Counseling Schools and Program Guide

Nearly 1,000 US colleges and universities offer counseling programs, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, to serve the growing number of prospective counselors.1

To help you find the best counseling programs for you, we’ve researched counseling programs using qualitative metrics you can review below or on our state school pages. We also cover school accreditation, admission information, and an overview of the counseling major.

Table of Contents

Counseling School Facts

Since all states require a master’s degree in counseling for most types of licensure, the majority of programs offered are master’s in counseling programs. However, it is also possible to find counseling schools at the associate and bachelor’s levels for those who wish to start their education with an undergraduate degree in counseling or to enter the field before obtaining a master’s.

  • There are 957 not-for-profit colleges and universities that offer a counseling program in marriage and family therapy/counseling, mental health counseling, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, and/or vocational rehabilitation counseling in the United States.1
  • 642 of these schools offer an advanced degree in these areas of counseling.1
  • 262 of these schools offer a certificate program in these areas of counseling.1
  • 65 of these schools offer a bachelor’s degree in these areas of counseling.1
  • 199 of these schools offer an associate degree in these areas of counseling.1
  • 151 of these schools offer a degree in marriage and family therapy/counseling.1
  • 292 of these schools offer a degree in mental health counseling.1
  • 456 of these schools offer a degree in school counseling.1
  • 427 of these schools offer a degree in substance abuse counseling.1
  • 70 of these schools offer a degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling.1
  • 812 counseling programs are accredited by CACREP.2

Counseling Schools and Programs by State

To find the counseling schools offered near you, click on your state below to learn more. There you will find information on the types of counseling programs offered as well as top-ranked schools with counseling programs in each state. In addition, you can find program profiles of select graduate and undergraduate counseling programs in each state.

Nationally Ranked Top Counseling Programs

Our proprietary best value rankings and select third-party rankings are useful in measuring the overall value and reputation of a program. A school’s presence on multiple lists is an additional indication of quality.

Best Value Counseling Schools With On-Campus Programs

To help you find the best counseling school, we have put together the following table with best value schools offering counseling programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels in marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, and/or vocational rehabilitation counseling across the US. The colleges and universities that made our list have a graduation rate of 80% or above and a net price of less than $20,000 per year. A high graduation rate is usually an indicator of student success at a given school, and when coupled with a low net price, it can mean a higher return on your investment. We have also indicated in the table whether each school offers a counseling program in mental health, marriage and family therapy (MFT), rehabilitation (Rehab), substance abuse counseling (Subst. Abuse), and/or school counseling (Sch. Couns.).

SchoolMental HealthMFTRehabSubst. AbuseSch. Couns.US News Nat. Rank4Grad Rate*1% Tenured Faculty3Net Price**1
University of FloridaM.Ed./EdS & MAE/EdS;
M.Ed./EdS & MAE/EdSPhDGrad Cert^M.Ed./EdS & MAE/EdS#34 tie90%50%$11,313
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillMSMSGrad Cert; MAGrad Cert; MA#29 tie89%43%$11,649
Purdue University-Main CampusBS; MPH; PhDMSGrad Cert#57 tie81%43%$11,898
Brigham Young University-ProvoPhDMS; PhD#77 tie86%46%$13,120
Florida State UniversityEdS; MS; PhDBS; MS; PhDMS/EdS; PhD#57 tie83%43%$13,318
University of Wisconsin-MadisonMS; PhDBS; MS; PhDGrad Cert#46 tie87%49%$14,169
North Carolina State University at RaleighM.Ed.^M.Ed.^#84 tie81%52%$14,771
University of GeorgiaM.Ed.; PhDGrad CertEdD; EdS#50 tie86%54%$15,539
College of William and MaryM.Ed.^; PhDM.Ed.M.Ed.EdS; M.Ed.^#40 tie91%47%$15,622
Michigan State UniversityMAMA; PhDGrad Cert^EdS; PhD#84 tie80%46%$16,227
Rutgers University-New BrunswickEdM; MSMSGrad CertEdM#62 tie80%26%$16,295
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesPhDBS; Min.; MA; MEd; PhDMS; PhDMPSMA#70 tie80%59%$16,691
University of Maryland-College ParkGrad Cert; PhDBS; MS; PhDMSMA; M.Ed.; PhD#64 tie86%44%$16,790
Harvard UniversityEdM/Grad Cert#298%45%$17,590
James Madison UniversityMA/EdSM.Ed.NR84%41%$17,753
University of Virginia-Main CampusM.Ed.; PhD#2894%54%$17,845
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityMAEdBS; Grad Cert; MS; PhDMAEd#74 tie84%51%$18,349
Clemson UniversityM.Ed./EdSBAM.Ed./EdS#70 tie83%45%$19,508

