Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Counseling and Psychology

Online graduate certificate programs in counseling and psychology sit somewhere in between bachelor’s and master’s programs. These are highly-focused programs with a short duration, and one can often complete them in under a year. Students applying to online graduate certificate programs in counseling and psychology will need at least a bachelor’s degree, and sometimes they’ll need a master’s degree in a related field, too. While certificate programs do not grant a formal degree, they provide specialized education in a niche field, certified by an accredited school.

Online graduate certificate programs in counseling and psychology serve many functions. They can help transition a working professional into a different subdiscipline, aid in the completion of continuing education credits, or advance one’s path towards certification or licensure.

Graduate certificates can also give a working counselor an added understanding of a field that correlates to their own: a marriage and family therapist could add training in substance abuse counseling, or a career counselor could add a specialization in industrial and organizational psychology. Their short duration, combined with the flexibility of their online delivery, make graduate certificate programs a quick and targeted way to build one’s competencies in counseling and psychology.

Counseling careers have demanding educational and experiential requirements. Some counseling professions are regulated at the state level, while others adhere to more informal professional certifications. Similarly, each graduate certificate program comes with its own highly customized curriculum, and it’s important to understand how that curriculum relates to a student’s personal and career goals. To get a look at all the details on online graduate certificate programs in counseling and psychology, check out our guide below.

Types of Graduate Certificate Programs in Counseling & Psychology

There are practically as many types of graduate certificates as there are professions. Check out our list below to see which one is right for you.

  • Addiction Counseling – Certificate programs in addiction counseling prepare students to work with clients who suffer from substance abuse related disorders.
  • Career Counseling – These certificate programs prepare students to work with individuals who need guidance in their career planning: whether transitioning fields, looking for their first job, or facing retirement.
  • Financial Counseling – Certificate programs in financial counseling focus on teaching students to help low- and middle-income households navigate their way to financial wellbeing.
  • Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) – These certificate programs prepare students for the unique counseling concepts that come with treating couples and families.
  • Psychology – Graduate certificate programs in psychology, which are generally grouped by subdiscipline, teach students the fundamentals of a specialized form of psychology.
  • PTSD Counseling – These graduate certificate programs help students promote the safe and effective care of individuals and communities that are dealing with trauma.
  • Rehabilitation Counseling – Graduate certificate programs in rehabilitation counseling teach students how to help people with disabilities to live independently.
  • School Counseling – Certificate programs in school counseling prepare students to work with K-12 students in promoting healthy academic, career, and social development.
  • Sports Counseling – Unlike sports psychology programs, which are primarily about athletic performance, sports counseling certificate programs take a holistic approach to the mental wellbeing and psycho-emotional needs of athletes.

Online Counseling Graduate Certificate Program Accreditation

Online graduate certificate programs are generally not accredited by the profession’s main accreditation authority. The American Psychological Association (APA) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), for example, only accredit some degree-granting programs. However, students in graduate certificate programs may still benefit by attending a program housed within a school accredited by the APA or CACREP, as some of the classes may be identical, and the curriculum may be set up with accreditation compliance in mind.

Students of graduate certificate programs should be certain, however, that their school is regionally accredited. This ensures that the program adheres to general standards around quality and content. Regional accreditation authorities recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) include:

  • The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Typical Admissions Requirements for Graduate Certificate Programs in Counseling & Psychology

Admissions requirements for graduate certificate programs in counseling and psychology will vary from program to program. All will require at least a bachelor’s degree, but some will require that the undergraduate degree be in a related field. Others will require a master’s degree, and some are specific about the major or focus of that degree program.

Common admissions requirements across all programs include: a bachelor’s degree; a competitive undergraduate GPA (3.0 or greater); a statement of purpose; and letter(s) of recommendation.

Supervised Clinical Hour Requirements – Graduate Certificate Programs in Counseling & Psychology

Not all graduate certificate programs in counseling and psychology will require supervised clinical hours, but programs that specifically prepare students for state licensure as a counselor or psychologist will. These requirements will vary from subdiscipline to subdiscipline, and from state to state, but generally include a supervised internship and/or practicum housed within the curriculum.

Even with online programs, this requirement will be included; however, the school will often coordinate with the student to find a local placement at an eligible location.

Featured Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Counseling & Psychology

Purdue University Global (Industrial/Organizational Psychology)

Purdue University Global offers an online graduate certificate for working professionals who wish to broaden their knowledge of industrial/organizational psychology in business and organizational settings. Coursework is focused on the latest learnings in human resources management and organizational leadership, including management, employee development, job motivation techniques, and training and evaluation.

Students also complete a field placement that will integrate academic knowledge and practical experience. The 30-credit program may be counted towards the completion of a master’s degree at Purdue Global.

  • Location: Indianapolis, IN
  • Duration: Eight to 12 months
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $420 per credit

Arizona State University (Addiction and Substance-Use Related Disorders)

ASU has an online graduate certificate in addiction and substance-use related disorders that pairs state of the art research with the expertise of licensed psychologists and counselors. The program is designed to increase competence to address the opioid crisis and marijuana legalization, develop expertise to work with special populations and individuals with co-occurring disorders, and expand the use of evidence-based treatments.

Intended for those with a bachelor’s degree from a behavioral health field, the 21-credit curriculum covers the core addiction-related content areas required for licensure in Arizona and several other states.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Duration: Six to 12 months
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $622 per credit

University of Missouri – College of Human Environmental Science (Financial Counseling)

The University of Missouri’s online graduate certificate in financial and housing counseling prepares graduates to help middle- and lower-income households take control of their economic security. Students learn how individuals and families can best meet their needs for housing, debt-recovery, and long-term financial planning.

