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From schools to private practices, those who earn a master’s degree in counseling work in various industries. Many counselors also enjoy well-paying careers; for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that genetic counselors earn a median salary of $81,880. However, to reach many counseling positions, individuals must earn a master’s degree in counseling.
A masters in counseling online blends advanced counseling theories and practices with specializations, letting students focus their studies toward a specific career outcome. Also, to fit around current professionals’ busy schedules, any master’s in counseling programs come entirely online. This page expires the top online counseling programs, looks at some potential counseling careers and introduces current and future counselors’ resources.
www.onlinemasterscolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
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Earning one of the best online counseling degrees more than adequately prepares you for your future career. The top counseling master’s degree programs connect students with potential positions, setting students up for success before graduation. Using various metrics and methods, including tuition costs, graduation rate, and outcomes, we’ve determined these are the top online masters in counseling programs.
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Due to the higher costs of rising education, some prospective counseling students may wonder how they can afford a master’s degree. Fortunately, many online master’s in counseling programs offer affordable tuition rates, even to out-of-state learners. These are the most affordable online masters in counseling programs.
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A master’s in counseling prepares students to work closely with others. Most graduate accounting programs emphasize theory, modern practice, and communication. However, course requirements and program objectives vary by specialization and degree type.
Common Specializations for an Online Counseling Graduate Degree
Generally speaking, an online master’s degree in counseling requires students to select a specialization. This specialization leads to specific career outcomes and prepares graduates to become certified.
While this specialization goes by different names, school counseling leads to careers in K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and community colleges. The material focuses heavily on working with children and young adults, developing a counseling program, and guiding students to potential career options.
School counselor Guidance counselor Academic advisor Career counselor
Mental health counseling teaches students to help their clients live happier and healthier. These professionals work with clients of all ages, so courses emphasize communication, working with children, and approaching interventions. Students also learn to work with people from diverse populations.
Therapist Mental health counselor Substance abuse/addiction counselor Behavioral health counselor
Genetic counseling deals with the analysis of inheritable conditions to help clients understand potential genetic risks. Instead of emphasizing communication, genetic counseling specializations usually focus on genetics, including cancer genetics, reproductive genetics, and medical genetics.
Familial cancer risk counseling Hematology Pediatric counseling Neurogenetics
Similar to school counseling, guidance counseling helps individuals, usually children, teenagers, or young adults, determine potential career paths based on their skills, strengths, and interests. Guidance counseling programs teach students to become adept communicators with individuals from diverse populations.
Guidance counselor Career counselor Academic counselor
Usually only offered by private, Christian universities, Christian/Biblical/Catholic counseling integrates religious ideals into mainstream counseling practices. Courses emphasize an understanding of scripture and communication with individuals of all ages.
Marriage and family counselor Clinical health psychologist Substance abuse/addiction counselor
Family and Marriage Counseling
A family and marriage counseling specialization prepares students to become licensed family and marriage counselors—courses center on working with multiple individuals and analyzing potential issues, ranging from addiction to behavioral disorders. Programs might also teach students to work with children.
Family and marriage therapist Couples therapist Child therapist
Types on Online Counseling Degrees
Besides choosing a specialization, online counseling degree students must choose between a master of science (MS) or a master of arts (MA). While both are held in high regard, they do lead to different career outcomes.
An MS in counseling focuses more heavily on clinical experience, preparing students to secure a certification. Because of clinical requirements, and MS does require in-person practice; however, online programs offer all other required courses online.
An MA in counseling pays more attention to counseling theory instead of practice. While some MA in counseling graduates become certified, others choose to become involved in research roles. Anyone planning on earning a Ph.D. in counseling might prefer an MA.
Each option comes with its benefits and drawbacks, so prospective students should assess which option aligns best with their future career goals.
Online Master’s in Counseling Admission Requirements
Bachelor’s Degree: All accrediting master’s in counseling programs require students first to earn a bachelor’s degree. While not always required, a bachelor’s degree in a field related to counseling is preferred.
Statement of Purpose: Graduate schools often require applicants to submit a statement of purpose or a short essay explaining their interest in the program.
GPA: Graduates schools set different GPA requirements, though many prefer applicants with a 3.0 GPA or higher on undergraduate course work. Of course, specific requirements vary by institution and program.
