Apply for Northwestern University’s Online Counseling Degree Program

Apply for Northwestern University's Online Counseling Degree Program

Are you interested in becoming a licensed counselor or therapist? Do you want the flexibility of an online degree, with the prestige of a top-ranked university? If so, Northwestern University’s online Master of Science in Counseling degree may be the perfect fit.

In this complete guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Northwestern’s online counseling program – from admissions requirements to course topics and career outcomes. Whether you’re just starting your research or ready to apply, read on to find out if Northwestern’s online counseling degree is right for you!

Overview of the Program

Northwestern University is consistently ranked one of the top universities in the world. What many don’t realize is that they also offer a fully online Master of Science in Counseling degree through their School of Professional Studies.

This CACREP-accredited program prepares students to become licensed mental health counselors. It’s the same rigorous curriculum taught on campus, with the flexibility to complete your degree from anywhere.

Some key details:

  • 100% online: Complete your degree without ever visiting campus
  • 2-3 years to complete: Full-time students graduate in 2 years. Part-time options allow you to complete the program in 3 years.
  • Rolling admissions: Apply at any time and begin classes in September, January or April
  • Competitive tuition: Cost is on par with other top online counseling programs

The next sections will walk you through the nitty-gritty details of academic requirements, course plan, admissions, and more.

Admissions Requirements and Prerequisites

Northwestern has competitive admissions for this top-ranked program. Meeting the minimum requirements listed below is no guarantee of acceptance. That said, here is what you’ll need:

  • Bachelor’s degree: From an accredited undergraduate university
  • 3.0 GPA: Minimum GPA for consideration
  • GRE scores: While technically optional for this program, submitting GRE scores can strengthen your application
  • Recommendations: 2 letters of recommendation from undergraduate professors or work supervisors
  • Admissions essay: Personal statement on your interests and goals in counseling
  • Interview: Candidates will need to interview after initial application review

In terms of prerequisites, Northwestern expects applicants to have taken an introductory statistics course and an introductory psychology course. These are the foundations you’ll need before diving into the advanced coursework.

While there are no hard guidelines for undergraduate major, most successful applicants have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology or related field. Degrees in Social Work, Human Development, and Education can also provide relevant foundations.

Curriculum: What Courses Are Required?

Northwestern’s online counseling degree includes 48 credit hours of coursework, completed over 2-3 years by taking 2-4 classes per quarter. This mixes required counseling courses with interdisciplinary electives of your choice.

Here is a high-level overview of the course plan:

Counseling Core (32 credits required)

  • Theories & Techniques of Counseling
  • Assessment for Counselors
  • Group Counseling
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Career Counseling
  • Addiction Counseling
  • Family Systems Therapy
  • Consultation for Counselors
  • Practicum & Internship

Electives (16 credits required)

  • Human Growth & Development
  • Trauma & Crisis Intervention
  • Counseling Adolescents
  • Child & Adolescent Psychopathology
  • Ethics in Counseling
  • Mindfulness for Counselors
  • Counseling Skills
  • Research & Program Evaluation
  • Couples Therapy
  • Expressive Arts Therapy

This flexible elective structure allows you to customize around your counseling interests. For example, if you want to counsel children, you can focus electives like Counseling Adolescents and Child/Adolescent Psychopathology.

For more details on specific course topics, I recommend checking out Northwestern’s counseling course descriptions. This will give you an inside look at the advanced topics covered in each class.

Career Outcomes: Jobs, Licensure and Salaries

Pursuing an online counseling degree is a major investment of time, effort and tuition. So what careers and earning potential can you expect post-graduation?

Northwestern University’s career resources will coach you on leveraging the counseling program for maximum career success. Broadly, here is what you can expect:

Jobs and Work Settings

As a graduate of Northwestern’s counseling program, you’ll be equipped for diverse counseling and therapy roles including:

  • Mental health counselor
  • School counselor
  • Career counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Marriage and family therapist

Work settings and employers include:

  • Hospitals
  • Community health centers
  • Private counseling practices
  • K-12 schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Non-profit organizations


To become a licensed counselor, students will need to pursue independent licensure after completing Northwestern’s degree program. This includes up to 3,000 additional supervised clinical hours, depending on your state regulations.

Northwestern will provide support and career coaching on the most efficient licensure path for your counseling interests and location.


Once licensed, counseling graduates can expect strong compensation reflecting Northwestern’s elite reputation and the growing demand for mental health services.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for licensed mental health counselors and marriage/family therapists is $48,040. However, seasoned counselors at top healthcare providers, private practices and schools often earn over $75,000 per year.

How To Apply: Deadlines, Requirements and Tips

Ready to take the next step in joining Northwestern’s online counseling program? Here is what you need to know about the application process:

When Can I Apply?

Northwestern uses a rolling admissions policy for the online counseling program. This means there are no official application deadlines – you can submit your application materials year-round.

That said, Northwestern enrolls new online counseling cohorts three times per year in September, January and April. It’s recommended to apply up to six months before your desired start date.

Late applications may still be considered depending on availability in the upcoming cohort.

What Are The Application Requirements?

Northwestern requires the following elements for complete online counseling degree applications:

  • Application Form: General admissions form with personal + academic background
  • Transcripts: Official transcripts from all undergraduate/graduate institutions
  • $75 Application Fee: Payable via credit card
  • Test scores: GRE scores are optional but frequently submitted
  • Letters of Recommendation: 2 letters from professors or work supervisors
  • Admissions Essays: Personal statement and second short-answer question
  • Interview: If initially accepted, an admissions interview is required before confirming enrollment

Tips for Applying

Follow these tips to submit the strongest possible counseling program application:

  • Highlight counseling experience: Any internships, volunteer work or jobs in counseling, social work, case management etc.
  • Get recommendations lined up early: Give your references at least 2 month’s notice!
  • Perfect the essays: Create multiple drafts. Have others edit for clarity/flow.
  • Ace interview answers: Practice talking eloquently about your skills, interests and goals.
  • Apply early: Spots can fill quickly! Submit at least 6 months before your desired cohort.

Is Northwestern’s Online Counseling Degree Right for Me?

Deciding whether Northwestern’s program aligns with your goals and needs can be challenging. To help break down the decision, here are key questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I fully committed to pursuing licensure and a career in counseling or therapy?
  • Do I value Northwestern’s reputation enough to justify a premium tuition investment?
  • Can I meet Northwestern’s competitive GPA and admissions standards?
  • Is an online degree from a world-class university the right fit over local/cheaper alternatives?
  • Am I comfortable with limited face-to-face interaction and forging connections virtually?

If you answered “yes” to the above considerations, Northwestern’s online counseling degree could prove to be the perfect platform to launch your counseling career.

Wrapping Up

I hope this complete guide answered all your questions about Northwestern University’s esteemed – and increasingly popular – online counseling degree program.

Northwestern’s flexible yet rigorous curriculum, career support resources and prestigious reputation create a powerful springboard to begin helping others through professional counseling roles.

If you’re ready to join Northwestern’s next online counseling cohort, don’t delay on submitting your application. Spots fill up quickly! Use my application tips and resources above to make sure yours stands out.

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