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Top 20 Online Master’s Programs in Mental Health Counseling

 

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Those pursuing a Master’s degree in counseling have probably decided on a specialty, such as substance abuse, family & divorce, school or mental health counseling. Though a Bachelor’s degree may provide numerous job opportunities, a master’s will take you further into your role as a counselor. The time period to complete a  master’s either on campus or online is typically 2-3 years but can vary according to the policies of the school and the student’s course-load. Also, graduates of a master’s degree in counseling must complete a certain amount of clinical hours in order to receive their counseling license. The actual number of clinical hours and other requirements differ from state to state.

As stated, licensure requirements vary not only by state, but also by occupational specialty, and work setting. Some counselors elect to be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors, which grants a general practice credential of National Certified Counselor. While voluntary and distinct from State licensing, in some states, those who pass the national exam are exempt from taking a State certification exam. Regardless of which route you select with respect to licensure, this is an occupation that is growing at the rate of 19%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS 2014 statistics). The BLS also reported the median salary at $43,190 with a Master’s degree as of 2015. Additionally, the greatest concentration of these professionals counsel in Outpatient Care Centers (26,250 as of May 2015). However, the industry of Individual and Family Services employs the largest number of counselors (28,770).

In selecting this ranking, we have considered the respective school’s master’s counseling program, accreditation (ie. CACREP), respected publications (US News & World Report, Money magazine, et al), school history, and affiliation with other associations, such as the American Psychological Association. In arriving at this ranking, we have endeavored to be objective in our assessment of the aforementioned sources of information. This should provide a basis for further research for those entering or advancing their career in mental health counseling.

1. University of the Cumberlands

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For more than 125 years, University of the Cumberlands, located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, has provided promising students of all backgrounds a first-class, liberal arts education within a Christian context. Our dedication to academic excellence shines through in our selection of top-rate faculty and outstanding programs, both on campus and online. Eighty percent of our faculty have earned the highest degree in their field, bringing a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to students. The school offers a trove of online programs at the bachelor’s. masters and doctorate levels. One of which is the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling (MAPC). This is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) that will lead you to become a licensed professional counselor.

Their Master of Arts in Professional Counseling offers a Clinical Mental Health Counseling specialization that will set you on a path to become a licensed counselor in the area of general mental health. The degree is designed to prepare students to function as a counselor in a variety of community settings, including but not limited to:

  • private practice
  • clinical mental health centers
  • community agencies
  • college instructor
  • hospitals

A maximum of 30 semester hours of credit may be transferred from a regionally-accredited institution of higher learning. These transfer credits must be in courses determined to be equivalent to courses required in the program. Graduates of this 60 credit hours specialization will be well versed in the areas of:

  • Private Practice and Clinical Supervision
  • Marriage and Family Counseling
  • Child and Adolescent Counseling
  • Advanced Counseling Theories and Techniques

Tuition: $400 per credit hour or $24,000  total tuition

2. University of Massachusetts (UMassOnline)

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UMassOnline has been recognized as one of the top universities in the United States and as a leader in distance education for over 25 years. They boast of an internationally recognized faculty, including winners of the world’s most prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, National Book Award for Poetry, and the Draper Award in Engineering. Furthermore, an online degree from UMass is the same degree earned from the University of Massachusetts. Additionally, the school has been ranked by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings as the No. 1 public university in New England.

The Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program prepares its graduates to be professional practitioners in a variety of community settings and institutions: hospitals, schools, rehabilitation agencies, career planning centers, employee assistance programs, clinics, residential treatment facilities, and other mental health agencies. It is a 60-credit master’s which meets the academic requirements for licensure in the state of Massachusetts as a Mental Health Counselor (there are additional post graduate clinical experience requirements for licensure).

The program operates on a cohort model whereby all participants complete the same program of study. Two weeks of on campus study is required during the first summer of the program to complete two required clinical courses. They are generally taught in the middle of July. The remaining coursework is online. The sessions are held at a site in Massachusetts and housing is available at a reasonable rate. Unfortunately, UMass doesn’t accept students online who reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, or Minnesota due to regulations in those states.

Tuition: $520 per credit

3. Grace College

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Affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Grace Theological Seminary was founded first, in 1937, and the college was established eleven years later in 1948. Since its founding, Grace has distinguished itself in educational excellence. The College has consistently been ranked on the U.S. News & World Report list of Best Baccalaureate Colleges in the Midwest. It was also named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review. Grace College & Seminary is an accredited member of the Higher Learning Commission.

The online 60-credit hour Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program was developed in 2010 and is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) through 2020. Students can complete the majority of their coursework in a fully online, however, there are three distinct “residency” sessions as part of the online CMHC program. Residency is a 7-10 day on-campus experience that is typically scheduled once a year. Residency, at the Winona Lake Indiana campus, is created to facilitate relationships between students and faculty while engaging in academic and social activities. Students in the first and second year of the CMHC program will typically receive intensive skills training while students in their third year of the program will learn key information about transitioning from student to professional.

The program leads to licensure in the State of Indiana. It may not meet the specific licensing requirements in other states, which, therefore, may mean additional action is needed to fulfill individual state’s licensing requirements.

Tuition: $568 per credit hour

4. University of Tennessee-Martin

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UT Martin is home to UT Online, offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees for the University of Tennessee System. UT Online degree programs are recognized among the most affordable in the nation by Affordable Colleges Online. One of their online graduate programs is a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in Counseling. Students have a choice of Clinical Mental Health or School Counseling. Both specialties prepare students to earn licensure as either a Clinical Mental Health Counselor or a School Counselor. In 2014, the school was named one of the best online counseling masters programs. In 2015 they were ranked in the Top 50 online programs.

The Mental Health  counseling consists of 6-9 hours of core, 24 hours of Concentration, 24 hours of Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialization, and 6 hours of Internship. There are a minimum of 60 hours required to meet the degree hours required for completion. Before pursuing this program further, please note that there are materials required for review by the Counseling Admissions Board. Namely:

  • Three letters of recommendation from school superintendents, principals, teachers, professors and/or employers
  • A two-page typed essay that fully describes the candidate’s skills and experiences relevant to becoming a successful counselor
  • A resume that fully describes the candidate’s degrees, and importantly, the person’s occupational experiences
  • Form that acknowledges requirement for four-day counseling residency held on the UT Martin campus
  • Documentation of teaching experience provided by the applicant’s school system on appropriate letterhead
  • A background check is required prior to consideration by the admissions board
  • GRE scores – you must have a combined Verbal plus Quantitative score of 285 for conditional admissions and 300 for unconditional status

Tuition: $563 per credit hour (TN residents); $614 (non-residents of TN)

5. Messiah College

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Messiah College is founded by the Brethren in Christ Church under the presidency of S.R. Smith, a church leader and Harrisburg businessman. Its original name was Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home, and the school was located on Twelfth Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It began as a school offering high school curriculum and a few Bible programs.

Messiah College’s CACREP-accredited counseling program has placed in the top 5 in two categories in the 2016 Best Colleges rankings. Also in 2016, it was ranked #3 Accredited Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs. Their Master of Arts in Counseling allows you to achieve work-life balance without sacrificing the advantage of small class sizes and personalized attention from their faculty. The majority of courses are online, with week long intensive courses at their Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, campus. This program can be completed in 2-6 years depending on the number of courses taken.

The curriculum for the Master of Arts in Counseling is designed as a developmental model wherein students begin as novice counselors and progress to become professional counselors by advancing through the program. There is a core set of courses taken by all students (30 credits) and an additional set of courses for each of the specific tracks: clinical mental health counseling (30 credits), school counseling (30 credits), and marriage, couple, and family counseling (30 credits). Through completion of the program, students will be academically prepared to sit for their professional counselor licensing exam (LPC or MFT) or for their PA school certification exam (PRAXIS II).

