undergraduate psychology internships 2018

10 Best Graduate Programs in Counseling Psychology

According to the American Psychological Association, counseling psychology is a health service provider specialty in professional psychology. Counseling psychologists focus on how individuals function personally and in their relationships. They have the skills needed to help individuals improve their sense of well-being and resolve crises. Counseling psychology programs focus on topics that include:

  • stress
  • drugs
  • addiction
  • relationships
  • family issues

We created this ranking to showcase some of the best counseling psychology master’s degree programs in the country. We focused on programs offered by regionally accredited schools that offer a comprehensive curriculum with experiential learning opportunities. Hands-on training is critical in counseling psychology training, and we noted those opportunities. We noted programs that have a curriculum that leads to licensure.  We then applied our methodology to rank the best programs based on affordability and student to faculty ratio.  It’s our goal to make the research and selection processes as seamless as possible, allowing you more time to focus on what really matters — your future education and professional goals.


Student to Faculty Ratio

  • 10:1 or less= 5 Points
  • 11:1 to 15:1= 3 Points
  • Greater than 15:1= 1 Point

Average Graduate Tuition Rate

  • Less than $8,000 per year= 4 Points
  • $8,001 to $12,999 per year= 3 Points
  • $13,000 to $15,000 per year= 2 Points
  • More than $15,000 per year= 1 Point

See Also: What does a Counseling Psychologist Do?

Ranking Top 10 Graduate Degree Programs in Counseling Psychology

10. Southern Wesleyan University – Central, South Carolina

M.S. in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $13,560

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1

Points: 6

Southern Wesleyan University features the D. Clifton Wood Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, a 60-credit hour program with online courses and an internship/practica experience. Courses are delivered in seven-week terms in a flexible online format designed for working professionals. The comprehensive curriculum focuses on evidence-based practice and whole person health. Students will learn about:

  • contemporary mental health counseling theories and techniques
  • ethical and professional values and legal standards
  • whole-person development and self-evaluation

Graduates are prepared for a variety of exciting career options in areas like behavioral therapy and addictions counseling.

9. Albizu University – Miami, Florida

Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $11,774

Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1

Points: 6

Albizu University features a budget friendly master’s in counseling psychology that incorporates a variety of educational techniques that help train high quality mental health professionals. The low student-teacher ratio promotes active participation between faculty and students. Courses are offered online, in a hybrid format and on-campus at the Mayaguez location. The program follows a practitioner-scholar model that allows students to learn theory and integrate it into practice. Courses are taught by faculty with professional experience in the field, who are excited to share their first-hand experiences with their students.

8. Anna Maria College – Paxton, Massachusetts

Counseling Psychology MA/LMHC

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $10,530

Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1

Points: 6

Anna Maria College offers a top value master’s in counseling psychology with a curriculum that prepares students to work in a variety of settings. Students can choose to complete a traditional 12 course MA in Counseling Psychology or a 20-course program that prepares students for licensure as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Electives allow students to gain specialized skills in areas that include:

  • Marriage and Family Counseling
  • Substance Use, Addiction, and Recovery
  • Forensic Psychology

Students will develop critical thinking skills to create ethically sound solutions that make a positive impact on their communities.

7. Tennessee State University – Nashville, Tennessee

Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $9,276/year in-state and $19,752/year out-of-state

Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1

Points: 6

Tennessee State University features a low-cost master’s in counseling psychology that offers a solid psychological core curriculum focused on issues throughout the lifespan. Course offerings include:

  • Professional Issues and Ethics in Counseling Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Multicultural Counseling Theory and Practice

Full and part-time program options are available. Recognizing the importance of both practice and research, TSU offers a thesis and non-thesis program track. Courses are offered during the evening hours. Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field and a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least a 2.5.

