Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Programs in Tennessee

Alexander BuCher

Written by Alexander BuCher

Licensed Professional Counselor | Youngstown State University

Updated & Fact Checked: 01/31/24

When people think of Tennessee, they often picture Nashville country music and the Great Smoky Mountains. However, despite its festive culture and beautiful scenery, Tennessee recently ranked fourth for states with the worst mental health. This has led state leaders and local lawmakers on a search for ways to better the mental health of their residents.

One way the state is working to improve mental health is by providing money for the state’s Mental Health Trust Fund. This fund aims to increase mental health programming for individuals in K-12 education. The state has also designated funds from federal COVID-19 relief to programs for mental health.

According to O*Net Online, Tennessee’s need for mental health counselors will increase by 35% by 2030. This has led to many universities across the state developing graduate programs to train future mental health counselors to meet this need. Standout clinical mental health counseling programs include the prestigious Vanderbilt University along with programs at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Tennessee boasts an affordable cost of living and ample employment opportunities in thriving cities like Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville or rural communities across the state. Those who are counseling students and practicing counselors can join the Tennessee Counseling Association for a connection to other professionals in the state.

Master of Counseling Programs in Tennessee

To become a licensed mental health counselor in Tennessee, one must graduate from a mental health counseling program with 60 or more credit hours. There is no accreditation requirement for counseling programs within the state, however, there is a list of required courses by the state to become a counselor. Many programs fall under Online Programs, CACREP-Accredited Programs, and programs that do not require the Graduate Records Examination (GRE).

Online Master of Counseling Programs in Tennessee

There are many benefits to attending an online master of counseling program. Some benefits include the flexibility of courses, continued access to course materials, and the ability to take courses at your own pace. One program in Tennessee is based online and meets the requirements for licensure in the state.

CACREP-Accredited Master of Counseling Programs in Tennessee

Accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is becoming an increasingly popular feature of many masters of counseling programs nationwide. Some of the benefits of attending a CACREP-accredited program include meeting the requirements for most states and becoming familiar with other programs that are accredited. Many programs in Tennessee are CACREP-Accredited.

  • Program: Master of Science in Counseling
  • Accreditation: CACREP
  • 60 Credit Hours
  • In-person program located in Clarksville, Tennessee
  • Tuition: $6,582 per academic year (based on 18 credit hours per year) or $365.67 per credit hour for Tennessee residents
  • Tuition: $9,972 per academic year (based on 18 credit hours per year) or $554 per credit hour for non-residents of Tennessee
  • Program: Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling
  • Accreditation: CACREP
  • 60 Credit Hours
  • In-person program located in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tuition: $1,480 per credit hour (between 0-11 credit hours per semester)
  • Tuition: $17,685 per semester (based on 12 credit hours or more per semester)
  • Program: Master of Science in Counseling
  • Accreditation: CACREP
  • 60 Credit Hours
  • Hybrid program located in Jefferson City, Tennessee
  • Tuition: $475 per credit hour plus $55 technology fee per credit hour for a total of $530 per credit hour
  • Program: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Accreditation: CACREP
  • 60 Credit Hours
  • In-person program located in Johnson City, Tennessee
  • Tuition: $488 per credit hour plus a service fee of $125 per credit hour for a total of $613 per credit hour for residents of Tennessee
  • Tuition: $1,454 per credit hour for non-residents of Tennessee
  • Program: Master of Arts in Counseling
  • Accreditation: CACREP
  • 63 Credit Hours
  • In-person program located in Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Tuition: $610 per credit hour
  • Program: Educational Specialist in Professional Counseling
  • Accreditation: CACREP
  • 61 Credit Hours
  • In-person program located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Tuition: $536 per credit hour plus a fee of $82 per credit hour for a total of $618 per credit hour for Tennesee residents
  • Tuition: $1,483 per credit hour plus a fee of $82 per credit hour for a total of $1,565 per credit hour for non-residents of Tennesee
  • Program: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Accreditation: CACREP
  • 60 Credit Hours
  • In-person program located in Cookeville, Tennessee
  • Tuition: $632 per credit hour for residents of Tennessee
  • Tuition: $1,358 per credit hour for non-residents of Tennessee
  • Program: Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Accreditation: CACREP
  • 60 Credit Hours (2-year program) 
  • In-person program located in Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Tuition: $751 per credit hour for residents of Tennessee
  • Tuition: $1,779 per credit hour for non-residents of Tennessee

