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    17 Top Masters in Counseling Programs in 2021

    March 5, 2021 | Staff Writers

    Masters in Counseling

    If you want to help people with mental health struggles, substance abuse issues, behavioral disorders, or marriage and family troubles, a master’s degree in counseling may be an important step in your career.  If you’re considering this professional path, check out our list of several schools that may be a good fit.

    What is a Masters in Counseling?

    A wide variety of master’s degrees are available in counseling, depending on what area you want to specialize in.  Overall, a master’s degree is required to obtain a license to practice counseling.  Most schools provide degrees that meet requirements for licensure for the state they are located in, but some also provide shorter tracks that qualify graduates for a license in states with lower requirements.  After graduating, students will need to apply for a license in their state of practice and complete other requirements, depending on the state. Master’s degrees in counseling are most often a Master of Arts, but can also be a Master of Science or Education.

    What Careers are Available in Counseling?

    Counseling is a growing professional field with a diverse variety of career opportunities.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the number of jobs in behavioral disorder, substance abuse, and mental health counseling will increase by 25% by 2029, much faster than average.  School counselors also see promising opportunities in their field and have a median salary of $57,000 per year.  Counselors work in a variety of situations, from private practice and mental health centers to schools and government institutions.

    What Schools Have the Best Counseling Programs?

    We’ve compiled a list of the best master’s programs in counseling. These colleges are ranked based on their graduate tuition (lowest is best) and faculty-student ratio (lowest is best).  We included a mix of both large, well-known universities and less famous institutions.

    Rank School Location
    1Johns Hopkins University (51 points)Baltimore, Maryland
    2Northwestern University (41 points) Evanston, Illinois
    3Yeshiva University (39.5 points)New York City, New York
    4University of Southern California (39 points)Los Angeles, California
    5New York University (35.5 points)New York City, New York

    The Top 17 Schools for Masters in Counseling Programs!

    1

    Johns Hopkins University (51 points)

    • Baltimore, Maryland
    • Graduation Rate: 92%

    Through the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, students can earn a Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or School Counseling.  The School Counseling Concentration has a focus on urban school settings, and graduates are eligible for a certification from the Maryland State Department of Education.  Both programs are available online and in-person and take 3-5 years to complete, depending on whether they are enrolled full-time or part-time.  Students learn from experienced faculty at one of the country’s most distinguished universities.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $833 per credit
    Credits required: 60
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:6
    Visit School Website
    2

    Northwestern University (41 points)

    • Evanston, Illinois

    The Family Institute at Northwestern University has a selective Master of Arts in Counseling program that admits 28 students each year.  Counseling students at this top-15 university participate in 100 hours of clinical training per practicum and have a 100% pass rate on the counselor licensing exam.  Northwestern offers the master’s in counseling both online and in-person.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $3224 per credit
    Credits required: 72
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:6
    Visit School Website
    3

    Yeshiva University (39.5 points)

    • New York City, New York
    • Graduation Rate: 66%

    The Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University offers a two-and-a-half-year Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling with options to specialize in Addictions, Couples and Family, and Multicultural Counseling.  Students learn both theoretical and applied principles of psychological counseling and spend over 600 hours in supervised field placement.  Yeshiva University, located in New York City, is associated with Orthodox Judaism, but many of its students are not Jewish.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $1905 per credit
    Credits required: 60
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:7
    Visit School Website
    4

    University of Southern California (39 points)

    • Los Angeles, California
    • Graduation Rate: 92%

    The University of Southern California Rossier School of Education offers a Master of Education in Educational Counseling for students working or aspiring to work at colleges and universities and an online Master of Education in School Counseling that prepares students to work in K-12 schools.  USC also offers a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy, which qualifies  graduates for a California MFT license.  Rossier is the 11th highest-ranked education school in America, according to U.S. News and World Report.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $1,995 per unit
    Credits required: 48 (Educational), 49 (School), 60 (MFT)
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:8
    Visit School Website
    5

    New York University (35.5 points)

    • New York City, New York

    New York University’s Steinhardt School offers Master of Arts degrees in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness and in School Counseling or Bilingual School Counseling.  Both degrees are also offered online and can be combined with an advanced certificate in LGBT Counseling.  NYU is a top-ranked school with close access to diverse experience and career opportunities in the largest city in the U.S.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $1867 per credit
    Credits required: 48 (School), 54-60 (School+LGBT), 60 (CMHW), 66 (CMHW+LGMT)
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:9
    Visit School Website

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    6

    Southern Methodist University (35.5 points)

    • Dallas, Texas
    • Graduation Rate: 79%

    Southern Methodist University in Dallas offers a Master of Science in Counseling degree. This program prepares graduates to be licensed as marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, or school counselors. Students can also incorporate requirements to be licensed as a chemical dependency counselor.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $725 per credit
    Credits required: 63
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:11
    Visit School Website
    7

    University of Rochester (34.5 points)

    • Rochester, New York
    • Graduation Rate: 85%

    The University of Rochester’s Master of Science in School Counseling has a 48-credit program that meets the requirements for a provisional certification and four 60-credit options that lead to a permanent certification. Students in the 60-credit program can specialize in the following areas: School and Community, Diversity, Disabilities, or Leadership. UR also offers a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling, and students who want to be licensed in both areas can take part in a bridge program.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $1598 per credit
    Credits required: 48 (provisional School), 60 (permanent School, Mental Health)
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:10
    Visit School Website
    8

    Missouri Valley College (34.5 points)

