Why earn a mental health counseling master’s degree online?
Prepare for a clinical career
Gain in-field, supervised training at clinical placements (usually in your area) for real-world experience before you graduate.
Learn in a flexible, supportive environment
Collaborate with peers, professors, and other counseling professionals from around the world during live online courses.
Specialize your work for specific populations
Customize your degree to your goals with a variety of specialized mental health counseling concentrations, which vary by program.
Browse online master’s degree programs in mental health counseling New
What is mental health counseling?
A degree in mental health counseling develops compassionate practitioners focused on helping individuals, couples, families, and groups navigate and manage their emotional, psychological, and interpersonal challenges. Counselors work to make a difference in the lives of clients in their own communities.
Using various therapeutic approaches and techniques, mental health counselors work with clients from a variety of backgrounds, including those affected by addiction, relationship issues, or behavioral issues in children or adolescents. They do not prescribe medications or offer legal advice, but instead use evidence-based theories to guide clients toward making healthy decisions.
Admission requirements for an online MA in mental health counseling
Admission requirements for an online master’s degree in mental health counseling will vary by institution and program, but most accredited programs will typically require you to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
Additional requirements could include the following items:
Completed online application
Transcripts from all postsecondary institutions or programs
Letters of recommendation
Statement of purpose
Supplemental essay on a specific topic
In many programs, it may be possible to gain acceptance into a master’s degree in a mental health counseling program without submitting a GRE score. The best way to learn about the specific requirements of a program is to request information from the university or visit their admissions page to learn more.
How to apply
Once you find a program that fits your needs, the next step is to apply. Begin by filling out the program’s online application and gathering any necessary documentation or information. It is important to note that most programs recommend applying as early as possible to ensure all required materials are received on time and to qualify for any applicable scholarships or fee waivers.
Master’s degree in mental health counseling curriculum
In many cases, your courses will be taught by the same experienced faculty who teach in the university’s on-campus program. You no longer need to sacrifice quality for convenience — today’s students can learn mental health counseling via a personalized, rigorous curriculum to help future practitioners learn counseling skills.
Your MA in mental health counseling curriculum will vary depending on the program you choose. You also will complete a practicum and an internship for in-person clinical experiences. In most cases, learners can complete these experiences at approved sites in their own communities.
Within the online curriculum, you will cover topics like:
Therapeutic theories and techniques
Ethics and professional standards
Assessment and diagnosis of mental health disorders
Group counseling dynamics
Crisis intervention and trauma counseling
Careers in mental health counseling
Careers in the mental health counseling field can be customized to your interests through various specializations in certain programs. Generally, graduates of an online MA in mental health counseling program can work as substance abuse counselors, behavioral disorder counselors, or mental health counselors in clinical settings.Footnote 1
Master’s degree in mental health counseling salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for mental health counselors was $49,710 in May 2022. The highest 10% earned more than $82,710.Footnote 2 However, your specific salary will be determined by factors such as experience, location, and whether you go into private or public practice.
Mental health counselor job outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mental health counselor field is projected to grow 18% from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations. In addition, an average of 42,000 job openings are projected each year during that time frame.Footnote 3 The master’s in mental health counseling online places you on the pathway toward many of these job openings.
Frequently asked questions
There are a variety of career opportunities within the field of mental health counseling, including marriage and family therapy, substance abuse counseling, school or career counseling, telehealth counseling, and with appropriate licensing for your state, a licensed professional counselor.
Program length varies by school, but earning an MA in mental health counseling can take as few as 18 months full time, or 36 months part time. Check with your program of choice for specific information.
Tuition for an online master’s degree varies by program, so it is best to check with the specific program in which you are interested. It is important to remember that financial aid and scholarships are often available to applicants.
Mental health counselors can have a significant impact on the lives of individuals and families of all ages and backgrounds. It is a rewarding, fulfilling career that is needed in every corner of the globe, and can vary greatly depending on your personal goals and professional interests.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is an independent accrediting body that evaluates and accredits graduate-level counseling programs. CACREP accreditation ensures that a counseling program meets rigorous standards of quality and rigor in curriculum, faculty, and student experiences.
Typically, no — you generally need a graduate degree to become a mental health counselor. Specific requirements may vary by state.