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The 10 Best Online Schools For Therapy Degree Programs in 2023

Not everyone can head back to school and we get that. Don’t fret! You can still make a difference in people’s lives through online study. In fact, if this is you, then you are in the majority.  We have noticed that not all programs are available online but most of the essentials are. 

We anticipate that there will be even more online offerings in the coming years.  As for now, here are some of the best online degrees for individuals looking to pursue a career as a counselor, therapist, and social worker.  Take a look.

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The 10 Best Online Schools For Therapy

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University is a private institution located in Nashville, Tennessee. There are over 12,000 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 7:1. Peabody College at Vanderbilt currently offers an online Master of Education with a school counseling specialization. 

This is a 48-credit-hour degree that takes 3 years to complete. The program consists of weekly online classes, regular internships, and two on-campus intensives. The internships take place at an elementary, middle, and high school.

Take a look at a few of the elements in the curriculum: 

  • Social/Behavioral Science
  • Counseling Skills
  • K-12 Organization and Administration
  • Understand Cultural Diversity
  • Research and Assessment 
  • Ethics
  • Career Development
  • Skills Specific to Good Counseling 

Graduation Rate: 93%

Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development


Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Northwestern is a private 4-year institution located in Evanston, Illinois. There are over 22,000 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 6:1. According to the US News, Northwestern ranks as the 9th best school in the nation 14th best for value and 57th for innovation. Northwestern offers an online MA in counseling for individuals looking to make an impact in the field of mental health.

The counseling degree includes one emphasis in child development. This program is a good fit for individuals who already have an undergraduate degree in psychology as well as for individuals who have an undergraduate degree in another field. If you are new to psychology you will need to take three additional “bridge” courses before initiating the standard program.  Take a look at some of the courses from the standard curriculum: 

  • Psychopathology in counseling
  • Human Development 
  • Assessment of Counseling 
  • Theory and Technique of Substance Abuse 
  • Counseling Methods

Graduation Rate: 94%

Master’s Degrees from The Family Institute at Northwestern University


Columbia University

Columbia University

Columbia University is a private 4-year university located in New York, New York and currently enrolls over 20,000 students. The student-to-faculty ratio is 6:1. According to US News Columbia ranks as the 3rd best school in the nation, 6th for value and 42nd for most innovative schools.

Another way Columbia continues to innovate is through their online degree offerings including their incredible online Master of Social Work (MSW). This is a 60 credit hour program where 42 credits come from coursework and 18 come from field experience.  This is a highly customizable program and students choose a specialized field of practice.  One program includes an opportunity to specialize in DBT.  Here are their seven fields of practice: 

  • Aging
  • Contemporary Social Issues
  • Family Youth & Children’s Services 
  • Health, Mental Health, and Disabilities 
  • Services to Immigrants and Refugees 
  • School-Based
  • World of Work 

Graduation Rate: 92%

Columbia University Master of Science in Social Work


University of Southern California

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California is a private research university located in Los Angeles. There are 47,000 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1. According to US News, USC ranks as the 22nd best school in the nation, 5th best college for veterans,and 37th best value school. If you are looking to become a K-12 school counselor then it is difficult to beat USC’s online Master of Education in School Counseling.

The program is 49 units and may be completed either part-time or full-time. The entire program takes about two or three years to complete. There are three areas of focus related to this program including College and Career Readiness, Restorative Justice, and Trauma Informed Practice. The curriculum also includes fieldwork. Take a look at some of their classes: 

  • The Counseling Process
  • Learning and Individual Differences
  • Politics of Difference 
  • Cross Cultural Counseling 
  • Research Methods and Data Analysis for Counselors

Graduation Rate: 92%

USC Master of Education in School Counseling


University of Virginia

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia is a public university located in Charlottesville, Virginia. There are 24,639 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1. The University of Virginia ranks as the 28th best school in the nation, 9th best college for veterans, and 4th for top public school.

UVA is considered to be a public ivy university for its high quality of academic programming. If you are an educator looking to address the emotional wellbeing of your diverse student body then the online Master of Education in Ed Psych- Social Foundations may be a great fit for you.  Students have the option to complete the program part-time or full-time. Take a look at the courses available: 

  • History of American Education
  • Philosophy of Education
  • Sociology of Education
  • Anthropology of Education
  • Comparative Education
  • Education in Multicultural Societies 

Graduation Rate: 93%

UVA Master of Education Counselor Education


Tufts University

Tufts University

Tufts is a private four-year university located in Medford, Massachusetts. There are 11,569 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1. According to US News Tufts ranks as the 29th best school in the nation, 28th best value school and 72nd for innovation. One way that Tufts continues to innovate academically is through online programming including their online Master of Science in Occupational Therapy.

