Last reviewed December 15, 2021 by:
Written by Lauren Trifunovich
Lauren Trifunovich
Current student in MA in Counseling and Therapy (Northwestern University)

Online Counseling Master’s Degrees

Consider a featured online psychology program currently taking applications.
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University Level Program Admissions
Pepperdine University Master Online Master's in Clinical Psychology Website
University of New Haven Master Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Website
University of West Alabama Master Master of Science in Adult Continuing Education: Counseling and Psychology Option Website
University of West Alabama Master Master of Science: Family Counseling Option Website
University of West Alabama Master Master of Science: Clinical Mental Health Counseling Website
Concordia University - Nebraska (CUNE) Master Master of Arts in School Counseling Website
Our Lady of the Lake University Master Master of Arts - Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling Website

View online psychology programs accepting applications

The Online Counseling Master's Degree Outlined

A Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling helps prepare students for a career in the counseling field. With this degree, students can provide mental health services to clients. A Master's in Counseling can also prepare graduates for licensure as professional counselor (LPC).

Differences between a Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree and Clinical Psychology degree

Both mental health counselors and clinical psychologists provide care for a wide range of people. They focus on understanding a person's emotions and behavior to help people improve their mental health. While clinical counseling and clinical psychology have a lot of similarities, there are key differences between the two. Understanding this can help you find the best fit for what you want future career goals.

Are there online master of counseling programs?

The short answer is yes. Many counseling programs offer both in-person and online options. Online degree options can provide more flexibility than in-person options.

Look for Online CACREP Accredited Counseling Masters Programs

One of the most important things to look for in a counseling program is the program's accreditations. In particular, a CACREP accreditation. CACREP stands for the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. CACREP's mission is to ensure that students gain the knowledge and skills from the program necessary in the counseling field. Additionally, obtaining a degree from a CACREP-accredited program can make it easier to gain licensure after graduation.

Another accreditation to look out for is the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC). Much like CACREP, MPCAC ensures students receive education that prepares students for entry into the counseling profession.

Both accreditations can prepare students for successful careers in counseling, but there are some key differences between the two. CACREP was established in 1981 and some states require licensure applicants to graduate from a CACREP-accredited program. MPCAC is a newer accreditation that has not been adopted as a requirement for state licensure yet. Because every state is different, it's important to understand what requirements your state has for licensure.

What can you learn in a Counseling Masters program?

A Master of Counseling degree program can prepare students for using both scientific analysis and direct counseling skills in their work with the public. If you are interested in the science surrounding human behavior, emotion, and cognition, but still wish to work with clients that are managing the stresses of daily life or struggling with mental illness or disease, the online Counseling Master's in Psychology could be an ideal program to choose.

This program can lead to licensure as a counselor, which can put you in touch with people in your community in need of guidance. Graduates of this program can work for mental health facilities or counseling agencies interested in changing mental health within their area.

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University Level Program Admissions
Pepperdine University Master Online Master of Psychology Website
George Mason University Master Online MS in Applied I/O Psychology Website
Pepperdine University Master Online Master's in Clinical Psychology Website
University of West Alabama Master Online MS in Experimental Psychology / Clinical Psychology Website
Concordia University - Saint Paul Master MAHS in Forensic Behavioral Health Website

Benefits of online counseling degrees for busy adults

Having a full-time career can make it a challenge to obtain a graduate degree. Traditional in-person masters programs can require students to quit their job or take considerable time off from work.

However, online programs can offer more flexibility for working professionals. For instance, online programs can offer different full-time and part-time options. This can make working while going to school much easier to manage.

Access from Anywhere with Internet

Another benefit of online programs is the added geographical flexibility. Being able to go to school online can open up a lot more possibilities and options for programs and schools.

Most online universities allow students to log in to their programs from any location with access to the internet. Not only does this broaden your search for different counseling programs available to you, those in rural areas or with families may benefit from being able to access programs around the country without having to relocate.

Online vs In-person Quality

It's an unfounded bias that online programs are 'worse' or 'lower quality' than their in-person counterparts. In reality, many online programs offer the same level of education as in-person programs. In fact, an online degree from a college looks identical to an in-person degree. In other words, your degree typically won't indicate if it was obtained in-person or online. Additionally, many top universities are now offering online options.

