The goal of this ranking is to present you with information about the most affordable of top-rated online master's degrees in counseling.
If you have plans to work as a licensed professional counselor – or as a counselor in any respect, for that matter – chances are you'll need to earn a master's degree in counseling before you can start applying for jobs. Some graduate programs will prepare you to become an LPC, while others are intentionally broad so that you'll have a wider range of career prospects. Still others are religiously focused and aimed at students who wish to utilize their counseling skills as ministers or church leaders.
Regardless of your individual motivation for pursuing a master's degree in counseling, choosing to do so online will allow you to keep your daily schedule as-is and study only in your free time. Online colleges also have the benefit of being more affordable than traditional colleges, as you won't have to pay for room and board, parking, a meal plan, or most other expenses beyond tuition.
To get started, take a look below at our list of the top 10 affordable online master's degrees in counseling.
We determined this ranking by focusing on both quality and cost in our methodology. First, we took a look at numerous other ranking websites – BestColleges.com, BestCounselingDegrees.net, TheBestSchools.org, Super Scholar, Online U, Get Educated, TheBestColleges.org, and BestMastersinCounseling.com – and performed a meta-study to see which schools turned up the most between all these sources. The online colleges that appeared at least twice formed our list of the top quality schools. From there, we sorted the schools by cost (using data regarding graduate school tuition and fees from College Navigator) and listed the ten most affordable below.
10. University of the Southwest
Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program
The Clinical Mental Health Program at the University of the Southwest will take you through all the steps necessary to become a licensed mental health counselor in New Mexico or another state. Conveniently, USW offers both 48 and 60 credit hour programs, which gives students the flexibility to choose whichever track is consistent with the licensing requirements in their home state. Both versions of the program follow the guidelines established by the American Counseling Association and include such classes as Counseling Traumatized Clients, Psychopharmacology, Human Sexuality, and Clinical Supervision. Of course, the program also requires all students to complete practicums and internships in order to prepare for the high-pressure world of mental health counseling.
Tuition & Fees:$10,440/yr
9. Grand Canyon University
Master of Science in Addictions Counseling, Christian Counseling, and Professional Counseling
Grand Canyon University's extensive psychology and counseling department offers multiple program options to graduate students, including several online master's degrees in counseling. Students can choose to study Addictions Counseling, Professional Counseling, Christian Counseling, or Christian Counseling with a special focus in Substance Use and Addictive Disorders. The range of choices provides the flexibility to pick the exact curriculum that suits your needs. Pick professional counseling if you want to gain the skills to treat families and individuals on issues as diverse as marriage and trauma and career development. The Christian Counseling program – an option fairly unique to GCU – will train you to help patients through spiritual dilemmas and strengthen their religious faith.
Tuition & Fees:$10,191/yr
8. Bellevue University
Master of Science in Clinical Counseling
Earn a master's degree in counseling online cheaply and conveniently through Bellevue University, one of the more affordable choices in clinical counseling. Of course Bellevue is a quality choice as well, and Super Scholar and Online U both advertise the school's superior counseling program. The degree is "modeled to national standards" and will prepare you to take the national licensing exam and become a certified counselor. And although students can take all their coursework online, advisors can help you set up a clinical practicum in your hometown. Bellevue is big on hands-on learning, too – students must complete a 100-hour practicum (40 hours of observation) and 900 hours of an internship (with 60% direct client contact).
Tuition & Fees:$9,720/yr
7. Liberty University
Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling (Multiple Concentrations)
Liberty University can give you the chance to blend your career aspirations and penchant for serving others through its online counseling master's degree. The program does not lead to professional licensure, but can nonetheless provide the advanced training you will need for entry into many other career fields. In fact, the curriculum is notably broad and lets students choose from ten different cognates to customize their experience. Specialize in Addictions and Recovery, Marriage and Family, or Crisis Response and Trauma for a traditional approach, or pick Business, Christian Ministries, Military Resilience, or even Life Coaching for a unique interdisciplinary experience.
