Online CACREP (Counseling) Accredited Degree Programs


Online CACREP (Counseling) Accredited Degree Programs

Becoming a licensed counselor is an educational journey. Earning your degree in one of many counseling programs can help you take your career to the next step.

Whether you are interested in completing your M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or your Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, there are plenty of options across the country.

Find out more about CACREP-accredited counseling programs and what it takes to get started.


When exploring options for counseling programs, a CACREP-accredited program should be a top consideration. CACREP stands for the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. It represents a significant endorsement of a program’s quality within the counseling profession in the United States. Attending a CACREP-accredited program can be crucial for your career as many states require graduation from an accredited program as part of the licensure process for counselors.

The Importance of CACREP Accreditation

CACREP is an independent accrediting body dedicated to ensuring high standards in counseling education across the U.S. Accreditation by CACREP signifies that a program’s curriculum, faculty qualifications, and educational practices have been evaluated extensively and meet rigorous criteria set for counseling education. This accreditation ensures that students receive a quality education that is aligned with the needs of the profession and increases their employability upon graduation.

Furthermore, CACREP accreditation is increasingly recognized as a critical credential by employers and licensing boards, reflecting its deep impact on the profession’s standards. As of now, more than 900 programs in specialty areas of counseling are CACREP-accredited across 416 colleges and universities, and the number continues to grow as the demand for well-qualified counselors rises.

This seal of approval not only benefits the students by enhancing their career readiness through structured training and comprehensive curriculum but also serves the public by ensuring that practicing counselors are proficiently trained to meet diverse client needs.

The Accreditation Process

The accreditation process conducted by CACREP is voluntary, yet comprehensive, highlighting its role in distinguishing high-quality counseling education programs. Not every counseling program in the U.S. opts to undergo this process, making it an important factor to consider as you evaluate your educational options.

Steps to CACREP Accreditation

  1. Application and Commitment: Programs seeking CACREP accreditation begin by applying, demonstrating their commitment to maintaining high educational standards. This initial step requires a detailed review of the program’s intentions and capabilities in adhering to CACREP’s rigorous requirements.
  2. Self-Study and Evaluation: Following the application, programs undertake a self-study, an introspective assessment phase where they align their curriculum, faculty, facilities, and student services with CACREP standards. This self-study is critical as it prepares the program for external scrutiny.
  3. On-Site Review: CACREP then conducts an on-site evaluation, where experienced reviewers visit the program to assess its implementation of the standards. They interact with faculty, staff, and students and review program documentation and facilities to ensure compliance with accreditation criteria.
  4. Continuous Improvement: Once accredited, programs must engage in continuous improvement and regular re-evaluation to retain their accreditation status. This includes periodic reporting and eventual re-accreditation, ensuring that the programs evolve with the profession’s educational and practice standards.
  5. Standards Review: To receive accreditation, programs are evaluated across multiple domains, including the qualifications of program faculty, the core curriculum, clinical practice requirements, student and program assessment methods, and any specialty areas offered. Each standard is meticulously reviewed to ensure that the program provides a robust and comprehensive educational experience that prepares students effectively for professional practice.

CACREP accreditation is thus not just a seal but a testament to a program’s dedication to excellence in developing competent, ethical, and professional counselors. This thorough and reflective process ensures that students graduate from a program that meets the highest standards of the counseling profession.

What Is an Online CACREP-Accredited Counseling Program?

An online CACREP-accredited counseling program offers a flexible, distance-learning alternative to traditional, on-campus programs, designed to meet the needs of students who require more flexibility due to geographic, professional, or personal constraints. These programs provide the same rigorous standards and comprehensive curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, ensuring that all graduates are equally prepared for professional practice.

Equivalence in Standards

CACREP maintains that its standards are universally applicable, regardless of the delivery method. Therefore, online programs undergo the same stringent accreditation process as on-campus programs. This includes evaluating the curriculum, faculty qualifications, student services, and clinical practice opportunities to ensure they are on par with physical programs.

