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Counseling Degrees and Programs in California

The state of California is home to numerous colleges and universities offering programs in counseling in all of the major categories: marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, and substance abuse counseling. If you are interested in starting your counseling career in California, choosing a school will likely be one of the first steps you take, as nearly all careers in professional counseling require a degree. Furthermore, since a master’s degree in counseling is required for most types of licensure, the vast majority of California counseling programs are offered at that level; however, there are some undergraduate options available for those who are not ready to pursue a graduate degree. Many counseling programs in California are also offered either online or in a hybrid format, allowing students to attend counseling school on a more flexible basis.

Quick Facts

  • There are 46 not-for-profit four-year colleges and universities that offer a program in marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, school counseling, substance abuse counseling, and/or vocational rehabilitation counseling in California.1,2
  • Of the counseling schools in California, 4 offer an associate’s degree, 1 offers a bachelor’s degree, 6 offer a certificate, and 41 offer a master’s or advanced degree.1
  • 22 schools offer a degree in marriage and family therapy.1,2
  • 12 schools offer a degree in mental health counseling.1,2
  • 6 schools offer a degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling. 1,2
  • 29 schools offer a degree in school counseling.1,2
  • 7 schools offer a degree in substance abuse counseling.1,2
  • 9 schools ranked in Kiplinger’s Best College Values 2019.3
  • No schools ranked in US News Best Student Counseling Programs 2019.4
  • 6 schools ranked in US News Best Rehabilitation Counseling Programs 2019.5
  • Across 12 schools, 20 counseling programs in these five areas are accredited by CACREP.2

Comparison of California Counseling Schools and Programs

We have compiled the table below to allow you to compare the public and not-for-profit four-year colleges and universities in California offering counseling programs in the following five primary areas: mental health counseling (MH), marriage and family therapy (MF), vocational rehabilitation counseling (VR), school counseling (SC), and substance abuse counseling (SA). The table indicates the schools that offer programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP); CACREP-accredited programs are denoted with an asterisk (*). Keep in mind that some schools offer a joint program in clinical mental health counseling and clinical rehabilitation counseling, so check with the school for more information on the programs offered. You can also compare each school by program type offered, graduation rate, and net price per year. If you would like to learn more about licensure as a counselor in California, read our license requirements page.

School NameCACREP-
Accred
Program2
MHMFVRSCSAGrad Rate1Net Price1
Brandman University^YesYesYes0%^$27,446
California Baptist UniversityYes55%$24,170
California Lutheran UniversityYesYes76%$29,387
California State University-BakersfieldYes42%$6,025
California State University-Dominguez HillsYesYes45%$4,533
California State University-East BayYes48%$11,422
California State University-FresnoYesYesYes*Yes*Yes54%$6,771
California State University-FullertonYesYes*Yes68%$8,274
California State University-Long BeachYes69%$9,477
California State University-Los AngelesYesYes*Yes48%$4,403
California State University-NorthridgeYes54%$8,549
California State University-SacramentoYesYes*Yes51%$9,885
California State University-San BernardinoYesYes*Yes57%$8,586
Chapman UniversityYesYes79%$41,463
Chicago School of Professional Psychology at IrvineYesN.Av.N.Av.
Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los AngelesYesN.Av.N.Av.
Chicago School of Professional Psychology at San DiegoYesN.Av.N.Av.
Concordia University-IrvineYesYes*Yes63%$28,588
Cypress CollegeYes30%$6,303
Fresno Pacific UniversityYesYes66%$19,965
Fuller Theological SeminaryYesN.Av.N.Av.
John F. Kennedy UniversityYesN.Av.N.Av.
La Sierra UniversityYes45%$21,451
Loma Linda UniversityYesYesYesYesN.Av.N.Av.
Loyola Marymount UniversityYesYes84%$43,779
Modesto Junior CollegeYes22%$9,586
National UniversityYesYes36%N.Av.
Notre Dame de Namur UniversityYes49%$26,913
Pacific Oaks CollegeYesN.Av.N.Av.
Palo Alto UniversityYesYes*Yes*N.Av.N.Av.
Rio Hondo CollegeYes18%$5,792
Saint Mary’s College of CaliforniaYes77%$35,332
San Diego State UniversityYesYes*Yes*Yes74%$14,568
San Francisco State UniversityYesYes*Yes*YesYes*55%$14,964
Saybrook UniversityYesYes*N.Av.N.Av.
Sonoma State UniversityYesYes*Yes*63%$16,119
Thomas Aquinas CollegeYes86%$20,746
Touro University WorldwideYes50%$19,045
University of La VerneYesYes69%$26,617
University of RedlandsYesYes74%$29,226
University of San DiegoYesYes*YesYes*80%$35,931
University of San FranciscoYes75%$34,475
University of Southern CaliforniaYesYes92%$36,161
University of the WestYes48%$9,580
West Los Angeles CollegeYes18%$10,157
William Jessup UniversityYes59%$23,637

See table notes at bottom of page.

