Best Online Master’s in Counseling Programs 2015

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The vast majority of those who pursue higher education in counseling have a strong desire to help people navigate the challenges of life. With Payscale.com listing an annual salary range of approximately $30,000-$60,000 for a master’s degree in the counseling field, this is definitely not the highest-paying graduate degree out there. However, if you enjoy coming alongside others and journeying with them through complicated emotional and social issues, this rewarding degree just might be for you. The counseling field is a broad one, with the availability of a variety of degrees that focus on different aspects of counseling. Determining your area of focus- for example, whether you prefer to work in the public school setting or the community, with individuals with disabilities or addiction issues, with those struggling to make career choices, with individuals in the corrections system, or a myriad of other clients, issues, and settings- will be helpful in deciding which graduate counseling degree to pursue. Most graduate counseling programs require a bachelor’s degree and completion of at least a few credits of human services, psychology, or human development coursework as a prerequisite to enrollment. Completing your counseling degree online offers not only flexibility and convenience, but also access to an education from some of the top-ranked programs in the nation without having to relocate. Internships providing direct client contact experience can usually be arranged in your own community.

For this particular ranking, publically available data, including student-faculty ratio; percentage of faculty holding terminal degrees in their field; admissions and retention rates; estimated cost; and counseling-specific accreditation were weighed so that you can make an informed decision about where to invest in your education. All schools included in this ranking are regionally accredited, which is the highest form of accreditation.

Note that in addition to completing a degree, most states require counselors to pass state and/or national licensing examinations in order to practice legally. Each state determines its own set of standards for licensure, and all students should be familiar with their state’s licensure requirements before enrolling in any graduate counseling program.


40. Medaille College

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Photo courtesy of Medaille College

Founded in 1937, Medaille College is a private, non-profit institution. The school is located in Buffalo, New York, and has been designated as Military Friendly by Military Advanced Education. A Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling is offered through Medaille College Online. The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Estimated Tuition: $48,960

School Website

39. Post University Online

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Post University was founded in 1980 as Matoon Shorthand School. Today, approximately 800 students are enrolled in classes on Post’s campus, and the remaining 15,000 are online students. This institution is currently Connecticut’s largest provider of online higher education programs. Post University offers an online M.S. in Human Services with concentrations available in Forensic Mental Health Counseling, Clinical Counseling within Organizational Settings, and Drug and Alcohol Counseling. Post University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

Estimated Tuition: $21,090

School Website

38. Thomas University

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Thomas University is a private, non-profit school. It was founded in 1950 and has approximately 1,100 students enrolled today. Thomas University offers an online Master’s degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling. Thomas University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $36,600

School Website

37. Argosy University

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Argosy University has several campuses throughout the country, as well as a robust online component. The school offers an online M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This program may be completed in as little as two years, with a maximum time limit for completion of five years. Argosy University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission.

Estimated Tuition: $43,860

School Website

36. University of the Southwest

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The University of the Southwest is a private, non-profit Christian institution located in Hobbs, New Mexico. The school began in 1956 as Hobbs Baptist College and currently enrolls approximately 1,000 students. The University of the Southwest offers an online MSEd degree in School Counseling and is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission.

Estimated Tuition: $24,360

School Website

35. Amridge University

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Amridge University was founded in 1942 as Montgomery Bible School in Montgomery, Alabama. Currently, approximately 700 students are enrolled at this private, non-profit Christian institution. Amridge offers the following online counseling degrees: Master of Divinity in Professional Counseling, Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, Master of Divinity in Marriage and Family Therapy, Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling, and Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. Completion time varies greatly depending on the degree desired, with Master of Divinity degrees requiring 90 to 96 credits. Amridge is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools.

