2020 Best Online Master's Programs Badge

2020 Best Online Master's in Counseling Degree Programs

By the GradReports team | Updated 4/1/2020

The 15 schools on this list offer the top online Master's Degrees in Counseling, based on median salary one year after graduation. The school with the highest median starting salary for this degree is Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, at $46,600. The lowest median debt for the best 15 schools is $20,500, at New Mexico Highlands University. Starting median salaries for graduates from the top schools range from $31,400-$46,600.

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 Center City (MN) Center City (MN) $26,150 $56,743 $46,600
#2 #2 San Diego (CA) San Diego (CA) $19,874 $98,288 $46,100
#3 #3 Nyack (NY) Nyack (NY) $14,900 $50,584 $44,900
#4 #4 Nationwide Nationwide $16,239 - $16,752 $54,059 $44,900
#5 #5 Boston (MA) Boston (MA) $37,484 $44,854 $43,200
#6 #6 Manchester (NH) Manchester (NH) $11,286 $64,493 $42,900
#7 #7 Las Vegas (NM) Las Vegas (NM) $9,373 $20,500 $42,300
#8 #8 Minneapolis (MN) Minneapolis (MN) $14,826 $78,190 $41,000
#9 #9 Philadelphia (PA) Philadelphia (PA) $37,074 $100,664 $40,900
#10 #10 Naples (FL) Naples (FL) $16,250 $50,000 $39,900
#11 #11 Evanston (IL) Evanston (IL) $53,024 $125,882 $39,800
#13 #13 Fort Lauderdale (FL) Fort Lauderdale (FL) $23,911 $70,341 $37,500
#15 #15 Fort Valley (GA) Fort Valley (GA) $17,836 $67,443 $34,500

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Learn more about the top colleges for a Master's in Counseling degree. You can also read student reviews of each school by clicking on the stars. Although student reviews were not used as a ranking factor in this list, we provide ratings and reviews so students can consider the experience of alumni in their decision-making process.

Median Salary $46,600
Median Debt $56,743
Annual Tuition $26,150
Student Reviews None (Add review)

Hazelden Betty Ford’s Graduate School of Addiction Studies offers an online Master of Arts in Addiction Studies: Integrated Recovery for Co-Occurring Disorders. Graduates of this program will be prepared for careers as substance abuse counselors. This master’s degree has a 60-unit course requirement. There is a full-time option and a part-time option, and the full-time students can complete the program in two years. Students are able to start in January, May, or September. The online program affords flexibility and mobility, as you can take classes from anywhere in the U.S.

For the 12 units of electives, students can choose between engaging in an internship (where they can begin accumulating practice hours) and academic electives. There are two on-site program requirements, where students come to the campus (located in Center City, Minnesota) for four days for instruction and networking with fellow students, instructors, and faculty.

Visit Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies' website.

Median Salary $46,100
Median Debt $98,288
Annual Tuition $19,874

Alliant International University offers a Master of Art in Education in School Counseling with Pupil Personnel Services Credential Curriculum Plan (MAE in school counseling). This degree can be completed online, on campus, or in a hybridized format (some online courses and some on campus). The curriculum includes courses like Life Span Development, Methodology of Educational Research, Behavior Management in the Classroom, and Individual Counseling.

Alliant International University’s MAE in school counseling also includes an option for PPS only – meaning, if students already have their master’s degrees in psychology, counseling or education, they can apply transfer credits and experience to this program, minimizing the amount of repeat work they do.

To complete this degree, students have to engage in an internship within the field. Each student will be mentored by an instructor throughout the internship, and if properly supervised, some of these hours can go toward licensure later on.

Visit Alliant International University’s website.

Nyack (NY)
Median Salary $44,900
Median Debt $50,584
Annual Tuition $14,900

Nyack College’s Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling aims to teach students about the individual’s health and wellbeing while being sure to keep counseling studies contextualized within society as a whole. In addition to meeting New York state’s educational licensure requirements, Nyack College’s program includes a 3-unit course on theology and mental health counseling. There is also the ability to travel abroad with the global service–learning course.

The M.A. in mental health counseling can take two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study. A student must complete 63 units to finish the course and can choose to take classes on campus or online. For online students, there is still the opportunity to have a seven-day residency on campus, when students can meet one another in person and network with instructors and faculty. Additionally, the online program includes synchronized online meetings for classmates, once or twice a week.

Visit Nyack College’s website.

Median Salary $44,900
Median Debt $54,059
Annual Tuition $16,239 - $16,752

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The University of Phoenix offers a Master of Science in Counseling/Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree that usually takes three and a half years to complete. This degree is offered through the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and satisfies educational licensing requirements. The college’s counseling program is designed to train competent and ethical students. Through different courses, students can choose to concentrate on topics like substance use and abuse, anxiety and depression, marriage and family issues, and military transition.

This master’s degree requires 60-66 units to complete (depending on the student’s state of residence) and is offered online. All students are required to complete a practicum and two internships as part of their course. Course options include Psychopharmacology, Research Methods for Mental Health Counselors, and Supervision/Management in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The M.S. in counseling prepares students to sit for the National Counselor Exam.

Visit University of Phoenix’s website.

Median Salary $43,200
Median Debt $44,854
Annual Tuition $37,484

The Master of Science in Mental Health at the University of Massachusetts-Boston program meets the education requirements for state licensure to work in mental health counseling. The degree has a 60-unit requirement, with sixteen 3-unit courses and two 6-unit courses. The M.S. in mental health is typically completed in two years. There is an online and on-campus option. For students who choose to take the online master’s courses, they will still need to complete several initial courses in person.

The curriculum includes theory, research, and practice. Coursework includes Counseling Theory and Practice, Research and Evaluation in Psychology, Psychopathology and Diagnosis, and Sex and Sexuality in Counseling.

After meeting academic requirements for state licensure, students often have many hours of supervised employment to complete. Not all states have the same licensure requirements, so students are advised to check the regulations of their home state with a local board.

Visit University of Massachusetts–Boston's website.