Mental HealthNewsResearch

Graduate counseling degrees rose 31.5% between 2016 to 2020, a new study reports

45% of these degrees were online, Grand Canyon University conferred the most.

Story Highlights
  • Graduate level counseling degrees rose 31.5% between 2016-2020.
  • 45% of the degrees conferred were completed online.
  • Grand Canyon University (online) conferred the most graduate level counseling degrees.

The United States is experiencing an unmet demand for behavioral health care. According to an APA survey, the increasing demand and low access to care due to retirements, providers leaving the profession entirely, and the effects of COVID-19, waitlists, and ongoing referrals are preventing access to care. Nonetheless, a new study conducted by OnlineU shows that between 2016-2020, behavioral health counseling degree conferrals rose 31.5%, 45% of which were completed online. Grand Canyon University (online) ranked the highest among conferrals in graduate-level behavioral health counseling degrees at 1,135 conferrals in 2020, 72.8% of the total graduate mental health counseling degrees conferred nationwide between 2016-2020. Liberty University (online) ranked second in the total conferrals of graduate-level behavioral health counseling degrees at 1,026 conferrals in 2020.

In a statement to Clinical Times, Dr. Sherman Elliott, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University, said, “Grand Canyon University has been very intentional about addressing the global mental health crisis and the growing need for professional counselors. There are a number of differentiators that have allowed us to do that at a large scale.” Elliott continued by saying, “First of course is GCU’s experience and expertise in online education. A lot of people think of online classes as being very passive. Ours is not. In addition to using technology and multimedia to increase engagement with students on a daily basis, we also focus on the counselor identity piece, which is unique. Our faculty are not just teaching classes. They are setting up appointments with students to talk about how to form you and shape you as a counselor.”

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Clinical Times asked Grand Canyon University if it would clarify the numbers in the study by revealing how many of its counseling degree graduates between 2016-2020 and 2020 alone received state licensure. GCU did not provide those numbers, but instead, Elliot explained that the University does a lot to aid in their students obtaining licensure, adding, “Another differentiator is what we do behind the scenes to 1) ensure we understand the different state-specific licensure requirements, and 2) create opportunities for students to get field experience and guide them through practicums and internships. We have students in nearly all 50 states, so that is a massive undertaking. Once those partnerships are established, we’re not just sending those students off to a practicum or internship. Our faculty are intimately involved in supporting students throughout that process.”

Elliot continued to explain, “We also prepare students who seek to become licensed counselors to meet state-specific requirements. We embed questions they will see in professional licensure exams into the tests they take in class and also offer free test prep help before they take their licensure test.” Clinical Times also asked why the University believes students choose GCU over its ranking counterparts. Elliot noted that “…GCU has a financial model that allows us to offer these programs at a tuition rate that makes it possible for people to pursue their passion of becoming a therapist or counselor. That is part of our ministry to make it affordable for anyone who wants to pursue that path.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter @WilliamDMcGhee.

Disclaimer: The author of this post is an undergraduate student in the School of Behavioral Health at Liberty University. Clinical Times does not feel the author has a conflict of interest because the author had no and does not have any involvement with the process of Liberty University conferring graduate degrees at the time of this article’s publication.

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William McGhee

William Dalton McGhee is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Times and writes from time to time. He is a credentialed journalist with the Society of Professional Journalists, a Correspondent with Campus Reform, and a Champion at Liberty University. Follow William McGhee on Twitter @WilliamDMcGhee.

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