US News & World Report’s Top-Ranked Graduate Schools With Student Counseling Programs

US News & World Report has ranked the best schools for graduate programs in student counseling and personnel services programs of 2023, which includes schools with doctoral programs in school counseling, college student counseling, and personnel services. All of the schools ranked below offer counseling programs at the master’s level as well as the doctoral level.5

  • University of Maryland-College Park (#1)
  • Ohio State University (#2)
  • University of North Carolina-Greensboro (#3)
  • University of Florida (#4)
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (#5)
  • Pennsylvania State University-University Park (#6tie)
  • University of Georgia (#6 tie)
  • Indiana University-Bloomington (#8 tie)
  • Teachers College, Columbia University (#8 tie)
  • Boston College (Lynch) (#10 tie)
  • Vanderbilt University (Peabody) (#10 tie)

US News & World Report’s Top-Ranked Graduate Schools With Rehabilitation Counseling Programs

US News & World Report has ranked the best rehabilitation programs of 2023, which is based on a survey of peer institutions.6

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (#1)
  • Michigan State University (#2)
  • San Diego State University (#3 tie)
  • University of Iowa (#3 tie)
  • George Washington University (#5)
  • Pennsylvania State University-University Park (#6 tie)
  • University of Kentucky (#6 tie)
  • Utah State University (#6 tie)
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (#6 tie)
  • University of Arizona (#10 tie)
  • University of Wisconsin-Stout (#10 tie)
  • Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (#12)

School Accreditation

One of the most important criteria to consider when choosing a school is institutional accreditation. Not only does a school’s accreditation status indicate that it meets national standards for quality of education, but most state licensure boards require counseling license candidates’ qualifying degrees to be from a nationally-accredited institution. Until 2020, there were six regional institutional accreditors recognized by the US Department of Education (USDE): the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). These formerly regional accreditors can now compete to accredit nationally. They are still broadly respected as a marker of quality and recognized in many states as part of the counseling licensing process.

In addition to schools being nationally accredited, counseling programs may be programmatically accredited by counseling-specific bodies that recognize programs offering beyond the minimum in counseling education. The most common and widely respected accreditor for professional counseling programs is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP accreditation is voluntary and ensures the counseling program you attend meets a stringent set of standards set by the Council. While most states do not require counseling programs to be CACREP-accredited to qualify you for licensure, many states prefer these programs and may waive or reduce other requirements if your qualifying program is CACREP-accredited.

Some states, such as Ohio, strongly suggest attending a CACREP-accredited program. In other states, attending a CACREP-accredited program may waive additional requirements. In addition to on-campus programs, there are CACREP-accredited online counseling programs. Attending a CACREP-accredited program provides a smoother pathway to state licensure, in part because of its established procedures for approving coursework. In addition, some credentials or reimbursement programs may prefer or require graduation from a CACREP-accredited program, including TRICARE, the US military’s civilian health care system.

Other accrediting agencies recognize programs at the specialty level. The Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC), for example, recognizes genetic counseling programs. Programs developed for licensed substance abuse counselors may be accredited by the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCC AP) or the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC).

Some doctoral-level counseling programs may also have accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). This is a widely-recognized accreditation, but the APA does not accredit master’s level or for fully-online programs.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for counseling programs vary widely depending on the level and focus of the program as well as other factors, so you should check with each school to understand their requirements. In general, associate and bachelor’s programs require a high school diploma or GED with a minimum grade point average (GPA), personal statement, and letters of recommendation. At the undergraduate level, many schools require SAT or ACT standardized test scores for admittance. Schools offering master’s degrees in counseling typically require an undergraduate degree from a regionally-accredited school. Admittance to master’s programs is generally more competitive than undergraduate programs due to the specialized nature of the degree and smaller class sizes. As such, many quality schools look for highly-motivated students with high GPAs, competitive GRE or GMAT scores, strong in-person interviews, related work experience, and persuasive letters of recommendation.

What to Expect With a Counseling Major or Concentration

At the undergraduate level, counseling is one of many academic majors students can choose from. For counseling majors at the undergraduate level, coursework will be more generalized, providing students with a foundation in counseling and a broad understanding of the field’s subspecialties.