Tennessee Online, No GRE & CAREP Accredited Counseling Masters Programs

SpecialtyUniversity NameDegreeCityStateAccreditationModalityGRE Required?Program Length
Clinical Mental Health CounselingAustin Peay State UniversityM.S.ClarksvilleTNCACREP
School CounselingAustin Peay State UniversityM.S.ClarksvilleTNCACREP
Clinical Mental Health CounselingBelmont UniversityM.A.NashvilleTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2 Years
Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling\Belmont UniversityM.A.NashvilleTNCACREP
School CounselingCarson-Newman UniversityM.S.C.Jefferson CityTNCACREPOnline & CampusNo GRE Required3½ Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingCarson-Newman UniversityM.S.C.Jefferson CityTNCACREPOnline & CampusNo GRE Required3½ Years
School CounselingEast Tennessee State UniversityM.A.Johnson CityTNCACREPCampusGRE Required1 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingEast Tennessee State UniversityM.A.Johnson CityTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required1 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingJohnson UniversityM.A.KnoxvilleTNCACREP
School CounselingJohnson UniversityM.A.KnoxvilleTNCACREP
Clinical Mental Health CounselingLincoln Memorial UniversityM.Ed.HarrogateTNCACREP
School CounselingLincoln Memorial UniversityM.Ed.HarrogateTNCACREP
Clinical Mental Health CounselingLipscomb UniversityM.S.NashvilleTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2 Years
School CounselingMiddle Tennessee State UniversityEd.S.MurfreesboroTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required1 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingMiddle Tennessee State UniversityEd.S.MurfreesboroTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required1 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingMilligan UniversityM.S.MilliganTNCACREP
School CounselingSouthern Adventist UniversityM.S.CollegedaleTNCACREPCampusGRE Required1 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingSouthern Adventist UniversityM.S.CollegedaleTNCACREP
Clinical Mental Health CounselingTennessee Tech UniversityM.A.CookevilleTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2½ Years
Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingTrevecca Nazarene UniversityM.M.F.C./T.NashvilleTNCACREP
Clinical Mental Health CounselingTrevecca Nazarene UniversityM.A.NashvilleTNCACREP
Rehabilitation CounselingUniversity of MemphisM.S.MemphisTNCACREPCampusGRE Required2 Years
School CounselingUniversity of MemphisM.S.MemphisTNCACREPCampusGRE Required2 Years
Clinical Rehabilitation CounselingUniversity of MemphisM.S.MemphisTNCACREPCampusGRE Required2 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingUniversity of MemphisM.S.MemphisTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2 Years
School CounselingUniversity of Tennessee at ChattanoogaM.Ed.ChattanoogaTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required1 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingUniversity of Tennessee at ChattanoogaM.Ed.ChattanoogaTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required1 Years
School CounselingUniversity of Tennessee at KnoxvilleM.S.KnoxvilleTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingUniversity of Tennessee at KnoxvilleM.S.KnoxvilleTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingVanderbilt UniversityM.Ed.NashvilleTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2 Years
School CounselingVanderbilt UniversityM.Ed.NashvilleTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingTennessee State UniversityM.SNashvilleTNCACREPCampusNo GRE Required2 Years
Clinical Mental Health CounselingThe University of Tennessee at MartinM.SMartinTNCACREPOnlineNo GRE Required2 Years
CounselingThe University of TennesseeM.S KnoxvilleTNCACREPCampusGRE Required2½ years
Professional Counseling (with two concentrations: Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling)Middle Tennessee State UniversityEd.S.MurfreesboroTNCACREPCampus
School CounselingUniversity of Tennessee at MartinM.SMartinTNCACREPOnline60 credit hours
Professional Counseling (with concentrations in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling)Middle Tennessee State UniversityEd.S.MurfreesboroTNCACREP61 credit hours
The Counseling programs offered by the University of Memphis include specializations in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, College and Career Counseling, Disability Studies, School Counseling, and Addiction Counseling.University of MemphisM.S.MemphisTNCACREPNo GRE Required2 Years
CounselingAustin Peay State UniversityM.SClarksvilleTNCACREP

No GRE Required Master of Counseling Programs in Tennessee

The Graduate Records Examination (GRE) is a standardized test used to determine the aptitude of potential college admittance. However, many people get anxious about standardized tests or do not want their college admission based on test scores. 13 programs in Tennessee do not require the GRE for admission. 

