Best Online Counseling Degree Programs

We've ranked the best online bachelor's in counseling programs. Compare schools and learn what careers await graduates with a bachelor's in counseling.

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by Staff Writers

Updated August 11, 2022

Reviewed by Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.

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Earning a bachelor's in counseling in person or at a top online school allows students to pursue careers in helping others overcome challenges and improve their lives.

Graduates may enter the workforce as substance abuse counselors, social workers, community service managers, or probation officers. Others use this degree as a stepping stone to a graduate degree and licensure as a marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor, or school counselor.

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Many of these professionals experience high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 23% job growth for substance abuse counselors and 15% employment growth for community service managers between 2020 and 2030.

To learn about the many counseling career opportunities, how to choose a program, and admission requirements, read our bachelor's in counseling program guide.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Counseling Program?

Students pursuing careers in counseling and social service need empathy, patience, and strong communication skills. Those who excel in analysis and problem-solving may also find success in this growing field.

Most online bachelor's in counseling programs require 120-130 credits and take approximately 3.5-4 years of full-time study to complete. Some schools offer a combined bachelor's and master's in counseling that allows students to earn both degrees in about five years. A practicum or internship allows enrollees to implement their learned skills.

Most programs offer concentrations that allow students to focus on their interest area. Some specializations include:

Addictions

Students interested in substance abuse counseling or social work in the field of addictions may consider this concentration.

Mental Health

This specialization focuses on treating individuals, families, and groups struggling with mental and emotional disorders. Mental health counselors need a master's and licensure.

Human Services

This concentration prepares students to work in community service organizations.

Child and Adolescent Development

This concentration propels learners toward a career helping children and adolescents overcome challenges and heal from trauma.

Christian Counseling

This specialization teaches students counseling methods from a Christian perspective.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.

Popular Online Counseling Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Counseling Program?

In addition to general education requirements and concentration coursework, most programs offer similar foundational courses. These classes cover topics like ethical considerations, counseling theories, assessment and treatment, and human growth and development. The following section highlights a few common classes in an online bachelor's in counseling program.

Introduction to Counseling

This introductory course lays the foundation for a bachelor's in counseling. Learners explore the field's various concentrations, fundamental concepts, and basic theories. Students also learn the duties and responsibilities of counselors in various settings, such as clinics, schools, and community centers.

Ethical Leadership

This class covers basic ethical principles and decision-making in counseling. Covered principles include confidentiality, informed consent, respect for autonomy, and nonmaleficence, or do no harm. Coursework covers the ethical dilemmas counselors face and the legal standards and codes specific to this profession.

Crisis Counseling

This course introduces students to crisis intervention models. Common topics include assessment strategies and necessary skills when interviewing individuals in crisis. Enrollees learn to recognize and assess substance and physical abuse, trauma, depression, and suicide. Participants explore the use of emergency intervention and ongoing crisis counseling.

Abnormal Psychology

This course explores the symptoms, causes, and treatment of abnormal behavior. Students learn diagnosis protocol and the sociocultural, psychological, and biological influences that shape behavior. Additional topics include clinical and pharmacological treatment options and ethical considerations for referral.

Social Psychology

This course delves into social behavior through the lens of psychology. Students learn the key theories behind how people think and why they behave and relate differently in specific settings. This course covers small group behavior, individual perception, stereotyped attitudes and behaviors, and the social influences and motivations that shape behavior and thoughts.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Counseling Program?

In most cases, admission requirements are similar or identical for on-campus and online bachelor's in counseling programs. Many programs ask for the materials listed below. In rare cases, you may need to complete an interview with a member of the admissions department.

Application

All online bachelor's in counseling programs require prospective students to fill out an application form. For some programs, applicants can submit materials to multiple schools at once through application systems like the Common App and Coalition App.

Test Scores

To gain admission into online bachelor's in counseling programs, you may need to take college entrance exams like the ACT or SAT and submit standardized test scores. Some schools list minimum scores.

Letters of Recommendation

Most online counseling programs require prospective students to submit 2-3 letters of recommendation. If you recently graduated high school, you should ask former teachers, counselors, or mentors to write these letters on your behalf. You can also ask recent managers or supervisors.

Essays

Many undergraduate programs require prospective students to submit 1-3 application essays. Counseling programs may ask for supplemental essays on topics like your professional and academic goals or a time you overcame a challenge.

