Most Affordable Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs Ranked for 2023

Most Affordable Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs Ranked for 2023

We rank the most affordable colleges and universities for getting your master’s degree in counseling.

Key Takeaways

  • Master’s degrees in mental health counseling prepare students for a variety of careers in mental health counseling.

  • A graduate student with an MS in counseling can pursue a career as a school counselor, addiction counselor, family counselor, and much more.

  • It may also be possible to earn an online master in counseling through an array of fully accredited online degree programs

Earning a master’s degree in counseling can put you in an excellent position to help others. An advanced degree in counseling can provide a direct route to a career in school counseling, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, family counseling, and much more.

A master’s degree in counseling can prepare you to work in a wide range of settings from mental health and clinical healthcare facilities to public schools and social services organizations. In other words, a master’s degree in counseling can be a valuable credential. But how can you be sure you’re getting a counseling degree that is both affordable and excellent? We’ve ranked the very best master’s degree programs in counseling with tuition for under $10,000 per year.

Of course, another way to save money on housing, travel, and campus fees is to earn your master’s degree in counseling online.

Or you can read on for a look at the most affordable master’s in counseling degree programs today.

How to Get a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

The basic threshold for entering most master’s in counseling degree programs is a bachelor’s degree in counseling or in a related subject such as psychology, social sciences, or addiction counseling.

Earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program prepares students to enter into accredited master’s degrees in an array of both on-campus and online counseling degree programs. Accreditation is essential because only students earning degrees from schools with Department of Education-approved accrediting agencies will qualify for financial aid. Once you’ve completed your master’s in counseling, you would be eligible for certification as a counselor. However, there are typically several critical steps required before you can become a licensed professional counselor.

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How to Pursue a Career in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Students who have earned their counseling master’s degree will generally qualify for internship opportunities in a wide range of clinical mental health settings. You may also be able to intern in settings that provide crisis counseling, rehabilitation counseling, family therapy, school counseling, and much more.

Here, you’ll learn essential counseling skills and learn how to apply these skills in clinical mental health settings. Once you’ve served in your internship, you will typically qualify to sit for your National Counselor Examination. Passing this exam will qualify you to apply to become a licensed professional counselor in your state.

That said, many specialized areas of counseling may also require you to earn additional certifications in areas like clinical counseling, family counseling, mental health counseling, career counseling, professional school counseling, and much more.

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Whether you’re pursing a traditional graduate degree or you’re considering an online program, there are numerous pathways for those interested in counseling careers. It may be possible to enter into mental health counseling, school counseling, professional counseling, college counseling, and an array of other roles in the counseling profession by first earning a master’s degree in a related subject area.

Related educational programs may include master’s degrees in area like psychology, organizational psychology, and—for students who plan to practice mental health counseling in a spiritual context—a master’s degree in theology.

And for a look at well-rounded advanced degree programs in related subject areas, considering earning your degree from one of the best liberal arts colleges for psychology. This may offer you the best opportunity for honing in on a specific in-person or online counseling program. You may be able to enter into a focused school counseling program, substance abuse counseling program, group counseling, and much more.

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Is it possible get an online master’s in counseling degree?

Students in search of affordable online counseling programs may be able to pursue an array of related educational programs entirely through online education. Earning a degree in counseling online may help to cut costs by offsetting expenses like housing, transportation, and certain campus fees.

In most cases, online programs offer a similar curriculum and set of credentials as traditional on-campus counseling programs. The online degree in clinical mental health counseling will generally incorporate core courses in human development, counseling psychology, and multicultural counseling alongside advanced counseling theories and best practices in mental health counseling. This makes it a suitable pathway to a career for marriage and family therapists, school counselors, career counselors, and much more.

Many online counseling degrees will carry certain in-person requirements. Even the most affordable online master’s in counseling degrees may require degree candidates to visit campus for workshops, practicums, and other face-to-face meetings. For prospective students weighing their options for a master’s in counseling online, be sure that you’re aware of all on-campus requirements first.

This may be a strong argument in favor of earning your online master’s in counseling from a grad school in your state. In fact, many of the most affordable online counseling degrees are offered by public colleges and universities, where in-state students can enjoy significant tuition rate discounts.

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How We Ranked the Most Affordable Schools For a Master’s in Counseling

The master’s degree in counseling programs listed below topped our Influence ranking when filtering for graduate programs available for under $10,000 per year in tuition.

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The 20 Most Affordable Schools for a Master’s in Counseling

  1. Student body

    4K

    What do we love about Teachers College?

    Teachers College is Columbia University’s graduate school for students in education, health, and psychology disciplines. As part of the prestigious private research university located in New York City, Teachers College offers some of the most highly regarded post-graduate degrees in the world.

    Teachers College was formed in 1887 and is therefore both the oldest and largest graduate school of education in the nation.

    • Teachers College is great for students who:

      Are seeking a post-graduate education in the heart of a bustling city.

    • Teachers College might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a more traditional campus experience.

  2. #2

    Aspen University

    Phoenix , AZ
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Student body

    6K

    What do we love about the Aspen University?

    Aspen University is a fully online university offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide range of subject areas including nursing, education, and counseling. Aspen’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Psychology of Addiction and Counseling are approved by the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).

    The University of Aspen was actually founded as the International Academy in the 1960s, and significantly predates the inception of online education.

    • Aspen University is great for students who:

      Wish to choose from a wide range of fully online undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

    • Aspen University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Require a regionally accredited degree.

  3. #3

    Baruch College

    New York , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    17K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1265/28

    What do we love about Baruch College?

    Baruch College is a public university located in New York City. Baruch College is noted for the wide array of both undergraduate and graduate programs offered through its three primary schools: Zicklin School of Business, the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, and the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs.

    Baruch College has an excellent educational tradition that dates back to its 1847 founding as the Free Academy. This made Baruch the very first free public higher education institution in the U.S.

    • Baruch College is great for students who:

      Wish to take advantage of the sprawling CUNY system of campuses and resources.

    • Baruch College might not be the best fit for students who:

      Don’t prefer to pursue their degree in a metropolitan setting.

  4. #4

    University of Florida

    Gainesville , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    30%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    48K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1375/31

    What do we love about the University of Florida?

    University of Florida is a public university with strong appeal for students with an interest in research. The University of Florida is classified among R1 Doctoral Universities, those institutions noted for a very high level or research activity.

    The University of Florida also holds the distinction of being the only Florida college with members in the Association of American Universities.

    • The University of Florida is great for students who:

      Enjoy an excellent athletics program. The University of Florida Gators varsity sports teams have claimed 45 national championships for the school.

    • The University of Florida might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a more intimate experience. With more than 57,800 students enrolled during the 2020-21 academic year, the University of Florida is the fifth largest school in the United States.

  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/27

    What do we love about the City College of New York?

    City College of New York is the flagship school in a CUNY public higher education system that includes 25 distinct institutions. This makes it the very first free public higher education institution in the United States.

    Established in 1847, the City College of New York is located in the Hamilton Heights section of the city, an area that provides sweeping views of Harlem and Manhattan.

    • The City College of New York is great for students who:

      Enjoy an incredible legacy of higher education firsts, including the establishment of the first student government in 1867, the first racially and religiously integrated fraternity with Delta Sigma Phi in 1899, and the first night school program to award degrees, with the School of Education starting in 1907.

    • The City College of New York might not be the best fit for students who:

      Require an extra level of advisor support. Some students say it can be challenging to procure an appointment with an academic advisor.

  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    35K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1305/29

    What do we love about Brigham Young University?

    Brigham Young University is a highly regarded private university affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). BYU’s main campus is located in Provo, Utah with satellite campuses in Salt Lake City and Jerusalem, as well as “sister schools” in Hawaii and Idaho.

    Brigham Young University serves an extremely large population of students, with more than 31,000 undergraduates and more than 3000 graduate students enrolled for the Fall ’21 semester.

    • Brigham Young University is great for students who:

      Are seeking a degree with great ROI. BYU is often ranked among the best schools for the money..

    • Brigham Young University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are not affiliated with the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS). BYU students are expected to adhere to a behavioral code that aligns with LDS beliefs.