One Online Program is based online and is at Southern Adventist University. 12 programs under the CACREP-Accredited Programs category and are at Austin Peay State University, Belmont University, Carson-Newman University, Freed-Hardeman University, Lincoln Memorial University, Middle Tennessee State University, Pentecostal Theological Seminary, Tennessee Tech, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Most Affordable Master of Counseling Program in Tennessee

Choosing an affordable Master in Counseling program is sometimes just as important as finding one that is academically sound. The most affordable master in counseling program in Tennessee is at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. The cost per credit hour is $365.67 for Tennessee residents and is CACREP-Accredited.

Accelerated Master of Counseling Programs in Tennessee

Due to the nature of counseling licensure requirements in Tennessee, there are not any programs labeled specifically as “accelerated.” However, the programs at Milligan University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville are advertised as able to be completed in two years. This means that the program goes over three semesters of the year to meet the requirements for licensure in this timeframe.

Required Courses for Licensure in Tennessee

According to the Tennessee Rules for Governing Professional Counselors, there are some requirements for graduate-level courses that must be completed to obtain licensure. The required courses for licensure in Tennessee are:

  • Theories of Human Behavior, Learning, and Personality
  • Abnormal Behavior
  • Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Evaluation and Appraisal Procedures
  • Group Dynamics, Theories, and Techniques
  • Counseling Techniques
  • Multicultural Counseling
  • Ethics
  • Research
  • Practicum and Internship

Counseling Licensure Requirements in Tennessee

There are two stages of counseling licensure in Tennessee. The first stage is the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) licensure and the second is the Licensed Professional Counselor with Mental Health Service Provider designation (LPC/MHSP). While both licenses allow a practitioner to practice independently without supervision, the LPC is not able to diagnose a mental health disorder. The State of Tennessee states “Should an LPC decide that the client needs to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to be treated, the client should be referred to an LPC/MHSP.

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) requirements:

To become licensed as an LPC in Tennessee, one must complete the following requirements:

  • Hold a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited program which includes 60 credit hours of coursework in counseling or a closely related field
  • Completion of a supervised field experience as either a practicum or internship that includes a minimum of 500 hours of training of which 300 hours must be completed in a mental health or community agency setting
  • Complete two years of professional experience which consists of at least 1,000 hours of face-to-face professional counseling work and 50 hours of supervision each year
  • Pass the National Counselor Examination administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors

Licensed Professional Counselor with a Mental Health Service Provider designation (LPC/MHSP) requirements:

  • Hold a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited program which includes 60 credit hours of coursework in counseling or a closely related field 
  • Completion of a supervised field experience as either a practicum or internship that includes a minimum of 500 hours of training of which 300 hours must be completed in a mental health or community agency setting
  • Complete a minimum of nine credit hours of coursework related to the diagnosis, treatment, appraisal, and assessment of mental disorders – these nine hours can be completed in the 60 hours of graduate coursework required for licensure
  • Complete two years of professional experience which consists of 1,500 hours of face-to-face counseling, 1,500 hours of clinically related work, and 150 hours of supervision 
  • Pass the National Counselor Examination administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors
  • Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors

Tennessee Counseling FAQs (Obtained via the Tennessee Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists)

How many hours of continuing education are required to renew my counseling license? 

It is required that anyone holding a counseling license complete ten hours of continuing education per year. Three clock hours must be in ethics or the Tennessee State Code. 

If I am licensed in another state, can I treat clients in Tennessee? 

A provider must be licensed in the state of Tennessee to provide treatment to a client in Tennessee or operate in a free clinic environment.

If I am from another state, can I provide telehealth counseling services to a client in Tennessee? 

