2021 Best Online Masters in Counseling No GRE

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If you care deeply about helping other people, then you may want to pursue an online masters in counseling with no GRE. Earning this degree can be a critical step toward becoming a licensed counselor who is qualified for independent counseling practice.

Masters in Counseling No GRE

Through online counseling graduate programs, you may earn your graduate degree from home while working a full-time job or maintaining your household.

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If you’re ready to pursue a counseling career, you can take a look at how online degrees can help you achieve your goals.

Online Masters in Counseling Programs

There are several specialties available within the field of addiction, so you can select the area of focus that best aligns with your career goals.

Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

If you need help deciding on a specialization, you might consider what group of people you’re most passionate about helping.

Master’s in Addiction Counseling Online

Addiction counselor

Substance abuse and other addictions place a heavy burden on individuals and families. Addiction counselors can play a role in relieving their struggles. In an addiction counseling master’s program, you’ll study practices for offering therapy in individual and group settings.

Other courses can help prepare you to work with youth populations or people whose addictions are compounded by mental health disorders. There may also be classes on administering assessments and offering prevention programs.

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In order to become licensed as a substance abuse counselor, your state will typically require that you earn a masters degree and complete an internship. Licensed counselors tend to find work in inpatient or outpatient rehab facilities, mental health counseling centers, community organizations, and correctional facilities.

Even if you’re not interested in licensure, an addiction counseling masters may enhance your career in a related field. For example, addiction counseling studies can be valuable for medical providers, police officers, and health educators.

Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

Mental Health Counselor

Many people seek counseling services because mental health issues are affecting their relationships or interrupting their daily activities. A masters in mental health counseling online can help equip you to provide specialized care for your clients.

Human lifespan development is a common course for this degree program. Other classes may address personality theories, medications for mental health, assessment strategies, and addictions.

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You’ll likely learn counseling strategies that you can use in individual and group settings and with clients of varying backgrounds. An internship experience can prepare you to pursue work as an independent practitioner. At the end of your program, you may qualify to become a licensed counselor in your state.

Mental health counselors or therapists often work in private practices, healthcare facilities, residential settings, colleges, and social service agencies. You can specialize in working with kids, adults, senior citizens, or another population.

Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

Marriage therapist

Family relationships can be fulfilling, but they can also be a source of stress. Marriage and family therapists can help people improve their interactions with their spouses, kids, parents, or extended family members.

If you study for a degree in marriage and family therapy, you may explore issues of human development, gender, sexuality, trauma, and addiction. Other courses may address specialized situations, such as caring for families who are going through medical crises or dealing with aging parents.

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You’ll typically study how to work with couples and larger family groups, and you may also learn to counsel individual family members in one-on-one sessions. A supervised internship will allow you to try out these skills in a real-world setting.

Marriage and family therapists sometimes work in private practices. Others work at social service agencies, substance abuse treatment facilities, corporate businesses, colleges, or healthcare organizations.

Master’s in School Counseling Online

school counselor

Caring counselors can make a life-changing difference for students in need of guidance or support. To prepare you to pursue that fulfilling role, there are online school counseling programs with no GRE requirement that may be of interest to you.

For this program, you’ll likely study human development and the young mind. You might explore themes of diversity, crisis management, and mental health. Another important emphasis in this program is on helping students succeed academically, either in their current studies or their college plans.

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You may be able to specialize in helping students with addictions or family problems. Before you’re allowed to try school counseling on your own, you’ll complete an internship to gain professional experience under the supervision of a practicing counselor.

School counselors tend to work in elementary and secondary schools. Both public and private schools hire for this role. Other potential job titles include guidance counselor and academic advisor. Some counselors work at colleges, where they provide support and career help for older students.

Licensed Counselor Careers & Salaries

Licensed Counselor Careers & Salaries

Becoming a licensed counselor may qualify you to offer counseling services in a variety of settings.

Some counselors help people with addiction issues. They tend to work in rehab facilities, counseling practices, or correctional facilities. Other counselors specialize in helping kids, families, or couples. These therapists can pursue roles in private-practice settings, family service agencies, or rehab facilities.

Another option for counseling kids or young adults is to pursue the role of school or career counselor. These professionals can work in elementary schools, high schools, or even colleges.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, community and social service jobs pay an average annual salary of $47,520 are growing at a 12% rate.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Postsecondary Education Administrators $97,500
Postsecondary Teachers $80,790
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
School and Career Counselors $58,120
Health Education Specialists $56,500
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $55,690
Social Workers $51,760
Marriage and Family Therapists $51,340
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors $47,660
Rehabilitation Counselors $37,530

If you’re particularly interested in helping people with mental health concerns, you may choose to specialize in mental health counseling. Mental health counselors can be found in inpatient and outpatient mental health centers as well as hospitals and private offices.

