Best Online Certificates in Mental and Behavioral Health

Find top-ranked online certificate programs that can deepen your knowledge of behavioral and mental health and qualify you for clinician careers and other roles helping others.

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Last Updated: 09/21/2021
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Whether you’re looking for a way to satisfy licensing requirements in your state, you’re a clinician who wants to better meet the needs of your clients, or you’re simply looking to expand your knowledge of the mental health field, there’s an online mental or behavioral health certificate program to meet your needs.

In this guide, we’ve identified online mental and behavioral health certificate programs from top universities to help you find the one that’s right for you. Keep reading to learn more about this year’s best programs, what you’ll learn, where to get help paying for your program, the types jobs await you once you’ve earned your certificate, and much more.

Best Online Mental and Behavioral Health Certificate Programs for 2021

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right online certificate program for mental and behavioral health. Accreditation, affordability, curriculum, convenience, and access to student support services are all important.

We’ve considered these factors and more in selecting the “best of” mental health and behavioral health certificate online programs spotlighted below. These spotlights give you a good idea of the features to look for. You’ll also get a sneak peek at our full program rankings for the top mental and behavioral health certificate programs, coming soon.

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota (UND) undergraduate Behavioral Health Certificate is designed primarily for current students working on degrees in healthcare and social work to give them a better understanding of how biological, cultural, psychological, and social factors impact human health and behavior. The program also provides students with the opportunity to distinguish themselves in competing for the best jobs in a highly competitive job market.

The curriculum for this three-course (nine-credit) behavioral health certificate online consists of required courses in Health Psychology and Behavior Modification and Therapy, along with one elective course in Abnormal Psychology, Diversity Psychology, Human Sexuality, or Helping Skills in Community Services. All coursework can be completed 100% online with no required campus visits. The program takes about one year.

Admission into the Behavioral Health Certificate program is the same as for all UND undergrad students and includes a high school diploma or equivalent. The current per-credit rate (including tuition and fees) for the program is $441.51. All certificate students pay the same tuition regardless of residence.

University at Buffalo

The online Mental Health Counseling Advanced Certificate program from the State University of New York at Buffalo provides current counseling graduate degree holders with a quick and affordable route to New York State licensure as a mental health counselor. Students complete 12 credits (four courses) 100% online. Following completion of these courses, students do a 12-credit in-person internship consisting of 600 clock hours under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor or New York State Education Department (NYSED)-approved equivalent. Up to six credits (300 hours) may be waived for students who have met the internship requirement as part of their master’s degree program. Both full-time and part-time study options are available; full-time students complete the program in about a year.

Admissions requirements include a previously earned master’s or doctoral degree in a counseling field that included and internship or practicum and coursework in a number of relevant subjects. The Advanced Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Counseling program is NYSED-accredited, and graduates are eligible for the New York State licensing exam for mental health counseling. The current per-credit cost of this mental health certificate online program is $626 for New York State residents and $720 for nonresidents.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan (UM) Online Certificate in Integrated Behavioral Health and Primary Care is a continuing education program for current practicing clinicians (physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, care managers) who are providing or planning to provide integrated health services to their clients and patients. The program has three track options: Adult Track (35 continuing education [CE] contact hours), Pediatric Track (36 CE contact hours), and a Combined Pediatric and Adult Track (51 CE contact hours). All three tracks include of a mix of asynchronous self-paced lectures and synchronous live lectures that require attendance online at specific dates and times (typically two evenings each week). Program length is approximately one semester. The current total program cost is $1,275 for the Adult Track and Pediatric Track and $1,600 for the Combined Track. Course prices are the same for all students regardless of residence, including international participants.

The Certificate in Integrated Behavioral Health and Primary Care is just one of several online health-related continuing education certificate programs available through UM’s School of Social Work. All provide students with a convenient method for expanding their professional skills and earning the CE contact hours needed to meet certification and licensure requirements.

Popular Types of Behavioral and Mental Health Certificates Offered Online

As you can see from the spotlights above, mental and behavioral health certificate online programs come in a variety of types, both undergraduate and graduate, each with its own unique purposes and goals. Here are the three most common of those types, along with examples of online programs currently available for each:

Mental Health Counseling Licensure-Prep Certificates (Post-Master’s)

These mental and behavioral health certificate programs are designed to prepare students for eligibility for state licensure in one or more occupations, including Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), or even Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). The question of license eligibility can be tricky, however, since requirements vary–often substantially–from state to state.

Before you enroll in any mental health certificate program online or in person, be sure to determine the specific type of licensure you’re interested in and confirm that the certificate program you’re considering will fulfill eligibility requirements in the state where you intend to practice.

Colleges with This Online Mental and Behavioral Health Certificate Program

Grad Certificates for Current Clinicians and Professionals/Students in Related Fields

Current degree holders with professional clinical licensure can pick up needed CE credits by earning a mental or behavioral health CE certificate online. And current professionals in a range of fields, such as nursing, education, psychology, counseling, and administration, can add to their skills and advance their careers by earning a non-licensure (not leading to license eligibility) certificate. Many of these CE and non-licensure certificate programs can be completed 100% online with no campus visits or in-person clinical training requirements.

Admissions requirements vary by program, but most require a previously earned bachelor’s or master’s degree in a mental health, education, or counseling-related field. In some cases, credits earned in these mental and behavioral health certificate online programs can be applied toward a master’s degree in mental or behavioral health or a closely related major.

Colleges with This Online Mental and Behavioral Health Certificate Program

Entry-Level Undergraduate Certificates

Entry-level, undergraduate online certificate programs in mental and behavioral health are designed to prepare students with knowledge and skills to land their first jobs in the mental and behavioral health field. They also provide current nonclinical workers in a closely related field (physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, social work, speech pathology, etc.) a way to expand their mental and behavioral health skill sets to become more attractive to employers and advance their careers. In addition, many offer courses that can be transferred in to associate and bachelor’s degree programs. Mental health certificate online options, particularly those with fully online coursework, are limited. There are a few, though, as you’ll see in the list below.

Colleges with This Online Mental and Behavioral Health Certificate Program

What You’ll Learn in an Online Mental and Behavioral Health Certificate Program

The specific knowledge and skills you’ll learn in your mental health certificate online program will depend on the type of program (undergrad vs. grad, licensure vs. non-licensure) and, in some cases, the specific area the program covers (behavioral health, mental health counseling, etc.) Nevertheless, most mental and behavioral health certificate programs cover these learning outcomes:

  • Assessment and Treatment

Demonstrated competency in the assessment and treatment of clients based on a solid understanding of relevant mental and behavioral health foundational theory and research. Ability to identify and describe common mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the appropriate treatments.

  • Critical Thinking

The ability to pose questions and search for answers relevant to mental and behavioral health to make reasoned and sound practice-related decisions.

  • Patient and Peer Interaction

Ability to interact with patients and their families in a respectful, nonjudgmental, and supportive manner and to develop and maintain positive, productive working relationships with supervisors, colleagues, and the community.

  • Communication Skills

Mastery of written, oral, and nonverbal communication and presentation skills as they relate to mental and behavioral health professional guidelines in various medical and therapeutic settings.

  • Personal and Professional Conduct

Developed understanding of the appropriate roles, responsibilities, attitudes, behaviors, and boundaries of personal and professional conduct related to mental and behavioral health practice. Demonstrated adherence to established ethical standards concerning confidentiality, sensitivity to diverse client populations, and a commitment to lifelong professional growth.

Common Courses

Legal and Ethical Issues in Mental Health Counseling

Survey of legal and ethical issues related to mental and behavioral health counseling practice. Particular emphasis is placed on current state and national board rules and regulations and accepted standards of ethical behavior in working with patients and colleagues in a range of practice settings. Other topics include proper record keeping, professional and personal evolution and improvement, and patient advocacy.

Psychopharmacology

This course provides a foundation in psychopharmacology (medications commonly used in the treatment of mental disorders) for nonmedical mental and behavioral health practitioners. Emphasis is placed on clinical and practical applications. Specific topics include the effectiveness and side effects of psychotropic medications and how to strike the proper balance between them, how to effectively collaborate with prescribing providers, and the special challenges related to the use of medications in the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction.

Psychopathology and Evidence-Based Interventions

An introductory course in psychopathology, which is the diagnosis of mental disorders and the integration of evidence-based therapeutic interventions in professional mental health practice. Students review the DSM-5 and learn about its benefits and limitations. Students also gain the competence to collect and analyze relevant information to accurately diagnose mental disorders in light of factors such as race, sexual identity, religion, and economic and social class.

Addiction Counseling

This introduction to the fundamentals of addiction counseling is for students with basic counseling skills. The course provides students with comprehensive knowledge related to the major research and theories of addiction; the causes and diagnosis of substance abuse disorders; the impact of addiction on individuals, families and others; and the application of this knowledge when working with clients.

Trauma-Informed Care and Crisis Management

This course provides students with a fundamental awareness, understanding, and knowledge of trauma and how it impacts the lives of individuals and group members. Topics include the concept of trauma-informed care, how these services differ from the standard service-delivery system, and the successful use of trauma-informed practices in addressing a client’s needs.

Specialization Options

Earning a mental or behavioral health certificate online is a great way for prospective or current professionals to expand their skills. In many cases, students can tailor their programs to focus on a particular area within the broader mental and behavioral health field. This may be accomplished by enrolling in a program in a specialized subject or by choosing a concentration or specialization track offered within the certificate program itself. Below are examples of several specialized areas of study available from online mental health certificate programs.

Addiction Counseling

The addiction counseling specialization provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the brain science underlying addiction, the diagnosis of substance abuse disorders, multidimensional assessment and levels of care, the processes of recovery, the effect of addiction on marital and family relations, and more.

Behavioral Health Counseling

Behavioral health can be thought of as a subset of the larger mental health field, focusing on mental health disorders that result from an individual’s behavioral issues. Students opting for the behavioral health counseling specialization develop foundational skills to identify damaging behaviors and apply proper techniques for the elimination or modification of those behaviors.

Adult Mental Health

The adult mental health specialization is designed for clinicians (doctors, psychologists, nurses, social workers, etc.) interested in treating adult populations in the areas of mental health, physical health, and substance abuse. Students learn relevant assessment, intervention, and treatment skills along with strategies for the application of those skills in the student’s particular practice setting.

Mental Health in Education

Designed for current and prospective teachers, the mental health in education track equips those selecting this specialization to recognize and meet the emotional and social health needs of their students. Specific topics include the educator’s proper role and capacity to address student mental health issues, the application of diverse strategies in the classroom, and the effective use of community mental health resources in support of student well-being.

Pediatric Mental Health

The pediatric mental health specialization prepares clinicians currently working in integrated healthcare and education settings to address a variety of behavioral health needs (anxiety, depression, attention deficits, etc.) of children, adolescents, and families through assessment, intervention, and consultation skills.

FAQs About Earning Your Mental and Behavioral Health Certificate Online

What are the admissions requirements for an online certificate in mental and behavioral health?

As you would expect, admissions requirements vary both by certificate type and the specific schools offering them. Here are some of the most common application requirements for mental and behavioral health certificates online and how they typically differ by program type:

  • Degree

Programs leading to licensure eligibility typically require a previously earned master’s (48-credit hour) or doctoral degree in counseling or a closely related major. Some programs also require completion of specific coursework in counseling or a related subject, and/or an internship or practicum prior to admission. Non-licensure programs commonly require either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Undergrad/entry-level certificate programs typically follow the same admissions requirements for all undergrad students, which includes a high school diploma or GED.

  • GPA

Programs typically state a minimum cumulative GPA on previous coursework, though specific minimums vary by program.

  • Entrance exam scores

Postgraduate programs, whether they lead to license eligibility or not, may require GRE test scores. However not all programs have this requirement, and for some submitting scores is optional. Undergrad programs tend to follow the school’s general admission requirements, which usually require ACT or SAT scores.

  • Other common application requirements

Additional requirements for post-grad certificate programs may include a resume or CV, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement or essay. International students will likely be required to provide proof of English proficiency.

How long do mental and behavioral health certificate programs take to complete online?

One of the most attractive features of mental health and behavioral health certificate online programs is that, unlike full degrees, you can complete one in a relatively short amount of time. Program lengths vary depending mostly on the number of credits required and whether or not the program prepares graduates for licensure (if so, you’ll find that these programs have substantial in-person clinical experiences). Typical completion times range from a single semester to a full year. Self-paced and part-time programs may allow more time to complete all certificate requirements.

How much do online behavioral and mental health certificate programs cost?

Costs for online mental and behavioral health certificate programs vary, sometimes substantially, from program to program. Common factors impacting program price tags include whether the program is offered by a public or private institution (private school programs tend to cost more) and – you guessed it – the specific type of certificate offered (undergrad vs. graduate, license prep, continuing ed, etc.).

With that in mind, here are the current tuition rates for three mental and behavioral health certificate online programs to give you an idea of what you might pay:

Arizona State University

Online Integrated Behavioral Health–Clinical (Graduate Certificate)

Total Credits: 15

$1,113/credit

Century College

Mental and Behavioral Health Worker Certificate

Total Credits: 22

$191/credit

University of Mary

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Graduate Certificate

Total Credits: 17

$550/credit

Can I earn my behavioral and mental health certificate entirely online?

