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Top 20 Most Affordable Online Counseling Certificate Programs 2021

The field of counseling in general is a growing discipline. People seeking help with personal issues is becoming more common and less stigmatized. Well trained counselors to meet this growing need has led to an increase in accessible training, including online counseling certificate programs. The online counseling certificate programs listed below cover a variety of counseling certifications, education levels and prerequisite requirements. Certificates listed include Certificates in Substance Abuse Counseling,  Family and Couples Counseling, School Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, and Bereavement and Trauma Counseling, among others. 

This list of affordable counseling certificate programs includes 19 online programs plus one affordable on-campus program. Included in our list for 2021 are certificates for post-master’s, post-bachelor’s as well as stand alone certificates with minimal prerequisite requirements. Prospective students should contact their state to inquire about requirements for licensing  or other requirements that would lead to employment. 

Methodology for Top 20 Most Affordable Online Counseling Certificate Programs 2021

This ranking of the 20 most affordable counseling certificate programs is from an initial pool of 23 counseling certificate programs online. Programs are ranked by in-state tuition costs taken from the College Navigator website. Profile information was retrieved from individual school program websites. Contact your school of interest for the most current program and tuition information. Students seeking licensure would contact their state licensing agency for specific education and clinical hours requirements in their state. 

  1. Albany State University, Albany, GA

2. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

3. Utah State University, Logan, UT

4. University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD

5. Lamar University, Beaumont, TX

6. Post University, Waterbury, CT

7. University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

8. University of Memphis, Memphis, TN

9. Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, AZ

10. University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND

11. University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

12. Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

13. Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ

14. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati,OH

15. Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, IN

16. Gwynedd Mercy, Gwynedd Valley, PA

17. Capella University, Minneapolis, MN

18. Regent University, VIrginia Beach, VA

19. Madonna University, Livonia, MI

20. Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA

Saint Joseph’s University

20. St Joseph’s University,  Philadelphia, PA

Tuition $17,802


Saint Joseph’s University’s counseling certification online program prepares graduates to work as certified addiction counselors. SJU’s Addiction Counseling Certificate program is a 12-credit, fully online counseling certificate program that can be completed in as little as two semesters. This program may also be combined with the M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program, with the 12 credits counting toward this 60-credit program. Students in the program are part of Saint Joseph’s University’s Center for Addiction and Recovery Education (CARE), which provides research and education to help address addiction-related issues. Applicants to this online counseling certificate program that are not part of the M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program must have a relevant graduate degree as a prerequisite to be accepted. This online Addiction Counseling Certificate meets the Pennsylvania Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC) certification, the National Board for Certified Counselor (NBCC) and the Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) requirements. 

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19. Madonna University, Livonia, MI

Tuition $16,200


Madonna University’s counseling certificate program online is a three-course certificate program in Bereavement: Trauma, Loss and Grief. This online certificate program is for professionals wishing to improve their counseling skills in this area. Applicants can have a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree to complete. This specialty counseling certification online is meant to be part of the tool kit for those working with grieving individuals and families, and those who have experienced traumatic loss or life-changing events and are seeking support. Skills and knowledge gained in this online program can be applied in private practice or when working in an interdisciplinary team in hospice, palliative care, and end of life care settings.

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18. Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA  

Tuition $15,552


Regent University offers five online counseling certificate programs, including: Certificate of Graduate Studies in Mental Health Counseling, Certificate of Graduate Studies in Trauma Counseling, Certificate of Graduate Studies in Psychology and Counseling, Certificate of Graduate Studies in Marriage, Couples and Family Counseling,  and Certificate of Graduate Studies in School Counseling. The programs each require 9-12 graduate level credits, and all are presented from a Christian worldview.  These counseling certificate programs online are also offered in an on-campus format. Applicants to any of these online counseling certificate programs are required to have a master’s or doctorate degree. The programs promise to equip candidates with the specialized training needed to advance their career, and may provide state credentialing requirements. 

17. Capella University, Minneapolis, MN  

Tuition $14,767


Capella University’s counseling certificate programs online are offered in four program specializations. Graduate Certificates in Counseling can be earned in: Contemporary Theory in Addictive Behavior, Contemporary Theory in Mental Health Services, Systemic Couple and Family Therapy, and Contemporary Theory School Based Services. These online counseling certificate programs are designed as an affordable and flexible way to increase knowledge and understanding of human behavior and are not designed to meet counselor licensing requirements. Online counseling certificate programs from Capella University require five courses and have flexible start dates. Military discounts and other scholarships may be available. 