6. Holy Names University – Oakland, California

Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $18,054

Student to Faculty Ratio: 7:1

Points: 7

The top on-campus Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Holy Names University prepares students for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist and as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. Courses are offered at convenient times including evenings and weekends. Course offerings include:

  • Psychopathology
  • Psychological Development and Spiritual Growth
  • Human Diversity in Counseling

Students gain real-world experience through a field placement/internship with an approved partner agency. Professional development opportunities are available through regular campus workshops and lectures with local industry experts.

5. Azusa Pacific University – Azusa, California

MS in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $16,571

Student to Faculty Ratio: 10:1

Points: 7

Azusa Pacific University features the only counseling psychology master’s program in our ranking to offer a specialization in children and adolescents. This 60-credit hour program prepares clinicians to meet the specialized needs of children and youth. Full and part-time program options are available. Courses are offered during the evening hours to accommodate work schedules. Fieldwork opportunities give students 280 clock hours of experience required by the Board of Behavioral Sciences. Courses are taught by experienced faculty who have worked in areas like youth substance abuse and childhood trauma.

4. Dominican University of California – San Rafael, California

Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $16,000

Student to Faculty Ratio: 10:1

Points: 7

The affordable MS in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of California offers a flexible schedule that is great for working students. Courses are offered during the late afternoon and evening hours with some courses held on the weekends. Interactive instruction helps students develop excellent clinical skills. Concentrations are available in Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Clinical Counseling. All students complete a practicum experience at one of over 50 different community agencies. Part-time and full-time program options are available.

3. Frostburg State University – Frostburg, Maryland

MS in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $7,866/year in-state and $10,080/year out-of-state

Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1

Points: 7

Frostburg State University features a high-value master’s in counseling psychology that prepares students to become a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC). This MPCAC accredited program is committed to science-based training. Students spend two years focused on classroom study and complete a one-year internship. The one-year internship allows students to graduate with over 1,000 clock hours of supervised clinical experience, updating their status to Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and boosting their resume. Class size is kept small which is great for facilitating group interaction and learning. Courses are taught by full-time counseling psychology faculty members who are dedicated to the professional development of their students.

2. Avila University – Kansas City, Missouri

Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $7,798

Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1

Points: 7

A career as a licensed mental health counselor is within reach with the affordable master’s in counseling psychology from Avila University. This 60-62 credit hour program is MPCAC accredited and meets the educational requirements for licensure in Kansas and Missouri. Courses include:

  • Personality Assessment
  • Differentia Diagnosis of Mental Disorders
  • Ethics and Professional Development

The program follows a scientist-practitioners model to train students to deliver mental health services in a variety of settings. Students complete:

  • a 750-clock hour field experience
  • a practicum
  • at least two semesters of internship.

1. Alaska Pacific University – Anchorage, Alaska

Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

Average Graduate Tuition Rate: $11,700

Student to Faculty Ratio: 8:1

Points: 8

Our top master’s in counseling psychology is offered by Alaska Pacific University. This rigorous program explores a variety of counseling modalities while allowing students to develop their own unique interests. With synchronous online evening courses and on-campus intensives every six weeks, the program is a great choice for working professionals. Students move through the program as a cohort, supporting one another to achieve their goals. This three-year program includes courses in:

  • Interventions for Children and Families
  • Interventions for Anxiety and Affective Disorders
  • Psychology of Measurement

Graduates are prepared to work in roles like child and family counselor or chemical dependency counselor. The program also provides a solid foundation for doctoral study.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Career Options for a Graduate Degree in Counseling Psychology?

Although psychologists work in different settings, from mental health facilities to research departments of academic institutions, many people associate the career with counseling. Counselors are licensed mental health professionals who help clients or patients cope with social and emotional problems as well as life changes. Whether you are already working in the field with your master’s degree or you are considering a career in counseling, there are a number of careers you can enter with a graduate degree in counseling psychology.