Top-Ranked Schools with Counseling Programs in California

Kiplinger’s Best College Values 2019

  • Thomas Aquinas College (#1)
  • University of Southern California (#116)
  • Loyola Marymount University (#186)
  • University of San Diego (#192)
  • San Diego State University (#225)
  • Chapman University (#259)
  • California Lutheran University (#283)
  • California State University, Long Beach (#302)
  • University of San Francisco (#341)

US News Best Rehabilitation Counseling Programs 2019

  • San Diego State University (#4 tie)
  • California State University, Fresno (#27 tie)
  • San Francisco State University (#32 tie)
  • California State University, Los Angeles (#47 tie)
  • California State University, San Bernardino (#67 tie)
  • California State University, Sacramento (#80 tie)

Schools in California with Counseling Degrees

Traditional Undergraduate Programs

California State University, Los Angeles

California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Rehabilitation Services that is designed to prepare graduates to work in the field of human services helping people with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities or with economic and social disadvantages. Two options are available, a General Option and an Applied Behavioral Analysis Option, both of which are comprised of 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete or two years for transfer students. A minor in Rehabilitation Services is also offered for psychology, sociology, social work, criminal justice, and other majors. Courses in the BS in Rehabilitation Services program at Cal State LA include Diversity and Awareness of Self and Others for Helping Professionals; Case Management in Rehabilitation Services; Trauma & Crisis Counseling; and Behavior Support, Social Skills, and Classroom Management.

Modesto Junior College

Modesto Junior College (MJC) offers human services programs in Chemical Dependency Counseling as well as Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR). The Certificate of Achievement in Chemical Dependency Counseling is accredited by the California Association for Drug and Alcohol Educators (CAADE) and comprises 36 credits. An Associate of Arts (AA) is also offered in Chemical Dependency Counseling, which consists of 23 credits and prepares graduates to take the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of California (ACCBC) exam leading to state certification. The Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) program consists of eight courses and culminates in a Skills Recognition Award, preparing graduates to proceed to an Associate of Arts in Human Services degree if they so choose. All human services programs at MJC prepare graduates for entry-level employment in the field or to pursue more advanced degrees.

Traditional Graduate Programs

California State University, Fresno

The Kremen School of Education and Human Development at California State University, Fresno (or Fresno State) offers a Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling; a Master of Science (MS) in Counseling (with specialties in School Counseling and Student Affairs and College Counseling), and a Master of Science (MS) in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling (MFCC). The marriage and family therapy degree and the clinical rehabilitation degree are both CACREP-accredited. The MS in Clinical Rehabilitation is ranked by US News & World Report in their Best Rehabilitation Counseling Programs list and its 60 credits can be completed in as little as five semesters of full-time study. Graduates will meet licensure/credentialing requirements for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs), Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRCs), or Pupil Personnel Specialists (PPS) in California. The MS in MFCC is also comprised of 60 credits which can be completed full-time in five semesters and prepares graduates for licensure as a California LMFT.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University’s Department of Counseling, housed in its College of Health and Social Sciences, offers several graduate degrees in counseling, including a Master of Science (MS) degree in Counseling with several available concentrations; a Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; and a Master of Science in Counseling with a Concentration in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. Prospective Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs) will meet the educational requirements through the MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, while prospective Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists will meet licensure requirements with the MS in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling, and prospective school counselors can receive their credential through the MS in Counseling with a Concentration in School Counseling and Pupil Personnel Services Credential. All programs in the department are CACREP-accredited and can be completed in two- or three-year sequences.

Online and Hybrid Programs

Brandman University

Brandman University in Irvine offers a Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling and Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC) in School Counseling as well as a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. Both programs are offered completely online or in a hybrid format (a combination of on-campus and online learning). The MA in Counseling and PPSC in School Counseling is designed to prepare graduates to become school counselors while the MA in Psychology, MFT qualifies graduates to become Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in California and most states. Applicants need to submit three recommendation forms, official transcripts, and an autobiographical essay with their application. Graduate exam scores are not required but may be submitted by students who do not meet other admission requirements.

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University offers a variety of online and dual degree programs with a Christian worldview. Among their programs are a two-year Master of Science (MS) in Marital and Family Therapy; a two-year MS in Counseling with specializations in Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) School Counseling Credential; a three-year Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy (DMFT); a three- to four-year PhD in Systems, Families, and Couples; and certificates in Drug and Alcohol Counseling and School Counseling. A dual degree with an MS in Counseling and an MS in Marital and Family Therapy with a School Counseling Certificate, which can be completed in just three years of full-time study, is also offered for those applicants who want to maximize their licensing and career potential. The DMFT and PhD in Systems, Families, and Couples are the only Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)-accredited doctoral programs of their kind in the state. Students are placed across the Loma Linda University healthcare system and in the local community for internships. No graduate exam scores are required for entry into the programs.

Saybrook University

At Saybrook University you can earn a Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling Specialization or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counselor Education and Supervision in a hybrid format. The 60-credit MA in Counseling prepares graduates for licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs) in California and faculty will work with students who are pursuing licensure in other states to ensure they take the appropriate coursework. 700 hours of field experience is spread over three semesters. A regionally-accredited bachelor’s degree is required for admission. The PhD program prepares graduates to work as faculty in counselor education programs or as supervisors to clinical mental health counselors. A master’s degree in counseling from a CACREP-accredited program is preferred for admission as well as a current LPCP or LPC license.

California Counseling Schools and Programs Table Notes:
^Brandman University primarily serves non-first-time undergraduate students (e.g. non-traditional students and adult learners), so NCES data (graduation rate) should be interpreted with caution.

References:
1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), Accredited Programs: https://www.cacrep.org/directory/
3. Kiplinger’s Best College Values, 2019: https://www.kiplinger.com/fronts/special-report/college-rankings/index.html
4. US News & World Report Best Student Counseling Programs, 2019: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-education-schools/student-counseling-rankings
5. US News & World Report Best Rehabilitation Counseling Programs, 2019: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/rehabilitation-counseling-rankings