    • Marshall, Missouri
    • Graduation Rate: 27%

    Missouri Valley College is a small private college that offers a Master of Arts in Community Counseling. This program is an affordable opportunity to earn a counseling degree, with evening and hybrid classes providing flexibility for working students. MVC offers a 48-credit option that qualifies students for Missouri licensure and a 60-credit path for students who want to be licensed in states that have higher academic requirements.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $400 per credit
    Credits required: 48/60
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:13
    Visit School Website
    9

    Wake Forest University (33.5 points)

    • Winston-Salem, North Carolina
    • Graduation Rate: 88%

    Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with specialization options in School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The degree is available online and teaches students the skills to address a wide variety of circumstances as professional counselors. Wake Forest also offers a dual Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Counseling degree for students who want to enter into a religious profession with an emphasis in counseling.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $1610 per credit
    Credits required: 60
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:10
    Visit School Website
    10

    Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis (32 points)

    • Brookline, Massachusetts

    The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that trains students in psychodynamic techniques. This program admits up to 20 students a year and offers small classes and an emphasis on experiential learning. This program meets the requirements for graduates to apply for licensure in all but seven U.S. states.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $830 per credit
    Credits required: 60
    Faculty-student ratio: unavailable
    Visit School Website
    11

    Boston College (30.5 points)

    • Newton, Massachusetts
    • Graduation Rate: 93%

    Students at Boston College can earn a Master of Arts in School Counseling or Mental Health Counseling. Both programs include a 600-hour practicum and allow students to develop strong counseling skills with a focus on social change. The Mental Health Counseling program has a 60-credit option for Massachusetts licensure and a 48-credit option, which does not qualify students for Massachusetts licensure.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $1538 per credit
    Credits required: 48 (MHC non-licensure, School), 60 (MHC)
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:11
    Visit School Website
    12

    North Carolina State University (26 points)

    • Raleigh, North Carolina
    • Graduation Rate: 77%

    At North Carolina State University’s high-ranked College of Education, students can earn a Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, College Counseling and Student Development, or School Counseling. All three programs are available both online and in-person and give students the opportunity to learn from nationally recognized faculty.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $550 per credit
    Credits required: 60
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:14
    Visit School Website
    13

    Indiana Wesleyan University (25 points)

    • Marion, Indiana
    • Graduation Rate: 64%

    Indiana Wesleyan University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with majors in the following areas: Clinical Addictions Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Community Care, Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy, School Counseling, and Student Development Administration. The Community Care program is a non-licensure track that prepares students to serve as non-licensed sources of support for people struggling with mental health issues.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $578 per credit
    Credits required: 36 (Student Development Administration, Community Care), 48 (School, Addictions), 60 (CMHC, MFT)
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:14
    Visit School Website
    14

    Gannon University (25 points)

    • Erie, Pennsylvania
    • Graduation Rate: 64%

    Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania offers a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. With a faculty-student ratio of 1:10, the program offers small class sizes, and graduates have a 100% pass rate on the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam and scores significantly higher on the National Counselor Exam than other schools.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $699 per credit
    Credits required: 60
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:14
    Visit School Website
    15

    Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (16.5 points)

    • Indianapolis, Indiana
    • Graduation Rate: 46%

    IUPUI offers a master’s degree in Counseling and Counselor Education. In this program, students learn from experienced faculty and complete field experiences, particularly in urban schools. IUPUI’s counseling program places a strong focus on opportunity gaps based on socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity.

    School Overview

    Tuition: graduate tuition not listed
    Credits required: 48
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:17
    Visit School Website
    16

    East Carolina University (12.5 points)

    • Greenville, North Carolina
    • Graduation Rate: 60%

    East Carolina University offers a Master of Science in Clinical Counseling with an emphasis in Addictions. ECU is one of only a few schools in the U.S. that offers a specialization in substance use and drug addiction. Graduating from the program reduces the experience requirements to be licensed as a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist by one year. Students may also be licensed as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $862 per credit
    Credits required: 62
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:18
    Visit School Website
    17

    University of Maryland (7.5 points)

    • College Park, Maryland
    • Graduation Rate: 85%

    The University of Maryland College of Education has the top-ranked student counseling program in the United States according to U.S. News and World Report. Students can earn a Master of Education in School Counseling, which will prepare them to be licensed to work in K-12 schools.

    School Overview

    Tuition: $1625 per credit
    Credits required: 60
    Faculty-student ratio: 1:18
    Visit School Website

    How Did We Rank this List?

    Our ranking was based 71.4% on faculty-student ratio and 28.6% on tuition.

    From each institution’s website, we gathered in-person graduate tuition rates for out-of-state domestic students in the different programs.  Where tuition was only listed on a per-year or per-semester basis, the year was assumed to consist of two semesters, twelve credits each.  Tuition figures do not include fees or other expenses. For IUPUI, graduate tuition could not be found, so the average of the other 16 programs was used for the ranking.

    Each school was given a score from 1 for the highest tuition to 17 for the lowest.  Schools were also scored from 1 to 17 for faculty-student ratio based on data from U.S. News and World Report.  The faculty-student ratio of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis could not be found, so the average of the remaining schools was used for the ranking.

    Then, faculty-student ratio points were multiplied by 2.5.  The weighted scores were added together to produce the final ranking.

    Problems with your Ranking?

    If your school isn’t on this list and you think it deserves consideration for an update, please contact us.  Also, if you work for one of the schools on this list and you notice an error, please let us know.  We always seek to provide the most accurate information available and let readers know about the best schools across the country.

    Still Not Sure Which School is Right for You?

    If you’re looking to get a master’s in counseling, it’s an important decision to choose a college that will fit your needs and provide the education your career requires.  Check out our degree finder and our other lists to help find the best programs in your field.

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