Tuition & Fees:$9,710/yr
6. Concordia University Wisconsin
Master of Science in Education: Counseling
If your goal is to shape people's lives and find a profession full of compassion and hope, counseling may be the way to go. If you're specifically interested in helping children and could see yourself working in an academic setting, Concordia University just might be the perfect choice. The M.Ed. in Counseling is ideal for students who want to become school counselors and work with youth in grades K-12. The program emphasizes on-the-job training, and students can choose local practicum sites that cater to their individual interests and talents. CUW is student-centered and success focused, and its commitment to education has earned it recognition from such sites as BestColleges.com and Online U.
Tuition & Fees:$9,660/yr
5. Post University
Master of Science in Human Services: Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Clinical Counseling within Organizational Settings, and Forensic Mental Health Counseling
Post University's counseling master's degree online is perfect for students who are already in an established career but want to expand their job options through advanced training. Most students continue to work while taking classes online, soaking in all the knowledge they'll need to work in the addictions and drug counseling field. Although Post's program is not designed for students seeking licensure, it can nonetheless impart valuable skills – from employing behavioral treatment methods to leading group sessions – that can do wonders for your career. Concentrations in alcohol and drug counseling, non-profit management, clinical counseling within organizational settings, and forensic mental health counseling will help you dive deeper into a specialized area of interest.
Tuition & Fees:$7,590/yr
4. Ohio Christian University
Master of Arts in Ministry: Pastoral Care and Counseling Concentration
As a religious institution, Ohio Christian University integrates spiritual instruction into much of its academic coursework. In fact, its counseling program is actually a master's degree in ministry, but with a concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling. The program does not qualify students for licensure but provides more than enough training for people who want to work as ministers, youth pastors, in other church positions, or other jobs that include informal counseling. You'll take classes in Pastoral Intervention, Spiritual Issues in Pastoral Counseling, Methods of Pastoral Counseling, and more as you discover all the skills and practices you'll need to help people improve their spiritual well-being.
Tuition & Fees:$7,300/yr
3. Fort Hays State University
Master of Science in Counseling
Praised by both Online U and Get Educated as a top choice for aspiring counselors, Fort Hays State University offers an ideal combination of convenience, quality, and affordability in one place. The online master's degree in counseling is entirely online with the exception of three, four-day on-campus sessions when you'll complete intensive coursework to supplement your online classes. Students can concentrate in either School Counseling or Community Counseling – the former of which is targeted to learners who want to secure jobs within the public school system, and the latter of which can help people find work at community health centers, with mentoring services, or in the non-profit sector.
Tuition & Fees:$6,564/yr
2. Amberton University
Master of Arts in Christian Counseling
Build all the essential skills you'll need to counsel individuals, couples, and families in spiritual matters Amberton University. The 36 credit hour counseling master's degree focuses on Christian studies and is meant for students who want to work in the church, either through the ministry or in another leadership position. Students learn to develop a model of religious counseling that is in line with their own beliefs, understand all the ethical and legal issues pertinent to the profession, and integrate the latest theories in human development into their practice. Note that this particular program does not lead to professional licensure, but Amberton does offer a degree in Professional Counseling (on campus only) that prepares students to become LPCs.
Tuition & Fees:$5,808/yr
1. University of the Cumberlands
M.A. in Professional Counseling
Not only is the University of the Cumberlands the most affordable option on this list, but it's also one of the preferred choices for serious counseling students. The flexible degree can help students of all experience levels earn their state licensure, and Best Colleges and Online U have both praised the university for its great quality. Course options include Etiology and Diagnosis of Abnormal Behavior, Lifestyle and Career Development, and Child and Adolescent Counseling, among other essential topics. In addition, specialized classes in Private Practice and Clinical Supervision, Advanced Clinical Practice, and a Counseling Practicum (plus two internship courses) should give you confidence that this online counseling master's degree will give you all the hands-on training you need.
Tuition & Fees:$5,538/yr
This concludes our ranking of affordable top-rated online master's degrees in counseling.