Due to graduate programs’ focus on specialized knowledge in a particular subject area, counseling at the master’s and doctoral level is usually referred to as a concentration, emphasis, or specialization area. Students concentrating in counseling at the graduate level typically focus on one specific area of counseling, such as addiction counseling or mental health counseling. Below are some examples of courses you may encounter at each degree level.

Undergraduate Level

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Applied Group Dynamics
  • Child Psychology
  • Contemporary Issues in Counseling
  • Counseling Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults
  • Counseling Internship & Seminar
  • Counseling Procedures and Strategies with Addicted and Disordered Populations
  • Counseling and Therapy
  • Crisis Management Skills
  • Ethics in Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Family Interventions
  • Group Process and Techniques Working with Addicted Populations and Disordered Populations
  • Group Skills in Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Interpersonal Relationships and Interview Skills
  • Introduction to Addiction Theory and Practice
  • Introduction to Counseling
  • Maintenance Strategies for Long-Term Substance Abuse Recovery
  • Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability
  • Rehabilitation Foundations
  • Research Methods in the Social Sciences
  • Theories of Personality
  • Understanding Statistical Research

Master’s Level

  • Administration of Counseling Services in Educational Settings
  • Advanced Clinical Internship in Counseling
  • Advanced Counseling Techniques
  • Assessment & Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Biological Perspectives in Mental Health
  • Career Development for School Counselors
  • Career and Life Span Development
  • Counseling Children & Adolescents
  • Counseling Issues in Culture, Diversity, and Advocacy
  • Counseling Theories
  • Cross-Cultural Counseling
  • Human Development Across Cultures
  • Marriage/Family Therapy
  • Mental Health in Schools
  • Psychopharmacology for the Nonmedical Mental Health Professional
  • Practicum: Clinical Interviewing & Treatment Planning
  • Professional Orientation and Ethical Practice
  • Quantitative Measurement and Test Interpretation
  • Socio-cultural Foundations
  • Theories & Methods Of Counseling
  • Vocational Counseling and Placement

PhD Level

  • Advanced Counseling Research Design and Assessment
  • Advanced Family Systems Theory
  • Advanced Group Counseling
  • Advanced Counseling Techniques with Families
  • Advanced Counseling Theory and Practice
  • Advanced Multicultural Issues in Counseling
  • Change Process: Advanced Human Resource Management
  • Christian Leadership Development
  • Cognitive Assessment
  • Counseling Leadership and Advocacy Internship
  • Counseling Teaching Internship
  • Current Issues in Counseling and Counselor Education
  • Dissertation Seminar
  • Human Sexuality
  • Introduction to Applied Statistics and Data Analysis
  • Leadership, Advocacy, and Advanced Professional Issues in Counseling
  • Mindfulness Based CBT Counseling
  • Multicultural Perspectives in Counselor Education, Supervision, and Research
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Quantitative Methods of Inquiry
  • Teaching in Counselor Education
  • Trauma Counseling: Etiology, Treatment, and Interventions

Select Schools With Traditional Counseling Programs

Undergraduate Programs

Lesley University

Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Counseling with optional specializations in Expressive Arts Therapy or Holistic Psychology that prepares graduates for careers in human services or counseling or for graduate programs in the field. The BS is a four-year program comprising 120 credits and includes courses such as Foundations and Systems in the Helping Profession; Theories of Personality; and Social Policy. Lesley also offers a Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling Psychology: School Counseling and an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling for prospective licensed mental health counselors (with optional specializations in Holistic Studies; School and Community Counseling; or Trauma Studies). Students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program will complete an internship in the Greater Boston area for their 700 hours of field training to the educational requirements to become a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in Massachusetts.

Tiffin University

Tiffin University, located in Tiffin, Ohio, offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology with a concentration in Addictions Counseling on campus in a 15-week semester format and start dates in January and August. The BA program teaches students hands-on skills that qualify them to become licensed as Chemical Dependency Counselors in Ohio and certified at the international level. An optional internship is offered that can be counted toward the required 220 hours of practical experience in 12 core areas for CDC licensure, leaving them only one year of experience (2,000 hours) to accrue upon graduation to qualify them to sit for the exam. Before graduation, students will be eligible to apply for the Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant (CDCA) license, allowing them to work in entry-level positions if they so choose. Tiffin also offers a BA in Psychology online.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