This is a post-professional master’s degree meaning that applicants of this program should already possess a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy. Students may complete this program either full-time or part-time to accommodate their needs as working professionals. Take a look at some of the courses from this program:

  • Outcomes Measurement and Monitoring
  • Leadership Project Planning 
  • Therapy in Schools: Best Practices 
  • Occupational Therapy Practice With Older Adults
  • Occupation and Adaptation in the Child and Adolescent 
  • Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation 

Graduation Rate: 93%

Tufts Occupational Therapy: Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Doctorate


New York University

New York University

New York University is a private four-year institution located in New York City. There are 51,847 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1. According to the US News and World Report, NYU ranks as the 29th best school in the nation, 10th best college for veterans, 19th for innovative schools among many other accolades. 

Over the years NYU has broadly expanded their online offerings and currently offers three online degrees in the field of therapy including their online Doctor of Occupational Therapy, online M.A. in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness, and online M.A. in Counseling and Guidance.  Take a glance at the curriculum for the M.A. in counseling for mental health and wellness: 

  • Foundations of Counseling
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Cross-Cultural Counseling
  • Internship for Counseling and Mental Health and Wellness

Graduation Rate: 85%

NYU Department of Occupational Therapy


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a public institution located in Champaign. There are 49,702 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 20:1. This is a research university with very high research activities according to Carnegie. According to US News, Illinois ranks as the 48th best university in the nation 14th best public school and 52nd for most innovative.

Illinois offers an online Master of Social Work (MSW) program. There are two enrollment options including the MSW advanced clinical option and the MSW Leadership and Social Change (LSC) option.  The advanced clinical uses a blended online/in person format whereas the LSC offers classes that are fully online. Take a glance at some of the coursework: 

  • Advanced Clinical Assessment and Interviewing
  • Advanced Methods Course
  • Field Practicum and Integrative Seminar
  • Social Work and the Law 

Graduation Rate: 86%

Master of Social Work at Illinois


Boston University

Boston University

Boston University is a private 4-year institution located in Boston, Massachusetts. There are 35,000 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 10:1. This is a doctoral university with very high research activity. BU currently ranks as the 40th best school in the nation, 18th best college for veterans, 48th best value school and 27th for most innovative schools tied with UPenn and UCLA.

The online post-professional doctorate in occupational therapy is one such way BU has innovated in recent years. This is a 33 credit hour doctoral program for working OT professionals. This online course may be completed in 18 months.  If you are interested in an accelerated doctoral program in OT then head here first. Take a look at some of the classes for this online degree: 

  • Evaluation Theory and Practice
  • Health Promotion and Wellness
  • Social Policy and Disability 
  • Evaluating Clinical Theory and Research
  • Outcomes Measurement and Monitoring

Graduation Rate: 85%

Boston University’s online Post-Professional Doctorate in Occupational Therapy


Northeastern University

Northeastern University

Northeastern University is a private four-year institution located in Boston Massachusetts. There are 21,627 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. Northeastern ranks as the 40th best school in the nation, 98th for value and 9th for innovation according to the US News and World Report.

Bouve College of Health Sciences offers an online Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis. The duration of this degree is 18-24 months and is completely online. The program is BACB accredited. Take a look at their curriculum: 

  • Behavioral Concepts and Principles
  • Behavior Assessment
  • Service Administration 
  • Applied Programming Seminar
  • Applied Learning Seminar 

Graduation Rate: 85%

Northeastern University Applied Behavior Analysis


As you can see there are many fantastic online programs for individuals looking to pursue a career in counseling, therapy, and social work.

Determining where to head to school can be tricky especially as schools expand their online presence.  Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of studying online. 


Pros and Cons of Studying Therapy Online

Pros of Studying Therapy Online 

More affordable- though often the same tuition costs, studying online saves in travel, room and board, and makes it possible for people to continue working- all money-savers. 

Continue Working- Let’s face it most adults returning to school can’t just quit their jobs.  Studying online may be the only way to continue working and pursue the advanced degree you need to become a therapist. 

Much More Convenient- Most programs are either fully online or require 1-2 on-campus intensives each year meaning that you can access course material from any location and at a time that works best for you. 

Cons of Studying Therapy Online 

Lack of the College Experience- Regardless of what you hear, studying online is not the same as studying in person.  Some people report better learning outcomes and engagement levels from an in-person experience.

Less Community- There is an online community and we are all familiar with ways to create relationships through online channels. Many people report that online communities do not truly replace the kind of community building that occurs face-to-face i.e., time with professors, informal conversations that occur in study groups and more. 

Not as much hands-on learning- Though you will be required to complete an internship or practicum, the online learning platform is not as tactile as in-person programming.  

Not all types of programs are available online- Many of the best departments of psychology require students to study on campus in specific laboratories. 

If you are interested in pursuing research it is highly likely that you will need to join a lab.  Some of the best departments in psychology come from the best schools in the world so some of the schools on our list are not going to come as a surprise.

Still others may surprise you! You may see more programming in neuroscience or computational programming that has an overlap in psychology. In fact, almost all programming in psychology is interdisciplinary. 

Should I Go Back to School to Become a Therapist?

Yes!  If this is your calling then the investment for time and money is absolutely worth it. We highly recommend heading back to school to become a therapist.  The jobs are on the rise and the salary is often good.  If you have the resources to invest this is an investment worth making! 

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Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor