Why earn a master’s in counseling online?
Follow a flexibile, convenient program
Attend live classes from wherever you are, do the coursework on your schedule, and complete clinical practicum hours in your community.
Prepare for career advancement or licensure
Meet the educational requirements to pursue licensure in your state and gain skills to excel in your counseling career.
Customize your counseling education
Explore universities offering specializations such as family or addiction counseling that align with your interests and career goals.
Browse online master's degrees in counseling programs New
What is an online counseling degree?
An online counseling degree is a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree that involves the same rigorous education and clinical experience as an on-campus program, with the added benefits of convenience and flexibility. Programs typically cover various theoretical and philosophical approaches, practical techniques, and ethical considerations used in counseling individuals, couples, families, or groups with mental health challenges.
Is counseling the same as therapy?
While these terms are often used interchangeably, counseling and therapy differ. Therapy is frequently associated with the deep exploration of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, delving into underlying psychological issues or long-term behavioral patterns. Conversely, counseling typically focuses on holistically addressing specific challenges in a client’s life, such as conflict, grief, or stress.
The academic qualifications also differ. Therapists often hold advanced degrees in psychology, while counselors typically earn an MA or MS in counseling.
What specializations are available with a counseling degree?
Specializations or concentrations are an opportunity to further align your counseling degree to your specific career goals. Options vary depending on the university, but common specializations include school, youth, or addiction counseling.
Types of counseling degrees
Master’s degrees in counseling can differ considerably. Learners can follow a Master of Science (MS) in counseling program, which tends to focus more on statistical analysis and research methodology, or a Master of Arts (MA) in counseling, which usually emphasizes the behavioral sciences.
Related degrees include:
Master of School Counseling (MSC), which is typically associated with school counseling.
Master of Mental Health Counseling (MMHC), which has a more specialized focus on mental health.
Master of Marriage and Family Therapy, which focuses on addressing relationship dynamics and family issues.
Admissions requirements for an online master’s degree in counseling
While admission requirements vary by program and institution, you are typically required to hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university and have earned a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA (based on a 4.0 scale) during your undergraduate career.
Your bachelor’s degree can usually be in any field. Many master’s programs in counseling offer foundational or bridge courses for career-changing learners entering the mental health field for the first time. You can also apply to an online master’s degree in counseling with no GRE requirement.
How to apply
To complete an application for an online master’s program, you will have to submit various materials. These usually include:
A completed online application
An application fee
A statement of purpose
A current résumé or CV
Letters of recommendation
Online master’s in counseling curriculum
Usually, these courses are taught live by the same experienced faculty who teach in the university’s on-campus master’s program in counseling. You no longer need to sacrifice quality for convenience — today’s online degree programs allow for personalized, rigorous education to help you reach your career goals.
The MS or MA in counseling curriculum will vary depending on the program you choose but will typically require a certain amount of credit hours, consisting of foundational courses and electives, in addition to requirements of any concentration or specialty track you choose. Counseling learners will also complete a practicum and internship at an approved site in or near their community.
Most online master’s programs in counseling will take between 18 to 36 months to complete.
What can you do with a master’s in counseling?
A master’s in counseling can help you become a compassionate mental health professional who supports and guides clients to lead fuller, more connected lives.
Master’s in counseling jobs
While a master’s degree in counseling generally leads to a career in the field of mental health, the specific type of degree you earn — as well as your unique career goals — can lead to various career paths.
Possible careers include:
Licensed professional counselor (LPC)
Marriage and family therapist (MFT)
Clinical mental health counselor
Master’s in counseling salary
Your salary will depend on the specific career path you choose, as well as the demand for mental health care in your location and the experience you have. Here is some insight into the median salary for individuals in counseling careers:
Licensed professional counselor (LPC): $49,710Footnote 1
Marriage and family therapist (MFT): $56,570Footnote 2
School counselor: $60,140Footnote 3
Mental health counselor: $49,710Footnote 4
Counseling job outlook
Counseling jobs are on track to grow 18% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for other occupations. Approximately 42,000 jobs are expected to open up on average each year.Footnote 5
Frequently asked questions
The length of time varies by program, but you can expect to earn your degree in as few as 18 months full time or 36 months part time. Check with your preferred program for more specific information.
Pursuing your master’s in counseling is likely to be a substantial investment in your career. Online counseling programs vary in cost. The best way to learn about tuition for a specific program is to explore the university's website or request more information from their admissions team.
Counseling is a rapidly growing field with numerous career paths that will allow you to drive meaningful, positive change in the clients you serve. If you are searching for a rewarding career that creates substantial change in your community, pursuing an online master’s degree in counseling is a worthwhile investment.
Individuals who earn a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) tend to receive more administrative and policy-related training focused on driving systemic change and addressing social injustice. Learners who participate in an MS or MA in counseling program develop their therapeutic skills to guide individuals and groups through emotional and psychological challenges.
The main difference between these two approaches to counseling is in the academic emphasis. An MA in counseling is usually a holistic degree that explores psychological theories within cultural and philosophical contexts. An MS in counseling tends to focus more on scientific and research-based aspects, emphasizing evidence-based practices in the field.