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.
Updated August 11, 2022
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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:
Students interested in substance abuse counseling or social work in the field of addictions may consider this concentration.
This specialization focuses on treating individuals, families, and groups struggling with mental and emotional disorders. Mental health counselors need a master's and licensure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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 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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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