2020 Most Affordable Master's in Counseling Online

By the OnlineU team | Updated 3/19/2021
2020 Most Affordable Counseling Masters Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 3/19/2021

This list features the 25 most affordable online master’s degrees in counseling, all of which have annual tuition rates under $12,500. Counselors specialize in certain populations or problem sets: rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities to develop independent-living skills, mental health and substance abuse counselors help treat emotional and behavioral disorders and addiction in patients, and school and career counselors advise people on the best academic or career path for them. Schools on this list offer concentrations in these and other types of counseling, so students should research the kinds of jobs that interest them. On this page, we’ve included information about getting a master's in counseling online, the cost of an online degree, and the salary and job outlook for graduates.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online bachelor's in counseling degrees. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 The Baptist College of Florida $5,400
# 2 #2 Liberty University $5,500
# 3 #3 Fort Valley State University $5,694
# 4 #4 Aspen University $5,850
# 5 #5 Lubbock Christian University $7,020
# 6 #6 Southern Arkansas University $7,920
# 7 #7 Clarks Summit University $8,250
# 8 (tie) #8 (tie) Regent University Online $8,925
# 8 (tie) #8 (tie) Southwestern Assemblies of God University $8,925
# 10 #10 West Texas A&M University $9,115
# 11 #11 Washburn University $9,522
# 12 #12 Ottawa University Online $9,525
# 13 #13 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $10,080
# 14 #14 Houston Baptist University $10,350
# 15 #15 Adler Graduate School $10,782
# 16 #16 Rutgers University $11,040
# 17 #17 University of North Dakota $11,136
# 18 #18 Clarion University $11,140
# 19 #19 Southern New Hampshire University Online $11,286
# 20 #20 Adams State University $11,310
# 21 #21 Amridge University $11,475
# 22 #22 University of the Cumberlands $12,000
# 23 #23 Union College - KY $12,000
# 24 (tie) #24 (tie) Columbia International University $12,240
# 24 (tie) #24 (tie) Huntington University $12,240
#1
#1
Annual Tuition: $5,400
Annual Tuition: $5,400
Annual Tuition: $5,400

The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) offers an online Master of Arts in counseling. This 30-credit program features courses in counseling models and techniques, marriage and family counseling, addiction and recovery, and case management. BCF is affiliated with the Florida Baptist Convention and faculty members teach courses from a Christian perspective. This program isn’t designed to prepare students for a counselor’s license; rather, the college intends graduates to work in parochial human-services... roles.

All classes are fully online and students complete coursework asynchronously. Online courses follow the same semester schedule as their in-person counterparts. BCF provides institutional scholarship opportunities through several Florida Baptist organizations and also hosts a number of outside scholarships. To apply, students first fill out the FAFSA. Service members and veterans can pursue tuition assistance to attend BCF — these students need to meet with an education counselor from their service branch for details.

Applicants complete an online admissions form and request that their undergraduate institution send official transcripts to BCF. Once admitted, online students can access academic and virtual library services.

  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Acceptance Rate: 62%
  • Average SATs: 830 -870
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 191
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 17
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (850) 263-3261

Example Classes: Addiction & Recovery, Case Management, Community & Crisis Counseling, Counseling & Spirituality Integration, Group Dynamics, Marriage & Family Counseling

#2
#2

Liberty University

Lynchburg (VA)
Annual Tuition: $5,500
Annual Tuition: $5,500
Annual Tuition: $5,500

Liberty University offers many online master’s degrees in counseling, including M.A.s in addictions counseling, clinical mental health counseling, pastoral counseling, and human services counseling. The M.A.s in pastoral and human services counseling have a number of concentrations to choose from. Students can also pursue a Master of Education in school counseling. Most of these degree programs require 48-60 credits and take 2-2.5 years to complete at full time. Each M.A. in human services counseling... requires 30 credits and about one year to complete, and each M.A. in pastoral counseling takes 36 credits and roughly 1.5 years. Coursework varies by subject matter, but all faculty members teach from Liberty’s evangelical Christian perspective. Online students can fulfill internship requirements in their local communities.

Liberty delivers eight-week online courses over Blackboard, where students can sign in on their own time to watch lectures, interact with classmates in forums, and complete assignments. The school created the Liberty University Tuition Assistance Grant to make up for Virginia state grants for online education that were canceled, though only Virginia residents are eligible for this program. Liberty also offers discounts for military-affiliated students.

Prospective students complete an online application and submit relevant undergraduate transcripts. Enrollees have virtual access to an online writing center, academic advising, and the Office of Disability Accommodation Support.

  • Online Degrees: 32
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Acceptance Rate: 30%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 32,610
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 31,396
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (434) 582-2000

Example Classes: Acute Stress, Grief and Trauma, Assessment Techniques in Counseling, Biological Aspects of Addiction and Recovery, Treatment and the Recovery Process

#3
#3

Fort Valley State University

Fort Valley (GA)
Annual Tuition: $5,694
Annual Tuition: $5,694
Annual Tuition: $5,694

Fort Valley State University (FVSU) offers an online Master of Science in rehabilitation counseling and case management. This 52-credit program prepares future counselors to help patients with a variety of disabilities. Courses include Introduction to Rehabilitation, Introduction to Case Management, Counseling Theories and Process, Group Theory and Process, and Vocational Rehabilitation. To graduate, students must complete a practicum course and a 600-hour internship that gives them practical experience... in the field. Faculty advisors will supervise the experience remotely using video conferencing.

Students use the D2L learning management system to complete coursework and interact with faculty and classmates. FVSU offers limited institutional scholarship funding for graduate students, but the Office of Career and Professional Development may help students find a job after graduation through resume and interview preparation, interactive career development tools, and job fairs.

To apply, prospects complete an online form and submit official transcripts, then conduct a formal interview (either face to face or over the phone). Applicants must have earned at least a 2.7 GPA for their bachelor’s degree. Once enrolled, students can access tutoring, remote counseling services, and library resources to help with research.

  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 28%
  • Acceptance Rate: 44%
  • Average SATs: 833 -1070
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 39
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 85
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (478) 825-6211

Example Classes: Counseling Theories & Process, Cultural Diversity in Counseling, Group Theory & Process, Medical Case Management, Vocational Rehabilitation

#4
#4

Aspen University

Denver (CO)
Annual Tuition: $5,850
Annual Tuition: $5,850
Annual Tuition: $5,850
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 23%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,308
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,035
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
  • Phone #: (303) 333-4224

Example Classes: Addiction Counseling and Families, Clinical Supervision, Diagnosis and Treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders, Drug Enforcement, Psychological Consultation, Psychopharmacology for Counselors

#5
#5
Annual Tuition: $7,020
Annual Tuition: $7,020
Annual Tuition: $7,020
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Average SATs: 955 -1210
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 0
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 14
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (806) 796-8800

Example Classes: Career Counseling, Crisis Counseling, Group Psychotherapy, Individual and Family Lifespan Human Development, Psychopathology of Individuals and Families, Research in Counseling

#6
#6
Annual Tuition: $7,920
Annual Tuition: $7,920
Annual Tuition: $7,920
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Average SATs: 1000 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 261
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 608
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (870) 235-4000

Example Classes: Advanced Counseling Skills & Techniques, Counseling Children & Adolescents, Counseling in a Diverse Society, Ethical, Legal, & Professional Issues in Counseling, Human Development for Helping Professionals, Psychopharmacology & the Counseling Profession

#7
#7

Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit (PA)
Annual Tuition: $8,250
Annual Tuition: $8,250
Annual Tuition: $8,250
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 58%
  • Acceptance Rate: 55%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 49
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (570) 586-2400

Example Classes: Abnormal Behavior, Biblical Philosophy of Counseling, Career Counseling, Ethnicity and Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling

#8
#8

Regent University Online

Virginia Beach (VA)
Annual Tuition: $8,925
Annual Tuition: $8,925
Annual Tuition: $8,925
  • Online Degrees: 18
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Average SATs: 958 -1113
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,052
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 4,630
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (757) 352-4127

Example Classes: Concepts of Family Systems, Counseling & Christian Thought, Counseling Children & Adolescents, Crisis, Trauma & Clinical Counseling, Principles of School Counseling, Theories of Human Sexuality

#8
#8
Annual Tuition: $8,925
Annual Tuition: $8,925
Annual Tuition: $8,925
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Acceptance Rate: 28%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1130
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 727
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 371
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (888) 937-7248

Example Classes: Advanced Psychopathology and Treatment Planning, Crisis Intervention, Ethical and Legal Issues in Professional Practice Management, Integrative Issues in the Behavioral Sciences, Personal Lifestyle and Career Development, Tests and Assessment

#10
#10
Annual Tuition: $9,115
Annual Tuition: $9,115
Annual Tuition: $9,115
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 61%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,315
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,067
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (806) 651-0000

Example Classes: Diagnosis and Treatment in Counseling, Essential Helping Skills of Counseling, Introduction to Play Therapy, Sexuality Across the Lifespan

#11
#11

Washburn University

Topeka (KS)
Annual Tuition: $9,522
Annual Tuition: $9,522
Annual Tuition: $9,522
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 507
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 249
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (785) 670-1010

Example Classes: Advanced Methods of Group Counseling, Advanced Pharmacology and Substance Use Disorders, Diagnosis of Substance Use Disorders, Integrative Human Services, Professional Ethics and Practice

#12
#12
Annual Tuition: $9,525
Annual Tuition: $9,525
Annual Tuition: $9,525
  • Online Degrees: 7
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 164
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 31
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (785) 242-5200

Example Classes: Advanced Psychodiagnostic and Treatment Planning, Counseling Theories, Group Counseling and Dynamics, Human Growth and Development, Professional and Ethical Issues in Counseling, Social/Cultural Concerns in Counseling

#13
#13
Annual Tuition: $10,080
Annual Tuition: $10,080
Annual Tuition: $10,080
  • Online Degrees: 9
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 5,219
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,418
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (765) 677-2870

Example Classes: Appraisal of Individuals and Families, Issues in Addiction Recovery, Multicultural Counseling, Psychopharmacology, Theory and Techniques in Group Counseling

#14
#14
Annual Tuition: $10,350
Annual Tuition: $10,350
Annual Tuition: $10,350
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 188
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 334
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (281) 649-3000

Example Classes: Career Counseling and Lifestyle Development, Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment Planning, Clinical Psychopathology, Crisis Response and Trauma Care, Group Counseling and Psychotherapy, Multicultural Counseling

#15
#15

Adler Graduate School

Richfield (MN)
Annual Tuition: $10,782
Annual Tuition: $10,782
Annual Tuition: $10,782
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 70
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (612) 861-7554

Example Classes: Advanced Approaches to Counseling and Therapy Skills, Counseling Children and Adolescents, Family and Couples Therapy, Group Psychotherapy & Counseling, Multicultural Counseling, Psychodynamics of Psychopathology

#16
#16

Rutgers University

New Brunswick (NJ)
Annual Tuition: $11,040
Annual Tuition: $11,040
Annual Tuition: $11,040
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 69%
  • Graduation Rate: 80%
  • Acceptance Rate: 58%
  • Average SATs: 1190 -1410
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 347
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,154
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (732) 932-1766

Example Classes: Crisis, Disaster and Trauma Counseling, Group Methods, Human Growth and Development, Medical Aspects of Disability, Psychopathology, Social and Cultural Diversity Issues

#17
#17

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks (ND)
Annual Tuition: $11,136
Annual Tuition: $11,136
Annual Tuition: $11,136
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Average SATs: 980 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,867
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,664
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (800) 225-5863

Example Classes: Counseling Methods, Dynamics of Addiction, Life-Span Development in Counseling, Methods of Research, Psychology of Women, Gender and Development, Theories of Counseling, Personality and Development

#18
#18

Clarion University

Clarion (PA)
Annual Tuition: $11,140
Annual Tuition: $11,140
Annual Tuition: $11,140
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1130
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 763
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 740
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (814) 393-2000

Example Classes: Addiction and Dual Diagnosis, Crisis Intervention in Counseling, Human Growth Across the Lifespan, Intervention Strategies: Counseling Skills and Techniques, Issues in Rural Human Services, Rehabilitation of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS

#19
#19
Annual Tuition: $11,286
Annual Tuition: $11,286
Annual Tuition: $11,286
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 76,929
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 19,983
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (603) 668-2211

Example Classes: Advanced Individual and Group Helping Skills and Techniques: Residency II, Diagnosis of Emotional and Mental Disorders, Prevention and Intervention of Crisis and Trauma, Professional Issues, Ethics, and Laws in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Substance Use Disorders and Process Addictions, Treatment Planning in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

#20
#20

Adams State University

Alamosa (CO)
Annual Tuition: $11,310
Annual Tuition: $11,310
Annual Tuition: $11,310
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Acceptance Rate: 99%
  • Average SATs: 870 -1080
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 386
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,041
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (719) 587-7011

Example Classes: Couple/Family/System Counseling, Crisis, Disaster and Trauma, Diagnosis and Psychopathology, Foundations of Addict Counseling, LIfe Span Development, Multicultural Issues

#21
#21

Amridge University

Montgomery (AL)
Annual Tuition: $11,475
Annual Tuition: $11,475
Annual Tuition: $11,475
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 351
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 404
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (334) 387-3877 x7528

Example Classes: Assessment of Individuals and Families, Basic Counseling Techniques/Helping Relationships, Counseling for Abusive Relationships, Marital and Family Systems, Psychopathology and Psychopharmacology, Systemic Treatment of Substance Related Disorders

#22
#22

University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg (KY)
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Average SATs: 995 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,072
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,401
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (606) 549-2200

Example Classes: Counseling during Grief and Crisis, Group Counseling, Legal and Ethical Issues in Counseling, Psychological Assessment in Clinical Practice, Theories in Counseling

#23
#23

Union College - KY

Barbourville (KY)
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Average SATs: 936 -1066
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 199
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 133
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (606) 546-4151

Example Classes: Biological Systems of Chemical Dependency, Cross Cultural Counseling, Ethical Issues in Chemical Dependency, Foundations of Chemical Dependency, Psychology of Addiction, Recovery & Relapse, Substance Abuse Internship

#24
#24
Annual Tuition: $12,240
Annual Tuition: $12,240
Annual Tuition: $12,240
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 64%
  • Acceptance Rate: 28%
  • Average SATs: 940 -1120
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 62
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 290
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (800) 777-2227

Example Classes: Care and Counseling Techniques, Psychological Issues in Ministry, Short Term Counseling: Theories and Practices

#24
#24

Huntington University

Huntington (IN)
Annual Tuition: $12,240
Annual Tuition: $12,240
Annual Tuition: $12,240
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 61%
  • Acceptance Rate: 81%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 67
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 62
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (260) 356-6000

Example Classes: Clinical Psychopathology and Diagnosis, Foundations of Addiction Counseling, Foundations of Child and Adolescent Counseling, Human Growth and Development, Intimacy, Sexuality and Gender, Psychopharmacology

Getting an Online Master's in Counseling Degree


Can I Get My Master’s in Counseling Online?

You can complete coursework for a master’s degree in counseling completely online. However, there are significant experiential requirements for each specialization — for example, most mental health counseling students need to complete 600 supervised in-person field hours to graduate.

We list the 25 most affordable online degree options here, starting with the lowest tuition rate. Even the two schools tied for #24 have tuition rates of $12,240 a year, which is much less than some schools charge. Our sister site, OnlineU.com, ranks the 11 best online master's programs by their return on investment (ROI). Besides tuition, the ROI calculation includes estimated future debt and earnings for graduates so prospective students can make an informed decision about their future.

You should always ensure that a program is accredited before considering it seriously. All schools on our site are nationally and regionally accredited, which guarantees that they’ve met certain criteria for quality. Counseling programs may be further accredited at the program level by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP accredits online programs, and most schools who have earned this stamp will mention it on their counseling program pages; for example, Indiana Wesleyan University and Southern New Hampshire University Online both mention their CACREP accreditation in describing their online master’s degrees.