Work Experience: While less commonly required for counseling programs, some schools prefer applicants who demonstrate a professional background related to counseling. Even if work experience isn’t required, providing relevant experience could strengthen an application.
GRE Scores: Graduate schools require the GRE to determine an applicant’s readiness for graduate-level courses. High scores significantly boost the quality of an application.
Online Master’s in Counseling: No GRE Requirements
It’s becoming more common for schools not to require the GRE. Even top-ranked schools like the University of Southern California offer online masters in counseling programs with no GRE requirements. Avoiding GRE saves applicants time and money. Other universities that offer online masters in counseling No GRE programs are:
Many online master’s in counseling students choose to study part-time, so they can continue working. However, some programs allow learners to accelerate their studies, letting them graduate from the master’s program in just one year. While less common, one-year master’s in counseling programs use intensive courses and require full-time study. This puts students on track to begin their new counseling careers faster. Here are some universities from which students can graduate from online master’s in counseling programs in a year:
Curriculum for an Online Graduate Counseling Degree Program
Because of the range of specializations, an online graduate degree in counseling could entail several courses. Regardless of specialization, counseling degrees focus on communication, working with individuals, and understanding counseling theory. Some potential courses completed during an online masters in counseling include:
Research Methods in Counseling
Usually completed early on during an online counseling program, research methods in counseling looks at the fundamentals of conducting research. Topics include statistics, ethics, and programevaluations. This course serves as the foundation for any master’s program and helps individuals become professional counselors.
Psychopathology in Counseling
Psychopathology covers different types of psychological disorders, particularly mental health disorders. Counselors use the knowledge gained in this course to diagnose potential disorders in clients and patients, then determine the appropriate response.
Group Process and Dynamics
While some counselors work with clients one-on-one, others use a group setting. Group process and dynamic explores methods of allowing group members to share while ensuring a safe environment. Depending on the field, graduates choose to work in, group process and dynamics could play an integral role in daily activities.
Theories in Counseling
Regardless of the field of counseling students choose to pursue a degree in, counseling theories form an important base of knowledge. This course looks at many of the prevailing theories in different counseling practices. Students then assess the strengths and weaknesses of each theory in different clinical settings. Skills learned in this course directly apply to real-world scenarios.
Some counselors recommend psychotropic medication to clients based on their disorders. Psychopharmacology introduces this process by looking at the different effects and side effects of commonly used medications. Substance abuse, mental health, and behavioral psychologists are most likely to benefit from this course.
Online Master’s in Counseling Certifications and Licenses
Aside from earning a master’s degree, many counseling positions require individuals to gain a certification or license. Offered at the state and national level, certifications and licenses prove that a counselor is qualified to work with a specific population. While not required for all counseling professions, some common certifications and licenses include:
National Certified Counselor: One of the most common certifications earned by counselors, the national certified counselor certification is only available to counselors who completed a graduate program. While not required for most positions, other certifications require the nationally certified counselor mark.
Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor: Available only to individuals who complete a graduate program in mental health counseling, the certified clinical mental health counselor certification satisfies any state requirements for the field. Applicants must also become nationally certified counselors and earn 3,000 hours of relevant work experience.
National Certified School Counselor: The main certification for anyone planning on becoming a school counselor, the national certified school counselor certification proves individuals will thrive in a school counselor position. While not required for all relevant positions, this certification helps some counselors secure competitive positions and earn higher wages.
Choosing a Quality (and Accredited) Online Masters in Counseling:
When comparing schools and online master’s in counseling programs, be sure to look for accreditation. Accreditation verifies a school or program’s quality, and students should only apply to regionally accredited schools. Also, check to see if the counseling degree received programmatic accreditation from an organization like the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
Skills Gained in an Online Graduate Counseling Program
All types of counselors and therapists work closely with others. To ensure that students succeed in their future careers, online counseling programs teach various useful skills, including the following.
Communication: Because counselors work with people, effective communication skills are necessary daily. Counselors also need to learn to communicate in group and one-on-one settings.
Listening: Patients and clients come to counselors for guidance or help. Counselors must listen to their patients to form a connection and help diagnose or help their patients.
Interpersonal: Along with listening and communication, counselors need to have strong interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills help counselors work with individuals from various backgrounds.
Research: Most graduate programs require research, and counselors may research as they further their careers. Anyone who plans on earning a Ph.D. must also first gain strong research skills.
