The field of counseling is a growing discipline. The idea of people seeking help with personal issues is becoming more common and less stigmatized. A growing need for well-trained counselors has led to an increase in accessible training. This includes online counseling certificate programs from accredited colleges in the United States. The programs listed below cover a variety of counseling certifications, education levels and prerequisite requirements. Certificates listed include counseling specializations like:
- Certificates in Substance Abuse Counseling
- Family and Couples Counseling
- School Counseling
- Mental Health Counseling
- Bereavement and Trauma Counseling
This list includes 19 online programs for working professionals plus one affordable on-campus program. Included in our list are certificates for post-master’s and post-bachelor’s. It also includes stand alone certificates with minimal prerequisite requirements. Prospective students should contact their state to inquire about licensing requirements.
Methodology for Top 20 Most Affordable Online Counseling Certificate Programs
This ranking of the 20 most affordable counseling certificates from accredited colleges is from an initial pool of 23 programs online. Certificate 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 should contact their state licensing agency. Here, they will learn about specific education and clinical hours requirements in their state.
1. Albany State Univ., Albany, GA
2. Kennesaw State Univ., Kennesaw, GA
3. Utah State Univ., Logan, UT
4. Univ. of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD
5. Lamar University, Beaumont, TX
6. Post University, Waterbury, CT
7. Univ. 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 Univ., Tempe, AZ
13. Montclair State Univ., 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
20. St Joseph’s University
Saint Joseph’s University’s counseling certification program prepares graduates to work as certified addiction counselors. SJU’s Addiction Counseling Certificate program is a 12-credit, fully online counseling certificate program for working professionals with a minimum of an undergraduate degree. It can be completed in as little as two semesters. This certificate program may also be combined with the master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program. The 12 certificate credits would count toward this 60-credit program. Students in the certificate in counseling program are part of Saint Joseph’s University’s Center for Addiction and Recovery Education (CARE). CARE provides research and education to help address addiction-related issues. Applicants to this online program for counseling certificates who are not part of the master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program must have a relevant graduate degree to be accepted. This online certificate meets several certification requirements. This includes the Pennsylvania Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC) certification, the National Board for Certified Counselor (NBCC) and the Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) requirements.
19. Madonna University
One of our top online programs, Madonna University’s counseling certificate is a three-course certificate in Bereavement: Trauma, Loss and Grief. This online program helps professionals improve their counseling skills in this area. Applicants to the certificate program can have a master’s degree in counseling or bachelor’s degree to complete. This specialty certificate in counseling online provides a tool kit for those working with grieving individuals and families. It also helps with those who have experienced traumatic loss or life-changing events. Skills and knowledge gained in this online program can be applied in private practice. It is also useful when working in an interdisciplinary team in hospice, palliative care, and end of life care settings. Madonna University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to award counseling certificates.
18. Regent University
Virginia Beach, VA
Regent offers five online graduate certificate programs in counseling for students with a master’s degree. These include:
- Graduate Certificate: Mental Health Counseling
- Graduate Certificate in Trauma Counseling
- Graduate Certificate in Psychology and Counseling
- Graduate Certificate in Marriage
- Graduate Certificate in Couples and Family Counseling
- Graduate Certificate in School Counseling (Professional School Counselor)
The online graduate certificate programs each require 9-12 graduate level credits beyond the master’s degree. All are presented from a Christian worldview. These Christian 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 as a licensed counselor. They may also provide state credentialing requirements. Regent is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to offer this certificate program.
17. Capella University
Capella’s counseling certificate programs online are offered in four program specializations. Graduate certificate programs in counseling include:
- Graduate Certificate in Contemporary Theory in Addictive Behavior
- Graduate Certificate in Contemporary Theory in Mental Health Services
- Graduate Certificate in Systemic Couple and Family Therapy
- Graduate Certificate in Contemporary Theory School Based Services
These online counseling certificates provide an affordable and flexible way to increase knowledge and understanding of human behavior. They are not designed to meet counselor licensure requirements. Online graduate certificate programs in counseling from Capella require just five courses. They also feature flexible start dates for students who already hold a master’s degree. Military discounts and other scholarships may be available to those enrolled in a certificate in counseling program.
16. Gwynedd Mercy University
Gwynedd Valley, PA
Gwynedd Mercy University’s counseling certification online is a certificate in School Counseling (Pre-K-12). This program for school counselors boasts a 100% pass rate on the School Counseling licensure and certification test in Pennsylvania. The certificate prepares students with counseling skills and knowledge. It also includes 510 hours of field experience. Students in this post-master’s program complete interactive collaborative courses to complete their graduate certificate programs. They do so 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 Elementary and Secondary School Counselors (PreK-12) within the state of Pennsylvania. Check out this rigorous certificate program to get on your way to contributing to the growth and development of students as a school counselor. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has accredited Gwynedd Mercy University to award these counseling certificates.
15. Indiana Wesleyan University
Graduate certificate programs in counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University offer a Christ-centered approach to the counseling profession. IWU’s 18-credit hour graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling online provides specialized academic preparation in Addictions Counseling. It is available to applicants with a bachelor’s degree or higher. This counseling certificate program online may be what you’re looking for break into this specialized counseling field. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited Indiana Wesleyan to award these counseling certificates.