Apart from the traditional career choice of group or private practice, there are many other counseling psychology positions that allow graduates to implement what they have learned in their graduate education. Some of the counseling positions include helping people with:

  • Domestic violence
  • Substance abuse and rehabilitation
  • Suicide intervention
  • Marital problems
  • Mental health and PTSD
  • Age-related issues
  • Child abuse
  • Career guidance
  • Corporate consulting
  • Anger management
  • Assessment and testing
  • Anxiety
  • Disabilities

Counseling psychologists may seek employment in a range of settings. These include private practices as well as self-employment. Many counseling psychologists may also work as school psychologists or in education in testing. Others find positions in healthcare environments, including in rehabilitation clinics or in hospitals. Counseling psychologists may prefer to work as part of a comprehensive healthcare team or in group practices.

Keep in mind that not all counseling psychologists work as therapists. Some counseling psychologists may seek employment opportunities in government agencies or in private research facilities. Others perform research or conduct tests. Counseling psychologists may also go on to teach at the college or university level or work to improve public education and knowledge about the field of professional psychology. Depending on your interests and skills, there are many different opportunities that you may pursue with a graduate degree in counseling psychology.

What Type of Work Do Counseling Psychologists Do?

As you can see by the number of career options, counseling psychologists can perform many roles and carry out a number of different functions. These may include carrying out individual therapy sessions, conducting studies, or providing therapeutic counseling. Other activities counseling psychologists may be responsible for include:

  • Identifying resources to help patients and clients more effectively manage their problems.
  • Developing educational programs for hospitals, rehabilitation centers, communities, the public, or other programs.
  • Working together with family members.
  • Working with case managers, social workers, and/or other healthcare providers.
  • Developing treatment plans for patients and clients and determining whether these plans are successful.
  • Diagnosing conditions.
  • Looking for patterns of behavior that will help them to analyze and better predict certain behaviors.
  • Using surveys and observations to collect information.

How Much Can You Earn in This Field?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups counseling psychologists with clinical and school psychologists. These professionals diagnose and treat:

  • learning disabilities
  • mental disorders
  • emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems

They use group, family, child, and individual therapies. The salary range one can expect will depend on a number of factors, including level of education, experience in the field, and the location in which one intends to practice. Industries with the highest level of employment in this occupation include:

  • elementary and secondary schools
  • offices of other health practitioners
  • family and individual services
  • outpatient care centers
  • general medical and surgical hospitals

According to the BLS, counseling psychologists earned a median salary of $75,090 as of May 2019. The highest 10 percent earned $123,920, while the lowest 10 percent earned $42,460. The highest-paid states for this occupation include New Jersey, Alaska, Hawaii, California, and Oregon. Top-paying industries for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists include:

  • Home health care services
  • Specialty, except substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals
  • Management of enterprise and companies
  • Offices of other health practitioners
  • Local government, excluding hospitals and schools

What is the Difference Between a Master’s Degree and a Doctoral Degree in Counseling Psychology?

A master’s degree is an important part of the path to obtaining licensure as it fulfills most state requirements for becoming a professional counselor. Of course, master’s degrees also prepare students to work in counseling specialties such as family and marriage counseling or to become mental health counselors. Graduates of a master’s in counseling psychology program are eligible to become Licensed Professional Counselors, but they are not considered “psychologists.”

Since most entry-level positions require a master’s degree, prospective students may wonder why a doctoral degree is worth the time, energy, and cost. Earning a doctorate opens the door to additional career opportunities as well as a higher salary. If your career goal extends beyond working in or owning a private practice, you may consider earning a doctorate. This terminal degree might be a requirement for acquiring a high-level job in:

  • a community center
  • school system
  • hospital
  • university

In addition, a doctoral degree in counseling psychology is often required for academic positions such as deans, department heads, and university professors.

Counseling psychologists specialize in facilitating interpersonal and personal functioning in patients of all ages. A specialty of professional psychology, counseling psychology addresses developmental, health, educational, social, vocational, and emotional issues.

Whether you are considering this career path for the first time or you are looking to further your education to increase your opportunities in your current position, the above best graduate programs in counseling psychology can help you meet your professional goals.

This concludes our ranking of the top graduate programs in counseling psychology.

By OPD Staff