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Today’s 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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WRITTEN BY: Michael Hoffman
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REVIEWED BY: Edumed Editing Staff

Last Updated: 09/06/2023

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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.

Most Affordable Online Counseling Programs in 2024

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.

or
About the ranking

X

Base Methodology for EduMed’s Most Affordable Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS.

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

Institutional Aid – Percent of full-time undergraduate students who are awarded institutional grant aid, as self-reported by the school.

Following metrics were all equally weighted.

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# School Name Type Tuition Institutional Aid More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Arkansas State UniversityJonesboro, AK Public $ 93%

The Master of Science in Education in School Counseling prepares students to work as school counselors after graduation. To make this learning process as convenient as possible, most of the courses can be completed online. Students must also complete several counseling practicums or clinicals to graduate from the program. Prospective students thinking about working in any public or private K-12 school setting can enroll in the General Concentration while those wishing to work with students with particular needs can consider the Crisis and Trauma and Special Populations concentrations.

Program Highlights:

MS in Education in School Counseling

  • Credits: 48
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $340.00/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: CAEP
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
69%
2 Southeastern Oklahoma State UniversityDurant, OK Public $ 98%

Current teachers who are interested in shifting into an advising position within the education system (such as a guidance counselor) are perfect for Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Master of Education in School Counseling program. A current teaching certificate is required to apply and once admitted, students will complete almost all of their courses online. In addition to classroom instruction, students will complete a practicum that includes at least 100 hours of counseling practice.

Program Highlights:

Master of Education in School Counseling

  • Credits: 42
  • Length: About 1-2 years
  • Cost: $280.00/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: CAEP
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
89%
3 North Carolina Central UniversityDurham, NC Public $ 77%

North Carolina Central University offers an online CACREP-accredited and IRCEP-endorsed Master of Arts in School Counseling degree program. This is designed to prepare individuals to become professional school counselors in North Carolina at the kindergarten through 12th grade level. Most of the classes can be completed online and to apply, prospective students must take the GRE, have at least a 2.7 GPA, hold a bachelor’s degree, obtain two recommendations, write an application essay, and provide official transcripts.

Program Highlights:

MA in School Counseling

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $298.73/credit (resident) and $1,038.07/credit (non-resident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: CACREP
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
61%
4 Angelo State UniversitySan Angelo, TX Public $ 77% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
3
Online
Student %
49%
5 California State University-East BayHayward, CA Public $ 91% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
85%
6 Fort Hays State UniversityHays, KS Public $ 81% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
57%
7 Auburn University at MontgomeryMontgomery, AL Public $ 96% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
60%
8 Chadron State CollegeChadron, NE Public $ 79% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
78%
9 Southern Arkansas University Main CampusMagnolia, AK Public $ 80% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
78%
10 University of Louisiana at MonroeMonroe, LA Public $ 81% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
53%
11 California University of PennsylvaniaCalifornia, PA Public $ 82% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
80%
12 Montana State University BillingsBillings, MT Public $ 71% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
63%
13 Arkansas Tech UniversityRussellville, AK Public $ 76% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
64%
14 Jacksonville State UniversityJacksonville, AL Public $ 98% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
68%
15 University of Nebraska at KearneyKearney, NE Public $ 74% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
73%
16 Florida State UniversityTallahassee, FL Public $ 65% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
58%
17 North American UniversityStafford, TX Private not-for-profit $ 81% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
91%
18 Western Kentucky UniversityBowling Green, KY Public $$ 91% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
57%
19 Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaff, AZ Public $$ 94% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
55%
20 University of Alaska FairbanksFairbanks, AK Public $ 62% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
80%
21 University of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbia, MO Public $$ 82% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
62%
22 Texas A & M International UniversityLaredo, TX Public $ 58% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
61%
23 University of North DakotaGrand Forks, ND Public $$ 73% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
70%
24 Marshall UniversityHuntington, WV Public $ 78% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
48%
25 The University of Tennessee-MartinMartin, TN Public $ 81% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
41%
26 Regent UniversityVirginia Beach, VA Private not-for-profit $$$ 98% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
6
Online
Student %
92%
27 Northwestern State University of LouisianaNatchitoches, LA Public $ 54% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
88%
28 Texas Woman’s UniversityDenton, TX Public $ 59% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
78%
29 Kansas State UniversityManhattan, KS Public $$ 86% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
45%
30 Morehead State UniversityMorehead, KY Public $ 72% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
57%
31 University of ArizonaTucson, AZ Public $$ 91% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
56%
32 West Texas A & M UniversityCanyon, TX Public $ 58% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
89%
33 Western New Mexico UniversitySilver City, NM Public $ 45% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
82%
34 East Carolina UniversityGreenville, NC Public $ 44% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
3
Online
Student %
74%
35 University of Nebraska at OmahaOmaha, NE Public $ 60% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
75%
36 University of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotte, NC Public $ 48% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
69%
37 University of Central ArkansasConway, AK Public $ 63% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
47%
38 Minnesota State University MoorheadMoorhead, MN Public $ 62% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
76%
39 University of West AlabamaLivingston, AL Public $ 54% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
83%
40 Western Michigan UniversityKalamazoo, MI Public $$ 79% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
3
Online
Student %
72%
41 Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond, VA Public $$ 70% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
81%
42 North Carolina State University at RaleighRaleigh, NC Public $ 47% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
3
Online
Student %
50%
43 Auburn UniversityAuburn, AL Public $$ 65% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
46%
44 The University of AlabamaTuscaloosa, AL Public $$ 71% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
40%
45 University of Wisconsin-SuperiorSuperior, WI Public $ 42% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
60%
46 Sul Ross State UniversityAlpine, TX Public $ 37% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
73%
47 Southwestern Assemblies of God UniversityWaxahachie, TX Private not-for-profit $$$ 86% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
70%
48 Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA Private not-for-profit $ 77% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
91%
49 Davenport UniversityGrand Rapids, MI Private not-for-profit $$$$ 99% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
81%
50 University of West GeorgiaCarrollton, GA Public $ 14% Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
2
Online
Student %
76%
or
About the ranking