14. University of Cincinnati
University of Cincinnati’s counseling certificate is a professional certificate in Substance Abuse Counseling. It’s offered from the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH). This certificate in counseling is designed for applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in another discipline may also be considered. This robust online program provides a knowledge base in Substance Abuse Counseling. Graduates work in a variety of settings. These include counseling, corrections, administration and substance abuse prevention. Graduates will have met Ohio’s licensure requirements and may require extra practice hours. Students from other states should check with their state’s licensure requirements for counseling certificates. UC is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to award certificates in counseling.
13. Montclair State University
One of our top graduate certificate programs for professional counseling, this post-master’s certificate in Advanced Counseling from Montclair State can be completed in 12-18 credit hours. The online graduate certificate 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 mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists. Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of settings with diverse populations. This includes schools, community agencies, student affairs positions, and substance abuse treatment centers. The program is designed to meet state and national licensure requirements for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC).
12. Arizona State University
Arizona State’s counseling certificate online is a program in Addiction and Substance-Use Related Disorders. This program will get you the training needed to advance skills and knowledge in this important field. The counseling certificate online promises to provide the transfer of scientific knowledge and evidence based treatment to clinical practice. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree 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 certificate in counseling to get the training you need for becoming a successful substance abuse counselor. After graduation from these certificate programs, licensed counselors can work in a variety of different settings. Examples include treatment centers, community mental health services, primary care, criminal justice system, hospital, schools and military related services. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited ASU to award these counseling certificates.
11. University of Buffalo
Like most counseling certificate programs in our ranking, the University of Buffalo’s counseling programs are short, focused, online graduate certificates. These programs for school and family therapists promise to give students the skills and knowledge to advance in their specialization. Programs for licensed counselors are offered in on campus and online formats. UB’s counseling certifications online are stand alone or can be taken as part of another program at University of Buffalo. Specialties include:
- Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Counseling
- Graduate Certificate in School Counseling
- Graduate Certificate in Mindful Counseling for Wellness and Engagement
All three of these graduate certificate programs include Experiential Contact Hours. These field experiences provide hands-on experience to solidify knowledge and skills. They also provide vital networking opportunities. The university is accredited by The Middle States Commission on Higher Learning to award these certificates in counseling.
10. University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND
This certification online in Counseling with a K-12 emphasis for school counselors includes two four-day sessions each summer on campus in Grand Forks. These sessions give students valuable hands-on learning opportunities. Campus visits also provide students with valuable networking and interaction with faculty and fellow students. The certificate has two tracks available. One is for students with a master’s degree in Mental Health or Community Agency Counseling. The other is for students with a graduate degree in Education. All students complete a supervised school counseling licensure practicum in a K-12 school setting in their home community. In addition to online library services, students in these graduate certificate programs have access to career services, their own academic advisor, veteran and military services, financial aid services, and unlimited academic coaching and online tutoring.
9. Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University’s online counseling programs are rigorous certificate programs designed to equip professionals in five areas of specialization, including family therapy and pastoral counseling. Online students can choose from:
- Trauma Certificate
- Marriage and Family Therapists Certificate
- Childhood and Adolescent Disorders Certificate
- Christian Counseling Certificate
- Addictions Counseling Certificate
These affordable certificate programs online help students immerse themselves in courses on their own time schedule. This format makes it possible for working professionals in the counseling field to further their education as licensed counselors. Each online counseling certificate program requires 12-15 credits. Plus, there is the opportunity for aspiring school and family therapists to transfer credits towards these requirements. Online classes are 8 weeks long, helping students to stay focused on completing their certificate in counseling.
8. University of Memphis
The University of Memphis’ counseling certificates online are offered in three different counseling careers:
- College and Career Counseling
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- School Counseling
The College and Career Counselor Certificate is an online and field-based post-degree program. This online graduate certificate is focused on developing the technical skills needed to help high school students transition to college and vocational programs. The Clinical Counseling online program is designed for those with a master’s degree in school counseling, rehabilitation counseling or college counseling. Those students currently enrolled at The University of Memphis master’s degree in school counseling program may also be eligible. 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. The university is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
7. Univ. of South Florida
USF’s counseling certificates 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 for the aspiring rehabilitation counselor. It is beneficial to healthcare professionals as well as 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, crisis intervention, counselor education, social work, psychology, or other human service fields to enhance knowledge and skills as Marriage and Family Therapists. These affordable certificate in counseling programs for licensed counselors are offered on-campus.
6. Post University
Post University’s affordable online counseling certificates may be the ticket to expanding your counseling practice. PU’s online mental health counseling 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 will be ready to take the next steps to get their professional counseling license. Students in these online counseling programs receive assistance in researching their state’s requirements for licensure prior to beginning the program.