Key Features of Online CACREP-Accredited Programs

  • Flexibility: Allows students to complete coursework and attend virtual sessions from anywhere, accommodating various lifestyles and commitments.
  • Accessibility: Opens opportunities for students who live in remote areas or who have limited access to campus-based programs.
  • Consistent Quality: Despite the mode of delivery, these programs must meet the same high standards set by CACREP, ensuring that the educational quality and professional readiness of graduates are not compromised.

Choosing an online CACREP-accredited program means opting for a pathway that is both flexible and reputable, providing assurance that the educational experience aligns with the high standards expected in the counseling profession.

Accredited Counseling Program Curriculum

An CACREP-accredited counseling program will offer a range of new courses that includes a student’s specific area of focus. Here are some examples.

  • Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethical Practice: Learn the roles that counselors play regarding social barriers and equality.
  • Social and Cultural Diversity: The focus of this program is exploring the role of power and privilege and barriers to diversity.
  • Group Counseling and Group Work: This type of course focuses on the techniques and counseling methods that may be used during group work.
  • Counseling and Helping Relationships: The focus of this program is on various theories and how to determine outcomes from the care provided, including case conceptualization and interviewing skills.

Program Requirements

Program requirements will depend on which school you plan to attend.

For example, Winston-Salem State University offers an online program allowing you to earn your master’s degree to become a certified rehabilitation counselor.

For this specific program, the requirements are:

  • Minimum education — Bachelor’s degree
  • A recommended GPA of 2.7 or higher
  • You have passed the GRE test
  • References letters
  • An official college transcript
  • An interview
  • A resume

Counseling Program Costs

The cost to enroll in an online counseling program will vary considerably from one school to the next. Since online programs do not require you to pay campus-based fees, they tend to be a more affordable option.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000+ to complete an online counseling program. The total cost will depend on which school you choose, the number of credits you already have, and whether you are granted any scholarships. Tuition is often based on credit hours. For example, at Indiana Wesleyan University, you can complete their Masters of Arts with a major in Clinical Addictions Counseling after 48 credit hours, with a rate of $590/ credit hour. This equals $28,320. Some programs are 36 credit hours, while others are 60 credit hours.

Lindsey Wilson College offers an online program so that you can get your M.Ed. in Counseling and Human Development. This accredited institution is proud to offer some of the lowest tuition rates among top online universities. In addition, over 95% of Lindsey Wilson students receive some form of financial aid. Taking the time to research financial aid opportunities can help you cut costs.

There are also payment plans, such as those offered at Liberty University. Their online programs can be paid monthly, giving students more time to pay for their education. To participate in this plan, there is a one-time $50 fee per semester. These payment plans are interest-free.

National Counselor Examination Pass Rates

Many counseling programs proudly publish their pass rates for the National Counselor Examination (NCE). This examination is crucial as it assesses how many graduates successfully pass the test on their first attempt. The NCE, a comprehensive 200-item multiple-choice exam, evaluates the knowledge, skills, and abilities essential for effective counseling services. The pass rates are often seen as a direct reflection of the quality of education and training provided by the program.

Additional Licensing Examinations

Depending on the state where you intend to practice, you may be required to pass additional examinations to obtain your counseling license. A common requirement alongside the NCE is the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), which focuses more specifically on clinical skills and knowledge. Some states may also have unique, state-specific licensing exams. It’s important to check the specific licensure requirements of the state where you plan to work, as these can significantly impact your path to becoming a licensed counselor.

This version clarifies the function and content of the NCE, explains the purpose of additional exams like the NCMHCE, and highlights the importance of state-specific requirements.

For example, Palo Alto University offers a CACREP-accredited counseling program. In California, graduates must pass two exams — the California Law and Ethics exam and the NCMHCE. In 2019-20, among the graduates seeking licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, the average pass percentage was 90.5%. This was 19.5% higher than the California average for these tests.

Types of CACREP Accredited Counseling Programs

When choosing a counseling program, prospective students should consider both the type of degree and the area of specialization. CACREP accredits several types of counseling degrees, each designed to prepare students for specific roles within the field of mental health.

