities.

You can also learn about medical treatments and supportive services. Your curriculum may address on helping clients find and maintain employment.

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Graduates often work in settings where clients live for extended periods. These may include correctional facilities and inpatient drug programs. They can also work for insurance companies, hospitals, and outpatient clinics.

School Counseling

counselor talking to a female child

If you want to work with kids or adolescents, you could become a school counselor who provides services in elementary or secondary schools.

Counselors in educational settings help students with problems that they’re having at school or home. They may come up with solutions to classroom behavior problems or academic struggles. In the upper grades, counselors may help students make future career plans and select colleges.

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To prepare, you’ll probably need to take graduate classes in child development, learning disabilities, group counseling, diversity awareness, and career advisement.

Sample Courses in a Master’s of Counseling Program

Sample Courses in a Master’s of Counseling Program

The classes that you take during your master’s degree program can prepare you to address a variety of issues that may arise as you work with people during your counseling career.

The exact curriculum will depend on your school and your chosen concentration, but most programs include classes similar to the ones below.

Counseling in Multicultural Settings

During your counseling career, you are likely to work with diverse groups of people, so this class can help you develop a framework for counseling people whose backgrounds are different than yours.

You’re likely to discuss topics like racism and sexism and consider how your own prejudices may affect your counseling approaches. Classes in multiculturalism often include lively discussions and opportunities to put yourself in others’ shoes.

By the end of this course, you should have a greater awareness of your own attitudes and a better understanding of how to communicate with others.

Counseling Theories and Practices

What is the client-counselor relationship like, and what is the best way to help clients? In this class, you can learn about some of the main ways that experts answer those questions.

You’re likely to discover that the answers can change depending on the circumstances, and you can learn to determine the best counseling techniques for each situation.

The course may also equip you with resources that you can use throughout your career to continually better yourself and the services that you offer.

The Ethical and Legal Issues in Counseling

counselors discussing topics of a class

As a counselor, you may wield a good deal of influence in your clients’ lives, and you must use that power wisely.

In a class on ethics, you can cover commonly accepted standards for counselors as well as the laws that govern therapy services. You can also discuss how to handle matters of ethics that may arise in your counseling practice.

The curriculum may include debates, role-playing, and case studies. This class may also encourage you to advocate for pro-counseling public policies.

Grief Counseling Methods

Many people first turn to counselors when they experience a loss, so counselors need to know how to help people who are grieving.

In this course, you can learn about the grief process and explore counseling methods to use with people who are working through losses. Grief counseling can be challenging, so you’ll also probably discuss methods of professional self-care.

The class may also cover topics like working with those in trauma recovery and counseling those who are near the end of their lives.

Group Counseling Dynamics

Group therapy can be an effective counseling practice, but the facilitator must have a keen understanding of how to manage a group and make the most of each session.

In this class, you can study theories of group dynamics and learn how those principles apply to counseling sessions. The course can also teach you how to resolve interpersonal conflicts that may arise in group settings.

Family therapy is often conducted in groups, and group counseling is also beneficial in rehab programs and schools.

Stages of Human Growth and Development

To succeed at helping people work through their problems, you must have an understanding of normal human development. This knowledge can help you identify deficiencies and delays, and it can also help you deliver age-appropriate services.

Courses on human development typically cover physical and psychological growth over the course of a lifespan. They may also discuss how people change socially and emotionally throughout their lives.

During this class, you may be exposed to some of the most up-to-date research on human development.

Careers for Licensed Counselors

Graph showing Careers for Licensed Counselors and their Salaries

As a counselor, you’ll have opportunities to work in a wide variety of settings. Some counselors operate out of private practices. Others provide counseling services in hospitals, community agencies, medical clinics, schools, rehab centers, or correctional facilities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some careers in the counseling field include:

Career Annual Median Salary
Licensed Clinical Social Worker $61,230
School and Career Counselor $57,040
Marriage and Family Therapist $49,610
Mental Health / Substance Abuse Counselor $46,240
Rehabilitation Counselor $35,950

No matter where you’d prefer to work, you may have many jobs from which to pick. For the next ten years, the number of positions for counselors is expected to rise by 25%.

In addition, if you choose to advance your education through an online PhD in counseling, you’ll likely have better prospects, depending on location and concentration.

Christian Counselor

If you are a person of faith, then a career in Christian counseling might be a good fit for you. Christian counselors rely on a biblical worldview to frame the therapy they provide.

They consider how a person’s spiritual life influences his or her mental health, relationships, and behaviors. Just like secular counselors, Christian counselors may specialize in a particular branch of counseling, such as addiction counseling or marriage therapy.

Domestic Violence Counselor

Domestic violence counselors counsel people who have experienced unhealthy or abusive relationships. They may still be living in violent situations, or they may be recovering from the long-term effects of physical or emotional abuse.

To provide comprehensive care, they may need to coordinate with multiple community agencies, so this can be a good role for clinical social workers.

On average, licensed clinical social workers earn $61,230 per year.

Grief Counselor

Grief Counselor comforting a child

Some people need help to process their losses; this can be especially true if the loss was sudden, violent, or otherwise traumatic. Grief counselors provide a listening ear as people talk through their sadness, anger, or other feelings of loss.

Their support can help grieving people understand that their responses are normal and that grieving is a process. In therapy sessions, grief counselors can also provide guidance about rebuilding a life after loss.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists help people improve their closest relationships. They may work with couples, parents, kids, or extended families. In group or individual therapy sessions, they help their clients learn to work through conflicts, transitions, losses, and other struggles.

Marriage and family therapists have opportunities to encourage family members to improve their communication, make decisions, and support one another.

Marriage and family therapists earn an average salary of $49,610 per year.

Mental Health Counselor

Therapists who specialize in mental health counsel clients with everyday struggles or diagnosed mental health disorders. When you choose this career path, people may talk to you about depression, anxiety, eating disorders, low self-esteem, life transitions, relationship struggles and more.

Potential work settings include private offices, health clinics, and non-profit agencies. Another option is that businesses could hire you to counsel their employees. Mental health counselors earn an average annual salary of $46,240.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation Counselor with patients during counseling

To help people increase their independence, consider pursuing a career as a rehabilitation counselor. By helping people contribute to their communities, you can also boost their confidence.

Many people in this line of work seek employment with drug treatment centers or halfway houses. Others work in long-term care facilities for senior citizens or people with disabilities.

Rehabilitation counselors make about $35,950 each year, and the field is growing at a 10% rate.

School and Career Counselor

You can help others prepare for their futures by pursuing a job in school or career counseling. School counselors work in K-12 educational settings to provide academic supports and remove obstacles to learning.

Career counselors help adults find jobs that suit them well. Some career counselors are employed by colleges, and others work in community organizations or job-placement agencies.

School and career counselors make an average salary of $57,040 each year.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors have the rewarding job of helping people find freedom from their dependence on drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. They work in inpatient or outpatient facilities, correctional centers, probation offices, schools, community organizations, or medical facilities.

The average annual salary for this job is $46,240, and increased demand for addiction counselors is one of the biggest reasons for the growth of the counseling profession.

How to Become a Licensed Counselor

flowchart showing How to Become a Licensed Counselor

Counseling can be a rewarding career path, but getting started takes dedication to obtaining the necessary education and certifications.

Here are the steps to become a licensed counselor:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree. Although you can select any major for your undergraduate degree, a department related to psychology, human services, or social work may be the most beneficial. Make sure to choose an accredited school.
  2. Earn a master’s degree. Programs to consider include social work, counseling, applied behavior analysis, and addiction counseling. Accreditation is just as important for master’s programs as it is for bachelor’s programs. In addition to regional accreditation, you may want to look for a school with CACREP programmatic accreditation.
  3. Gain professional experience. Options for accumulating experience may come from internships, practicums, or residencies during your degree program.
  4. Take a certification exam. Some states use the National Counselor Examination (NCE), and others use the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). You may even need to take both. Most schools recommend that you take the exam around the time of your graduation so that the information is fresh in your mind.
  5. Earn supervised work hours. Before licensure, you must earn post-graduation work hours under the supervision of a credentialed professional.
  6. Submit application materials to your state. If you’ve met all the requirements, your state should grant your license.
  7. Continue your professional development. To maintain your license, you’ll need to keep earning continuing education credits. You may want to join a professional organization, earn additional certifications, or start working toward a doctoral degree.

Although this is the general path that students must take to become counselors, the requirements can vary significantly from state to state. Be sure to consult your state’s licensing board before beginning the process.

Professional Counseling Organizations

logos of Professional Counseling Organizations

If you want to be the best counselor you can be, you need the support and insight of others in your line of work. Joining a counseling organization can give you access to a network of professionals and resources on which you can rely throughout your career.

  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: AAMFT offers support, continuing education opportunities and guidelines for marriage and family therapists in the U.S. and other countries.
  • American Association of Christian Counselors: AACC provides support for caregivers in church and ministry settings. Not limited to only professional counselors, the group also represents pastors and church members who belong to counseling ministries.
  • American Counseling Association: ACA represents professional counselors from all practice areas. In addition to joining the group at large, you can also join one of the many divisions, such as the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA) or the Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC).
  • American Group Psychotherapy Association: AGPA organization that understands the unique opportunities and challenges presented by the group approach to counseling sessions.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association: AMHCA represents clinical mental health counselors and provides support, advocacy and continuing education.
  • American Psychological Association: Anyone involved with the field of psychology is invited to join APA. Members include counselors, professors and researchers.
  • International Association for Counseling: IAC serves as an advocate for counselors around the world and works to improve global access to counseling services. The organization has consultative status with the United Nations.