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities to live on their own or maintain employment. There are also career options available that don’t require licensure. These career opportunities include college registrar, mental health educator, or probation officer. Some masters graduates even teach community college classes.

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Professionals employed in this field can also serve as leaders in community organizations, such as social work agencies, religious institutions, or long-term care facilities. Those in administrator positions might oversee staffing matters or coordinate programs.

Becoming a social worker is another career option that graduates may pursue, but additional training and licensure are required for advanced positions.

Master’s in Counseling Sample Curriculum

counselor during counseling

Masters in counseling online programs often require between 36 and 64 credit hours. While course lists can vary greatly among specializations, you might take courses similar to the following:

  • Addictive Behaviors: Your studies in this course will include an overview of substance abuse disorders, strategies for intervention, and a framework for understanding co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • Counseling Ethics: This course addresses the standards by which all professional counselors should operate and may also address legal issues related to counseling.
  • Counseling Theories: Understanding the evolution of counseling strategies and the rationale behind current best practices will help shape your approach to offering effective, ethical services.
  • Diversity in Cultures and Backgrounds: During your career, you’ll encounter clients and coworkers whose life experiences are quite different from yours, and this course teaches you to navigate those interactions.
  • Group Counseling Strategies: You’ll learn how to lead counseling sessions with groups of people and explore dynamics or behaviors that can affect the outcome of group therapy sessions.
  • Human Lifespan Development: This class covers how people change and grow physically, mentally, and emotionally from birth through old age.
  • Interventions for Trauma and Crisis: You can help people face traumatic situations, cope with loss, and heal after painful experiences.
  • Research in Counseling and Mental Health: By learning how to read and interpret study results, you’ll become better prepared to offer counseling services that are backed by the latest research.
  • Techniques for Counseling: Listening, recording notes, asking questions, and other essential strategies for counseling practice are covered in this class.
  • Tests and Assessments: In this course, you’ll become familiar with various diagnostic tools and how they can help shape treatment plans.

Many counseling masters programs also include an internship experience that may last for one or more semesters.

How to Become a Counselor

licensed counselors in university

Becoming a licensed counselor is a multi-step process that can take several years. Fortunately, your time and effort may lead to a fulfilling career and the knowledge that you’re making a difference for others.

The steps to licensure can vary depending on your state and area of specialty, but the list below will provide a general idea of what’s required.

  • Bachelor’s degree. Earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in counseling or a related field.
  • Master’s degree. Earn a master’s degree in counseling by taking classes and completing an internship. To count toward licensure, your state may require the program to be accredited by CACREP.
  • Supervised experience. Accrue supervised professional experience after completing your master’s program.
  • Counseling exam. Pass the counseling examination used by your state.
  • Licensure. Receive licensure from your state’s credentialing board after fulfilling their requirements.
  • Continuing education. Maintain your license with continuing education.

There are multiple counseling exams, and the one that you’re required to take can depend on your specialization and the state where you live. Common exams are the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

Admissions Requirements

counseling degree students

Schools generally consider your academic and professional history to determine whether you’re a good candidate for a graduate program in counseling. In addition to an application form, you may need to submit:

  • Curriculum vitae or resume
  • Essay about yourself, your academic goals, or your career plans
  • Reference letters from professional supervisors or academic faculty
  • Transcripts for your bachelor’s degree and any graduate courses you’ve taken

Some schools will ask for GRE scores, but that’s not always required. If a school does request scores, you can look into whether you qualify for a waiver.

Accreditation

Masters in Counseling Accreditation

Degrees from accredited colleges are respected by employers, clients, and licensing boards.

The primary type of accreditation to consider is regional accreditation. This distinction is granted to the entire college, not just the counseling department. It’s a sign that the institution does a good job of providing a thorough education.

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The U.S. Department of Education provides information on regional accrediting agencies and maintains a list of accredited colleges.

Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)

counselors meeting

While regional accreditation applies to the college as a whole, there’s another type of accreditation that’s just for the counseling department. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) provides this programmatic accreditation for master’s and doctoral counseling studies.

Students in CACREP accredited online counseling programs can know that they’re being thoroughly prepared to pursue a counseling career and that the curriculum has been found to meet or exceeds industry standards. Some states require a CACREP accredited education for licensure.

Counseling Licensure and Certifications

counselor studying

Becoming a licensed counselor isn’t an overnight process. To ensure that you can offer high-quality counseling services to your clients, you’ll need to gain education and training before you can qualify for independent practice.