Tuition: $625 per credit hour

6.  Adams State University

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Founded in 1921 as a teachers’ college, Adams State is a university offering undergraduate majors, as well as master’s degree programs and a doctoral program – most offered online. The school was Colorado’s first higher education institution to be federally designated an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). It is an institutional member of the American Council on Education, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

This learning institution offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with the choice of Clinical Mental Health or School Counseling. Both specialties are designed to designed to provide the human relations and therapeutic skills necessary to become a professional counselor.  And both are CACREP accredited. This program does require two one week summer residency intensives on campus are required. During the week-long residency intensives, students will interact with the faculty on campus and develop their interpersonal skills, form learning groups, become acquainted with the program and its expectations, and receive tutoring and advising. There are a total of 60 semester hours required for graduation: 39 hours of core requirements, 15 hours in the mental health counseling emphasis, plus 6 hours of electives.

Upon completion of the M.A. program, the student has met one of the three requirements necessary to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado. The other requirements are passing a state mandated examination and completing 2000 hours of supervised post-master’s experience.

Tuition: $430 per credit

7. Walden University

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The university was founded in 1970 by two teachers who sought a way for adults in the workforce to pursue their doctoral degrees. Bernie and Rita Turner laid the groundwork for the university, in collaboration with Harold “Bud” Hodgkinson, a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1990, Walden has been accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

This school offers a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling online in their CACREP accredited program. Many of the students in this Counseling program are working adults who must balance personal and professional commitments with the demands of their coursework.  The curriculum consists of a total of 90-96 quarter credits of which 80 are Core Courses. There are 9-15 credits total of Practicum and Internship or 100 hours and 600 hours respectively. The curriculum also has 2 residencies; first one is in your 3rd or 4th term. The second is in the 6th or 7th term. Each residency is 4-5 days and the location varies.

Historically, Walden graduates have had success passing licensure examinations and being employed shortly after graduation. From summer 2015 through spring 2016, 452 students graduated from the M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Upon completion of the program, 67% of these graduates were employed full time. Graduates from the program consistently achieve passing scores higher than the national average on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. In April 2016, 74% of eligible School of Counseling graduates who sat for the exam earned a passing score.

Tuition: $465 per quarter hour

8. Bradley University

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Established in 1897, Bradley University is a private, independent institution of higher learning located in Peoria, Illinois. Inspired by their founder, notable philanthropist Lydia Moss Bradley, this institution pursues excellence in teaching, research, scholarship and service. Today, the school offers an impressive array of more than 130 undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs across five colleges and The Graduate School. Testaments to their excellence is their 4th place ranking in 2016 by US News & World Report for Best Midwest Regional Universities; also, recognized by The Princeton Review (2016 Best 380 Colleges), and Money magazine (Best Value category).

This university offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) to those aspiring to enter this field or for experienced counselors wishing to advance in their career. They believe their dedicated faculty members will allow you to be a more effective professional counselor-an occupation that is growing at rate of 19% through 2024. Bradley’s CMHC program will prepare graduates to work in a variety of counseling jobs, for example:

  • Clinical Mental Health Counselor: Utilize a range of therapeutic techniques to help individuals, families and children deal with emotional and/or psychological problems.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor: Provide support for clients who suffer from addictions to various substances.
  • Crisis Counselor: Offer guidance to those who have experienced a serious traumatic event and help them refocus to become functional again.
  • Veterans Counselor: Give counsel to the more than 5 million U.S. veterans struggling with the myriad physical, emotional, mental and social issues.

However, in order to graduate with your M.A. in Counseling, you must successfully complete 60 credit hours of coursework, including one practicum, two internships and two one-week-long campus-based residencies. The curriculum is structured to meet the standards set by CACREP.

Tuition: $850 per semester hour

9. Lamar University

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Founded over 90 years ago by Mirabeau B. Lamar in Beaumont, Texas, it has become one of the fastest growing public universities in Texas. Currently, the school offers over 100 programs, that lead to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The online degree programs are recognized as among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and has been ranked #3 in 2015 for Most Affordable Online Graduate Schools.

The online Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program is designed to prepare you to provide clinical counseling services to a wide range of clients in a variety of professional settings, including private practice, clinics, hospitals and school-based mental health programs. Courses are designed to meet the educational requirements set forth by the Council on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). In addition, the degree can be completed in as few as 30 months.

