A mental health counselor works with different individuals, groups, and populations in order to help people improve their mental state and quality of life. Mental health counseling is an umbrella term that covers a variety of educational tracks including family, school, multicultural, mental health, drug addiction, recovery, and more. Aspiring students who wish to work as mental health counselors should have an idea of the counseling track that appeals to them the most and select an online degree program that fits their goals.
Choosing the Right Online Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Program
An online master’s degree is needed in order to work as a licensed mental health counselor, although it’s possible to find employment with a bachelor’s degree. However, all states require a master’s degree for licensing, as do the tests that are needed to apply for a license.
In order to ensure that the education you receive is accepted by governments and the public alike, you need to attend an online mental health counseling degree program that’s been accredited by an institution that’s been recognized by the Department of Education. The accrediting bodies for mental health counseling degree programs are the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). An online program that’s been accredited by any of these institutions is one that provides you with the education you need to become a successful mental health counselor.
There is no specific online bachelor’s degree program for becoming a mental health counselor. Students who have the desire to work in the field of mental health counseling have the option to earn their undergraduate in general psychology or a related mental health concentration. Some schools offer a concentration in mental health counseling that consists of classes that cover the area of study and typically require taking 12-15 credit hours.
Students who earn a bachelor’s in psychology can go on to earn their master’s degree in mental health counseling online. The master’s degree program is designed to focus a student’s education further into a specific area of mental health counseling and position them as a specialist. Completion of the master’s degree enables them to sit for exams and apply for licensing after completing an average of 60 credit hours and 600 hours of clinical work. Graduates may be required to complete 2,000 hours or more of supervised clinical work in order to qualify for licensure.
An online graduate certificate in mental health counseling typically covers a specific area of mental health counseling that a graduate student hasn’t previously studied. The certificate requires anywhere from 12 to 15 credit hours for completion. Earning a graduate certificate broadens the graduate’s range of specialties, allowing them to enter other areas of mental health counseling they weren’t previously qualified for.
Students who have the desire to work at the highest levels of psychology research and treatment can go on to earn their doctorate as a Ph.D. or Psy.D. online. However, there are few degree programs that go directly from earning a mental health counseling degree to the doctorate level. Instead, students can earn their doctorate in specialties that include counselor education and supervision, behavioral health leadership, forensic psychology, school psychology, behavioral health, and more.
What Mental Health Counseling Degree is Right for Me?
Ph.D. or PsyD
I am interested in gaining entry-level experience in mental health counseling
I want to get started in my mental health counseling career before I pursue more education
I want to become a licensed professional counselor
I want to pursue or switch to a niche counseling specialty
I already have a counseling degree and want to gain specialized knowledge
I want to work in academia, administration, or clinical practice
Mental Health Counseling Degree Program Curriculum
The curriculum for an online degree program in psychology and related mental health fields varies from program to program. The mental health counseling degree program isn’t focused until the master’s degree level. The curriculum for a mental health counseling degree program at the master’s level can include classes such as:
Legal and Ethical Issues in Counseling
Testing and Appraisal
Crisis Intervention and Trauma Counseling
The number of credits required for mental health counseling degree programs varies, but generally consists of the following:
Bachelor's Degree: 120 to 130 credits
Master's Degree : 60 credits
Graduate Certificate: 12 to 15 credits
Mental Health Counseling Degree Program Clinical Requirements
The clinical requirements for an online mental health counseling degree program are different at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. A bachelor’s degree student may be required to undergo a minimum of 100 hours of supervised clinical work, while a master’s degree student is typically required to complete 600 supervised hours.
The clinical hours requirements for the bachelor’s degree program are dependent on the concentration of the degree program. There are no undergraduate degree programs for mental health counseling, which means students can earn their bachelor’s in general psychology or a related field of mental health studies. Each concentration has its own requirements for the completion of clinical hours.
List of Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs
Looking for an online or campus-based mental health counseling degree program near you? Browse our state-by-state school listings below.