The Department of Educational & Clinical Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) offers a CACREP-accredited Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Services with an applied emphasis and grounding in counseling research and theory that prepares graduates to work in administrative counseling positions in mental health, in child and adolescent services, as substance abuse counselors, or to pursue a related master’s degree. The main learning objectives of the BS in Human Services program include the ability to demonstrate the paraprofessional skills needed for entry-level counseling and human services positions; to deliver services ethically and professionally; and to exhibit an understanding of how factors like community development and public policy can impact social change. UNLV also offers a Minor in Human Services; an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Counseling with options in Community Counseling and School Counseling; a Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling; a Minor in Addictions Prevention; a Minor in Addictions Treatment; a Minor in Problem Gambling; a Minor in Human Services; and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Addiction Studies; and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Counseling.

Master’s Programs

Oklahoma City University

A Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree program is offered at Oklahoma City University in Applied Behavioral Studies: Professional Counseling for students who wish to become professional counselors in a variety of settings. The M.Ed. degree requires students to complete at least 60 credit hours, including field experience. The program meets the educational requirements that the Oklahoma Board of Behavioral Health has set for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). The core of the master’s degree is the 33-credit hour M.Ed. in Applied Behavioral Studies (ABS). However, students can obtain the designation in Professional Counseling and the 60 total credit hours needed for licensure by completing five additional courses and field experience. OCU’s M.Ed. program admits students in the fall only and is considered “fast-track” as courses are offered in accelerated eight-week sessions, allowing full-time students to complete the program in two years. Select non-clinical courses may be offered online.

Rhode Island College

Rhode Island College in Providence offers several counseling programs at the graduate level, including a CACREP-accredited Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a Certificate of Graduate Study (CGS) in Advanced Counseling. The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling comprises 60 credits over three years and is designed to prepare graduates to become licensed mental health counselors through the integration of research and practice. Internship possibilities include placements at mental health centers, adoption agencies, psychiatric hospitals, and alternative education programs. The CGS in Graduate Studies in Advanced Counseling is available for students with a master’s degree in counseling or a related field who must complete additional coursework to meet the educational requirements to become a licensed mental health counselor. Students in this program can consult with an advisor to take the number of credits they need to become licensed, but program components include core coursework, a two-year practicum, and an internship with 600 hours of fieldwork.

University of Maryland

The University of Maryland (UMD) School of Public Health’s Department of Family Science offers a Master of Science (MS) in Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) that prepares graduates for licensure as MFTs in most states. The MS degree, which is completed in an average of two years (including the two-year internship), requires 48 credits for the non-thesis option and 51 for the thesis option. The CFT degree is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Preferred applicants have a bachelor’s degree in family studies or a related field, a minimum GPA of 3.0, strong GRE scores, and relevant work experience. UM’s Department of Family Science also offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Family Science, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Family Science, and a PhD in Maternal and Child Health. UMD’s Eastern Shore campus (UMES) offers Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees in Rehabilitation Services and Rehabilitation Psychology as well as a 60-credit MS in Rehabilitation Counseling.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

As of fall 2023, the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences offers two degree options: a master’s in clinical rehabilitation counseling (CRC) and a master’s in clinical mental health counseling (CMHC). CACREP accreditation status for both degrees is still pending. Both programs consist of over 60 credits and offer specialized training concentrations in developmental disabilities and psychiatric disabilities. CRC graduates are prepared to pursue national professional certification as Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC). CMHC and CRC graduates are eligible for National Certified Counselor (NCC) credentials and the Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) credential in North Carolina. The coursework has a theoretical and applied approach, teaching students to assess the “whole person” by addressing their psychological, spiritual, vocational, relational, and physical needs. Letter grades are not given at UNC’s graduate school; instead, grades of High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, and Fail are earned, with the majority of students earning a grade of High Pass or Pass.

University of South Dakota

The University of South Dakota (USD) offers several CACREP-approved graduate degrees for those interested in counseling careers. A Master of Arts (MA) is available in School Counseling K-12 or Clinical Mental Health. The School Counseling program prepares graduates to support school-age students with their personal, academic, and developmental needs, while the Clinical Mental Health track prepares graduates to be clinical counselors, supporting clients as they work to overcome difficulties. A thesis and a non-thesis option are offered; the former is 64 credit hours, and the latter is 60. USD also offers an Education Specialist (EdS) in School Psychology, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in School Psychology, and an Online Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Counseling for those looking to become Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) and need additional coursework to meet the required 60 hours of training for licensure. USD also offers an MA, EdS, and PhD in Human Development and Educational Psychology.