X

Base Methodology for EduMed’s Most Affordable Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS.

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

Institutional Aid – Percent of full-time undergraduate students who are awarded institutional grant aid, as self-reported by the school.

Following metrics were all equally weighted.

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# School Name Type Tuition Institutional Aid More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 CUNY Kingsborough Community CollegeBrooklyn, NY Public $ 28%

CUNY Kingsborough Community College offers a robust certificate in alcoholism and substance abuse counseling. The program consists of a set course schedule, with class topics including basic techniques in alcohol and substance abuse counseling, counselor-client ethics and confidentiality, and addiction and the family. Along with foundational courses, students also complete two internships. Depending on the internships, students may be able to complete the entire degree online. Upon graduation, students can take the alcohol and substance abuse counseling exam.

Program Highlights:

Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counseling Certificate

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $210/credit in-state | $320/credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
97%
2 Northcentral Technical CollegeWausau, WI Public $ 13%

Learners interested in an associate degree in substance abuse counseling should consider the program from Northcentral Technical College. During the first year of study, this fully online degree covers general social-work topics such as case management and an overview of mental health disorders. In the second year, students dive into substance abuse counseling, with classes such as substance use disorder assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. In the final semester, students enroll in three clinical experiences, which often are completed in-person.

Program Highlights:

Associate of Substance Use Disorder Counseling

  • Credits: 65
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $149.17/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
53%
3 Northeast Wisconsin Technical CollegeGreen Bay, WI Public $ 14%

Interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor? The technical diploma in substance abuse counseling from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College might be a good fit. This online certificate can be completed in less than a year. It covers topics such as anatomy, understanding substance abuse, and substance abuse diagnosis and treatment. The degree also covers foundational topics from other fields, such as social work and anatomy. Successful applicants should already have an associate's degree in health science, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, or social work.

Program Highlights:

Substance Abuse Counselor Education Technical Diploma

  • Credits: 37
  • Length: About 1 year
  • Cost: $146.20/credit
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
41%
4 Mt Hood Community CollegeGresham, OR Public $ 17%

Mount Hood Community College offers a comprehensive associate degree in Mental Health, Social Services, and Addiction Counseling. The curriculum consists of courses in all three disciplines, with class topics including case management; diagnosis and clinical treatment of mental health disorders; and addiction prevention, treatment, and assessment. Students also take a course on different careers in the field and complete an internship for real-world experience. While classes are all offered online, the internship is often completed in person.

Program Highlights:

Associate of Applied Science in Mental Health, Social Service, and Addiction Counseling

  • Credits: 93-101
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $122/credit in-state | $247/credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
40%
5 Hudson Valley Community CollegeTroy, NY Public $ 5%

Hudson Valley Community College offers an associate degree in chemical dependency counseling that can jumpstart students' careers in alcohol and substance abuse counseling. For this degree, students complete online courses in disciplines such as psychology, public health, and social work. They also must complete in-person field experience hours, which offer them the chance to see how their degree translates to a career.

Program Highlights:

Associate of Science in Chemical Dependency Counseling

  • Credits: 61
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $211/credit in-state | $422/credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Online
Programs
1
Online
Student %
65%

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 government.

  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.