The Guide to Online Masters in Mental Health Counseling Programs

A master’s in mental health counseling can help provide you the tools and skills necessary to become a practicing mental health counselor in the U.S. A mental health counselor not only tends to the emotional and mental needs of a patient, but they also possess the qualifications necessary to diagnose a patient and decide the appropriate treatment options to suggest.

Jumpstart Your Career, Explore No GRE Online Mental Health Counseling Programs:

Earn Northwestern’s CACREP-Approved Degree

Earn a CACREP-accredited master’s in counseling online from top-9 ranked1 Northwestern University.

1U.S. News & World Report: 2022 Best National University Rankings 

  • CACREP Accredited
  • Earn your MA in Counseling from Northwestern in as few as 18 months
  • Accelerated full-time, traditional, or part-time tracks available


MPCAC-Accredited Online MA at NYU. GRE Not Req.

Aspiring mental health counselors are prepared to pursue licensure with NYU Steinhardt’s MPCAC-accredited online counseling master’s. Students can earn their degree in as few as 21 mos. GRE not req. 

  • Prepare to become a mental health counselor
  • Accredited by the MPCAC
  • As few as 21 months to complete
  • GRE not required 


A mental health counselor’s duties often fall on a spectrum. One end being helping those with normal cognitive processes deal with difficult events in their lives such as grieving the loss of a loved one, or coping with the devastation of losing a job, and the other being helping those with less than normal cognitive processes figure out ways to manage a mental illness such as bipolar disorder or clinical depression. A masters in clinical mental health counseling is required for counseling licensure in all states.

When considering pursuing a masters in mental health counseling online you may be wondering how a virtual learning space is conducive for learning how to properly and effectively interact with patients in need. Many accredited online masters in mental health counseling programs require that you have a certain amount of in-person clinical experience, and ensure that their curriculum resembles that of an on-campus masters in mental health counseling program. Though this is true, there are still a few things you may want to consider while looking for the best online masters in mental health counseling programs. This includes student support, in-person clinical experience and placement assistance, live discussions, class size, and of course, accreditation.

The Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Experience

When looking for an online masters in Mental Health Counseling program consider taking into account the type of virtual experience being provided. For example, online student support services, clinical experience placement assistance, class size and live discussions are essentials for ensuring that. Online student support services will provide you with access to campus faculty and staff while you are logged on.

In order to become a licensed Mental Health Counselor you must complete the required clinical experience hours. Being an online student can make placement difficult as some programs do not provide much assistance when it comes to clinical experience placement. However, there are programs that offer special support to online students in finding convenient internship placement sites. Finally, class size and live discussions make for an interactive and fun virtual learning experience. A 15:1 ratio and synchronous learning allows students and instructors to begin fostering and facilitating a productive virtual learning space.

The great thing about pursuing a master in Mental Health Counseling online is that all you need is a built-in camera, a microphone, and a strong wifi connection. With these three things you can participate in face-to-face live discussion with your fellow classmates and instructors.

Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Accreditations

CACREP Accreditation: CACREP Accredited online masters in Mental Health Counseling programs must all meet a set of general standards. These standards are determined by The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Programs (CACREP). CACREP accredited programs all meet a number of content objectives. Some of these standards include human growth and development, group work, and the history and development of Mental Health Counseling techniques, models and theories. If an online masters in mental health counseling program is accredited by CACREP the program is likely to be focused on quality, excellence and equity.

A CACREP accredited program tends to be ethically sound and addresses the needs of society at large. Their focus is encouraging leadership, and protecting the public. Your CACREP accredited program is guaranteed to strategic and theoretical diversity while pushing for best practices and program improvement.

MPCAC Accreditation: MPCAC Accredited programs place an emphasis on students competence. These programs must meet a list of curriculum criterias in order to become MPCAC accredited. The curriculum according to the MPCAC standards are listed below:

  • Professional identity, and ethical and professional standards
  • Evidence-based theories and practice of counseling and psychotherapy
  • Multiculturalism and diversity
  • Tests, measurements, and other assessments of behavior
  • Career development and/or the role of work in peoples’ lives
  • Biological basis of behavior
  • Developmental basis of behavior
  • Social/organizational/community basis of behavior
  • Understanding and use of supervision during applied experiences

Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Programs

Each online masters in mental health counseling will have its own unique program structure and application process. Some similarities exist throughout programs, however, and in most circumstances the required materials needed to apply match those outlined below:

  1. Application: Once you have found the accredited online masters in Mental Health Counseling program of your choice you will fill out an online (or paper) application and pay the subsequent application fee.
  2. Test Scores: Many schools require that you submit you GRE general test scores, or your TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students. Some schools however do not require you submit any test scores at all. However, be prepared to mail in your GRE General Tests scores or your TOEFL/IELTS scores to your chosen institution.
  3. Transcripts: All accredited Mental Health Counseling masters programs require that you send them a copy of your transcript from any postsecondary school you have attended. You can do this by requesting all bachelor’s degree transcripts in advance and uploading the official copy online. Requests transcripts in advance of the application deadline, and upload one official copy of each transcript from any postsecondary schools you have attended.
  4. Professional Work History: Upload a copy of your most recent resume or curriculum vitae as part of your application.
  5. Essays and Personal StatementsIn most cases the submission of a personal statement (written in essay form) is required. You may even be required to submit multiple essays to your school of choice to express fully the intent of your application. Below are some common topics that should be mentioned in your personal statement.
    • Your main academic and personal interests
    • Experiences in school or work that have helped to prepare you for this course of study
    • Why you wish to study for the degree you’ve chosen
    • Why you wish to study at the university
    • Your plans for the future after you earn your degree
  6. Application Fees: Application fees may vary from around $25 to $75 per program

Mental Health Counseling Career Outlook

Pursuing an online ma in mental health counseling can increase your earning potential and optimize your career related opportunities. Some of these opportunities include working in both the private and public sector. An accredited online masters in mental health counseling can offer you the skills and clinical experience needed to have a career in family services, outpatient care, government, hospitals, schools, and private practices. Becoming a practicing mental health counselor can expose you to a variety of demographics and populations that require specific and tailored care and attention – and can be an incredibly rewarding career path. Some of these specific populations include the elderly, the incarcerated, teenagers, and families.

Below are a number of mental health counseling related careers and salaries according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Mental Health Supervisor
  • College Career Counselor
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Marriage and Family Counselor

It is important to keep in mind that some of these related careers require additional certifications – but many can be obtainable with a masters degree in counseling. You can get more information about what additional certifications are required through your school’s website.

Finding the Best Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling For You

In searching for the best mental health counseling masters online program, it’s important to take into account the instruction method, the program length, and the credit requirements necessary to complete the program.

All Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Programs

We’ve compiled a list of all the masters in mental health counseling online programs in the United States along with instructional and curriculum information. The difference between asynchronous and synchronous is that synchronous coursework takes place in a live classroom as opposed to a video lecture recording.

Last Updated March 2021