Estimated Tuition: $42,000

School Website

34. Liberty University Online

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Liberty University Online is a private, non-profit institution. The school offers over 230 online programs and is the largest Christian University in the world. Online military, veteran and military spouse students are offered tuition discounts, as well as other benefits. Online counseling degrees offered through Liberty University include the following: M.Div in Pastoral Counseling, M.Ed in School Counseling, M.A. in Human Services: Addictions and Recovery, M.A. in Pastoral Counseling, M.A. in Professional Counseling, M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy, M.A. in Religion: Pastoral Counseling, and M.A. in Pastoral Counseling. Completion time and program cost varies by degree pursued. Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $31,200

School Website

33. University of Kentucky

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The University of Kentucky is a non-profit institution located in Lexington, Kentucky. Founded in 1865, the University of Kentucky is a public land grant institution. More than 29,000 students are enrolled, approximately 800 of whom are online students. The University of Kentucky Online offers a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling degree. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $25,114

School Website

32. Baptist Bible College & Seminary

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Baptist Bible College & Seminary, located in Pennsylvania, was founded in 1932 and has approximately 1,100 students enrolled. This college has students enrolled in both campus and on-line learning, and offers an online M.S. in Counseling degree. The program is completed online, with the exception of three one-week modules that need to be completed on campus. Baptist Bible College & Seminary is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Association for Biblical Higher Education.

Estimated Tuition: $25,920

School Website

31. University of the Cumberlands

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The University of the Cumberlands is a private, non-profit Christian institution located in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Approximately 4,000 students are enrolled, including 2,400 graduate students. The University of the Cumberlands offers an online MA in Professional Counseling degree. The school is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $24,000

School Website

30. University of Tennessee

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The University of Tennessee is a public, non-profit institution with approximately 700 of its 49,000 students enrolled in online programs. The University of Tennessee offers an online M.S. in Education – Counseling: Community Counseling degree. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $34,920

School Website

29. Texas A&M University at College Station

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Texas A&M was founded in 1876 as the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Today, the university enrolls more than 50,000 students, including more than 10,000 graduate students. Texas A&M University offers an online Master’s in School Counseling degree. The program is offered completely online, with no residencies required, and both asynchronous and synchronous formats offered. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $49,320

School Website

28. University at Buffalo Online

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The University at Buffalo began as an independent institution in 1846, founded by President Millard Fillmore. The university became a state school in New York in 1962 and today has more than 28,000 students enrolled. The University at Buffalo offers an online M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling, which is delivered entirely online and can be completed in less than three years. The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Estimated Tuition: $47,616

School Website

27. Nova Southeastern University

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Nova Southeastern University is a private, non-profit university with approximately 24,000 students enrolled. Originally called Nova University of Advanced Technology, the university was founded in 1964 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This school offers a live classroom format, which means that students participate in scheduled online class times and discussions. Nova Southeastern offers online Master of Science degrees in Counseling and Mental Health Counseling. This institution is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $39,000

School Website

26. University of Louisiana at Monroe

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The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a public, non-profit institution with approximately 8,500 students enrolled. This university offers online graduate degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Mental Health Counseling/Counselor. The Clinical Mental Health Counseling’s 2013 graduating cohort had a 100 percent placement rate and 75% passed the LPC exam. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Estimated Tuition: $35,460

School Website

25. Ottawa University Online

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With Ottawa University Online, students have access to lectures and coursework at any time, day or night. The majority of the coursework is completed online, but note that students are required to complete two week-long residencies at the Phoenix, Arizona campus. An online Master of Arts in Counseling is offered through this school. Ottawa University is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

Estimated Tuition: $21,420

School Website

24. Southwestern Assemblies of God University

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Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a private, non-profit institution. Approximately 700 of SAGU’s 2,000 students are enrolled online. The school has been listed as a Military Friendly School for the past three years, which means that military members and/or their family members may receive additional support and benefits. SAGU offers an online Master’s degree in Human Services- Counseling, Non-Clinical. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $16,800

School Website

23. Our Lady of the Lake University

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Our Lady of the Lake University is located in San Antonio, Texas. The Catholic institution was founded in 1895 and currently has over 2,800 students enrolled. OLLU offers an online M.Ed. in School Counseling. This program is offered in a cohort format, which means that students take each class with 15 to 20 other students who stay together during the entire program. OLLU is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Estimated Tuition: $37,200

