2020 Best Graduate Schools Badge

25 Best Master's in Counseling Programs 2020

By the GradReports team | Updated 4/1/2020

The 25 schools on this list offer the top Master's Degrees in Counseling based on median salary one year after graduation. The top ranked school is University of La Verne, with a median salary of $50,500. University of Central Arkansas students in this program graduate with $23,134 of student debt, the lowest median debt on the list. Students who graduated with a Master's Degree in Counseling from one of these schools had median starting salaries between $43,200 and $50,500.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education in November 2019. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

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Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Location Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 La Verne (CA) La Verne (CA) $14,238 $61,500 $50,500
#2 #2 Detroit (MI) Detroit (MI) $36,061 Not Reported $49,100
#3 #3 Los Angeles (CA) Los Angeles (CA) $45,561 $123,540 $47,900
#4 #4 Staten Island (NY) Staten Island (NY) $20,480 $40,799 $47,100
#5 #5 Los Angeles (CA) Los Angeles (CA) $18,106 $102,624 $47,000
#6 #6 Center City (MN) Center City (MN) $34,701 $56,743 $46,600
#7 #7 Tacoma (WA) Tacoma (WA) $30,246 $73,023 $46,600
#8 #8 San Diego (CA) San Diego (CA) $23,801 $98,288 $46,100
#9 #9 Portland (OR) Portland (OR) $16,704 $109,377 $45,900
#10 #10 New York (NY) New York (NY) $20,362 $36,500 $45,700
#11 #11 New York (NY) New York (NY) $31,462 $61,145 $45,700
#12 #12 Cambridge (MA) Cambridge (MA) $14,240 $38,276 $45,400
#13 #13 Pasadena (CA) (and 1 other) Pasadena (CA) (and 1 other) $21,057 $92,000 $45,400
#14 #14 Ashland (OR) Ashland (OR) $21,243 $55,374 $45,200
#15 #15 Nyack (NY) Nyack (NY) $10,880 $50,584 $44,900
#16 #16 Nationwide Nationwide $16,752 $54,059 $44,900
#17 #17 New Britain (CT) New Britain (CT) $24,178 $58,000 $44,800
#18 #18 Rochester (NY) Rochester (NY) $17,370 $67,795 $44,200
#19 #19 New York (NY) New York (NY) $20,228 $29,762 $44,100
#20 #20 Queens (NY) Queens (NY) $18,836 $66,002 $44,000
#21 #21 Chestnut Hill (MA) Chestnut Hill (MA) $29,512 $51,250 $43,800
#22 #22 La Crosse (WI) La Crosse (WI) $8,560 $53,891 $43,800
#23 #23 Baltimore (MD) Baltimore (MD) $55,816 $52,445 $43,700
#24 #24 Conway (AR) Conway (AR) $11,045 $23,134 $43,500
#25 #25 Boston (MA) Boston (MA) $35,287 $44,854 $43,200

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

#1
La Verne (CA)
Median Salary $50,500
Median Debt $61,500
Annual Tuition $14,238

University of La Verne has offered an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy since 1973. A 61-credit degree program, it is offered in both a part-time and a full-time format. Classes meet once a week in the evenings to allow students the flexibility to work during the program.

University of La Verne's MFT program provides students with an intimate and collaborative classroom environment. Classes are usually 10 to 12 students and include topics such as Couples Therapy, Child Therapy, and Grief and Loss Counseling. In addition to didactic coursework, students must also complete a one-year 225-hour internship. The school has an extensive network of placements for students to complete this supervised fieldwork requirement. Graduates will have met all requirements for Marriage and Family Therapist licensure in California as well as requirements for community college counseling and instructor roles. 

With a home campus in Laverne, California, the school is located in the Los Angeles metro area. There are campuses in Oxnard, Bakersfield, Burbank, and Irvine.