16. Gwynedd Mercy University, Gwynedd Valley, PA

Tuition $13,967


Gwynedd Mercy University’s counseling certification online in School Counseling (Pre-K-12) boasts a 100% pass rate on the School Counseling Certification Test in Pennsylvania since 2018. This robust online certificate program prepares students with skills and knowledge to guide students and includes 510 hours of field experience. Students in this post-master’s program complete interactive collaborative courses one at a time in an accelerated seven-week time block. Upon completion of this counseling certification online, graduates will have the skills, knowledge and practical counseling strategies needed for certification as an Elementary and Secondary School Counselor (PreK-12) within the state of Pennsylvania (students from other states should check their state’s requirements). Check out this rigorous curriculum to get on your way to contributing to the growth and development of students as a school counselor. 

15. Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, IN

Tuition $13,512


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This online counseling certificate program from Indiana Wesleyan University is designed to offer a Christ-centered approach to increasing your skills in the counseling profession. IWU’s 18-credit hour graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling online is for people seeking specialized academic preparation in Addictions Counseling and is available to applicants with a bachelor’s degree or higher. This counseling certificate program online may be what you’re looking for to increase your skills in counseling and break into this specialized counseling field. 

14. University of Cincinnati , Cincinnati, OH

In-State Tuition $13,224

Out-of-State Tuition $24,966


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University of Cincinnati’s counseling certificate program online is a professional certificate in Substance Abuse Counseling from the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH). This online certificate program is designed for applicants possessing a bachelor’s degree or who are in the process of getting their bachelor’s degree in another discipline. This robust online certificate program provides a knowledge base in Substance Abuse Counseling to be used in settings including counseling, corrections, administration and substance abuse prevention. Graduates will have met Ohio’s requirements for licensure and may require additional practice hours (students from other states should check with their state’s requirements).

13. Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ

In-State Tuition $12,500

Out-of-State Tuition $18,432


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This post-master’ certificate in Advanced Counseling from Montclair State University can be completed in 12-18 credit hours and is offered with alternative scheduling as on-campus, hybrid or Saturday classes to help meet the needs of working students. This Advanced Counseling Certificate promises to prepare graduates as culturally competent counselors prepared to work in a variety of settings with diverse populations. This program is designed to meet state and national standards for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC). Graduates of this Advanced Counseling are prepared to work in schools, community agencies, student affairs positions, and substance abuse treatment centers. 

12. Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

In-State Tuition $11,720

Out-of-State Tuition $26,160 


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Arizona State University’s counseling certificate program online in Addiction and Substance-Use Related Disorders will get you the training needed to advance skills and knowledge in this important field. This counseling certificate program online promises to provide the transfer of scientific knowledge and evidence based treatment to clinical practice. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree or currently in a master’s or higher program in a behavioral health field or those with a master’s or doctorate who need professional training in this area will find this program advantageous in furthering their career. Check out this program to get the training you need for becoming a successful substance abuse counselor in treatment centers, community mental health services, primary care, criminal justice system, hospital, schools and military related services. 

11. University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 

In-State tuition $11,310

Out-of-State tuition $23,100 


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University of Buffalo’s counseling certificate programs online are short, focused, advanced graduate level certificates that promise to give students the skills and knowledge to advance in their specialization. These programs are offered in on campus and online formats. These counseling certifications online are stand alone or can be taken as part of another program at University of Buffalo. Specialties include Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, and Mindful Counseling for Wellness and Engagement. All three of these specialities include Experiential Contact Hours to provide hands-on experience to solidify knowledge and skills and provide networking opportunities. 

10. University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND

In-State Tuition $11,060

Out-of-State Tuition $16,590


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This certification online in Counseling with a K-12 emphasis includes two four-day sessions each summer on campus in Grand Forks, giving students valuable hands-on learning opportunities. These four campus visits give students valuable networking and interaction with faculty and fellow students. The certificate has two tracks available: one for students with a master’s degree in Mental Health or Community Agency Counseling, and one for students with a master’s degree in Education. All students complete a supervised school counseling practicum in a K-12 school setting in their home community. In addition to online library services, students in this counseling certification online program have access to online library services, career services, their own academic advisor, veteran and military services, financial aid services, and unlimited academic coaching and online tutoring.

9. Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, AZ 

Tuition $10,528


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Grand Canyon University’s online counseling certificate programs are rigorous programs designed to equip professionals in five areas of specialization. Applicants can choose from: Trauma Certificate, Marriage and Family Therapy Certificate, Childhood and Adolescent Disorders Certificate, Christian Counseling Certificate, and Addiction Counseling Certificate. These affordable counseling certificate programs online help students immerse themselves in courses on their own time schedule, making it possible for working professionals to further their education. Each online counseling certificate program requires 12-15 credits, with opportunity to transfer credits towards the requirements. These online classes are 8 weeks long, helping students to stay focused on completing their certificate. 