If you wish to become licensed, the steps required by your state may include:

  • Earning a master’s degree from a CACREP-accredited program
  • Getting postgraduate work experience in a supervised setting
  • Passing a standardized counseling exam
  • Submitting required documentation to your state licensing board
  • Keeping up with continuing education and license renewals

In addition to getting licensed by your state, you may also want to demonstrate your expertise by earning board certification through a national credentialing organization.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

masters in counseling financial aid

Financial matters may not have to keep you from furthering your education. Tuition assistance can help you afford the cost of earning a graduate degree.

Your first step should be to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information you provide on this document will be used to calculate how much government aid you’re eligible to receive.

Federal assistance programs include low-interest loans, work-study opportunities, and grants. States offer similar student aid, and you might qualify to receive both state and federal help.

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Your academic performance or other strengths may help you win scholarship money. Scholarships are often offered through colleges, but you can also look for outside scholarship programs with local or national organizations.

If your goal of getting a master’s is beneficial to your employer, you might qualify for workplace tuition assistance.

Professional Counseling Organizations

professional counselors taking a break

Membership in a professional organization can help bolster your skills as a professional counselor.

Through one of these associations, you may be able to access journal articles, webinars, discounts, local meetings, national conferences, and other tools for professional growth and development.

If you join a professional organization while enrolled in a master’s degree program, you might qualify for a student discount on the organization’s membership fee.

What Can You Do with a Masters in Counseling?

couple in therapy

If you choose to become licensed after earning a master’s degree in counseling, then you can pursue work as a counselor in a variety of settings. Professionals in this field work in residential facilities, schools, and private practices.

Career specialization options include youth, family, addiction, mental health, or career counseling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors make between $30,590 and $78,700 each year. School and career counselors typically earn between $35,620 and $97,910.

Relevant fields that don’t generally require licensure include social service management, mental health education, and correctional treatment services.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Counseling Online?

counselor working

Most MS in Counseling programs involve both coursework and a months-long internship experience. Traditionally, with full-time enrollment, it takes 1 to 2 years to complete all of the required steps for graduation.

Some online programs offer year-round courses that last around 8 weeks each. This format can help shorten the classroom portion of your studies, but the internship still requires a significant time commitment.

What Is the GRE?

masters in counseling students

The GRE is an examination used to determine whether students are ready to handle the rigor of a graduate program. The full name of this test is the Graduate Record Examination.

Studying for the GRE can be a labor-intensive process that takes several months. The exam tests your mathematics, writing, and critical-thinking skills. Some colleges rely on GRE scores as a key component of the admissions process for their master’s degree programs.

Do You Need to Take the GRE for a Masters in Counseling?

No, not every graduate school takes the GRE into account. Many accredited universities choose to focus on other admissions materials instead of standardized test scores. Some programs will not ask for GRE scores at all, or they may list them as an optional step in the admissions process.

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Some colleges request GRE scores but grant waivers to select students. Qualifications for a waiver may include a high undergraduate GPA, professional experience, or previous graduate work. Waivers are granted on a case-by-case basis.

What Is an LPC?

licensed professional counselor

An LPC is a licensed professional counselor, which is a type of mental health practitioner who provides counseling services.

This title is used in some states to denote professionals who have received a graduate degree in counseling and have met the additional requirements for licensure. Other states use different terms, such as licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) or licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC).

Some jurisdictions use more than one of these titles. For example, in some places it takes less testing and supervised experience to become an LPC than it does to earn the LCPC designation.

What Is the Difference Between Counseling vs. Therapy?

licensed professional counselor at work

Both counseling and therapy are types of mental health services, but there are some distinctions between the two.

Counseling is more of a short-term service while therapy is a more ongoing process. Another difference is that counseling typically focuses on specific problems, and therapy often provides a more holistic approach to improving thought patterns and relationships.

The therapy title is often used for marriage and family services. Other services, such as addiction help or career guidance, fall into the counseling category.

What Is the Difference Between an LPC vs. LCSW?

licensed professional counselor with a teenager

Both a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) have earned a graduate education and can offer counseling services. They have different backgrounds, though, and each has a different professional focus.

While there may be some curriculum overlap, LPCs study counseling in grad school, and LCSWs study social work. These two types of licensure also require different credentialing examinations.

LPCs often focus on helping people make personal, internal changes. LCSWs typically address environmental challenges and community support services when helping clients overcome difficulties.

Is a Masters in Counseling Worth It?

counselor with a child

Yes, a master’s degree in counseling is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 12% job growth in community and social service occupations through the next decade. Common careers in this field include mental health counselor, school counselor, career counselor, corrections counselor, and addictions counselor.

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With a masters degree in counseling, you may be on the path to pursuing a meaningful career that’s devoted to helping people every day. Counseling graduates tend to pursue careers where they can counsel individual clients, educate others on the importance of mental health, or serve as leaders in change-making organizations.

Universities Offering Online Masters in Counseling No GRE Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Bellevue University

Bellevue University

Bellevue University offers a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Students can take courses in things like human development and therapy models.