Official Transcripts

All undergraduate programs ask for official transcripts from all previous colleges and high schools. These documents help schools determine how much AP or transfer credit to award you. For example, if you hold an associate degree from a community college, you can receive approximately 60 transfer credits.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Counseling Degree?

Career Outlook

A bachelor's in counseling degree prepares students for a career helping others overcome challenges and is one of the most popular majors. Whether serving communities as a social and community service manager or helping individuals overcome addictions as a substance abuse counselor, graduates find fulfilling careers supporting individuals and groups.

This degree can lead to high-paying positions experiencing high demand. For instance, the BLS projects 15% employment growth for social and community service managers between 2020 and 2030, which is much higher than the average 8%.

These managers earned a median annual salary of $74,000, which is nearly $30,000 more than the median salary for all other jobs.. Those who work for local governments earned a median annual wage of $93,420.

Learn more about counseling careers and see where a bachelor's in counseling can take you by visiting our counseling careers guide.

Career Paths

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers oversee community programs that support individuals and groups. These professionals serve diverse groups, including children; veterans; and those facing specific challenges, such as substance abuse, hunger, or homelessness. Specific duties may involve hiring and supervising staff, implementing programs, and evaluating programs for effectiveness. Some positions may require a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $74,000

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse or addiction counselors treat and support individuals struggling with addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex. They also help individuals struggling with eating disorders and other behavioral issues. Following evaluation, these counselors develop a treatment plan that includes teaching clients coping methods and helping them discover underlying triggers. Many use the principles of 12-step programs. Counselors pursuing private practice need a master's and licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $48,520

Social Worker

These professionals work with community organizations to improve programs, services, and social conditions impacting individuals and groups. They assist and advocate for people experiencing specific challenges, such as debilitating illnesses. While a bachelor's degree prepares graduates for entry-level positions, clinical positions require a master's and licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $50,390

Probation Officer

Probation officers assist and support individuals placed on probation. These officers create rehabilitation plans, provide resources and supervision, and monitor progress. They work closely with law enforcement, courts, and social service agencies. A probation officer may provide services like career training or support for those struggling with addictions. In many jurisdictions, probation officers must complete professional training at a state police academy.

Median Annual Salary: $60,250

Career Counselor

Career counselors help clients determine possible career choices and qualifications. Using aptitude assessments and evaluating education and training, these professionals help individuals find suitable jobs. Career counselors may work in colleges, employment and staffing agencies, social service offices, or private practices. Some positions require a master's and licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $60,510

Counseling Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

It's common for graduates to go on to pursue a master's degree in counseling. Since most states require a master's degree for counseling licensure, you need to earn an advanced degree for professional practice.

To meet state licensure requirements, master's programs in counseling usually include a practicum experience, which requires supervised hours under the direction of a licensed counselor. A master's in counseling is the most common continuing education path for graduates with a bachelor's in counseling.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Counseling Program?

Cost

The true costs of an online bachelor's in counseling program vary by school based on undergraduate tuition rates. In-state public universities usually offer lower tuition rates compared to out-of-state private schools. Online students also save on fees like transportation and room and board.

Program Format

Once you decide to enroll in an online bachelor's in counseling program, you should determine whether you prefer synchronous or asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning involves live, scheduled online courses that you must attend, while asynchronous learning does not. You should also determine whether to enroll part time, full time, or in an accelerated program.

Location

Even if you choose an online bachelor's in counseling program, you might want to attend a nearby school. Many counseling programs include in-person requirements through internships or practica. You may have an easier time arranging a placement site if you live near your school, which may have relationships with local employers.

Accreditation

You should only enroll at schools that hold institutional accreditation, which is third-party approval demonstrating quality educational programs. If you enroll at unaccredited schools, you cannot receive federal financial aid, transfer credit to an accredited school, and employers may not recognize your degree. Keep an eye out for counseling programs with accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Programs.

Student Support

In a field as demanding as counseling, student services can play an important role in your success in college, especially if you enroll online. Before committing to a school, research student support resources like mentorship opportunities, internship placements, tutoring, and career services.

Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Counseling Programs

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Best Online Bachelor's in Counseling Programs

  1. Toccoa Falls College
    Location

    Toccoa Falls, GA

    Tuition

    $21934

    TFC is a Christian university in Georgia that offers several online degrees, including a bachelor of science in counseling psychology. Online learning at TFC uses an asynchronous format that allows students to complete coursework remotely.

    Students typically take two courses per eight-week session. The curriculum includes coursework in crisis and trauma therapy, developmental psychology, psychology of religion, and Christ-centered counseling. TFC also gives students the opportunity to complete an independent study project that entails writing a research paper.

    Applicants must submit high school transcripts and SAT, ACT, or CLT test scores. Students must also submit a personal testimony statement detailing their relationship and commitment to Christ.

  2. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    Clarks Summit, PA

    Tuition

    $19704

    CSU is a Christian university in northeast Pennsylvania. The school offers several remote programs, including an online bachelor of science in counseling. CSU also offers a dual-enrollment program that allows students to begin graduate coursework and earn a bachelor's and master's in a shorter amount of time.

    The 123-credit bachelor's program uses an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete all coursework online at any time of day. The curriculum explores topics such as tests and measurements, personality theory, and marriage and family dynamics. The program does not require an internship, but CSU encourages students to complete one.

    CSU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and offers tuition discounts for Christian workers, military members, and CSU alumni. Applicants must submit official transcripts and complete an interview.

  3. Bay Path University
    Location

    Longmeadow, MA

    Tuition

    $21100

    Bay Path — based in Longmeadow, Massachusetts — offers an online bachelor's degree in counseling through the American Women's College. The program's asynchronous learning format may appeal to students who need to continue working or juggle other responsibilities.

    It typically takes four years to complete this program, but students may select an accelerated option and graduate faster. The curriculum includes communicating for leadership, behavioral research methods, and counseling ethics and professional development. Students must complete a capstone to graduate.

    Bay Path is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Applicants must possess a high school diploma with a minimum 2.0 GPA or a GED, HiSET, or TASC certificate. Applicants must submit official transcripts and complete a phone interview.

  4. Crown College
    Location

    Saint Bonifacius, MN

    Tuition

    $24220

    Crown is a Christian university located in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota. The school offers a variety of degrees, including an online bachelor's degree in counseling and psychology. Online learning allows students to complete all coursework remotely at any time of day.

    The 125-131-credit program typically takes four years to complete. Students explore topics such as the foundations of Christian thought, diversity issues in counseling, crisis intervention, and group dynamics.

    First-time college students should possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. Applicants must submit official transcripts from previously attended schools and a spiritual life essay. They also need to sign the Crown College Statement of Faith agreement form.

  5. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $27432

    Liberty — based in Lynchburg, Virginia — offers an evangelical Christian education in a variety of subject areas, including counseling. Its online bachelor's degree in Christian counseling is available entirely online and uses an asynchronous format. Liberty allows students to transfer in up to 75% of their degree requirements, which may save students time and money.

    The 120-credit program typically takes 3.5 years to complete and prepares students to pursue a graduate degree. The curriculum explores Christian counseling for marriage and family, Christian counseling for children, and psychology and Christianity. Students must complete an internship to graduate.

    To qualify, students must possess a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA in previous high school and/or college coursework. Applicants must submit official school transcripts, a high school self-certification form, and an online application.

  6. Ecclesia College
    Location

    Springdale, AR

    Tuition

    $19451

    Ecclesia College is a Christian university in Springdale, Arkansas. It offers several online degree programs, including a bachelor of science in psychology and counseling. Online learning at Ecclesia College uses an asynchronous format that allows students to complete all assignments remotely at any time of day.

    The 120-credit program uses a Christ-centered approach to prepare students for a career in counseling. The curriculum includes coursework in human sexuality; Holy Spirit in counseling; counseling skills; and urban social issues: people, problems, and policy. Students must also complete a capstone that involves a counseling practicum and a senior ministry project.

    Ecclesia College is nationally accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Applicants must submit proof of high school graduation (or the GED equivalent), SAT or ACT test scores, and references.

  7. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    Tuition

    $12420

    FHSU — in Hays, Kansas — offers an online bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in sociology with an addictions counseling track. Students may complete all coursework online, although some professors may require proctors for exams.