Unless in a free clinic environment, the provider must be licensed in Tennessee, and the client must be in Tennessee.

How Much Does a Mental Health Counselor Make in Tennessee

According to O*Net Online, the average salary for mental health counselors in Tennessee is $43,950. This is less than the national average of $49,710.

How to Become a School Counselor in Tennessee

According to the State of Tennessee, there are four pathways that candidates can follow to obtain licensure as a school counselor. 

Pathway One:

To meet the requirements to obtain school counselor licensure via pathway one, the applicant must: 

  • Hold an advanced degree in school counseling from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Have completed a State Board-approved educator preparation program in school counseling
  • Be recommended by the approved education preparation provider 
  • Submit qualifying scores on all required assessments as defined in the Professional Assessments for Tennessee Educators Policy

Pathway Two:

To meet the requirements to obtain school counselor licensure via pathway two, the applicant must: 

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Be enrolled in a State Board-approved educator preparation program in school counseling with a job-embedded clinical practice
  • Be recommended by the approved education preparation provider 
  • Submit qualifying scores on all required assessments as defined in the Professional Assessments for Tennessee Educators Policy

Pathway Three:

To meet the requirements and obtain school counselor licensure via pathway three, the applicant must: 

  • Hold an advanced degree in a counseling field
  • Be enrolled in a State Board-approved educator preparation program in school counseling 
  • Have completed a minimum of 24 hours of coursework in school counseling
  • Be recommended by the approved education preparation provider 
  • Submit qualifying scores on all required assessments as defined in the Professional Assessments for Tennessee Educators Policy

Pathway Four:

To meet the requirements and obtain school counselor licensure via pathway four, the applicant must: 

  • Hold an advanced degree in school social work or school psychology from a State Board-approved educator preparation program or an educator preparation program approved by a state other than Tennessee
  • Be enrolled in a State Board-approved educator preparation program in school counseling
  • Be recommended by the approved school counseling educator preparation provider
  • Submit the required supervision agreement between the LEA and the approved educator preparation provider
  • Submit qualifying scores on all required assessments as defined in the Professional Assessments for Tennessee Educators Policy

How Much Does a School Counselor Make in Tennessee

According to O*Net Online, the average salary for a school counselor in Tennessee is $51,220 per year. This is less than the national average which is listed at $60,140.

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Tennessee

There are two “levels” of substance abuse counselors in Tennessee. Those two levels are simply named “Level One” and “Level Two.” The State of Tennessee gives information on how to obtain each level of licensure. 

Level One:

To become a Level One substance abuse counselor in Tennessee, one must meet the following requirements: 

  • Be 21 years of age
  • Possess good morals and ethics as defined by the Tennessee Code
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Complete 6,000 hours of experience where the applicant has performed in all eight domains defined in Tennessee Code
  • Complete 270 hours of alcohol and drug abuse counseling education within the eight domains where six of these hours are in professional ethics
  • Complete a written philosophy of treatment (done during the application stage) 
  • Pass a jurisprudence exam administered by the State Board
  • Pass the National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC) Level I written examination that is administered by the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCCAP) or the Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) written examination

Level Two:

To become a Level Two substance abuse counselor in Tennessee, one must meet the following requirements: 

  • Be 21 years of age
  • Possess good morals and ethics as defined by the Tennessee Code
  • Have a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral health related field with 4,000 hours of experience while providing alcohol and drug abuse counseling under the supervision of a qualified clinical supervisor or a master’s degree with 2,000 hours of experience while providing alcohol and drug abuse counseling under supervision 
  • Complete a written philosophy of treatment (done during the application stage) 
  • Pass a jurisprudence exam administered by the State Board
  • Pass the National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC) Level II written examination that is administered by the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCCAP) or the Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) written examination
  • Pass an oral exam on the eight domains listed under the Tennessee Code

How Much Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Make in Tennessee

According to O*Net Online, the average salary for a substance abuse counselor in Tennessee is $43,950. This is less than the national average of $49,710.

What Other Career Options Are Available to Those with a Degree in Mental Health Counseling

The skills learned in a Master of Counseling program open the door for many positions outside of the counseling profession. Some positions with this degree include human resources, governmental social services, education, and non-profit leadership.