In this 60 credit hours M.Ed. program, you will:

  • Study abnormal human behavior, its etiology and treatment
  • Explore the dynamics of interpersonal relationships as they relate to marriage, couples and family counseling
  • Learn individual and group counseling theories and techniques
  • Learn about professional standards of conduct, legal issues and ethical principles as they apply to counseling
  • Gain hands-on experience through internships and an 11-week mental health practicum
 Lamar’s online education degrees have been recognized as “Best Buys” nationally. The school’s M.Ed. in School Counseling and M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling has been recognized as a No. 1 Top Online Master’s in Counseling degree programs.
Tuition: $1,506 (3 hours); $2,755 (6 hours); $5,218 (12+ hours): TX residents; $2,730 (3 hours): Non-residents

10. Nova Southeastern University

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In 1964, what was then called Nova University of Advanced Technology, the school was chartered as a graduate institution in the physical and social sciences. In 1972, the university introduced its first off-campus course of study in education. Soon, Nova became nationally recognized for its innovative distance education programs. Today, field-based programs are located on regional campuses throughout Florida, across the country, and at select international sites.

Nova Southeastern University offers bachelor’s degree programs in psychology and behavioral neuroscience, as well as graduate programs in clinical and school psychology, counseling, experimental psychology, forensic psychology, and general psychology, along with other specialized training experiences. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The College of Psychology at Nova Southeastern University NSU’s online Master of Science in Counseling offers concentrations in mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling and applied behavior analysis.  The Master’s degree training is based on a model that emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration, prevention of dysfunction, and direct service. Graduates will possess the knowledge and have the skills to enter or advance their career in various mental health settings: substance abuse clinics, hospices, hospitals, educational settings, and private practice. The curriculum (60 semester hours total) is also designed for the student to pursue licensure as a professional counselor upon completion. Also, the program curriculum meets the academic requirements for licensure as a Mental Health Counselor in the State of Florida, and allows graduates to pursue National Certification as Counselors through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

Tuition: $880 per credit

11. Regent University

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Regent is the only Christian institution to offer programs accredited by both the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) strives to turn your desire into a meaningful career. Here, you won’t just read about leading-edge mental health theories and treatment approaches, you’ll experience them first-hand in their state-of-the-art Psychological Services Center.

Their Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling prepares students to become a mental health counselor by combining contemporary counseling techniques and theories with a solid biblical foundation for a spiritual balance in the counseling approach.  Being  CACREP accredited prepares students for state licensure and a career in professional counseling. This 60 hour program may be completed in as little as two years with courses commencing in the fall or spring semester. Fall & Spring courses are offered in 16 week length semesters; summer courses are offered in 8 week sessions.

Two key learning experiences of the curriculum are that graduates will be able to:

  • Promote the enhancement of accurate self-awareness and understanding through studies in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders (addictions, psychopathology).
  • Master the core areas of counseling knowledge and skills to include: human growth and development, social (family systems) and cultural foundations, helping relationships, group work, research and program evaluation, appraisal, career development, personality theories, and professional orientation and ethics.

Regent has been ranked a Best Buy Online Masters in Psychology & Human Services. It is accredited to award associates, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Tuition: $701 per credit hour

12. University of Louisiana-Monroe

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The University of Louisiana at Monroe has over 80 years of Student Success, and now, through eULM, that same commitment to student success is available online. eULM offers over 30 degree programs, resources, and a caring community to help you go the distance in school without traveling the distance to their campus. ULM online has been recognized as a Most Affordable College 2016, #1 Online Program in Louisiana, and designated at a Governor’s Military and Veteran Friendly Campus.

The Master of Science Degree in Counseling has two options for degree concentration. Programs are designed to train professional counselors at the graduate level in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, or both specializations. The School of Health Profession’s (SHP) Counseling Programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The mission of the Mental Health Counseling program is to create a supportive and collaborative learning environment for students from diverse backgrounds and cultures to acquire knowledge, attitudes, and skills essential in the practice of counseling. Completion of the curriculum leads to recognition in Louisiana as meeting the course work requirements for the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Louisiana. Please check with your state licensing board to determine how well ULM’s counseling program’s curriculum matches their requirements.

