Best Online Counseling Programs

| Psychology.org Staff

Best Online Counseling Programs

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Do you want to use applied psychology to help others? Counseling can be a fascinating and fulfilling career. This guide to online counseling master's programs can help you find the right program for your goals.

Featured Online Programs

What to Look For in an Online Counseling Program

The best online counseling degree for you depends on your career goals and academic background. Whether you attend your counseling master's program online or on campus, you'll need to consider the graduate admission requirements for psychology students, the program cost and financial aid options for psychology students, and the program's reputation. The curriculum and logistics like internships and practicum placement should also be factors.

While the core curriculum for online counseling graduate programs is standard across accredited schools, schools still have different emphases and strengths. The more you know about what kind of counseling you want to pursue, the easier you can find the best counseling online program for your interests.

This guide only lists accredited psychology schools, since unaccredited schools are an unnecessary risk to your success.

Hybrid and Online Options

A hybrid program combines on-campus and online classes, or combines online and on-campus learning in the same class. Typically, hybrid programs include on-campus laboratory programs, while classes that focus on theory take place online. Practicums and internships for online or hybrid programs take place in person.

Whether you attend an on-campus, online, or hybrid program, the school awards you the same diploma. However, not all online or hybrid programs are available to students in all states. Check with any program you are considering to make sure that you are eligible to apply.

The Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the standard accrediting body for counseling master's programs. It applies the same standards to online, hybrid, and on-campus programs.

Practical Experience Requirements

Internships and practicums for psychology students let you apply classwork to real cases and provide you with hands-on experience. During a practicum, you observe a licensed counselor's work with patients. This step comes first in your education, followed by an internship. During your internship, you work with patients directly under close supervision by a licensed counselor.

While schools help students find opportunities and advise you on applying for internships, you are responsible for finding a placement. Once you have an internship, you hold specific responsibilities and report to a supervisor.

Best Online Counseling Programs

#1 Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Liberty University, a private institution ‌in Lynchburg, Virginia, offers an 60-credit master of arts in clinical mental health counseling. Learners take classes 100% online except for two on-campus intensives. 

Liberty holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The online counseling graduate program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. 

The online counseling master’s program helps prepare graduates to sit for the licensed professional counselor exam. Military students pay a discounted tuition rate. 

Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Applicants need a 2.7 GPA or higher. Students may transfer up to 50% of the program's total credits from an accredited institution. The program takes an average of 2.5 years to complete.

#2 Online College in Pennsylvania

Clarks Summit University

School Information
Location South Abington Township, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 41%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 64% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Clarks Summit University ‌in Pennsylvania offers an online or on-campus master of science in counseling program. The school holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Focused on biblical counseling, the program prepares graduates to pursue licensure or doctoral study. 

The curriculum includes a 36-credit professional counseling core. Learners also take electives and required biblical counseling courses. Candidates complete a supervised practicum and internship, plus oral and written exams. Graduates may qualify to sit for the National Counselor Examination. The program takes less than 4 years on average to complete.

#3 Online College in California

University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Southern California's online master of education in school counseling caters to aspiring K-12 school counselors. The program follows the American School Counselor Association’s National Model for School Counseling standards.

Program applicants need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a 3.0 GPA or higher. The curriculum focuses on supporting K-12 students’ emotional, social, and academic needs. The fully online program combines weekly synchronous classes and self-paced coursework. Students complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship.

Full-time learners can graduate in two years. Part-time students usually take 2.5-3 years to complete the program. Qualified graduates can receive a recommendation for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Pupil Personnel Services: School Counseling credential. 

#4 Online College in New York

New York University

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 16%
Graduation Rate 85%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

New York University (NYU) delivers two online master's counseling programs. Located in New York City, the university holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council accredits NYU's counseling programs. 

Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants need a GPA of 3.0 or higher. NYU does not require GRE or GMAT scores. Master's candidates can focus on school counseling or mental health counseling. Both tracks allow part-time or full-time enrollment. 

Students complete synchronous and asynchronous online coursework. In-person requirements include a 100-hour practicum, three 200-hour internships, and an on-campus immersion experience. An NYU placement team works with students to find practicum placement within 75 miles of the student’s home.

#5 Online College in Ohio

University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

School Information
Location Cincinnati, Ohio
Admission Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 71%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Cincinnati's research-focused bachelor of science in substance abuse counseling offers full- and part-time enrollment. The institution holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. 