Master’s Degree Programs

The most common degree type for aspiring counselors is the master’s degree. These programs typically require two to three years of study and include both coursework and supervised clinical experience. Graduates are prepared for licensure and entry into professional practice. The specific titles of these degrees may include:

  • Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) in Counseling
  • Master of Education (MEd) in Counseling and Development
  • Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Arts (MA) in School Counseling

Doctoral Degree Programs

For those interested in advanced practice, research, or academic roles, a doctoral degree in counseling might be appropriate. These programs often focus on producing original research and can lead to roles such as university faculty, advanced clinical practitioners, or leaders in clinical settings. Common types of doctoral degrees include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counseling
  • Doctor of Education (EdD) in Counseling Psychology


CACREP accredits programs that cover a wide range of specializations, enabling students to focus on a particular area of interest within the counseling field. Some of the key specializations include:

  • Addiction Counseling: Prepares counselors to work with individuals dealing with substance abuse and dependency.
  • School Counseling: Focuses on the academic, career, and emotional needs of students in K-12 educational settings.
  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Equips counselors to work in various mental health settings, dealing with a range of psychological issues.
  • Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling: Specializes in counseling for couples, families, and children in different life stages.
  • Career Counseling: Helps individuals understand their career options and the steps needed to pursue them.
  • Rehabilitation Counseling: Aims to help people with physical, mental, emotional, or social disabilities to achieve their personal, career, and independent living goals.
  • Community Counseling: This specialization prepares counselors to work in various community settings, addressing a wide range of issues such as mental health, emotional well-being, and crisis intervention.
  • College Counseling and Student Affairs: Designed for those interested in working within higher education settings, this specialization focuses on the developmental and emotional needs of college students.
  • Gerontological Counseling: This specialization equips counselors to meet the unique needs of older adults.

By selecting a program that is CACREP accredited, students can be assured that the curriculum meets rigorous standards that are recognized nationally, thus preparing them adequately for the demands and responsibilities of professional counseling roles.

Path to Becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)

Graduates of CACREP-accredited counseling programs are well-positioned to pursue licensure as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) or Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs). These designations are crucial for professionals in the counseling field, as they signify a high level of expertise and compliance with industry standards.

Importance of CACREP Accreditation for Licensure

CACREP accreditation is a mark of quality and rigor in counseling education. Most states in the U.S. recognize this accreditation and align their licensure requirements with CACREP standards. Graduating from a CACREP-accredited program can streamline the licensure process, as these programs cover the educational prerequisites needed for LPC or LMHC certification.

Educational Requirements

To become an LPC or LMHC, a candidate typically needs to have a master’s degree in counseling or a closely related field from a CACREP-accredited program. These programs provide comprehensive training in areas such as ethics, assessment, counseling theories, and techniques, as well as specialized areas depending on the program’s focus (e.g., school counseling, clinical mental health counseling).

Supervised Clinical Experience

Post-graduate supervised clinical experience is a critical component of the licensure process. Requirements vary by state but generally involve a certain number of hours of supervised practice. This experience allows graduates to apply their academic knowledge in real-world settings under the guidance of a licensed professional.

Licensure Examination

Prospective LPCs and LMHCs must pass a relevant licensure examination. The most common exam is the National Counselor Examination (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Some states might require additional or alternative exams.

State-Specific Requirements

It’s important to note that licensure requirements can vary significantly from state to state. Candidates should consult their state’s licensing board to understand the specific requirements for LPC or LMHC licensure in their region.

Continuing Education and Renewal

Once licensed, LPCs and LMHCs are required to engage in ongoing professional development. This typically involves completing a certain number of continuing education hours and periodically renewing their license.

LPC and LMHC Roles

Having explored the paths to becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), it’s important to recognize the diverse range of specialized roles within the counseling field that these licenses can lead to. LPCs and LMHCs have the opportunity to channel their skills and knowledge into various areas of specialization, each addressing unique aspects of mental health and well-being. 

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors advise people on a wide range of issues, including addictions and depression.