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What to Expect in Online Counseling Programs

As stated previously, online programs are very similar to in-person programs. Most  programs require classes such as Human Development, Theories of Counseling, Research Methods, and Assessment classes.

Counseling programs also require in-person clinical experience. This is typically done through practicum and internship experience.

What are the best online Master of Counseling programs?

Below is a review of some of the most well known and top online Masters in Counseling degrees.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University offers an online MA degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This degree program is CACREP-accredited and is designed to help students become licensed practitioners in the mental health field. Within this degree program, students learn how to be advocates for mental health as well as effective practitioners through ethics, multiculturalism, life-span development, and evidence-based practices.

Additionally, Northwestern works with mental health sites around the country. This allows you to be placed in an internship and practicum site that matches your clinical interests in the area you live.

This program offers three start dates per year with options to enter a part-time or full-time track. This flexibility can make it easier to balance other responsibilities within your life.

Northwestern’s MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling does not require a GRE and while having a bachelor’s degree in psychology or mental health is helpful, it is not required for admittance. There are three start dates in January, May, and September and admit students on a rolling basis.

New York University

The counseling program NYU offers two online counseling master’s programs: Online Master’s in School Counseling and Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling.

Both of these programs offer full-time and part-time options and do not require the GRE to apply. These programs are also both MPCAC-Accredited and are designed to equip you with skills and clinical experience necessary to pursue licensure after graduation.

The NYU counseling program also allows students to customize their program based on specific interests. For instance, students can elect to take courses in cognitive-behavioral therapy, substance-related disorders, marriage and family counseling, adolescent sexual decision-making, responses to trauma, and immigrant-origin youth.

The University of West Alabama

$429 per credit hour – 1-2 years to complete

The online Counseling and Psychology program offered through the University of West Alabama includes programming that combines important concepts from both counseling and psychology. Students within this program can learn the importance of considering development, social influence, and cognition as major components during the counseling process. In this program, students can also learn more about assessments and counseling methods currently used in the field.

Career Options with a Masters in Counseling Degree

Clinical Mental Health Counselor

Clinical Counseling is a branch of psychology that draws from multiple fields like social work. A Master’s degree can be a terminal degree for a clinical mental health counselor. Graduating from an accredited program allows students to become a practicing professional counselor.

Once obtaining licensure, mental health counselors can provide clinical services to individuals, couples, and families who are struggling with emotional and behavioral issues. Instead of focusing solely on symptoms of a particular mental disorder, counselors use a more holistic approach to treatment that focuses on wellness for the client.

While it is possible to participate in scientific research with this degree, many graduates from a counseling program do not. Clinical Mental Health Counseling degrees place a heavy focus on clinical application that helps prepare students for working directly with individuals.

Typical Job Duties:

Where can Counselors work

Clinical Psychologists

A PhD or PsyD is required in order to become a licensed and practicing clinical psychologist. However, many people with a master’s in clinical psychology seek employment in a number of settings.

A Master’s in clinical psychology stresses the importance of clinical assessments using a scientific approach. While counselors take a holistic approach to wellness, clinical psychologists look at symptoms of a particular mental disorder. Additionally, clinical psychologists tend to participate and conduct more scientific research than those with a master’s in counseling.

Employment Settings

Which One is a good fit for you?

If clinical testing and diagnosis interest you, a master’s program in clinical psychology may be a great fit. However, if  taking a more holistic and collaborative approach to wellness with clients aligns with your career goals, a master’s in mental health counseling may be a better fit.

List of Programs

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University Level Program Admissions
Pepperdine University
Master Online Master's in Clinical Psychology Website
University of New Haven
Master Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Website
University of West Alabama
Master Master of Science in Adult Continuing Education: Counseling and Psychology Option Website
University of West Alabama
Master Master of Science: Family Counseling Option Website
University of West Alabama
Master Master of Science: Clinical Mental Health Counseling Website
Concordia University - Nebraska (CUNE)
Master Master of Arts in School Counseling Website
Our Lady of the Lake University
Master Master of Arts - Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling Website
Our Lady of the Lake University
Master Master of Arts - School Counseling Website
Our Lady of the Lake University
Master Master of Arts in Counseling Website
University of West Alabama
Master Master of Science: Guidance and Counseling Option Website
NYU Steinhardt
Master Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance Website
Bethel University
Master M.A. Counseling (Hybrid) Website
George Washington University
Master Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Rehabilitation Counseling Website