The first step in earning a master's degree in counseling is applying to a graduate school. You may need to submit the application to the school of your choice up to nine months before you begin to take classes toward your degree. Some schools will accept students up to one month before classes begin. The time required to assemble your application could take up to a month. You may need to include recommendations from previous professors, transcripts, test scores and writing samples. GRE scores can take up to four weeks to process. Each school has a different admissions requirements; see your school's admissions web page for more information. If you do not have a strong background in psychology from a previous degree, your school may require that you complete more courses before beginning graduate courses toward the master's degree.

Full Time

A full-time student can finish a master's in counseling in two years or less. The degree usually requires 45 to 60 credits, depending on the specialty and the school. If you can complete at least 15 credits per semester, the degree will take you no more than two years. The practicum and the thesis (a thesis is only necessary for an M.A.) will be easier to work into your schedule and complete on time if you are a full-time student.

Part Time

A part-time student cannot finish a master's in counseling in less than two years. Exactly how long the degree will take depends on how many courses you can complete per semester. Some schools will allow students to take as long as they need, while other schools have a time limit for completion of the degree. The practicum and the thesis will be harder to work into your schedule and complete on time if you are a part-time student.