Median Annual Salary: $53,710 in 2023 (reported in 2024)

2022-2032 Job Growth Projection: 18%

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disabilities.

Median Annual Salary: $44,040 in 2023 (reported in 2024)

2022-2032 Job Growth Projection: 2%

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills, while career counselors help people identify and pursue employment opportunities.

Median Annual Salary: $61,710 in 2023 (reported in 2024)

2022-2032 Job Growth Projection: 5%

What Are the Benefits of a CACREP-Accredited Counseling Program?

Choosing a CACREP-accredited counseling program will assure you that the content and quality of that program will help you progress in your career. You will learn the knowledge and develop the skills needed to land the job you have been striving for.

Enrolling in an online program offers many benefits. Keep the following advantages in mind when comparing programs based on your schedule and career goals.

Connect with Expert Instructors and Like-Minded Students

Just because you’re taking an online course does not mean you lack access to expert instructors. Online CACREP-accredited counseling programs are taught by instructors with an immense amount of experience and knowledge. You can often connect with instructors you may not have had access to on-campus as well.

Online courses also often encourage engaging class discussions. Chat groups and forums spark interesting, supportive conversations related to course materials, current research findings, and other industry-related topics.

Flexible Scheduling

Online learning is optimal for many situations, especially when you would like to continue to work while enhancing your education and level of certification. Your coursework can be completed when and where it is most convenient for you. This is also a great fit for individuals who have a family. If you’re busy with kids during the day, you can listen to lectures and complete work at night.

Streamline the Licensure Process

When you choose a CACREP-accredited counseling program that is recognized by the American Counseling Association, becoming licensed following graduation is a simpler, more streamlined process.

To be able to write your licensure exam, you will need to have completed a certain number of hours and a predetermined set of coursework. Accredited programs set you up for success so that when you graduate, you will qualify to sit the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

How Long Does CACREP Accreditation Take?

It takes between 12 months and 18 months for the CACREP board to make accreditation decisions, but it may be longer than this. Delays in communication or meeting guidelines can extend this timeline.

Which Degree Does CACREP Accredit?

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation focuses on graduate-level degree accreditation. Specifically, it accredits master’s and doctoral degree programs in many areas of counseling.


Are There Any States That Require a CACREP-Accredited Degree for Licensure?

Yes, several states have regulations that either require or strongly prefer a CACREP-accredited degree for licensure as a professional counselor. These requirements vary by state, so it’s essential to check the specific licensure requirements in the state where you plan to practice.

What Should I Look for in a CACREP-Accredited Online Counseling Program?

When evaluating a CACREP-accredited online counseling program, consider factors such as the curriculum’s comprehensiveness, faculty qualifications, availability of specializations, support services for online students, and opportunities for practical experience. Accreditation ensures a baseline of quality, but these additional factors can significantly influence your educational experience.

Are There CACREP-Accredited Programs Offered Fully Online?

Yes, there are fully online programs that have received CACREP accreditation. These programs offer the same rigorous standards of education as in-person programs and are designed to accommodate the needs of students who require the flexibility of an online format.

Is CACREP the Only Accrediting Board for Counseling Degrees?

No, CACREP is not the only accrediting body for counseling degrees, but it is one of the most recognized and respected in the field. There are other accrediting bodies, but CACREP’s standards are often considered the benchmark for quality in counseling education.

How Long Does CACREP Accreditation Last?

CACREP accreditation typically lasts for an eight-year cycle, after which the program must undergo a re-accreditation process to ensure that it continues to meet the required standards.

Does Earning a CACREP-Accredited Degree Make Me a Licensed Counselor?

Earning a degree from a CACREP-accredited program is a significant step towards becoming a licensed counselor, but it does not automatically confer licensure. Graduates must also complete state-specific requirements, which usually include supervised clinical experience and passing a licensure examination.

Is a Counseling Degree Accredited by CACREP Worth It?