5. Lamar University
Lamar University’s affordable online Mental Health Counseling Certificate program is designed for working Post-Master’s students. These are students who have completed a master’s degree in counseling or related educational programs. Students pursuing this certificate in counseling 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 licensure requirements for the LPC exam in Texas. Students are immersed in advanced counseling topics. These may include diagnosis, treatments and etiology, and the most current research that applies in clinical practice. Students interested in these counseling professions should check licensing requirements in their home state.
4. University of South Dakota
USD’s online counseling certificates include the online graduate Certificate in Addiction Counseling and Prevention and the online graduate Mental Health Counseling Certificate. The Certificate in Mental Health Counseling is a 12-credit program. It covers advanced topics in family therapy, crisis intervention, psychopathology, and clinical supervision. With spring, summer, or fall start dates, prospective students can expect to complete this online Mental Health Counseling Certificate in about a year. USD’s Online Graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling and Prevention is an innovative 15-credit hour program. It promises to prepare addiction counseling professionals to meet the complex needs of substance abuse patients. This online program for licensed counselors focuses on evidence based education. The curriculum enables counseling professionals to provide quality counseling to individuals dealing with addiction. These counseling certificates online allows practicing professionals the flexibility to continue their education in the behavioral health field while in their current employment.
3. Utah State University
Utah State’s affordable counseling certificate online is a post-master’s Certificate in Rehabilitation Counseling. The program is open to applicants with three years of related professional experience and two years of supervised rehabilitation counseling experience. This robust online counseling 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
- Rehabilitation Administration/Services
- Social Work
- Special Education
- Vocational Assessment/Evaluation
This is a 22-credit certificate in counseling made up of eight courses. Offerings include:
- Theories and Techniques in Counseling
- Psychosocial Aspects of Disabilities
- Case Management
Students interested in this program have flexibility in their education schedule with spring, summer and fall start dates.
2. Kennesaw State University
The counseling program online from Kennesaw State is an affordable online Mental Health Technician Professional Certificate. This may be the ticket to enter the challenging field of mental health. This online technician program provides students with a solid mental health background. Graduates of the program will have an entry level academic background to work in most counseling professions involving individuals with mental health issues, including family therapy. Six key topics covered through the certificate in counseling curriculum for aspiring counselors include:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Mental Health Technician
- Direct Support Professional
- Better Interpersonal Communication
- Personal Excellence
- 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 learn methods to provide clients with assistance in a variety of areas. Examples include daily living skills, personal health hygiene and maintenance, adhering to a medication regiment, and behavioral development.
1. Albany State University
This 18-credit Addictions Counseling Certificate program online from Albany State is our pick for the best online counseling certificate from accredited colleges. It is offered for those seeking broader career opportunities in addictions. These courses meet the academic requirements for the Certified Addictions Counseling (CAC I or CAC II) credential in Georgia. This online certificate program’s flexible format allows students to enter the program any semester. Once enrolled, students can 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 Counselors
- Career Counselors
- School Counseling
- Mental Health Counseling
- Behavioral Disorder Counseling
- Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT)
- Rehabilitation Counselors
These are among the most common types of counselors with a certificate in counseling.
What are some other types of counselors that are less commonly known?
Other types of counselors include financial, PTSD or Trauma Informed Counseling, Pastoral Counseling, and Sports Counseling.
Do all counselors have the same education requirements? Do I need a master’s degree in counseling or a certificate in counseling?
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 for a licensed professional counselor. A master’s degree in counseling or behavioral health and/or a certificate in counseling from one of the country’s accredited colleges is required for many positions.
What are typical attributes of people who go into the field of counseling?
Counseling techniques can be learned. However, people entering the dynamic field of counseling typically have strong interpersonal skills that aid them in working well with people. Much like the field of education, 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 a career as rehabilitation counselors may come from areas such as law enforcement, probation officers, social work, licensed professional counselors, medical field, psychiatry or psychology, family therapy, 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 or rehabilitation counselors.
Where does a licensed professional counselor 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 with a certificate in counseling.
How do I choose a counseling specialization for my continuing education?
An aspiring professional counselor chooses their area of specialization based on a variety of factors. When selecting a certificate in counseling, consider the type of population you want to work with. For example, do you prefer working with children or adults? Are you interested in marriage and family counseling topics? 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 with post-bachelor’s and graduate certificates?
These are some of the professional organizations for counselors with a certificate in counseling:
- 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)
- Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC)
Why join a professional organization for counselors?
Joining a professional organization in your field of expertise has many benefits. These include 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. Counselors may help their clients understand their feelings, identify issues affecting their mental health and relationships, provide family counseling, 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 for your certificate in counseling with work responsibilities. 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 as you pursue your continuing education.
What is the job outlook for counselors?
The job outlook for counselors is expected to grow 23% between 2020-2030. This 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. Counselors with continuing education credentials like a master’s degree in counseling will have the best job prospects.
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 that substance abusers are less likely to become repeat offenders if they get needed addiction treatment from a rehabilitation counselor. Research also suggests the cost effectiveness of treatment rather than jail time.
By Carol Dolan BS RN BSN CDCES
Carol graduated with her BS in Nutrition from Montclair State 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.
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This concludes our ranking of the best online counseling certificate programs.