Visit University of La Verne's website

#2
Detroit (MI)
Median Salary $49,100
Median Debt Not Reported
Annual Tuition $36,061

Wayne State University's School of Education has an extensive Counselor Education Program. It offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with three concentrations: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, and Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling. These degrees require a minimum of 60 credits, and usually take two years to complete. The course format is on-campus, with evening classes. Students may elect to combine the CMHC and SC degrees. The CMHC program also offers a specialty in Art Therapy. Currently, only full-time students are being admitted.

Students in the Clinical Mental Health program are trained as counseling generalists. The School Counseling option is for K-12 counselors in public or private schools. The Clinical Mental Health option focuses on counseling for persons with physical or mental disabilities. Students will learn practical application and current theory. The programs stress effective, professional and culturally respectful counselor training. The combined CMHC/SC degree requires 1,200 hours of internship, the others 600.

Courses in the program include Approaches to Treating Addiction, Systematic Theories and Family Counseling, and Testing and Assessment for Counselors. Graduates of all three programs have a very high pass rate on licensing exams.

Wayne State is located in Detroit, Michigan.

Visit Wayne State University's website.

#3
Los Angeles (CA)
Median Salary $47,900
Median Debt $123,540
Annual Tuition $45,561

Through its Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California offers a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy. The program focuses both on research and on practical knowledge to prepare graduates to work as therapists in a variety of settings. Students can choose to complete the required 60 credits via a part-time or full-time format.

Courses in the MFT program include Theories of Marriage and Family Therapy, Cross-Cultural Counseling: Research and Practice, and Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents. In addition to in-class requirements, the program includes a supervised fieldwork experience that will provide students with 1,300 hours of the 3,000 hours required for licensure in California. Upon completion of the degree program and the additional licensure requirements, students will be eligible for the State of California’s Marriage and Family Therapy license. 

Visit University of Southern California's website

#4
Staten Island (NY)
Median Salary $47,100
Median Debt $40,799
Annual Tuition $20,480

The City University of New York's College of Staten Island offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The format is on-campus. It requires 60 credits and usually is completed in two and a half years. The degree has been designed for students who will want to be licensed as Mental Health Counselors. Graduates will be eligible for provisional employment and will be prepared for the rigorous licensure procedure.

The degree prepares students to practice in the range of counseling settings, from schools and agencies to prisons and private practice. The overall focus is the theory and practice of contemporary counseling for the life cycle, and also advocacy and social justice. The course work includes a practicum and three internship courses that total 700 hours of field experience. The program's course offerings include Assessment in Counseling, Ethics/ Child Abuse for Counselors, Immigrant/ Family Counseling, and Social/ Cultural Foundations of Counseling.

The College of Staten Island is one of 26 colleges in the City University of New York system. The campus is located on Staten Island, one of New York City's five boroughs.

Visit CUNY College of Staten Island's website.

#5
Los Angeles (CA)
Median Salary $47,000
Median Debt $102,624
Annual Tuition $18,106

Loyola Marymount University offers three Masters of Arts in Counseling degrees: Counseling, School Counseling, and Guidance and Counseling. The degrees are designed for different student goals. All three are on-campus format and usually take two years to complete. All three reflect LMU's strong Jesuit tradition of academic excellence combined with ethics and justice.

The Master of Arts in Counseling is a 60 credit degree designed for students who will pursue the rigorous Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor licensure. If they wish, students may focus on Community Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling or doctoral preparation. The 48 credit MA in School Counseling is for students wanting to become counselors in a K-12 California school. The 37 credit MA  in Guidance and Counseling is for students who will not pursue LPCC licensure, and is ideal for positions such as academic counselor.

Students will learn current counseling theory, best counseling practices, client advocacy, and professional ethics,  LMU stresses competency, ethics and multicultural sensitivity. Among the courses offered in the programs are Ethical and Legal Issues, Fundamentals of Counseling, and Crisis Counseling, Prevention and Intervention.

Loyola Marymount University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the country. The campus is located in Los Angeles.

Visit Loyola Marymount University's website