First-year admission requirements include an official high school transcript with a GPA of 2.7 or higher. The program qualifies students to pursue careers working with people with substance abuse disorders. Other positions for graduates include social worker, guidance counselor, and intervention specialist. 

The 100% online program comprises 60-120 credits and takes 2-4 years to complete. Program completion meets academic requirements for licensed chemical dependency counselors in Ohio and some other states. Out-of-state enrollees should check their state board for local licensure criteria.

#6 Online College in North Carolina

Wake Forest University

School Information
Location Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Admission Rate 30%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Wake Forest University enrolls over 8,000 learners at its Winston-Salem, North Carolina, campus and online. The school's online master's in counseling program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Students can choose between tracks in clinical mental health and school counseling.  

Admission requirements include a 2.5 cumulative GPA or above. Applicants need a GRE score of at least 300. Some students may qualify for GRE waivers. The 60-credit program features 100% online coursework with some in-person practicum requirements. 

Program graduates may qualify to sit for the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification. Aspiring professional counselors must pass this exam for state licensure in many jurisdictions.

#7 Online College in Mississippi

Mississippi College

School Information
Location Clinton, Mississippi
Admission Rate 42%
Graduation Rate 57%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 56% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Mississippi College (MC) is a private Christian college in Clinton, Mississippi. The school's doctorate in professional counseling emphasizes clinical skills. This fully online program helps prepare professionals for leadership and advanced clinical practice. 

Admission requirements include all transcripts from previous coursework. Students must also submit a professional portfolio showing their experience and achievements. Applicants should hold credentials as a licensed professional counselor or the equivalent. A capstone course involves presenting an advanced clinical case study. 

MC students can complete their degree in 6 semesters (including 4 courses per semester). The program entails 72 hours beyond a master’s-level degree.

#8 Online College in Kentucky

University of the Cumberlands

School Information
Location Williamsburg, Kentucky
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 44%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 91% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of the Cumberlands (UC), in Williamsburg, Kentucky, ranks as one of the state's largest private universities. The Christian university's online master's in clinical mental health counseling holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. UC holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. 

The curriculum features 48 credits of counseling core courses. These classes cover subjects like clinical practice, human growth and development, diagnostic assessments, and grief counseling. In-person requirements include a 100-hour practicum and two 300-hour internships. 

Master's candidates also take 12 credits of specialized courses in clinical mental health counseling. Topics include child and adolescent counseling and marriage and family counseling.

Transfer students can apply up to 18 semester hours from a regionally accredited school. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Program graduates may qualify to sit for licensed professional counselor state licensure board examinations.

#9 Online College in Colorado

University of Denver

School Information
Location Denver, Colorado
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Denver (DU) offers an online master of arts in school counseling through its Morgridge College of Education. The program holds accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Students attend live, scheduled classes. 

DU accepts applications year-round for start dates in January, March, June, and September. The program includes 18 classes comprising 74 quarter credit hours. Courses feature mock counseling sessions. Learners complete a 100-hour practicum and two 300-hour internship experiences at schools in their local areas. 

Full-time students can graduate in about 24 months. Program applicants do not need GRE or GMAT test scores or prior professional experience.

#10 Online College in Florida

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

School Information
Location Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Keiser University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The university's many online offerings include a master of science program in clinical mental health counseling.

The 60-credit online school counseling program integrates theories and approaches of mental health counseling with diagnostic principles and evidenced-based treatments. 

Most coursework takes place online. Students also build individual and group counseling skills through three weekend-long on-campus residencies. Learners complete 100 in-person practicum hours and 600 internship hours. The school encourages students to take part in at least 1,000 total hours of clinical experience with 40% comprising face-to-face client contact hours. 

Learners can complete the program in 3-4 years depending on the number of hours taken per term.

Frequently Asked Questions


Are online counseling programs worth it?

Unaccredited online counseling programs are not worth your time and money, but CACREP-accredited online counseling programs are worth it, if you want to pursue counseling as a career.

Can I become a counselor without a degree?

While you can apply counseling skills without a counseling degree, you cannot earn a license without a degree. Check your state's regulations to find out how to qualify for a counseling license.

Is counseling a good job?

If you like helping people, counseling can be a satisfying job. Most counselors work predictable hours and the work is not physically strenuous. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median salary of $47,660 for mental health counselors.

Featured Image: Richard Clark / The Image Bank / Getty Images

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