Common Counseling Courses

Below are some courses that students across counseling degrees might encounter. Many programs will offer coursework about these topics, though course names and details may vary.

Mental Health Counseling

  • Introduction to Mental Health Counseling: In this course, students learn the history, philosophy, and legislation behind mental health counseling. Faculty discuss the role of the counselor in treating people with emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems, along with how these professionals earn and maintain licenses to practice. Most schools (including Indiana Wesleyan University Online) offer this survey as a standalone course. However, the University of the Cumberlands and some others include mental health counseling as part of a broader course on the counseling profession.
  • Crisis, Disaster, and Trauma: An important aspect of counseling is understanding how traumatic events shape people’s mental and physical well-being. This course teaches the best methods for helping patients process trauma. Faculty also discuss the toll that such counseling can take on the counselor, providing strategies for self-care when dealing with burnout and compassion fatigue. Most colleges with an online master’s in mental health counseling offer this or a similar course, including Houston Baptist University and Adams State University, which are #14 and #20 on our list of most affordable colleges.

Rehabilitation Counseling

  • Introduction to Rehabilitation Counseling: This course gives an overview of theories, principles, and best practices for rehabilitating people with physical disabilities or mental illness. Students learn the relevant historical and legal context behind rehabilitation counseling, along with current and projected trends and challenges. This course offers a broad look at rehabilitation counseling — students will have a chance to study more focused topics further into their program.
  • Psychiatric Rehabilitation: This course teaches how to assess people with mental illness and offer them strategies for moving forward after a diagnosis. Students read the latest research in rehabilitation theory and case management and learn how to adopt an evidence-based approach to practice. The focus is on helping people structure their lives to set them up for success after a diagnosis. Rutgers University and Fort Valley State University offer this class in their online rehabilitation counseling programs, and Clarion University offers a rehabilitation course about the psychological impact of living with HIV/AIDS.

Substance Abuse Counseling

  • Introduction to Substance Abuse Counseling: Faculty cover the foundations of chemical dependency and proven methods for treating it in various populations. Faculty also cover the ethics of counseling people affected by addiction. Students should understand that religious-affiliated schools will usually approach ethics topics from the perspective of their denomination.
  • Psychopharmacology for Counselors: This course describes the physiological effects of different addictive chemicals on the human body and brain. Faculty help students understand the physical science behind addiction so they can effectively treat its psychological effects. All substance abuse counseling programs offer a variation of this course, including Washburn University and Aspen University from our list of affordable programs.

School Counseling

  • Introduction to School Counseling: In this survey, students learn fundamental theories and techniques for guiding students through their education. Faculty discuss common mental health issues and behavioral disorders, legislation and practice trends, and licensing standards for school counselors. Most versions of this course touch on mental and physical development through childhood and adolescence, though later courses cover this more in depth.
  • Human Development Across the Lifespan: This course covers emotional, physical, and behavioral development from childhood on. Students learn the major development milestones and the crucial influence played by a child’s social and family environments. Faculty emphasize what development means for a young student’s education. On our list of most affordable colleges, Lubbock Christian University and University of North Dakota both offer this course.

How Much Does It Cost to Get an Online Master’s in Counseling?


Among the 25 most affordable schools on this page, the average annual tuition is $9,549. Annual tuition for this degree can range from $5,500 to $53,850, according to our sister site. Tuition is not the whole story, because each school adds fees on top of the tuition rate. Most schools charge a technology fee to online students, along with other costs. For example, the University of North Dakota applies four mandatory student fees for all enrollees (online and on-campus), which total $868 per semester. Research these fees when considering programs, and use each institution’s net price calculator to get the most accurate estimate of a degree’s cost. Most schools offer these calculators in the tuition or financial aid sections of their sites.