PhD Programs

Barry University

Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, offers a CACREP-accredited Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counseling program focused equally on prospective practitioners, educators, and researchers that teaches skills in counseling and counselor education, supervision, leadership, and research. With classes held once a week in the evening, the program is ideal for working professionals who want to hone their research skills. This program can be completed in person, online synchronous, or in a hybrid format. The doctoral program also requires all candidates to complete an advanced counseling practicum in marital, couple, and family counseling as well as three internships in supervision, teaching, and leadership/advocacy. Barry also offers a unique on-campus training clinic called the CARE Center, which provides supervised counseling training and clinical supervision. Another opportunity unique to Barry is its College Reach-Out Program (CROP), which allows PhD candidates to work on enhancing resources for students and families. Those with a master’s in counseling or a related field are encouraged to apply. An optional specialization is offered in Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling.

Florida State University

The College of Health and Human Sciences at Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) that emphasizes programmatic research and advanced clinical preparation for scholars and leaders in MFT. The PhD program is COAMFTE-accredited and requires an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 with recommended GRE scores in the 50th percentile or above. Completion of a clinical master’s degree program is also required for admission. During their first two years in the program, students will provide supervised therapy at the on-campus Center for Couple and Family Therapy (CCFT) facility. The research component of the program is focused on family processes, distressed families, intimate relationships, and implementing best practices in psychoeducation and therapy. A minimum of 87 credit hours comprise the PhD in MFT program at FSU, with 21 credits dedicated to clinical supervision and 24 to the dissertation. FSU also offers a Master of Science (MS) degree in Family and Child Sciences.

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, offers a CACREP-accredited Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education with a concentration in Counseling for prospective counselor-educators who wish to work in higher education institutions, for clinicians who wish to provide mental health and counseling services, and for counseling leaders in schools. Students enrolled in the Old Dominion Department of Counseling and Human Services PhD program can choose to study full-time or part-time depending on their needs. Full-time students are eligible for assistantships and tuition waivers and complete the program in three years, while part-time students usually complete the program in four years. Admission requirements include a master’s degree from a CACREP-accredited program or equivalent. Students are admitted one time per year to start in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. A Master of Science in Education (MSEd) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; Counseling; and School Counseling is offered at Old Dominion, as well as an Education Specialist (EdS) degree in Counseling. In addition to these degrees, a Certificate in Addiction Prevention and Treatment and a Minor in Addiction Prevention and Treatment are offered.

Certificate Programs

University of Georgia

The University of Georgia’s (UGA) School of Social Work offers a Marriage and Family Therapy (CMFT) Certificate program to graduate students concurrently enrolled in a program at UGA. The CMFT Certificate comprises 21 credit hours, including courses like Counseling Children and Adolescents; Theories of Drug and Alcohol Abuse; Expressive Arts and Play Media in Counseling; and Professional Practice in the Field of Intimate Partner Violence, and six practicum credits, usually completed over at least two consecutive semesters. The certificate program has an applied focus for those interested in practicing MFT. It prepares students for further supervised clinical training, though it does not meet all the requirements for state licensure as an LMFT. For the practicum component of the program to count toward licensure, you must see couples and/or family clients under supervision for 500 client contact hours over 12 consecutive months. Involving three units of UGA (the College of Education, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, and the School of Social Work), students can complete the certificate program alongside a master’s degree program with departmental approval. UGA also offers a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Master of Social Work (MSW), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work.

Select Schools With Online Counseling Programs

Undergraduate Programs

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati Online (UC Online) has a 100% online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Substance Abuse Counseling that prepares graduates to work with people struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol. The fully-online bachelor’s degree can be completed in as little as three years with an accelerated approach or over a traditional four-year schedule. Graduates are prepared to continue their studies at the graduate level or pursue licensure if this degree satisfies the educational requirements. In Ohio, for example, graduates of the program will be academically qualified for the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professional Board’s Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor III (LCDC III). Start dates are available in the summer, fall, and spring. UC Online also offers undergraduate Certificates in Substance Abuse Counseling and Substance Abuse Prevention.

Master’s Programs

College of William and Mary

The College of William and Mary offers an online CACREP-accredited Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Counseling with specializations in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) (with optional specializations in Addictions Counseling; Couples, Marriage and Family Counseling; and Military and Veterans Counseling), and School Counseling. The School Counseling concentration prepares graduates to become community leaders, contributors, and school counselors at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The 60-credit program includes a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship, and, from start to finish, the program can be completed in three years of full-time study. Graduates will be equipped to support students’ mental, emotional, and physical development as school counselors. Courses can be completed in as few as 17 “minimesters,” or seven-and-a-half-week semesters, and students can begin in the Fall term. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a personal essay, letters of recommendation, and a resume.