Courses include topics such as advanced financial counseling; housing and real estate; tax planning; investment management; and employee benefits and retirement planning. The program consists of 18 credits, and all online students are eligible for in-state tuition through the Great Plains IDEA partnership.

  • Location: Columbia, MO
  • Duration: 12 to 24 months
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Tuition: $580 per credit-hour

Columbus State University- Department of Counseling, Foundations, and Leadership (Marriage & Family Therapy)

Columbus State University offers an online graduate certificate in marriage and family therapy that’s designed to address the need for clinicians to add training in concepts related to marriage and family systems. The program integrates cross-cultural considerations in all its courses, and focuses on the strengths and resilience of families.

Courses emphasize the experience of working directly with families and couples in conflict. Professionals who participate in CSU’s MFT certificate program will meet the didactic portion of state requirements for licensure as an MFT in Georgia, and can use the learning content to further their expertise in this area. The program consists of 15 credits.

  • Location: Columbus, GA
  • Duration: 8-12 months
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • Tuition: $210 per credit-hour

University of North Carolina, Charlotte – Division of Academic Affairs (School Counseling)

UNCC offers an online post-master’s certificate in school counseling for those who have already earned a graduate degree in counseling and want to become a licensed school counselor. The didactic section of the program includes three classes: the professional school counselor; consultation in school counseling; and advocacy and leadership in professional school counseling. The program consists of 12 credits, and includes a 300-hour supervised school counseling internship.

Online students work collaboratively with the certificate director to secure a convenient and acceptable internship site. Upon completion of the certificate and passing the Praxis II, students can be recommended for school counseling licensure in North Carolina, and this licensure may be reciprocal with other states.

  • Location: Charlotte, NC
  • Duration: Eight months
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • Tuition: $910 per credit-hour

California University of Pennsylvania – Department of Counselor Education (Sports Counseling)

California University of Pennsylvania’s online graduate certificate in sports counseling is designed to develop specialized counseling skills to improve the wellbeing, mental functioning, and physical performance of athletes. The program is rooted in American Counseling Association (ACA) code of ethics and the NCAA’s best practices for mental health.

Students will take best-practice-based courses in the foundations of sports counseling, the contextual dimensions of sports counseling, the knowledge and skills for the practice of sports counseling, and student-athlete mental wellness. While the program does not certify a graduate as a professional counselor, it may be utilized as continuing education for the licensed professional counselor (LPC) and nationally certified counselor (NCC) credentials.

  • Location: California, PA
  • Duration: One to two summer sessions
  • Accreditation: MSACS
  • Tuition: $526 per credit

University of California, San Diego – Department of Extension (Career Advising or Guidance Counseling)

UCSD has an online graduate certificate in career advising that helps graduates develop their clients’ strategies for achieving career goals. The program is designed for working career advisors and professionals in career advising roles who want to get the latest information on coaching techniques, career-building strategies, and current economic trends.

The 12-credit curriculum consists of three classes: foundation principles for career advisors, skill development for career advisors, and specialty areas for career advisors. Upon completion of the program, graduates will have learned the competencies of the Certified Workforce Development Professional (CWDP) national credential.

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Duration: Nine months
  • Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Tuition: $2,685 in total

Graduate Certificate in Counseling & Psychology Jobs

School Counselor

As part of a wider educational team, school counselors work at the K-12 level to provide personalized academic, social, and developmental support to students. They may help students choose their class schedules, plan their career goals, or connect with other social and educational resources. Outside of their one-on-one relationships with students, school counselors may also engage with the school and community as a whole, such as through awareness campaigns about bullying, eating disorders, or domestic abuse.

Due to their position of authority and influence over a young segment of society, school counselors will need to be certified and licensed by the state in which they practice. While precise requirements for licensure vary from state to state, they generally include a master’s degree in school counseling, a background check, and a state-administered exam. Those who already have a master’s degree in another area of counseling may pursue a graduate certificate in order to meet the didactic and supervisory requirements of licensure.

Financial Counselor

Financial counselors help low and middle-income families who are struggling with their finances. Working with a client, they review a household’s debt and savings, and offer proposals for how to lower the latter and increase the former. This may involve debt restructuring, reviewing tax structure, or connecting with ancillary financial services and resources. Financial counselors may also advise their clients on how to build healthy financial habits, and achieve financial wellbeing.

While financial counselors do not need to be licensed in order to practice, they may pursue optional certification. These industry-level credentials distinguish a financial counselor as competent, committed, and up-to-date on industry best practices. The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) offers one such certification, with its Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) credential. The education requirements for the AFC credential are covered in many online graduate certificate programs in financial counseling. Candidates will then need an additional 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience, and to pass a final certification exam.

Sports Counselor

Sports counselors use specialized knowledge around psychology and counseling to improve the wellbeing, mental functioning, and physical performance of athletes. Through the lens of athletics, they can help children and adults to develop their social, physical, and athletic skills. They may act as mediators, coaches, or confidants. On top of their conceptual expertise, they’ll also leverage experience in designing, organizing, and managing athletics programs that take into account the mental and physical wellbeing of its participants.

While sports counselors do not need to be licensed by the state in which they practice, many choose to pursue certification, such as the certified mental performance consultant (CMPC) credential from the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). CMPC holders have obtained objective validation of their expertise in helping their clients. While applicants will need a master’s degree in some area of counseling in order to be eligible for the CMPC designation, an online graduate certificate in sports counseling will give an applicant the specialized knowledge they need to earn it.

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog

Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California, and he believes a strong society demands a stronger mental health system. Since early 2018, he’s written extensively about emerging topics in counseling, research, and healthcare education. Drawing upon interviews with hospital CEOs, healthcare professionals, professors, and advocacy groups, his writing and research are focused on learning from those who know the subject best.