Most Affordable Online Counseling Master’s Degrees

Explore budget-friendly online counseling degrees, plus learn about other ways to lower the cost of your master’s.

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Last Updated: 10/04/2021
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If you want to become a professional counselor in a field like school counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or mental health counseling, you’ll likely need a master’s degree first. Fortunately, with today’s vast selection of low-cost online counseling master’s degree programs, it’s easier than ever to afford grad school and achieve your counseling career goals.

This guide showcases this year’s most affordable online counseling master’s programs available from some of the best accredited colleges in the U.S. Along the way, you’ll find other cost-saving tips and tricks that can help you graduate without mountains of student debt.

50 Most Affordable Online Counseling Programs in 2021

Important considerations when choosing the best online counseling program for you include proper accreditation, study convenience, approach to and focus on the area of counseling you’re interested in, and whether a program qualifies you for license eligibility in your state.

Affordability, however, is perhaps the most essential. Below is a list of the most affordable online counseling programs available today. We’ve selected these programs based on several key cost and quality metrics using the latest data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). See our About the Ranking page for more about how we made our program choices.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Most Affordable Rankings

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

 

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Affordability

  • Cost Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement Existence of this service on campus or online.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

 

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Fort Hays State UniversityHays, KS Public $ 1

Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, offers two counseling master’s programs with hybrid programs that combine asynchronous online and on-campus classes with in-person clinical experiences. The Master of Science in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health Counseling is a 60-credit hour program that provides the required coursework and on-site clinical hours (600-hour internship and 100-hour practicum) required for eligibility to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Kansas. Students complete half of their didactic courses online and half in face-to-face classes on the FHSU campus on Fridays and Saturdays.

FHSU’s Master of Science in Counseling – School Counseling degree requires 48-credit hours of didactic coursework with on-site clinical hours (600-hour internship and 100-hour practicum). Internship and practicum hours in both programs are normally at program-approved clinical sites in a student’s local area. Graduates qualify to apply for State of Kansas school counseling licensure.

Admissions requirements for both online MS in Counseling programs include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA on the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework. Additional application requirements include two letters of reference from professional peers or supervisors, a professional goals statement, and an interview via videoconferencing. All applicants must also pass a criminal background check.

Program Highlights:

MS in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health Counseling; MS in Counseling – School Counseling

  • Credits: 60 (Clinical Mental Health Counseling); 48 (School Counseling)
  • Length: Three years
  • Cost: $298.55/credit
  • Mode: Partially-Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (school); Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
77%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
2 Southeastern Oklahoma State UniversityDurant, OK Public $$ 1

The Master of Education in School Counseling Online program from Southeastern Oklahoma State University features accelerated classes and flexible study options that allow current teachers to earn their counseling master’s while maintaining their full-time teaching jobs. The program builds upon classroom teaching experience with study in the areas of psychopathology, diversity, child assessment and development, and more. Didactic coursework is 100% online in an asynchronous format. The program also requires 100 hours of in-person counseling-related services as part of a practicum experience. The pay-as-you-go option allows you to take breaks if needed and continue once you have the funds to do so. Multiple program start dates are available throughout the year.

Admission requirements into SOSU’s online MEd in School Counseling program include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university and a valid teaching certificate. Additional requirements may apply based on minimum GPA figures for undergraduate or previously completed graduate coursework. GRE test scores are not required.

Program Highlights:

MEd in School Counseling

  • Credits: 42
  • Length: As few as 12 months (not including practicum requirements)
  • Cost: $265/credit
  • Mode: Fully-online coursework / In-person Practicum
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
73%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
3 University of the CumberlandsWilliamsburg, KY Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1

Students interested in earning a counseling master’s degree in the mental health field from Kentucky’s University of the Cumberlands can choose one of two online program options. The Master in Clinical Mental Health Counseling prepares you to work with clients in individual, family, and group settings. UC’s Master of Arts in Counseling prepares you for a career as an addiction counselor working with patients struggling with issues of alcohol and drug abuse and eating disorders.

Both programs require 60 credit hours of coursework that include 48 credits of core counseling courses and 12 credits of specialized study in clinical mental health or addiction counseling. Didactic coursework is completed online asynchronously, and two, 300-hour clinical internships plus a 100-hour practicum experience are attended in-person at clinical practice sites typically in a student’s local area. In-person internship and practicum counseling practice hours may satisfy part or all of the clinical hour requirements for professional licensure in your state of residence.

UC also offers an online Masters of Arts in Education degree with School Counseling Concentration that provides the knowledge and skills needed for individuals with initial teaching licensure to become school guidance counselors on P-12 grade levels. Didactic coursework in this 45-credit program is completed online, and students also participate in on-site counseling practicums and/or internships in public or private school settings.