  7. #7

    Phoenix Seminary

    Scottsdale , AZ

    Student body

    <1K

    What do we love about the Phoenix Seminary?

    Phoenix Seminary is an Evangelical Christian seminary based in Phoenix Arizona and serves both online and on-campus students. The Seminary offers a host of graduate degree programs that merge divinity, biblical studies, and mental health counseling.

    Phoenix Seminary is noteworthy for both its affordable tuition rate and its generous array of scholarships packages.

    • Phoenix Seminary is great for students who:

      Desire a practical, faith-based education.

    • Phoenix Seminary might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are interested in pursuing religious studies through a secular or academic lens.

  8. #8

    University of Iowa

    Iowa City , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/25

    What do we love about the University of Iowa?

    The University of Iowa is a public university that is noteworthy for the depth and excellence of its research activities. The oldest and largest school in the state rests on the banks of the Iowa River and serves more than 30,000 students.

    The University of Iowa is home to a particularly large contingent of graduate students, with more than 6000 students pursuing their advanced degrees in the Fall of 2022.

    • The University of Iowa is great for students who:

      Are interested in campus activities. The school is home to roughly 500 student-run groups, 22 athletic teams, and an enormous alumni network.

    • The University of Iowa might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a small-campus experience.

  9. #9

    University of Utah

    Salt Lake City , UT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/25

    What do we love about the University of Utah?

    The University of Utah was founded in 1850 as the University of Deseret before becoming the University of Utah in 1892. The flagship public research university in the state of Utah actually predates Utah’s 1896 admission to statehood.

    The University of Utah has a storied academic track record, producing 22 Rhodes Scholars, four Nobel Prize winners, and three Turing Award winners.

    • The University of Utah is great for students who:

      Wish to live on a “green” campus. The University of Utah ranks high among higher education institutions for its efforts in sustainability and the use of renewable energies.

    • The University of Utah might not be the best fit for students who:

      Desire religious diversity. The state’s large Mormon population is also a predominant demographic at the University of Utah.

  10. #10

    Bellevue University

    Bellevue , NE
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Graduation

    23%

    Student body

    9K

    What do we love about Bellevue University?

    Bellevue University is a private institution based in Bellevue, Nebraska. Founded in 1966 as Bellevue College, the university’s broader mission has long been to serve the specific needs of adult learners. As a result, more than 80% of the student population is over the age of 25 .

    Bellevue University’s focus on adult learning also encouraged the introduction of various flexible degree programs including accelerated bachelor’s degree programs and online master’s degree programs.

    • Bellevue University is great for students who:

      Are above traditional college age.

    • Bellevue University might not be the best fit for:

      Recent high-school graduates looking for the typical campus lifestyle.

  11. Student body

    <1K

    What do we love about the University of Western States?

    The University of Western States is a private university located in Portland, Oregon. UWS places a heavy emphasis on health sciences programs, offering graduate degrees in areas like sports medicine, human nutrition, and clinical mental health counseling.

    The University of Western States is also home to the second oldest chiropractic medicine school in the nation.

    • The University is great for students who:

      Enjoy an intimate experience. With a student body of under 1000 students, the University of Western States is truly a close-knit educational community.

    • The University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a liberal arts focused graduate degree program.

  12. #12

    East Carolina University

    Greenville , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/21

    What do we love about East Carolina University?

    Eastern Carolina University was founded as a teacher training school in 1907. Today, the public research institution is the fourth largest in North Carolina with more than 29,000 students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    East Carolina University’s excellent in-state tuition rate makes it an attractive and affordable destination for many local students, with 90% of the student population coming from in state.

    • East Carolina University is great for students who:

      Are interested in its top-flight degree programs in areas like nursing, psychology, public health, and more.

    • East Carolina University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Don’t enjoy a “party school” atmosphere.

  13. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1385/30

    What do we love about the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill?

    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is considered a “Public Ivy,” a school with state funding that offers the prestige and educational experience akin to those at a private Ivy League school.

    The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is the flagship campus for the broader University of North Carolina system and began enrolling students in 1795. This makes UNC the only public school in the U.S. to both teach and graduate students in the 18th Century!