Graduates of this 60 credit degree can seeks careers in professions, such as:

Tuition: $500 per credit hour (includes mandated fees & tuition)

13. Lock Haven University

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Founded in 1870 to train teachers for the Commonwealth, Lock Haven University (LHU) has prepared students for success in work and life for more than a century. Currently, the school has a full-time faculty of 231, making a 19:1 student faculty ratio. From their humble beginnings with the first hundred students, to more than 4,000 students, LHU proudly offers 49 undergraduate programs and certificate programs with 47 minors.  Master’s programs in education and health sciences are also available. Also, it is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Their Master of Science (M.S.) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) Program is consistent with the mission and strategic plans of Lock Haven University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Through the use of synchronous and asynchronous modalities, the CMHC Program promotes students’ educational, professional, and personal aspirations. Also, this online 60 credit degree program is designed to be consistent with the requirements for licensure as a professional counselor in Pennsylvania.

This three year full-time (or four year part-time) graduate program is offered primarily online and consists of 51 credits of common core courses related to counseling, assessment, differential diagnosis and treatment planning. Nine additional credits of courses related to specializations such as counseling military/veterans and their families, counseling children and adolescents, or a general clinical mental health counseling specialization track are also required.

Tuition: $483 per hour Pennsylvania resident; $725 non-resident

14. Wake Forest University

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The Wake Forest University Department of Counseling states that it prepares exemplary counselors to serve humanity. Both employers and doctoral programs seek their graduates. Graduates have worked in more than 60 different community agencies, mental facilities and schools. Approximately 20 percent of the members of the 2004-2011 graduating classes from the Wake Forest Master of Arts in Counseling Program pursued or are pursuing PhD programs. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers three online master’s programs—Master of Arts in School Counseling, Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Master of Arts in Human Services.

Their Master of Arts in Counseling offers 2 specialties: Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling. in counseling degree is awarded to candidates who successfully complete a minimum of sixty semester hours in a planned and directed program of study. The program consists of a common core of courses to provide knowledge in eight areas: human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, helping relationships, group work, career and lifestyle development, appraisal, research and program evaluation, and professional orientation. The program also supplies clinical instruction with practicum and internship experiences. Online students are able to complete the program in three years by continuing course work in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. In addition to academic coursework, students work an average of 20 hours each week in an internship in either a school or clinical mental health setting. Internships occur during semesters eight and nine for Online students.

In February 2012, the University received approval of the Online Campus programs from the Commission on Colleges (COC) of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The School Counseling program is accredited by CACREP, and it has a 100% pass rate for graduates taking the National Counselor exam.

Tuition: $1,340 per hour

15. University of the Southwest

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The story begins in Hobbs, New Mexico, in the early half of the century when “a young man on horseback scaled the heights near Cloudcroft” and climbed the Wofford lookout tower to gain a panoramic view of ‘The Land of Enchantment.’ Eventually, this young man, Clarence Evans, finally saw his “college for Christian Education” become a reality when Hobbs Baptist College was chartered as a two-year junior college in 1956. In 2008, the school became the University of the Southwest (USW). Currently, it is an accredited member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.

USW has two graduate programs in Mental Health Counseling: a 48 hour program and a 60 hour program. Some states require a minimum of 48 hours while others require a minimum of 60 hours for licensure. A graduate student may pick the program consistent with his or her state’s requirements. Before enrolling in the USW Mental Health Counseling program, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the USW program meets the requirements for his or her individual state and/or any state where you think you might want to practice.

Coursework includes learning and human growth and development, career development/life planning, group work, the helping relationship with children, adults and families, psycho-educational assessment, psychopathology, professional orientation and ethics, theoretical foundations, and research/program evaluation. The Mental Health Counseling curriculum prepares candidates to become counselors as defined by the American Counseling Association’s definition of professional counseling.

Tuition: $599 per semester hour

16. Seton Hall University

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The College of Education and Human Services traces its roots back to the 1920’s when six courses were offered by the Department of Education in the College of Arts and Sciences at Seton Hall College. Fast forward to 2004-05, the College launched a redesigned school counseling program and began working on achieving CACREP accreditation for its M.A. level counseling programs. During 2007-2008, the College’s American Psychology Association (APA) accreditation was renewed, record enrollments were again achieved for the fourth year in a row, and a successful accreditation campus (South Orange, NJ) visit was hosted for the Masters and Ed.S. Marriage and Family programs.