The curriculum is designed around preparation for the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) taken after graduation. Additional requirements include a 100 hour practicum and 600 hour internship.

Bellevue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Bradley University

Bradley University

The Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Bradley University is available entirely online. Practicums can be completed locally, and students can choose their own site supervisors.

Courses are designed to teach a variety of skills and subjects, including the cutting-edge practice of neurocounseling.

Bradley University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Capella University

Capella University

Capella University offers several counseling degrees at the master’s level. They have specializations in Addiction Studies, School Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, and more.

All programs are available online, and no GRE is required for admission. They also provide opportunities to earn graduate-level certificates in counseling and mental health services.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Edinboro University

Edinboro University

With specializations in everything from art therapy to clinical rehabilitation, Edinboro University aims to provide a flexible, versatile program for students interested in counseling.

It emphasizes real-world practices while also allowing for research and general exploration in the field. No GRE is required, and students can enroll at multiple times per year for 100% online classes.

Edinboro University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University

The 48 credit Master’s in School Counseling program at Indiana Wesleyan University can typically be completed in as little as two years. It requires a mix of core classes, electives and specialized topics as well as a 100 hour practicum and two 300 hour internships.

The program is designed to prepare students for a future in K-12 education with both practical and theoretical study.

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Liberty University aims to provide a flexible option for students seeking an online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling. Their program consists of 8 week courses that start at eight different times per year.

All classes are available online, and face-to-face practicums and internships may be completed locally. The program requires 48 credits to graduate and is accredited by both the CACREP and NCATE.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

New York University – Steinhardt

New York University

New York University – Steinhardt offers a Master’s in School Counseling. Their program combines the convenience of digital learning with the supervised, in-person instruction required by most licensing programs.

Classes have live weekly meetings, and practicums are completed at local K-12 schools. A specialization in Bilingual School Counseling is also available for students with a second language.

New York University is accredited by The Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northcentral University

Northcentral University

Northcentral University offers both master’s and doctorate level degrees for Social and Behavioral Sciences. Classes start weekly and are available online, and there are no GRE, GMAT, residency, or group work requirements.

The program is based on a 1:1 learning model that promotes both practical and theoretical skill building for future counselors.

NCU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Our Lady of the Lake University

Our Lady of the Lake University

With three different specializations, the Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling program at Our Lady of the Lake University allows students to customize their counseling education.

Specialization options include School Counseling, Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Credit requirements range from 48 to 60. No GRE is required for admission.

Our Lady of the Lake University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University blends online classes with face-to-face instruction with the goal of providing an enriched learning experience. Their Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology is designed to prepare students for a variety of real-world careers.

The online program mirrors the campus-based program in terms of coursework, practicums, and volunteer experiences.

Pepperdine is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges—Senior College and University Commission.

St Bonaventure University

St Bonaventure University

St Bonaventure University allows students to explore the field of mental health counseling with a wide-ranging curriculum. Core classes include things like Advanced Human Growth and Development and Theories and Techniques of Counseling.

Electives focus on a variety of topics ranging from cultural competencies to business administration for future counselors.

St. Bonaventure University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Denver

University of Denver

With a curriculum designed around CACREP standards, the University of Denver works to provide a rigorous program for school counseling. Students are expected to complete both a 100 hour practicum and a 600 hour internship at a local K-12 institution. The program requires 72 total credit hours to graduate. Classes are entirely online.

The University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota

The counseling program at the University of North Dakota is designed with student flexibility in mind. Students can take classes online or on campus and choose from several different specializations.

Specializations include Addiction Counseling, School Counseling, and Community Mental Health Counseling. Normal completion time is 2 to 3 years depending on your area of focus and its unique requirements for graduation.

The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Southern California

University of Southern California

With self-paced online classes and no GRE requirement, the University of Southern California offers a 21st century approach to school counseling. The program aims to prepare degree seekers for futures in K-12 school systems.

Topics of study in this program include education, trauma, restorative justice, career counseling, and college readiness.

USC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden University offers a Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Classes are available online, and other resources include a digital library and round-the-clock tech support.

The program is designed to help students learn about both theory and practice through a combination of coursework, case studies, roleplaying scenarios, and more.

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Masters in Counseling Without Taking the GRE

online masters in counseling no gre

A counseling masters program can help equip you with important skills for assessing patients, leading therapy sessions, and creating treatment plans. Your studies may prepare you to help people turn their lives around.

Getting a masters in counseling doesn’t have to involve long hours on campus. Through an online program, you can fulfill many of your grad school requirements from a distance.

Choosing an accredited online master’s in counseling no GRE program can be one of the quickest ways to get started with graduate studies in counseling. You can start searching for the masters program that best fits your schedule and career goals today!

Ready to start your journey?
Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.