Membership benefits vary among groups, but you may have access to online articles, quarterly newsletters, and scholarly journals. You may be able to attend local meetings or annual conferences, or you may get to network with other professionals through online discussion forums.


logo of CACREP

Before enrolling in a college, always make sure that your chosen school holds accreditation from one of the country’s official regional accrediting organizations. These groups are authorized to affirm whether schools meet academic and organizational standards

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

For programs in counseling, there is an additional type of accreditation available from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Known as programmatic accreditation, this distinction is given only to graduate degree programs in counseling and related subjects. Graduating from a CACREP-accredited program can help you thoroughly prepare to meet the requirements for important licensure examinations.

Why Do Some Schools Not Require GRE Test Scores for Admission?

students taking an exam

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test that’s intended to evaluate your readiness for graduate school. Despite that goal, studies have demonstrated that GRE scores are not particularly good at predicting who will succeed in a master’s program.

As a result, many schools choose not to rely on GRE scores. Instead, they use other factors to determine whether to admit applicants. Common requirements include essays, letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, and professional resumes.

By using admissions materials like these, schools may be able to get a better picture of which candidates are good matches for their programs.

Financial Aid

screenshot of FAFSA website

Financial aid can make it possible for you to attain your dreams of earning a master’s degree and becoming a licensed counselor. Your options for financial aid may include:

  • Grants from the federal or state government
  • Loans from the government or private sources
  • Scholarships from your school, national programs, or local organizations
  • Fellowships from schools or industry organizations
  • Payment plans from your school
  • Work-study from the federal government
  • Loan forgiveness in exchange for public service after graduation

To get started with financial aid, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can also search for private scholarship programs and talk to your school’s financial aid office.

What Can I Expect from an MSW Program?

In an MSW program, you can expect to take core classes that will give you a foundation in many aspects of social work. You may also be able to choose a concentration or electives so that you can prepare for a specific career path.

For example, you might complete in-depth studies about working with teens, the elderly, or military families. Some concentrations are designed to equip you with organizational leadership skills. In addition to online classes, most tracks include fieldwork requirements.

Can I Get a Masters in Counseling Online?

Yes, many schools offer online graduate degrees in counseling and related programs. Although your classes will be delivered in an online format, practicums and internships will have to be completed with an organization in your area.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling?

Your master’s degree program may take about two years to finish. If you transfer in some classes or enroll in an accelerated-format school, you may complete your coursework more quickly.

If you’re missing any undergraduate prerequisites or take classes on a part-time basis, the program will probably take you longer.

A school’s internship requirements can also influence the overall length of your program. To fulfill your state’s requirements for licensure, you’ll also need to earn supervised work experience after graduation.

How Much Does a Masters in Counseling Cost?

female counting money on her wallet

A master’s degree costs thousands of dollars, but the exact price can vary significantly from one school to another. For example, you’ll probably pay more to attend an out-of-state public university than an in-state one.

Fortunately, the published tuition costs aren’t always what you’ll end up owing. With grants and scholarships, you can reduce the overall price of your degree. Plus, online schools often end up being less expensive than on-campus programs because you don’t have to factor in room and board.

What Can You Do with a Master of Social Work Degree?

Obtaining a Master of Social Work (MSW) can put you on the path to becoming a licensed clinical social worker. With this licensure, you can become an independent counseling practitioner in private practices, non-profit agencies, or community organizations.

Providing counseling services may be only one of your responsibilities as a clinical social worker. You might also be in charge of coordinating care services for your clients, connecting them to helpful community programs, or evaluating their progress.

What Schools are CACREP Accredited?

Graduate programs can voluntarily submit themselves to the evaluation process for obtaining CACREP accreditation. Schools that have received it usually display the information prominently, so you can check a university’s website to learn whether a program bears this seal of approval.

To find a list of all schools that are accredited, visit the CACREP website. Use the Find a Program feature or look through an alphabetical list of approved degree programs. Some schools have multiple programs included in the directory.

Step into Counseling

professional walking into a clinic

For a career that’s focused on helping others, become a professional counselor. A master’s program in counseling or social work can prepare you for licensure. As a licensed practitioner, you can pursue jobs that will allow you to help individuals or families address their problems and work toward solutions.

For your graduate education, look into online no-GRE programs. The flexibility of online classes may be the key to fitting grad school into your life. If you are considering furthering your education beyond a master’s degree, you might also explore online EdD programs no GRE. The sooner you enroll, the sooner you can start making a lasting difference in others’ lives.

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Ready to start your journey?