    • The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is great for students who:

      Desire a well-rounded education. All students are required to complete a liberal arts education on the way to their chosen major. Popular majors include biology, business administration, and psychology.

    • The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a more conservative environment. Many students at UNC note that the campus culture tends to lean to the liberal side of the political spectrum.

  14. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    36K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/20

    What do we love about the California State University, Fullerton?

    California State University, Fullerton is a massive public university campus. With more than 41,000 students enrolled, Fullerton is the largest of the expansive 23-school CSU system.

    And with 5000 graduate students, California State University, Fullerton awards among the largest number of advanced degrees in the state of California.

    • California State University, Fullerton is great for students who:

      Are seeking a diverse campus.

    • California State University, Fullerton might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a small-campus atmosphere.

  15. #15

    West Virginia University

    Morgantown , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/24

    What do we love about West Virginia University?

    West Virginia University is a public research university with four campuses located across the state. The main campus in Morgantown, West Virginia is home to more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

    West Virginia University is noted for its high level of research activity especially in the area of biometric technology. In fact, WVU is the FBI’s lead academic partner in this area.

    • West Virginia University is great for students who:

      Are looking for options. Students can choose from between more than 350 degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional levels.

    • West Virginia University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Aren’t looking for a university with a “party school” reputation.

  16. #16

    Florida State University

    Tallahassee , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    41K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1285/29

    What do we love about Florida State University?

    Founded in 1851 as the Florida Institute, FSU in Tallahassee actually stands on the oldest continuously used site for higher education in the state of Florida. With more than 360 undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs, FSU students have plenty of options.

    This is fitting for a university that enrolls well over 45,000 students every year.

    • Florida State University is great for students who:

      Are looking to participate in campus activities, Greek life, and sporting event attendance.

    • Florida State University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a more intimate college experience.

  17. #17

    Fielding Graduate University

    Santa Barbara , CA

    Student body

    1K

    What do we love about the Fielding Graduate University?

    Fielding Graduate University is a private university focused specifically on awarding graduate degrees. Located in Santa Barbara, Fielding was founded in 1974 with the mission of serving non-traditional learners.

    Today, Fielding matches this mission by focusing on the academic and professional needs of working adults.

    • Fielding Graduate University is great for students who:

      Are already working in their field and looking for ways to advance their credentials.

    • Fielding Graduate University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are not proactive about their education. Graduate students are expected to take the lead in coordinating graduate level projects and work.

  18. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    23K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1200/25

    What do we love about Utah State University?

    .Utah State University was founded in 1888 in Logan Utah. Today, Utah State University serves more than 20,000 students, which makes it the largest public residential campus in the state of Utah.

    This number is aided by the fact that USU is a big draw to out-of-state students, who make up 23% of the student body.

    • Utah State University is great for students who:

      Enjoy an active campus community. The majority of USU’s students are on-campus residents. As a result, social and cultural life in the region are largely concentrated around the campus itself.

    • Utah State University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are looking for degrees in some of the physical sciences. Though degree offerings are numerous, some students note that these offerings are concentrated in specific degree areas.

  19. Student body

    <1K

    What do we love about Antioch University?

    Antioch University New England is the second largest campus in the Antioch University System. With 1200 students, the Keene, New Hampshire campus is the second largest of three campuses.

    Antioch University New England specializes in graduate-level degrees for students in areas like Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Education, and Environmental Studies.

    • Antioch University is great for students who:

      Love the great outdoors. Antioch New England is based in New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region, noted for its expansive state park system.

    • Antioch University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Recent high school graduates with an interest in the traditional campus experience. Many of Antioch University’s students are adult learners.

  20. #20

    University of Houston

    Houston , TX
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    39K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    What do we love about the University of Houston?

    The University of Houston was founded in 1927 and, today, serves a massive student population of over 47,000 undergrads and grad students. This makes the Southeast Houston campus the third largest in the state of Texas.

    Students can choose from a wide range of degree programs, with more than 275 degrees offered across 16 academic colleges.

    • The University of Houston is great for students who:

      Enjoy college athletics. The school is home to 17 intercollegiate NCAA Division I teams.

    • The University of Houston might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer the personal attention of a small school.