8. University of Memphis, Memphis, TN

In-State Tuition $9,216

Out-of-State Tuition $12,672


The University of Memphis’ counseling certificate programs online are offered in three areas of counseling: College and Career Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and School Counseling.  The College and Career Counseling Certificate is an online and field based post-degree program focused on developing the technical skills needed to help high school students transition to college and vocational programs. The Clinical Mental Health Counseling Certificate online program is designed for those with a master’s degree in school counseling, rehabilitation counseling or college counseling, or for those currently enrolled at The University of Memphis master’s degree in school counseling program. The School Counseling Certificate is for those currently pursuing or who have already obtained a graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, clinical rehabilitation counseling, or college counseling.  Check out these programs further to understand licensure requirements in Tennessee and your home state. 

7. University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

In-State Tuition $8,350

Out-of-State Tuition $19,048


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University of South Florida’s counseling certificate programs are 15-credit programs that can be completed within two years. Choose from Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling or Marriage and Family Therapy Certificates to further your professional skills. The Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling Certificate is offered as a Post-Master’s or Bachelor’s Certificate, and is beneficial to those in sociology, social work, psychology, criminology, pre-med, nursing, or any other related human service field. The Marriage and Family Therapy Certificate enables professionals in mental health, rehabilitation counseling, counselor education, social work, psychology, or other human service fields to enhance knowledge and skills in Marriage and Family Therapy. These affordable certificate programs are offered on-campus. 

6. Post University, Waterbury, CT 

Tuition $7,500


Post University

Post University’s affordable online counseling certificate programs may be the ticket to expanding your counseling practice. PU’s online mental health counseling certificate programs are post-master’s certificates in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Alcohol and Drug Counseling. These counseling certificate programs online enable students to continue working in their current position while pursuing this online certificate. Graduates of one of these certificates programs can expect to be ready to take the next steps to get their professional counseling license. Students in these online counseling certificate programs are assisted in researching their state’s requirements for licensure prior to beginning the program. 

5. Lamar University, Beaumont, TX

In-State Tuition $6,397

Out-of-State Tuition $13,759


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Lamar University’s affordable online Mental Health Counseling Certificate program is designed for working Post-Master’s students who have completed a master’s degree in counseling, psychology or a related subject.  Students enrolled in this counseling certificate program online are preparing for the Texas state Licenses Professional Counseling (LPC) certification examination. This online certificate program is an 18-credit hour program that provides the knowledge and clinical experience to meet the requirements for the LPC exam in Texas. Students are immersed in advanced counseling topics including diagnosis, treatments and etiology, and the most current research that applies in clinical practice. Students should check licensing requirements in their home state.

4. University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD 

In-State Tuition $6,062

Out-of-State Tuition $11,656

WEBSITE Mental Health Counseling Certificate

WEBSITE Certificate in Addiction Counseling and Prevention

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University of South Dakota’s online counseling certificate programs include the online graduate Certificate in Addiction Counseling and Prevention, and the online graduate Certificate in Mental Health Counseling.  The Certificate in Mental Health Counseling is a 12-credit program covering advanced topics in crisis intervention, psychopathology, and clinical supervision. With spring, summer, or fall start dates, students can expect to complete this online Certificate in Mental Health Counseling in about a year. USD’s Online Graduate Certificate in Addiction Counseling and Prevention is an innovative 15-credit hour program that promises to prepare addiction counseling professionals to meet the complex needs of substance abuse patients. This online certificate program focuses on evidence based education that will enable counseling professionals to provide quality counseling to individuals dealing with addiction.  These counseling certificate programs online allows practicing professionals the flexibility to continue their education while in their current employment.  

3. Utah State University, Logan, UT 

In-State Tuition $5,996

Out-of-State Tuition $20,327


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Utah State University’s affordable online post-master’s Certificate in Rehabilitation Counseling is open to applicants with three years of related professional experience and two years of supervised rehabilitation counseling experience. This robust online counseling certificate program is designed for applicants with graduate training in one of the following academic areas:  Behavioral Health, Behavioral Science, Disability Studies, Human Relations, Human Services, Marriage and Family Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Psychology, Psychometrics, Rehabilitation Administration/Services, Social Work, Special Education, and Vocational Assessment/Evaluation. This is a 22-credit program made up of eight courses, with offerings such as Theories and Techniques in Counseling, Psychosocial Aspects of Disabilities, and Case Management. Students interested in this program have flexibility in their education schedule with spring, summer and fall start dates.

2. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

Tuition $3,670 


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This counseling certificate program online from Kennesaw State University is an affordable online Mental Health Technician Professional Certificate. This may be the ticket to enter the challenging field of mental health. This online Mental Health Technician program provides students with a solid mental health background. Graduates of the program will have an entry level academic background to work with individuals with mental health issues. Six key topics including Abnormal Psychology, Mental Health Technician, Direct Support Professional, Better Interpersonal Communication, Personal Excellence, and Introduction to Addiction & Recovery. Disorders beginning in childhood, mood disorders, psychoses, schizophrenia, sexuality, and eating and anxiety disorders as well as therapies and treatments are examined. Students develop skills and learn methods to provide clients with assistance in daily living skills, personal health hygiene and maintenance, adhering to a medication regiment, and behavioral development.

1. Albany State University, Albany, GA

In-State Tuition $3,438

Out-of-State Tuition $13,716


This 18-credit Addiction Counseling Certificate program online from Albany State University is offered for those seeking broader career opportunities in addictions. These courses satisfy the academic requirements for the Certified Addiction Counseling (CAC I or CAC II) credential in Georgia. This online certificate program’s flexible format allows students to enter the program any semester and complete the certificate program online in two or three semesters. Check out your state’s requirements to enter the field of Addiction Counseling. These courses may also be taken for Continuing Education for those already in the field. 


What kinds of counseling professionals are there?

There are many kinds of professional counselors, including: Addiction Counseling, Career Counseling, School Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), and Rehabilitation Counseling. These are among the most common types of counselors. 

What are some other types of counselors that are less commonly known? 

Other types of counselors include financial, PTSD or Trauma informed Counseling, and Sports Counseling.

Do all counselors have the same education requirements?

While there may be similarities in requirements, check out your state’s requirements to enter your field of interest. You will find that employment opportunities will have specific licensure and education requirements. 

What are typical attributes of people who go into the field of counseling? 

People entering the dynamic field of counseling typically have strong interpersonal skills that aid them in working well with people. Excellent written and verbal communication skills are also common attributes of successful counselors. 

What about Substance Abuse Counselors? What kind of backgrounds do they have? 

People that go into Substance Abuse Counseling may come from areas such as law enforcement, probation officers, social work, licensed professional counselors, medical field, psychiatry or psychology, and mental health professionals. Those with an interest in working in the community providing assistance to others may be good candidates to become substance abuse counselors. 

Where do Counselors typically work?

Counselors may work in a wide variety of settings depending on their patient population. Schools, outpatient and inpatient mental health centers, substance abuse center, residential centers, prisons, and private practice are among the types of places a counselor may find employment.

How do I choose a counseling specialization? 

Aspiring counselors choose their area of specialization based on a variety of  factors. Consider the type of population you want to work with. For example, do you prefer working with children or adults? What kind of work setting appeals to you, employment prospects, and how much money do you wish to make? Talk to counseling professionals in the area you are considering to find out inside information that may help guide your choice. 

What are some of the professional organizations for counselors?

These are some of the professional organizations for counselors:  American Counseling Association (ACA), American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), American Association of Christian Counselors, American School Counselor Association (ASCA),  and Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC).  

Why join a professional organization for counselors?

Joining a professional organization in your field of expertise has many benefits including networking, continuing education, and communication about changes in the field, to name a few. 

Does counseling really help people? 

Counselors often provide a safe place for clients to talk about problems, with the counselor offering support and advice. Counselors may help their clients understand their feelings, identify issues affecting their mental health and relationships, identify ways to overcome issues, learn coping skills, and set personal growth goals.

Do counselors see clients with severe symptoms and problems all day?

People often seek counseling because they’ve experienced first hand the benefit of talking about their concerns and problems with a professional counselor. Not everyone who seeks counseling is seeking help for severe issues and symptoms.  

Can counselors refer clients for other health services? 

It is not uncommon for counselors to help their clients by referring them for other services such as physician, dietitian, or other special support. 

How do I balance taking classes online with working?

Communication with your employer is key to helping balance online classes with work. Communicating with your employer, support network, family and friends can help ease the strain of balancing work and classes with other responsibilities. Set up a schedule at the start of each semester, and plan to use time off strategically.  

What is the job outlook for counselors?

The job outlook for counselors is expected to grow 25% between 2019-2029, which is much faster than average for all occupations. This growth is anticipated as people seek counseling services for addiction, mental health issues, and other personal issues. 

Why is the rate of job growth for counselors so high?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the demand for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to rise as many states seek treatment and counseling services for drug offenders in place of jail time. The criminal justice system recently recognized substance abusers are less likely to become repeat offenders if they get needed addiction treatment. Research also suggests the cost effectiveness of treatment rather than jail time.

By Carol Dolan BS RN BSN CDCES

March 2021

Carol graduated with her BS in Nutrition from Montclair State University and her BSN in Nursing from Rowan University. She is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) currently working with adults and children living with diabetes in both outpatient and inpatient settings.


This concludes our ranking of the best online counseling certificate programs.

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