- Best Online Mental Health Counseling Master’s Programs for 2020
- FAQs About the Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling
- Financial Aid for Your Online Mental Health Counseling Degree
- Accreditation for Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs
- Getting Your Professional Counseling License and Certification
- Career and Salary Outlook for Mental Health Counselors
- Continuing Education & Related Degrees
- Additional Resources
Best Online Mental Health Counseling Master’s Programs for 2020
When you think of online degree programs, mental health counseling may not be the first subject that comes to mind. However, many accredited, top-tier schools now offer mental health counseling master’s programs that combine convenient online coursework with in-person clinicals, fieldwork, and other curriculum components that require close interaction.
With so many options to choose from these days, it can be challenging to find the online program that’s right for you. It’s important to spend time researching programs to find the one that best fits your career and academic goals while still fitting your budget. To help get you started, we identified and spotlighted three of the best online mental health counseling degrees currently available. Each is accredited by the Council for Accrediting Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the primary accreditor for counseling programs and a signal of high quality. Take a closer look at the schools offering these top-rated counseling programs and see if they have the qualities to make your college shortlist.
FAQs About the Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling
There’s a lot to consider as you look at online mental health programs. Whether you’re wondering about typical curriculum offerings, overall costs, or common learning objectives, the best decision is an informed one. Below we discuss some frequently asked questions and provide key answers to help you select a program that make sense for you.
Financial Aid for Your Online Mental Health Counseling Degree
Paying for higher education can be costly and it’s important to make sure you have the expenses covered before you enroll. Fortunately, there are a number of financial aid opportunities out there, you just need to know where to look. These include institutional scholarships, federal grants, student loans, and other program-specific opportunities.
Accreditation for Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs
The best schools out there will hold one of two forms of institutional accreditation, regional and national. Regional accreditation is the more prestigious of the two, but both are signals that a college has been properly reviewed by an independent organization, so long as the organization is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (and secondarily by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation).
Some mental health counseling degree programs may also possess programmatic accreditation. This is a supplementary credential providing additional backing and demonstrates that the program meets field-specific standards. In mental health counseling, the main accreditor is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Some programs may alternatively hold accreditation from the Master in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC).
Getting Your Professional License and Certification After Your Online Mental Health Counseling Master’s
Mental health counselors need additional credentials beyond a master’s degree in order to practice, including earning a license in the state you plan to work in. This process generally involves completing education requirements, a certain number of supervised work hours, and an exam. Afterwards, you will be able to use titles specified by your state, such as Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).
Specific details vary by state. The American Counseling Association provides a helpful list of all licensing boards by state. Let’s take California as an example. The Board of Behavioral Sciences oversees licensure for that state and grants credentials for clinical counselors and therapists. This process requires earning a master’s degree, getting a background check, completing 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and passing two exams, one of which is specific to state regulations.
Your state will have a comparable process managed by a similar licensing board. Most states will require that you pass the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification.
In addition to licensure, mental health counselors who want to stand out and can earn voluntary board certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors. The most popular option is becoming a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor. Earning certifications like this can be a great way to show potential clients and employers that you are at the top of your field, and may lead to higher earnings potential.
Career and Salary Outlook for Mental Health Counselors
You probably have a few additional questions about what will happen after you graduate. Below we discuss some FAQs concerning career and salary prospects for graduates with an online master in mental health counseling.
Continuing Education & Related Degrees
Earning this degree qualifies you for most mental health counseling jobs, but it also acts as a solid stepping stone for further academic and career advancement. Below are a few degree options that may be good options. Each one takes a master’s in mental health counseling as a starting point and develops additional expertise.
We’ve also listed a few alternative master’s degrees to consider, which are worth looking into if you’re not locked into earning a mental health counseling degree.
Continuing Education Opportunities
PhD in Mental Health Counseling
This is the highest terminal degree in mental health counseling. Designed for those interested in education, research, or continued practice, it develops advanced scientific knowledge and expert clinical skills. It prepares you for postsecondary teaching and to conduct cutting-edge research that broadens the field’s horizons.
PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)
This course of study is similar to a Ph.D. in terms of educational attainment but focuses on clinical work in psychology rather than research and teaching. It deepens evidence-based applications and usually involves an original project that explores a specific clinical problem. Graduates with this degree often work as clinical psychologists in private practice.
DSW (Doctor of Social Work)
A DSW applies mental health counseling knowledge in practice-based social work contexts. DSW candidates learn to assess and implement social welfare programs and focus on how mental health concerns interact with that space. The highest degree in social work, this credential qualifies you for work as an advanced practitioner or a postsecondary professor.
Related Degrees to Consider
Online Master’s in Social Work (MSW)
All social workers must earn this degree before commencing practice. It complements graduate work in mental health counseling by looking at how individuals, groups, and societies enable or impede collective well-being. It develops hard kills in case management, public health, and advocacy. Graduates stand fully prepared for work in social service centers, community health facilities, and government agencies.
Online Master’s in Psychology
A master’s in psychology develops social science research knowledge and additional expertise in treating and diagnosing mental health issues. If your mental health counseling degree focused how on to interact with patients in psychotherapy situations, this degree teaches you how to bring insights gleaned from those situations into a strong research focus.
This degree focuses on how people learn new behaviors and identifies the influential factors that contribute to behavior development in groups and individuals. Candidates use empirical techniques and scientific experimentation to gain a greater understanding of human behavior and how certain behaviors can be modified to support mental and emotional health.