Online master's degree programs in mental health offer students the opportunity to gain the assessment, research, intervention, critical-thinking and therapy skills needed to practice in the field. Graduates are usually awarded a Master of Science (M.S.) degree. Some programs offer a specialty in education and award a Master of Education or Education Specialist degree with a focus in mental health practice.
While didactic coursework can be completed online, most programs require attendance at in-person clinical sessions. Application requirements typically include prerequisite coursework in psychology and letters of recommendation, along with a bachelor's degree and transcripts.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mental health counselors are required to hold at least a master's degree in the mental health field and be licensed. Licensure requirements may vary by state; check with the regulations in your state when choosing a program.
List of Common Courses
The courses in these programs focus on counseling techniques, mental health treatment options, the development of mental health and disorder prevention. Common courses include:
Child, Adolescent and Lifespan Development
Adult, child and adolescent developmental milestones and stages are covered in this course. Students learn social, physical, emotional and cognitive developmental theory, and how to prevent and treat disorders.
Crisis, Trauma and Disaster Preparation and Intervention
This class examines the impact of traumatic events on communities, families and students, and how to prevent or respond to them. Students learn research, analysis, models and treatment skills for crisis situations. Legal and ethical considerations related to crisis counseling are also explored.
Cultural issues and differences related to mental health are covered in this course. Participants study the differences in theory and intervention related to race, social class, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Strategies in creating positive relations among diverse populations are also covered.
Students may be required to complete an internship, residency or practicum to adhere to state licensure requirements. While the online coursework is delivered via the Internet, you are still able to communicate with faculty and use the research tools traditionally found on-campus. Normally classes are scheduled by semester or quarter, and some schools offer year-round online or independent study options.
Career Information for Graduates
Mental health counselors earned a median annual wage of $41,880 as of May 2015, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov). Employment in this field was expected to grow by 20%, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024.
Continuing Education Information
The National Board for Certified Counselors offers voluntary certification for mental health counselors. Depending on the applicant's experience and educational history, requirements may include an internship and the passing of a written examination. Doctoral degree programs are also available for those wishing to further their college education in the mental health field. Both certification and further education may provide better job opportunities for mental health professionals.
An online master's degree program in mental health is available as a Master of Science or a Master of Education with an emphasis on mental health. These programs train students to implement counseling techniques and treatment options through a combination of online coursework and on-site clinical practicums.