Program Highlights:

MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling; MA in Addiction Counseling; MAEd with School Counseling Concentration

  • Credits: 60 (MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and MA in Addictions Counseling); 45 (MAEd with School Counseling Concentration)
  • Length: As little as two years (all three programs)
  • Cost: $400/credit (MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and MA in Addiction Counseling); $315/credit (MAEd with School Counseling Concentration).
  • Mode: Partially-Online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (school); CACREP (MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and MA in Addiction Counseling programs); CAEP (MAEd with School Counseling Concentration program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
97%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
4 Southern Arkansas University Main CampusMagnolia, AR Public $$ 2

Southern Arkansas University has three affordable online counseling master’s programs available, including two in the education counseling field. SAU’s Master of Education in School Counseling focuses on counseling theory and its practical application to address the developmental needs of students in K-12 levels. The Master of Education in College Counseling and Student Affairs program focuses on development theory and practice along with leadership, management, and organizational skills to prepare graduates for administration and counseling careers on the postsecondary education level.

Students seeking counseling careers in the mental health field can opt for SAU’s Master of Science in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling. The program provides the clinical and developmental training required for LPC licensure in Arkansas.

All three SAU counseling master’s programs feature online didactic coursework along with the in-person internship and practicum hours required to qualify graduates for professional licensure in Arkansas. Students in other states should review their own state’s licensure requirements before enrolling in this program. The MEd in School Counseling includes some on-campus classes as well.

Program Highlights:

MEd in School Counseling; MEd in College Counseling and Student Affairs; MS in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling

  • Credits: 48 (MEd in School Counseling); 51 (MEd in College Counseling and Student Affairs); 60 (MS in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling)
  • Length: 2.5 to 3 years (MEd in School Counseling); 3 years (MEd in College Counseling and Student Affairs); 3.5 to 4 years (MS in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling)
  • Cost: $293/credit (in-state); $459/credit (out-of-state) Out-of-state tuition rate waivers are available to students in Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
  • Mode: Partially-Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (school); CAEP (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
79%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
5 Luther Rice College & SeminaryLithonia, GA Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1

Luther Rice College & Seminary, a Southern Baptist-affiliated college located in Lithonia, Georgia, offers a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling that prepares graduates to provide non-licensed Christ-centered pastoral care and counseling services in Christian settings. The program’s curriculum combines counseling-focused coursework (e.g., psychology and counseling theory, marriage and family counseling, counseling methodology, crisis counseling, etc.) with Christian-focused courses in the Old Testament, New Testament, Biblical interpretation, and applied theology. All didactic coursework for the degree can be completed entirely online asynchronously or through a combination of on-campus and online classes. The program culminates in a practicum experience consisting of 80 hours of supervised counseling practice with a minister in the student’s local area.

Admission requirements for this degree program include a bachelor’s degree or equivalent (i.e., 120 hours of college-level coursework) with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Financial aid resources are available to qualifying students, including federal student aid (i.e., loans, grants, and work-study), and the school’s own need-based Tuition Assistance Program.

Program Highlights:

MA in Biblical Counseling

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 18 to 24 months
  • Cost: $316/credit
  • Mode: Fully-online / In-person Practicum
  • Accreditation: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), SACSCOC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
67%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
6 Chadron State CollegeChadron, NE Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
7 Grace College and Theological SeminaryWinona Lake, IN Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
100%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
8 Utah State UniversityLogan, UT Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
63%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
9 University of Central ArkansasConway, AR Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
60%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
10 Salem CollegeWinston-Salem, NC Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
11 North Carolina Central UniversityDurham, NC Public $$ 3
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
12 Concordia University-IrvineIrvine, CA Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
97%
AccreditationWASC Senior College and University Commission
13 Angelo State UniversitySan Angelo, TX Public $$ 2
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
60%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
14 Southwestern Oklahoma State UniversityWeatherford, OK Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
66%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
15 University of Nebraska at KearneyKearney, NE Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
64%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
16 Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 3
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
89%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
17 Midwestern Baptist Theological SeminaryKansas City, MO Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
No
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
87%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
18 Winston-Salem State UniversityWinston-Salem, NC Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
68%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
19 Southeastern Baptist Theological SeminaryWake Forest, NC Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 2
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
25%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
20 Indiana State UniversityTerre Haute, IN Public $$ 3
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
64%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
21 Arkansas Tech UniversityRussellville, AR Public $$ 2
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
45%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
22 New Mexico Highlands UniversityLas Vegas, NM Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
52%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
23 University of North TexasDenton, TX Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
50%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
24 University of Southern MississippiHattiesburg, MS Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
73%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
25 Emporia State UniversityEmporia, KS Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
71%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
26 University of West AlabamaLivingston, AL Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
56%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
27 Missouri Baptist UniversitySaint Louis, MO Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
98%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
28 Maranatha Baptist UniversityWatertown, WI Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
74%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
29 Concordia University-WisconsinMequon, WI Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
98%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
30 Union CollegeBarbourville, KY Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
98%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
31 Fort Valley State UniversityFort Valley, GA Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
21%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
32 University of South DakotaVermillion, SD Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
67%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
33 Northwestern State University of LouisianaNatchitoches, LA Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
34 Grand Canyon UniversityPhoenix, AZ Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 2
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
97%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
35 World Mission UniversityLos Angeles, CA Private, Not-for-Profit $ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationAssociation for Biblical Higher Education, Commission on Accreditation
36 Gwynedd Mercy UniversityGwynedd Valley, PA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
100%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
37 Shasta Bible College and Graduate SchoolRedding, CA Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
67%
AccreditationTransnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools Accreditation Commission
38 Washburn UniversityTopeka, KS Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
62%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
39 Nyack CollegeNyack, NY Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
40 University of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbia, MO Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
41 Holy Apostles College and SeminaryCromwell, CT Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education
42 University of Louisiana at MonroeMonroe, LA Public $$ 2
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
58%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
43 The University of Tennessee-MartinMartin, TN Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
78%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
44 Faulkner UniversityMontgomery, AL Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
93%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
45 Lamar UniversityBeaumont, TX Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
20%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
46 Kansas State UniversityManhattan, KS Public $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
74%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
47 San Diego State UniversitySan Diego, CA Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
21%
AccreditationWASC Senior College and University Commission
48 Texas Tech University Health Sciences CenterLubbock, TX Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
49 Assumption CollegeWorcester, MA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education
50 University of Arkansas at Little RockLittle Rock, AR Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
53%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission

What Makes an Online Counseling Degree Affordable?

Many factors affect an online degree program’s affordability, including direct costs like program tuition and fees, books, supplies, and internet access charges. We discuss many of them below to help you make your online counseling degree more affordable.

How much financial aid you can get

There are many funding resources available for your online counseling master’s program, including scholarships and grants, employer tuition reimbursement, and tuition assistance programs. Other popular sources include work-study programs, tuition installment agreements, veteran benefits, and student loans. Learn more about these and other funding resources by contacting your school’s financial aid office and by checking out EduMed’s financial aid guide.

Where you live

Public colleges and universities often charge one tuition rate to students residing in their home state and another, usually higher, rate to out-of-state residents. So, it’s likely the most affordable online counseling programs for you are ones offered by a public school in your state. This rule doesn’t apply to private colleges, though, which often charge the same tuition rates to all students regardless of residency. There’s also a trend among public schools to charge a single affordable tuition rate to all online students regardless of residency.

Whether the school is private or public

Private colleges normally charge the same tuition rate to all students in their online counseling master’s programs. However, private school tuition rates tend to run substantially higher than for similar online programs from public schools. There are exceptions, of course, so don’t reject private online counseling programs without first checking rates.

How much of the coursework is offered online

Transportation costs to on-campus classes can be significant, and saving on those costs is a major advantage of online programs. The more of your counseling master’s program that’s online, the less you’ll pay in transportation costs.

What software and other equipment your school covers

Studying online means needing access to the internet along with software programs and applications, and costs for these services add up. Find out about all hardware and software requirements for the online counseling programs you’re considering as well as whether those programs supply these items free-of-charge. Also, get a detailed understanding of all non-tuition costs associated with your online program before enrolling. Additional charges might include online program fees, technology fees, etc.

Whether the program has a flexible class schedule that lets you keep your current job

You may not think of a flexible class schedule as an affordability issue, but it can be, particularly for working students who must fit classes around job schedules. Features like asynchronous coursework and virtual evening and weekend classes can make a world of difference to working students.

How You Can Lower the Cost of Your Online Counseling Degree


Finding an affordable online counseling degree program is a great start to saving money on your education, but don’t stop there. There are other ways to lower your total education price tag, starting with the three suggestions below. Remember to speak with your school’s financial aid office for additional ideas.

  1. Look into all of the scholarship options you may be eligible for.

Scholarships and grants save you money because you don’t pay them back, essentially making them free money. Many students fail to pursue these awards falsely thinking that need stellar academic records to qualify. However, many scholarship and grant awards are based on factors like financial need and minority or special interest group membership. Your school’s financial aid office is a great place to find out about eligibility, and be sure to visit EduMed’s scholarship page for info on starting your scholarship search.

  1. Consider Federal and State loan repayment programs.

Counseling professionals, including LPCs and Substance Abuse Disorder Counselors, may be eligible for substantial loan repayment benefits through one of the federal government’s HRSA Loan Repayment programs. Qualifying students can receive up to $50,000 to repay student loans in exchange for two years of service at a National Health Service Corp-approved practice site in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area. Similar loan repayment programs are available through many state governments, including these programs in California and Michigan.

  1. Find out about any loan forgiveness programs.

Along with loan repayment programs, the federal government and many state governments also sponsor student loan forgiveness programs. Federal loan forgiveness programs include the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and you can search for state loan forgiveness programs using this American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Loan Forgiveness & Funding Opportunities search engine.