The school’s online Professional Counseling program is a combined, 60-credit, Master’s and Education Specialist program. It has been developed for students who desire to prepare for a career as a professional mental health counselor. This degree provides students with skills and models of intervention grounded in theory. The M.A./Ed.S in Counseling consists of twenty, three-credit courses spread over ten semesters. The program also requires two on-site residencies, which afford you the opportunity to meet face-to-face with professors and your peers in the program.

Completion of this Professional Counseling portion of the degree requires students to complete sixteen 3-credit courses for a total of 48-credits. Registration for the Ed.S. portion begins in Semester V of the M.A. program. The curriculum for the Education Specialist consists of 12 total credits. Integrated into the degree requirements is that students join a cohort or learning team of students who progress through the program together. (This program does not accept transfer students or transfer credits.)

Tuition: $739 per credit

17. Palo Alto Universitypalo-alto

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Palo Alto University (PAU) is a private, nonprofit educational institution, founded in 1975 as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (PGSP), an independent, professional school. PGSP was first accredited in 1986 by the regional accrediting body, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The school also maintains several international collaborations, supporting local, clinical practicum training in China and Latin America for students who participate in PAU’s online M.A. in Counseling program. The University is also in collaborative partnerships with many community organizations, including Stanford School of Medicine, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Palo Alto Medical Center, and other mental health care organizations.

This university offers an online Master of Arts in Counseling with two areas of emphasis: Marriage, Family, & Child or Clinical Mental Health. The latter program prepares students to serve their communities as licensed Professional Clinical Counselors in most of the 50 U.S. states, territories and many countries. The online format option makes it possible for students across the U.S. and globally to complete master’s in counseling via distance learning and do their practicum placements locally, in their home communities. Palo Alto University works with agencies and practitioners in a student’s city/country of residence, so they can obtain a high standard of culturally relevant mental health care training.

A clinical practicum or fieldwork experience is a required part of this Master’s program.  Practicum provides students an opportunity to gain experience in the role of a clinical counselor. Students complete a minimum of 700 hours of counseling-related experience over a 9 to 12 month period. This experience includes a minimum of 280 hours of direct counseling experience. It  is an academically rigorous program consisting of 93 quarter-units as well as mandatory fieldwork, workshops and intensives.

Tuition: $17,618 (2016-17 academic year: average completion-2 yrs. 9 months)

18. Medaille College

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Medaille College is a private, nonsectarian four-year college with campuses in Buffalo, Rochester and online. The College traces its roots to 1875 when the Sisters of Saint Joseph founded an institute for the preparation of teachers. In 1937, the Sisters received a charter from New York State to grant baccalaureate degrees in education to women in religious orders, and the institute was named Mount Saint Joseph Teachers College. The name was changed to Medaille in 1968 in honor of Father Jean Pierre Médaille, founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Medaille Online offers a flexible format for earning a degree and advancing your career. The College’s varied online academic programs are designed with working professionals in mind. One of these degrees is their Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC). Online delivery is offered as a fixed sequence of 14, 7-week courses (51 credits) taken one at a time, plus 3 semesters of practicum and internship (9 credits).  Each 7-week course is comprised of professor-guided independent study, combined with assigned group and individual projects. There are also clinical internships that are crucial for graduation-details can be viewed at the website. Students will also gain advanced research-based knowledge in the area of group and individual counseling, counseling techniques, testing and diagnosis.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), has granted accreditation to Medaille’s Master of Arts program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Tuition: $883 per credit hour

19. Argosy University

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The history of Argosy University began in September 2001 with the merging of three separate and distinguished academic institutions – The American Schools of Professional Psychology, The University of Sarasota, and the Medical Institute of Minnesota. The combination of these schools created a unique learning environment that continues today on their campuses (28) in 13 states, and their online programs. This institution emphasizes care, concern and mutual respect for the students as both individuals and as professionals.