Research conducted by OnlineU.com tells us that online programs are often more affordable than their in-person equivalents. This is especially true for out-of-state students or those enrolled at private institutions. The data is limited to bachelor’s degrees, but looking through the most affordable online master’s degrees in counseling reveals a similar story. For example, Houston Baptist University charges the same tuition for its online and on-campus M.A. in human services counseling, but a flat $250 fee per semester to online students and a number of potential fees to in-person students, including a $635 general fee per semester.


How Do I Get a Master’s in Counseling Paid For?

It’s unlikely that anybody will get a master’s degree without any debt obligation, but there are ways to partially fund a program. These include scholarships, grants, and employer tuition assistance.

Scholarships

Scholarships are highly sought after because they pay part of a student’s tuition with no expectation of repayment. Because there are many specializations within the field of counseling, the scholarship field is wide-ranging. Applicants may be eligible for some of these options depending on their background and experience:

Grants

Like scholarships, grants are a form of funding that students don’t need to repay after graduation. Review these options for an idea of what’s available:

In addition, the American Counseling Association (ACA) has a page hosting the various federal funding options for counseling students. These include opportunities for students interested in behavioral health, opioid addiction, and suicide prevention, among other issues.

Employer Tuition Assistance

Though there are many scholarships and grants for counseling students, employer funding is more nebulous. We have little hard data about the number of employers willing to partially fund their employees’ master’s degrees in return for an agreed-upon term of service. Students who work for a college or university may be eligible for tuition discounts on classes offered by their employers but may not receive assistance to attend another institution. Employers who do fund graduate degrees usually offer up to $5,250 per year, which is the maximum tax-deductible amount. Prospective applicants should check with their employers to learn the relevant policies.


Salary and Job Outlook for Online Counseling Graduates


Below are some common careers for counseling graduates. Counseling is a wide field with several specializations, so some careers only make sense for graduates of particular programs — for example, those with an M.A. in school counseling are qualified to become school counselors but not substance abuse counselors. Students should research licensure and certification for their specialty in the state where they want to practice, because standards may differ across these boundaries.

Clinical Mental Health Counselor

  • Median annual salary: $46,240
  • Job prospects: 25% growth through 2029

These professionals provide mental health therapy either one on one or in group settings. They seek to assess, diagnose, and treat a range of mental and behavioral health disorders to help their clients live healthy and productive lives. Clinical mental health counselors work for government agencies, at hospitals and other health care settings, or in private practice. Educational requirements vary by state, but a master’s degree in counseling is sufficient to sit for a licensure exam anywhere in the country. The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) also offers certifications for those seeking additional credentials. The BLS expects the heaviest job growth in rural areas, providing opportunities for graduates in these areas.

School Counselor

  • Median annual salary: $57,040
  • Job prospects: 8% growth through 2029

School counselors work with K-12 students to help them succeed in school and address any social, behavioral, or cognitive delays or difficulties that may affect their functioning in the school environment. They give aptitude tests, evaluate students’ home environments, and consult with parents and teachers to offer improvement plans where needed. High school counselors also help students plan for their lives after graduation. School counselors must earn a master’s degree and a license in their state of practice. They can also join the American School Counselor Association for professional development opportunities.

Substance Abuse Counselor

  • Median annual salary: $46,240
  • Job prospects: 25% growth through 2029

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups substance abuse counselors together with mental health counselors, but these professionals more narrowly focus on helping people overcome chemical dependency. They often work with patients’ families in group sessions to help repair damaged relationships. These counselors work in a variety of practice settings, and some choose to influence federal policy by working for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. To practice privately, addiction counselors need a master’s degree and thousands of hours of clinical experience. License requirements are less stringent for other types of practice, though they vary by state. The BLS attributes the rapid job growth over the next decade to state and local governments increasingly emphasizing addiction treatment over incarceration.

Rehabilitation Counselor

  • Median annual salary: $35,950
  • Job prospects: 10% growth through 2029

These counselors help people with physical and mental disabilities live as independently as possible. They assess each individual’s abilities in relation to their work and home environments so they can develop strategies and seek accommodations where needed. Rehabilitation counselors need a master’s degree and a license in most states — the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification has information about state requirements. The high rate of job growth will be due to an aging U.S. population and a spike in veterans with disabilities over the last two decades.