Palo Alto University

Palo Alto University (PAU) offers a CACREP-accredited Master of Arts (MA) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with emphases in Marriage, Family, and Child or Clinical Mental Health that can be completed online or through a hybrid format. The online master’s in counseling program trains graduates to become licensed mental health professionals and California graduates are prepared to pursue the state’s Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) licenses. Online students can take two to three classes each quarter, with all classes offered in the evening in an interactive, synchronous (real-time) classroom format. Online students must attend two in-person residential training experiences at PAU campus and can complete the degree in less than three years. Learning outcomes include knowledge of human growth and development, group counseling and effective leadership, and research and program evaluation.

University at Buffalo

At the University of Buffalo’s Department of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology, you can earn a CACREP-accredited Master of Science (MS) in Rehabilitation Counseling completely online. The clinically-focused 60-credit hour program is also offered in a traditional format at the Buffalo campus. Students in the program are prepared to practice rehabilitation counseling or to become nationally-certified rehabilitation counselors, working with clients to overcome physical, mental, cognitive, or sensory disabilities. With an average of three semesters of field placement training, the online master’s program can be completed in less than three years when attending part-time. A bachelor’s degree in a related field is required to apply, along with transcripts, a statement of intent, references, and an admission interview. The University of Buffalo also offers an MS in Mental Health Counseling and a Master of Education (EdM) in School Counseling as well as Advanced Certificates (AC) in Mental Health Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling, and School Counseling.

PhD Programs

University of the Cumberlands

The University of the Cumberlands (UC) in Williamsburg, Kentucky, offers an online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counselor Education and Supervision that is CACREP accredited. This program comprises 66 post-master’s credit hours and takes about three years to complete. Coursework covers areas such as advanced counseling theories, clinical supervision, ethical and legal issues in counseling, teaching online, neuroanatomy, behavioral medicine, and developing research skills. There are three main components of coursework: core courses (30 hours), professional research & field experience (27 hours), and specialty area content (nine hours in addiction, advanced counseling, or leadership). UC also offers master’s degrees in Addiction Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there CACREP-accredited online counseling programs?

Yes, CACREP accredits over 100 online counseling programs.2 CACREP bases accreditation status on a program’s performance in various areas, including foundational standards in the program, the learning environment, coverage of specialty areas, and practicum/internship requirements. Online counseling programs may be ideal for working students or those without time to attend regularly-scheduled classes at a traditional campus who need more flexibility in their schooling.

What type of counselor schooling do I need to have to become a counselor?

If you aim to become a licensed professional counselor, you will need at least a master’s degree in mental health counseling or a closely-related major, no matter which state you are in. An undergraduate counseling degree may qualify you for lower license types, administrative roles in counseling, or some substance abuse counseling licenses.

How long will it take me to complete a counseling program?

Master’s in counseling programs usually take at least two years of full-time study to complete; bachelor’s in counseling programs take around four years; associate programs in counseling take around two years; and doctoral and certificate programs vary in length. Part-time attendance will increase how long it takes you to complete your program.

Should I get my counseling degree on campus or online?

Whether you get your counseling degree on campus or online depends on your preferred learning environment. Counseling programs offered in a traditional format give students an on-campus experience in a classroom setting. Some students prefer this format for the structure and guidance it provides and for its in-person interaction with fellow students and teachers. Online programs offer flexibility for working professionals or self-motivated students who can independently meet deadlines.

Do I need to attend an accredited counseling program?

If you are pursuing state licensure as a professional counselor, you must attend a counseling program from a regionally-accredited school, as all states require this and it ensures that your school meets quality benchmarks recognized by experts in education. While the counseling program doesn’t have to be nationally accredited, many states prefer CACREP accreditation for professional licensure, and some states waive some supervised experience requirements for candidates who graduate from a CACREP-accredited program.

1. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP): https://www.cacrep.org/directory/
3. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/
4. US News & World Report National University Rankings 2023: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
5. US News & World Report Best Student Counseling Programs, 2023: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-education-schools/student-counseling-rankings
6. US News & World Report Best Rehabilitation Counseling Programs, 2023: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/rehabilitation-counseling-rankings