School Website

22. LeTourneau University

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LeTourneau University is a private Christian university located in Longview, Texas. It was founded in 1946 to serve the many GIs returning from war, and was originally located in a vacated Army hospital. The university has approximately 2,600 students enrolled from 49 states and 37 countries. LeTourneau offers an online M.A. in Counseling degree, and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Estimated Tuition: $27,360

School Website

21. University of Massachusetts – UMass Online

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The University of Massachusetts is recognized as one of the top universities in the country. UMass Online was created in 2001 by the University of Massachusetts President and Board of Trustees, and over 100 of the university’s degrees are now offered online. UMass Online offers a M.S. degrees in Family Therapy, Mental Health Counseling, and Rehabilitation Counseling, and a M.Ed. degree in School Counseling. The school is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

Estimated Tuition: $29,400

School Website

20. Capella University

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Capella University is a private, for-profit institution located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Total student enrollment for the university is nearly 36,000. All counseling faculty members at Capella University hold doctoral degrees from accredited institutions. Graduates across all counselor education specializations at Capella have a 79% pass rate on the National Counseling Exam. Capella University offers an online M.S. in Addiction Counseling, M.S. in Counseling Psychology, M.S. in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy, M.S. in Mental Health Counseling, and M.S. in School Counseling. Capella is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy, and School Counseling programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Estimated Tuition: $44,804

School Website

19. North Carolina State University

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North Carolina State University is a public, non-profit institution. Approximately 2,800 of its 34,000 students are enrolled online. Distance education classes at this university are the full equivalent of campus-based classes, so you are sure to not sacrifice quality by choosing an online format. North Carolina State University offers an online Master of Science in Family Life and Youth Development degree. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $24,684

School Website

18. Concordia University

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Concordia University is a Christian institution with approximately 8,000 students enrolled. Concordia offers an online M.S. in Education Counseling, with tracks available in School Counseling, for students who wish to practice within a K-12 school setting; or Professional Counseling, for those who wish to practice in the community. In addition to the online curriculum, two eight-day in-person courses on campus are required to graduate. These courses are offered in July, and they may be completed in one or two summers. Concordia is accredited by the North Central Association, The Higher Learning Commission.

Estimated Tuition: $25,440

School Website

17. Walden University

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Walden University is a private, for-profit institution founded in 1970. The school has a student enrollment of approximately 50,000. Walden has been recognized as a Military Friendly School, which means that military members and their families may receive extra services and/or reduced tuition rates. Walden University offers an online M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; M.S. in Addiction Counseling; M.S. in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Counseling; M.S. in Forensic Psychology; M.S. in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling; M.S. in School Counseling; and a Master of Social Work degree. The school is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission. Walden’s M.S. in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling; and M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Estimated Tuition: $39,600

School Website

16. Texas Southern University

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Texas Southern University is a public, non-profit school with approximately 9,600 students enrolled. The school began in 1947 and is one of the largest historically black colleges in the country. Texas Southern University offers a Master of Education in Counseling degree online, and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $21,012

School Website

15. Fort Hays State University

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Fort Hays State University is a public university in Kansas with approximately 5,300 of its 13,400 students pursuing online degrees. This school offers an online Master of Science in Counseling degree, with concentrations available in School Counseling and Community Counseling. In addition to the online component, this degree requires three four-day on-campus classes for graduation. Fort Hays State University is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

Estimated Tuition: $15,060

School Website

14. University of North Dakota

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UND was founded in 1883 and enrolls more than 14,000 students. The university is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. UND Online offers Master’s degrees in School Counseling and Social Work and is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Council on Social Work Education.

Estimated Tuition: $31,020

School Website

13. University of Wisconsin Stout

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UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. The university offers an online Master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation with a concentration in Rehabilitation Counseling, which can be completed in three years on a part-time basis. This program has an asynchronous format and is accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education. The university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

Estimated Tuition: $22,660

School Website

12. University of North Texas

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With a total enrollment of over 36,000 students, the University of North Texas is Dallas-Fort Worth’s largest university. UNT offers an online M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling. The program can be completed in a little over two years, with an average of six credits taken per term. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges and the Council on Rehabilitation Education.

