Best Online Mental Health Counseling Master’s Degree Programs

This guide makes finding information about online master’s in mental health counseling programs easy. It showcases top accredited schools, tells you what you will learn and the careers possible with the degree, and gives an idea of the admission requirements and cost.

An online master’s in mental health counseling can unlock many opportunities, including getting a license to practice anywhere in the United States. This degree also gives necessary skills for helping people emotionally, mentally, therapeutically, and behaviorally. An online master’s degree in mental health counseling allows you to further your career and expand your expertise while maintaining a balance between your work and personal life.
Aspects to consider before beginning an online master’s in mental health program include time commitment, cost, flexibility, and program content. This guide will help you decide which online master’s in mental health counseling program is best for you.

College Spotlights: Best Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Programs

The best online master’s in mental health programs have both skill- and theory-specific coursework as well as extensive practicum or internship opportunities. Below are three of the top master’s in mental health counseling programs with the accreditation, affordability, and flexibility needed in a quality program. These schools are just a preview of a full list to come in 2021.

New York University

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New York University offers a two-year online master’s degree in mental health counseling. You can enroll full- or part-time to complete the 60 hours of coursework required. NYU’s degree combines core coursework with internship opportunities to help students understand group dynamics, ethical issues, theory and process, and abnormal psychology. Electives are also offered in bereavement counseling, marriage and family counseling, addiction counseling, career counseling, and more.
Each student participates in a counseling lab to establish basic counseling skills and sharpen self-awareness and insight. The lab is a prerequisite to the practicum, and the practicum is a prerequisite for any internships. Students must obtain a New York license in clinical mental health counseling to legally practice. NYU is accredited by the MPCAC (Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council) through 2025.

John Hopkins University

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John Hopkins University offers a two-year online Master of Science in Counseling designed to help students become advocates in the counseling industry. There is also a specialization focusing on clinical mental health. Students have five years to complete the 60-credits of coursework and 600 hours of internship.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, a minimum GPA of 3.0, and at least two letters of recommendation. Students can expect to learn to assess needs, develop goals, and counsel individuals from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. They also learn to facilitate group work in a mental healthcare setting as well as the competencies needed to evaluate and apply evidence-based practices.

University of Massachusetts, Boston

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The University of Massachusetts, Boston offers a two-year Master of Science in Mental Health that prepares students to meet the requirements for licensure in Massachusetts. Students must complete 60 hours of coursework online and attend a 2-week course in-person at the University of Boston. The degree gives the knowledge and skills needed the first semester for the internship and practicum requirements in the second year.

This degree helps students identify and collaborate with people of different backgrounds and gain the skills and values required of mental health counselors. They can also pick a concentration if desired.

Advantages of Earning an Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling

One of the biggest advantages of earning an online master’s in mental health counseling is the ability to obtain a license to practice counseling. A bachelor’s degree does not provide this. Additional advantages include those detailed below.

  1. Furthering your career

    Obtaining a master’s degree in mental health counseling online allows you to further your career and possibly boost your salary. It teaches the approaches and skills necessary for counseling. This degree can open pathways to specialization or simply more advanced positions in the mental healthcare field.

  2. Flexibility

    Obtaining an online master’s degree in mental health counseling gives you the flexibility to complete coursework on your timeframe and in locations that work best for you. Most also allow for local practicums/internships, so you can fit them into your schedule and maintain the professional and personal balance you want.

  3. Cost-effective

    In many cases, online students pay resident tuition rates regardless of where they live. Add to that the savings in travel and an online degree is especially cost-effective.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Mental Health Counseling Degree at the Master’s Level

Students pursuing a master’s in mental health counseling can expect to learn about substance abuse, human development, human personalities, abnormal psychology, group counseling, trauma and suicide, assessment and testing, ethics, and more. They study how to identify, assess, and counsel individuals from multiple populations and backgrounds. Students also learn prevention methods, treatment, and program management options. Many courses also cover a basic understanding of psychopharmacology and how it affects mental health in patients.

  • Substance Abuse and Addictions

    This course teaches students to examine and diagnose multiple substance addictions in varying populations. They learn about addictive behavior, the effects of various drugs, and therapeutic and counseling treatment options. Some courses even cover a patient’s addiction effects on family members.

  • Counseling Families and Couples

    Students in this course review basic family system dynamics, theories, and techniques. The course covers theoretical foundations and ethical and legal issues regarding the family. Some schools offer specific marriage or parenting classes to meet the specific needs of clientele.

  • Crisis, Trauma, and Suicide

    This course is an introduction to the concepts, theories, and principles of crisis management. Students learn modern techniques of crisis management within the community, family, school, and individual settings as well as the resolution and prevention of such problems.

  • Counseling Skills

    This course introduces the skills, techniques, and processes for establishing a basic counseling relationship. Students learn the necessary attitudes and skills of an effective counselor and how those help clients. They also learn the process of helping the individuals.