    The 120-credit program comprises general education, core, and track courses, including grant writing, social inequality, ethics in addictions counseling, pharmacology and high-risk medical issues, and client management procedures. Students must also complete an internship to graduate.

    To qualify, students must possess a high school diploma or GED certificate. FHSU also accepts transfer credits from regionally accredited colleges or universities. Applicants must submit official transcripts from previously attended schools and SAT or ACT test scores. Transfer students or adult learners over the age of 21 do not need to submit test scores.

  8. Calvary University
    Location

    Kansas City, MO

    Tuition

    $6768

    Calvary is a Christian university located in Kansas City, Missouri. It offers over 48 online degree programs, including a bachelor's in biblical counseling. Online learning uses an asynchronous format, and students typically complete the program in four years.

    This online bachelor's degree in counseling includes 126 credits and focuses on developing counseling skills based on biblical principles. The curriculum includes classes like introduction to Christian missions, counseling addictions, biblical counseling of youths, and counseling troubling emotions. Students must complete an internship and counseling project to graduate.

    Qualifying candidates must be high school graduates or possess a GED certificate. Applicants must submit official transcripts from previously attended schools, ACT or SAT scores, a pastoral reference form, and a personal reference. They also need to read the university's statement of faith. Calvary is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  9. Johnson University
    Location

    Knoxville, TN

    Tuition

    $18684

    JUTN is a Christian university in Knoxville, Tennessee. The school offers several online options, including a bachelor's program in pastoral care and counseling that caters to working professionals looking to launch a career in Christian counseling.

    Students who earn this bachelor's in counseling take 120 credits and can complete all coursework remotely. The curriculum covers topics like exegetical methods, conflict and communication, spiritual formation, and biblical teaching and preaching. Students must also complete a counseling ministry practicum.

    Prospective students must possess a high school diploma or GED certificate. The program requires applicants to submit official transcripts, ACT or SAT test scores, a reference from a spiritual mentor, and an essay. Students must also formally commit to the JUTN lifestyle.

  10. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Tuition

    $16779

    Based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent educates about 10,000 students annually. The school offers many options to distance learners, including an online bachelor's in clinical and counseling psychology that is taught from a Christian perspective. Faculty deliver online classes through eight-week sessions.

    In addition to general education requirements, participants take 36 credits of psychology courses, including a capstone seminar in ethics and professional identity. Students also complete 15 credits dedicated to the clinical and counseling psychology concentration, covering topics like group facilitation and counseling skills.

    To apply, online students must submit unofficial transcripts and proof of a government-issued ID. Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Counseling Programs

Is a bachelor's in counseling worth it?

The value of any online degree depends on several factors, including your individual goals and the program's quality. Nevertheless, for any student who wants to ultimately become a professional counselor, an online bachelor's degree in counseling may be worth it.

If you want to practice as a professional counselor, you must earn state licensure, which requires a master's degree in counseling. A bachelor's degree is a necessary step toward achieving that goal.

What can I do with a bachelor's in counseling?

If you aspire to ultimately become a licensed professional counselor, you can apply to master's programs in various counseling fields after earning a bachelor's in counseling. You can pursue programs in school counseling, mental health counseling, social work, and clinical psychology.

If you want to enter the workforce directly, you can find jobs as a probation officer or program officer within a nonprofit organization. After gaining a few years of professional experience, you can seek a career as a social and community service manager.

Are counseling majors in high demand?

Yes, counseling majors are in high demand. Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 23% job growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. This rate nearly triples the agency's average projected growth rate of 8% for all occupations during that period.

Keep in mind that you still need to earn a master's degree in counseling to qualify for state licensure as a professional counselor.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in counseling?

Salary potential depends on various factors, including experience, location, and employer. Furthermore, most counseling positions require a master's degree and state licensure.

However, once they have earned licensure, professional counselors can expect to make approximately $45,000-$60,000, according to the BLS. Counselors who work in private practice and in government jobs often make the highest salaries.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in counseling?

The highest-paying job you can get with a bachelor's in counseling is a social and community service manager. According to the BLS, as of May 2021, these professionals earned a median annual wage of $74,000. The highest 10% of earners made more than $118,650 annually.

Keep in mind that most these positions usually require years of professional experience in nonprofit organizations. To access other high-paying positions in counseling, you must earn a master's degree.

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