The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program addresses issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction, relationship issues and behavioral problems. The approach is a blend of traditional psychotherapy and practical problem-solving. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to learn to effectively apply the psychological theory, research and ethical therapeutic counseling skills you’ve acquired in a variety of settings. In addition to giving you the knowledge and skills to help others, this program can also help you gain insight into yourself. You’ll have the opportunity to learn to work with a diverse range of clients in a variety of treatment settings, such as mental health clinics, psychiatric hospitals, counseling centers and private practices. Courses and curricula are designed to parallel prevailing licensure and certification requirements as closely as possible. Also, this degree program is accredited by The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

This 60 credit hour program can be started within two months for most applicants due to their efficient process. During admissions, you’ll learn from the school’s financial team and have all questions answered during the application procedures. This bodes well for the working professional anxious to advance his/her career. Also, 37% of students taking online courses at Argosy are over 40.

Tuition: $750 per credit hour

20. Faulkner University

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Founded in 1942, Faulkner University is a private, Christian liberal arts university based in Montgomery, Alabama. Originally named Montgomery Bible College, in 1985, the college was renamed Faulkner University in honor of businessman and longtime supporter, trustee and chairman of the board, Dr. James Faulkner of Bay Minette, Alabama. Since inception, their mission has been to glorify God through education of the whole person, emphasizing integrity of character in a caring, Christian environment where every individual matters every day.

The school offers a Master of Science in Counseling (61-credit hours) in a hybrid format, giving students the convenience of online learning with the accountability and access of the traditional classroom. Founded on Christian principles, the graduate program integrates a Christian-based worldview within the mental health profession. Courses are designed to develop your counseling skills through a variety of classes and collaborative classroom and field experiences. Curriculum has been developed to meet the state and national regulatory criteria, leading to licensure and certification of professional counselors. This degree is intended to develop professionals of strong moral and ethical character who apply biblical principles of genuineness, empathy and integrity to their profession.  Graduates will be prepared to work in a variety of clinical settings, including community agencies, state agencies, churches and Christian ministries.

Nearly 85 percent of coursework is taught online. Students will be required to meet on campus twice during the program for Clinical Training I and Clinical Training II. These training sessions are scheduled for the third full weeks in January and September each year and take place from Tuesday to Saturday. The Counseling Practicum and Internship in Counseling course requirements are hands-on field experiences. Upon graduation from the Master of Science in Counseling program, graduates will be eligible to pursue licensure in the state of Alabama. However, this degree program is non-CACREP accredited.

Tuition: $550 per semester hour

20. Southern New Hampshire University (tied)

Southern New Hampshire University

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The state of New Hampshire in 1963 granted the university its charter, which gave it degree-granting authority. The first associate degrees were awarded that year, and the first bachelor’s degrees were conferred three years later. The college became a nonprofit institution under a board of trustees in September 1968, and the name was shortened to New Hampshire College in 1969.

SNHU’s online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is designed to develop relationship skills that allow clients to find comfort in your guidance as you lead them on the path of wellness. Learn the helping skills to be able to effectively work with clients experiencing a range of emotional and behavioral problems, from issues in child development to trauma, addiction and major mental illness. This 60-credit online master’s in counseling includes two required face-to-face residencies that help strengthen your skills in the workforce. The curriculum was built on CACREP standards, though it is not CACREP accredited. According to the university, it is difficult to take a 40-year old program and change it to meet accreditation requirements. This is an important consideration as some states require that you graduate from a CACREP accredited program before being eligible to seek licensure. However, the program is also aligned with as many state-specific standards as possible – more than 40 to date – so students will be prepared to begin logging the 2,000-3,000 hours of post-graduate hours they’ll need for licensure immediately after graduating.

Prospective students will have to submit two letters of recommendation describing how they have the personal qualities to be an effective counselor. That’s because while counseling programs can teach certain techniques and skills, counseling as a profession demands more of practitioners. It demands certain dispositions – compassion and a willingness to withhold judgement for instance – that cannot be learned in a classroom. The counseling faculty opines that you “can’t train empathy.”

Tuition: $627 per credit hour or $1,881 per course

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