  • Social and Cultural Counseling

    This course presents the cultural context of the counseling relationship and how factors and concerns such as culture, ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic status, gender orientation, religious values, and other characteristics affect individuals.

Specialization Options in Online Mental Health Counseling Programs

Most master’s in mental health counseling programs allow you to choose a concentration or specialization. Different schools offer different concentrations. Below are five different concentrations to give an idea of the options available.

  • Addiction Counseling

    Addiction counseling assesses a client’s willingness to change. Once this is established, a counselor helps identify triggers and how to avoid them. This concentration focuses on creating action plans, handling potential relapses, and repairing family relationships.

  • Rehabilitation Counseling

    Rehabilitation counseling involves work with clients disabled by an accident or disease. Counselors help handle emotional issues, provide specialized career assistance, and more. They help clients find emotional support and new ways to be productive. Students in this course can expect to gain a lot of hands-on experience.

  • Mental Health and Wellness Counseling

    Mental health and wellness counseling involves helping with emotional wellness struggles. Students learn different theories and practices and how they are effective. Mental health and wellness counselors guide individuals to their strengths and suggest coping methods for when troubling times arise.

  • Marriage and Family Counseling

    When problems occur, many families seek counseling to repair relationships. A marriage and family counselor facilitates and guides individuals to improved communication. This concentration teaches students to stay objective and to be sensitive to all sides of a situation while teaching clients how to communicate.

  • Career Counseling

    Career counseling is one of the more popular concentrations. Career counselors work in schools, businesses, and community agencies. Students are prepared to explore client’s aptitudes and interests and to help match them to the perfect work environment. A career counselor is responsible for helping throughout or during any part of a job search process.

Accreditation for Online Mental Health Counseling Degrees

Appropriate accreditation is an essential element to consider when choosing an online master’s degree program in mental health counseling. You can usually find which accreditations a school has on its website. If you can’t find it, call and ask.

Accrediting organizations for mental health counseling programs include the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC). Others like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (NCATE) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) are also worth exploring.

Above all when it comes to accreditation for an online master’s degree in mental health counseling, make sure the school you choose is accredited by a program that will allow you to get your license.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling

There are many job opportunities available to someone with a master’s degree in mental health counseling. These include being a counselor for a clinic, an on-staff therapist for a police station, a school counselor, or a counselor in private practice. Some of the top careers for those with a master’s degree in mental health counseling are detailed below.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Whether a person has a physical, mental, or emotional disability, they need creative solutions. That is where a rehabilitation counselor comes in. Rehabilitation counselors work in a variety of community and state facilities helping the disabled live better lives.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$23,820 $35,950 $63,790

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Mental Health CounselorActuary

Mental health counselors focus on helping individuals, groups, and families with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, and personality disorders. Mental health counselors typically practice cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, humanistic theory, or a combination of these.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$29,520 $46,240 $76,080

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

School Counselor

Many students have more needs than teachers can meet, which is where a school counselor comes in. School counselors help individuals and small groups work through anxiety, bullying, low academic performances, and any problems students may be having at home.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$34,380 $57,040 $96,090

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Marriage and Family Counselor

Marriage and family counselors help with issues like depression and substance abuse, but they do so within the family unit. These counselors also address relationship issues like domestic violence, marital conflicts, infertility, and parenting teenagers.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$32,070 $49,610 $87,770

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors diagnose and assess substance problems and addictions. They customize treatment plans for recovering clients and help them during a crisis or relapse. These counselors also help clients overcome self-doubt and denial, so they can achieve a full recovery.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$29,520 $46,240 $76,080

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in Mental Health Counseling

Earning a master’s degree in mental health counseling requires significant monetary commitment. Fortunately, many schools offer scholarships, work-study programs, fellowships, and governmental grants. Employer tuition assistance might also be available through an individual’s workplace. When considering a school, check its financial aid options to help in your decision.

What Your Online Master’s in Mathematics Might Cost

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

University of Massachusetts, Boston

60

$770

$46,200

New York University

60

$1,867

$112,020

John Hopkins University

60

$882

$52,920

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Mental Health Counseling Master’s Degrees

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in mental health counseling?

Each school has a slightly different admission process, but there are many requirements that all schools have in common. Common elements typically include the following.

  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Minimum GPA
  • Work experience

How long will it take to finish my online mental health counseling degree?

A master’s degree in mental health counseling typically takes two years of full-time coursework to complete. Part-time will take longer. A master’s in mental health counseling degree usually requires 60 credits, but there are also practicums and internships to consider. Also, if you’re attending online, not every course is offered during every part of the year. When considering which school to attend, check their timelines and requirements.

Can I earn a master’s in mental health counseling 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

This depends on the school. Some schools offer degrees completely online, while others offer a hybrid of online and on-campus classes. Some schools even offer online classes but require campus visits at the beginning of every semester. Check with the individual schools to find out for sure.