It depends on the specific program. Students in some non-licensure behavioral and mental health certificate programs (those consisting entirely of academic coursework) will be able to complete all coursework online. Other programs are offered in a hybrid format (mixture of online and on-campus classes). The same goes for academic coursework in licensure-eligibility programs. Keep in mind, however, that students in licensure-eligibility programs are also required to participate in substantial in-person field training experiences.

Is financial aid available for online mental health certificate programs?

In most cases, yes. Students in mental and behavioral health online programs seeking student loans, particularly those made by the federal government, will likely be eligible for such loans as long as their schools have proper institutional accreditation. Other funding sources (scholarships and grants, assistantships and fellowships, work-study and employer tuition reimbursement programs, etc.) may also be available. Contact your school’s financial aid office for details. To learn more about funding your mental or behavioral health certificate online program, be sure to check out EduMed’s financial aid and scholarships pages.

Accreditation for Online Certificates in Behavioral and Mental Health

Accreditation should always play a crucial role in your choice of a mental or behavioral health certificate online program. Accreditation is the process by which postsecondary institutions and their programs are vetted for quality. It’s your way of knowing whether or not a program is worth your time and money.

There are two basic types of postsecondary accreditation: institutional and programmatic. When it comes to online mental and behavioral health certificate programs, you’ll want to focus on confirming institutional accreditation, which concerns the vetting of the school offering the certificate itself. Accreditation of colleges and universities in the U.S. is administered by a number of independent national and regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Check current institutional accreditation status by visiting the school’s accreditation webpage or accreditation agency websites.

Programmatic accreditation has to do with the specific academic programs offered by colleges and universities. Accreditation of mental health counseling graduate degree programs in the U.S. is primarily administered by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The CACREP, however, does not specifically accredit certificates, although some certificate courses are provided through a CACREP-approved program.

What Can You Do with a Certificate in Mental or Behavioral Health?

Students earn mental and behavioral health certificates online for a number of reasons. Some need the coursework and field experience hours for state licensure as LPCs, LCPCs, or LMHCs. Some want to expand their knowledge and skills and advance in their current healthcare or education professions. Others earn them to increase their attractiveness to employers for entry-level jobs in mental health, education, or related fields.

Check out this list of some of the most common job titles for careers that you can start or enhance by completing a mental or behavioral health certificate online program:

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Nurse
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Psychiatric Technician
  • School Counselor
  • Social Worker
  • Substance Abuse Counselor

How much can you make with a certificate in behavioral or mental health?

As you might expect, salaries vary widely depending on the degree you earn, your specific occupation (technician, clinician, administrative, etc.), and your career level (entry, mid-career, senior). The chart below provides recent median salary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for five common careers for mental and behavioral health certificate holders.

Career Median National Annual Earnings (2020) 10th Percentile 90th Percentile
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists $79,820 $32,980 $138,550
Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors $58,120 $35,620 $97,910
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $48,720 $30,770 $87,420
Psychiatric Technicians $35,030 $24,960 $59,020
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $47,660 $30,590 $78,700

Online Mental Health Counseling Master’s Degrees

Mental health counselors assess and treat individuals, couples, families, and other groups for a variety of mental health issues and disorders, such as depression, anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem. They work in a range of capacities and settings, including schools, prisons, parole and probation agencies, and mental health facilities. Most jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but state licensure as a mental health counselor typically requires a master’s degree. CACREP-accredited online mental health counseling master’s programs are available from multiple colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

Online Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

A master’s degree in applied behavior analysis prepares graduates to become highly competent professionals providing therapy services that focus on altering and improving specific behaviors in patients of all ages in a wide range of practice settings. There are numerous online ABA master’s programs available, many with 100% online academic coursework. To meet eligibility requirements for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam, however, these programs also include substantial in-person supervised fieldwork experiences typically at practice facilities in the school’s or student’s local area.

Online Graduate Certificates in Applied Behavior Analysis

An online ABA graduate certificate offers an affordable and convenient way for individuals who have or who are working on a master’s degree in a closely related field (like special education) to meet the BCBA exam eligibility requirements and become a certified applied behavior analyst. Many ABA certificate programs feature 100% online coursework; however, ABA certificate students must complete in-person fieldwork experiences as well.