Estimated Tuition: $51,024

School Website

11. Kansas State University

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Kansas State University is recognized by the Princeton Review as one of America’s top colleges. K-State’s main campus is located in Manhattan, Kansas. The school started in 1858 with 53 students enrolled, and today has an enrollment of over 24,000 students. Kansas State University offers an online MS in Counseling with an emphasis in School Counseling. The school is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission and the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Estimated Tuition: $44,400

School Website

10. Virginia Commonwealth University

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Virginia Commonwealth University is located in Richmond, Virginia. It is one of the nation’s premier, urban public research universities, offering online Master’s degrees in Patient Counseling and Rehabilitation Counseling. Virginia Commonwealth University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $32,522

School Website

9. University of Southern California

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USC limits its online classes to 12 students per instructor in order to preserve an intimate class setting. The school offers an online Master of Social Work degree, and also offers a Military Social Work sub-concentration, which is one of the only programs of its kind. Note that USC’s MSW program is not available to residents of New Hampshire. The USC MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Western Association of Colleges and Schools (WASC).

Estimated Tuition: $96,120

School Website

8. Regent University

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Regent University is a private, non-profit institution with approximately 5,600 students enrolled. The School of Psychology and Counseling at Regent provides clinical education as well as training in biblical principles. Regent offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and a Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Estimated Tuition: $21,300

School Website

7. Assumption College

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Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, Assumption College has been preparing rehabilitation professionals for more than 50 years. The school offers an online M.A in Rehabilitation Counseling. To graduate, the program requires the completion of a five-day on-campus session during each of two summer semesters. Assumption College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Council on Rehabilitation Education.

Estimated Tuition: $26,580

School Website

6. Seton Hall University

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Seton Hall University is a private Catholic university. Founded in 1856, the school has an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students from all 50 states and more than 50 different countries. Seton Hall University offers online M.A. degrees in Counseling and School Counseling. The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education.

Estimated Tuition: $35,500

School Website

5. Wake Forest University

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Wake Forest University, located in Winston Salem, North Carolina, has held regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges since 1921. The school was founded in 1834 and is consistently ranked among the top 25 universities nationally. Wake Forest’s mission is to serve humanity, and this school offers an online Master’s in Counseling degree with specializations available in School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Wake Forest’s counseling program holds accreditation through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Estimated Tuition: $75,600

School Website

4. University of Arkansas at Little Rock

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UALR is one of the South’s leading research institutions, and offers an online Master’s degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Rehabilitation Counseling. Students are admitted either to full- or part-time study in an asynchronous format. Note that two three-day on-campus residencies are required for graduation. The school is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission and the Council on Rehabilitation Education.

Estimated Tuition: $41,400

School Website

3. Creighton University

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Creighton University is a Catholic institution located in Omaha, Nebraska. Creighton offers an online Master’s degree in School Counseling and Preventative Health. The degree can be completed in two years, but note that students who do not hold a teaching license will be required to take additional courses. The school is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Estimated Tuition: $28,080

School Website

2. The George Washington University

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The George Washington University was founded in 1821 through an Act of Congress, and today is the largest institution of higher education in Washington, D.C.  The school has approximately 25,000 students enrolled, including about 14,000 graduate students. The George Washington University offers an online Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling degree. This school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Council on Rehabilitation Education.

Estimated Tuition: $70,800

School Website

1. Northcentral University

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Northcentral University is an online school based in Prescott, Arizona. One hundred percent of Northcentral’s faculty hold PhDs, which demonstrates the university’s commitment to high-quality education. Northcentral offers weekly course starts, so you do not need to wait until the start of the next semester to begin your graduate education. Northcentral offers a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy online. The school’s MFT program was the first program with distance education to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. In addition, Northcentral University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Estimated Tuition: $38,510

School Website