Patience: No two patients are alike, and counselors must adjust their strategies for each individual. The process could be long, so patience is a necessity.
Career and Salary Outlook for Online Counseling Degree Programs
Depending on the specialization that students select, the career outcomes for a counseling degree could seem obvious. However, some careers don’t require a specific counseling degree, giving some counselors a lot of career flexibility.
Counseling careers also range in salary expectations, job growth, and responsibilities. Some of the most popular counseling careers include the following.
An incredibly fast-growing field, marriage and family therapy involves married couples working with a therapist to solve problems. Job duties for marriage and family therapists include communicating with patients, maintaining records, and making clients’ suggestions.
School counselors work with students at all levels. Job responsibilities include learning about students to determine their interests, guiding them toward their goals, and helping students with their problems.
A genetic counselor evaluates families and individuals for different inherited conditions. This career also requires a background in genetics as job duties include DNA testing and other laboratory work.
Along with helping clients work through emotional and mental issues, rehabilitation counselors help individuals overcome physical or developmental problems. Rehabilitation Counselors also help clients come to terms and adjust to limitations.
As mental health and substance abuse gain more attention, counselors are getting hired to help individuals suffering from these issues. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors work with patients to address and solve these problems.
How to Pay for an Master’s in Counseling Degree
A master’s in counseling costs may seem steep, but many students pay less than the expected tuition rate through different financing techniques. Aside from scholarships, these are some of the most popular methods of paying for an online counseling degree.
Techniques for Paying for Your Online Master’s in Counseling
Similar to scholarships, grants provide learners with free money that they don’t need to repay. Grants come from the government, your university, or private institutions.
Fellowships, such as the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program, provide students with money in exchange for their fieldwork. This allows counseling students to gain experience and pay for their degree.
Universities and the federal government connect students with financial aid based on their academic abilities and financial need. Before anything else, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Scholarships for Online Master’s in Entrepreneurship Students
Scholarships remain one of the best resources for students, covering some or all of their tuition costs. Some scholarships only accept applications from students studying toward a master’s degree in counseling, including the following.
Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Scholarship: Who Can Apply: The Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Scholarship goes to a student pursuing a graduate degree in a mental health field, including many counseling fields. Winners can win this scholarship more than once. Amount: $2,500
Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship: Who Can Apply: Created in 2015, the Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship helps those studying toward a degree related to mental health and addiction. The scholarship also accepts those earning a counseling degree in marriage and family therapy. Amount: $2,500-$5,000
Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund: Who Can Apply: Those pursuing a degree related to social or economic justice, including some counseling degrees, can apply for the Davis-Putter Scholarship. Students can with up to $15,000 spread over each semester or quarter. Amount: Up to $15,000
Violet and Cyril Franks ScholarshipWho Can Apply: The Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship helps graduate students pursuing a degree related to mental illness pay for their education. Winners are chosen based on their academic talent and future goals. Amount: $5,000
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a master’s in counseling?
A master’s in counseling is a graduate degree that prepares students for advanced careers in counseling, such as genetic counselors or marriage and family therapists.
Is a master’s degree in counseling worth it?
A master’s in accounting leads to high-paying careers. Also, counselors work to improve the lives of their clients, making it a rewarding position.
How long is a master’s degree in counseling?
Most master’s in counseling programs take two years to complete, though some schools offer accelerated one-year programs.
Should I get a master’s degree in counseling?
Anyone planning on becoming a specialized counselor should strongly consider getting a master’s degree.
How do I get a counseling degree online?
Plenty of accredited schools offer master’s in counseling degrees online. Applicants must first complete a bachelor’s degree, though.
Counseling students and recent master’s degree graduates benefit from various resources, including professional organizations. From advocacy to networking, these organizations connect counselors to promote better industry practices and professional development.
American Counseling Association: Founded in 1952, the ACA is the largest organization for professional counselors. The association serves all types of counselors, and counselors can take advantage of continuing education courses, a career board, and an extensive community of counselors.
National Board for Certified Counselors: The National Board for Certified Counselors serves as the main credentialing organization for counselors. Counselors can also access various industry resources.
American College Counseling Association: ACA is a group of counselors, social workers, and psychologists at the professional and student levels. Members get a subscription to the Journal of College Counseling and can connect with other professionals.
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