Many professionals in the field consider a CACREP-accredited counseling degree worthwhile because it signifies a high standard of education and aligns with licensure requirements in many states. Additionally, the rigorous training and comprehensive curriculum prepare graduates effectively for a career in counseling.

Are CACREP-Accredited Programs More Expensive?

The cost of CACREP-accredited programs varies and may be comparable to or slightly higher than non-accredited programs. However, the investment is often justified by the quality of education and the potential ease in meeting licensure requirements. It’s important to compare programs and consider financial aid options when making your decision.

How to Become a Counselor 

Becoming a licensed counselor involves several steps. The specific requirements can vary slightly depending on the type of counseling you’re interested in (school counseling versus rehabilitation counseling, for example), and the regulations in your state will dictate some aspects of the licensure process. In broad strokes, however, the steps are largely consistent:

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Your first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree, typically in psychology, counseling, sociology, or a related field.
  2. Earn a Master’s Degree: After completing your bachelor’s degree, you will need to earn a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. This is usually a requirement for licensure. The master’s program will provide in-depth study in counseling techniques, ethics, research, and other important areas of knowledge.
  3. Complete Supervised Clinical Experience: Most states require a certain amount of supervised clinical experience, often performed as an internship or practicum during your master’s program. This experience will provide you with practical, hands-on training under the supervision of a licensed counselor or another qualified professional.
  4. Pass a Licensing Exam: After you’ve earned your master’s degree and completed the required clinical experience, you’ll need to pass a state licensing exam. The exact exam can vary by state and specialty, but common examples include the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), both administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
  5. Apply for Licensure: After passing your exam, you can apply for licensure in your state. This usually involves submitting proof of your education, supervised experience, and exam results, along with any necessary application fees.
  6. Continuing Education: Once you become a licensed counselor, you’ll need to complete continuing education to maintain your licensure. The specific requirements can vary by state.

There may be additional steps or requirements to consider depending on your focus and location, so be sure to check the specific licensure requirements in your state.

Notable CACREP Accredited Online Counseling Degree Programs

The following are some of the most notable CACREP-accredited online counseling programs. 

Auburn University 

Auburn University offers an M.Ed. in clinical rehabilitation counseling. The program requires completing 60 credit hours and takes approximately two years to complete full-time.

Information about Auburn’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

George Washington University

George Washington University offers three master’s degree options for counseling. They are in clinical health, rehabilitation, and school counseling, each taking approximately two years to complete.

Information about George Washington’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

Johns Hopkins University 

Johns Hopkins University offers a Master of Science in Counseling through its education department. There are two concentrations to choose from: clinical mental health counseling and school counseling, with a requirement of a 600-hour internship and 100-hour practicum for the program.

Information about Johns Hopkins’ current tuition and fees can be found here.

Minnesota State University 

Minnesota State University offers a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Student Personnel. The program offers two focus areas, with professional school counseling and mental health counseling as the options. This is usually a two-year program when going full-time.

Information about Minnesota State’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

Mississippi State University 

Mississippi State University has an MS in Counseling with a concentration in Rehabilitation Counseling. The program requires the completion of 60 credit hours and prepares students for entering the professional world upon completion.

Information about Mississippi State’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

North Carolina State University 

North Carolina State offers a Master’s of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree. The online format is designed to be completed in three years on a part-time basis, with students working year-round while doing so.

Information about North Carolina State’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

Ohio University 

Ohio University has a Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree master’s program. The program prepares students for a number of things, including the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders through a number of different methods.

Information about Ohio University’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

San Francisco State University 

A Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is available from San Francisco State University. The program requires the completion of 60 credit hours covering a variety of topics in the field of mental health counseling.

Information about San Francisco State’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

Texas A&M University 

Texas A&M University has an online M.Ed. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis on school counseling. This program is available in synchronous and asynchronous formats and requires 400 hours of on-site counseling activities.

Information about Texas A&M’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

University of Alabama The University of Alabama offers an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program requires an undergraduate degree with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA as well as a 300 or higher score on the GRE or 50th percentile on the MAT.

Information about University of Alabama’s current tuition and fees can be found here.

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