A bachelor's in counseling program prepares students to help others overcome challenges and live their best lives. Students may focus on a specific population, such as children, the elderly, or those living with addiction challenges. Some of the top online schools prepare graduates to work in various settings, including schools, community service organizations, healthcare settings, and correctional facilities.

While this degree qualifies graduates for entry-level work in case management and supervised counseling positions, many pursue a master's degree that readies them for one-on-one counseling.

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 3,600 people earned a bachelor's and over 32,000 people earned a master's degree in one of the many counseling fields in 2018-2019. One of the most popular majors is psychology.

An online bachelor's in counseling takes about four years of full-time study to complete. Some accelerated options reduce completion times. According to a BestColleges data report, the average cost of tuition and fees in the U.S. was $19,020 per year at four-year schools in 2020-2021. According to Payscale, those with a BA in counseling earn an average yearly salary of $51,000.

Keep reading to learn more about the most popular online counseling degree programs and the various career paths you can choose from in the field.

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

Counselors can change people's lives for the better. They may help people navigate difficult situations and make better choices in the future. This requires empathy, excellent communication skills, and a desire to make a difference.

Earning an online bachelor's degree in counseling requires about 120-125 credits and takes 3.5-4 years of full-time enrollment to complete. Students gain a broad understanding of general psychology, abnormal psychology, family therapy, and crisis intervention.

Because most states require a master's degree and licensure to practice one-on-one counseling, a bachelor's in counseling often acts as a stepping stone to a master's degree.

While specializations play a stronger role at the graduate level, those earning an undergraduate degree can start directing their studies toward their area of interest. The following represent typical concentrations:

Most of these programs require a practicum or internship, allowing students to gain hands-on experience. Some colleges offer a combined bachelor's and master's degree in counseling, enabling students to earn both degrees in about five years. At the master's level, students complete a clinical internship to meet licensure requirements.

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

How Do I Know If an Online Program Is Popular?

When researching popular online bachelor's in counseling programs, consider their enrollment statistics, graduation rate, and job outlook data. You can find this information on schools' websites, the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard, and NCES's College Navigator.

Student testimonials offer another indicator of the education quality and interest level. You can also find these statements on many colleges' websites.

In 2020, over 14 million students enrolled in online courses at colleges and universities, according to NCES. Online learning offers greater flexibility, enabling students to pursue a degree while meeting other obligations, such as work and family care.

But it may not be the best idea to choose your college based on name recognition alone. Counseling programs at unfamiliar colleges may better fit your academic and career goals.

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

Human Behavior and the Environment

This course explores the relationship between family structures and communities and a person's behavior and identity. Students also gain an understanding of complex issues facing different populations within society.

Prevention and Crisis Intervention

This class examines the difference between prevention and intervention strategies and where each fits into the counseling model. Covered topics include appropriate prevention techniques and the risk factors contributing to crises.

Introduction to Psychology

Students learn about the major psychological theories and concepts. This consists of the motivational factors that influence a person's thoughts and actions. Additional topics include problem-solving and ethical decision-making in counseling.

Theories of Counseling

This course introduces learners to the major approaches, techniques, and principles in counseling. Students analyze different schools of thought and how they can incorporate them into helping others.

Case Management for Addiction Counseling

This course explores the accepted practices for managing alcohol and drug misuse cases. Covered topics include treatment planning, record keeping and referral protocol. Students also learn how to educate clients.

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

Most schools maintain similar admission requirements for prospective online and on-campus students. Some popular online bachelor's in counseling programs may be more selective in their admissions process. These programs may require personal interviews. Review application procedures closely, as the process varies by school.

Application

Most colleges accept applications through online portals. Many schools also accept undergraduate applications online via application systems like the Common App. These enable students to submit one application to multiple colleges. Application forms typically require basic contact information, references, GPA, and extracurricular activities.

Test Scores

Some schools require college entrance exam scores. Most colleges accept SAT or ACT scores. Other schools hold test-optional policies. When scores are optional, consider sending them if they enhance an application package. International applicants may need to submit TOEFL or IELTS test scores to demonstrate English proficiency.

Letters of Recommendation

Many programs require 2-3 letters of recommendation. These letters should come from a student's high school teachers and counselors. Ideally, learners should ask for letters of recommendation from someone that can speak to their academic abilities and potential in a counseling career. Aim to request these letters at least four weeks before the college application deadline.

Essays

College application essays demonstrate a student's writing abilities. They also allow admissions officers to get to know a student apart from test and GPA scores. Colleges may ask an applicant to answer specific questions or respond to broader prompts. Consider writing about transformational events and what you can contribute to the school as an undergraduate student.

Official Transcripts

Students must submit official transcripts from their high school and all postsecondary institutions attended. Many online undergraduate counseling programs require a minimum 2.0-2.25 GPA. Some programs allow students to transfer up to 75% of the degree's required credits. This saves students transferring from community colleges to universities a lot of money.

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

Career Outlook

A bachelor's degree prepares graduates for entry-level occupations, like case management in social work and supportive roles in community service and criminal justice.

Some states allow counselors with a bachelor's degree to help people living with addiction or behavior disorders. These counselors must work under the supervision of a licensed counselor with a master's degree. While state requirements vary, most counselors in private practice must earn their master's, gain clinical experience, and obtain their license.

Students who earn a graduate degree in counseling and gain licensure may pursue roles like family therapists, rehabilitation counselors, and mental health therapists.

The projected job outlook for counselors is well above the national average of 8% for all jobs. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) projects 23% job growth for addiction counselors from 2020-2030. These professionals earned a median yearly wage of $48,520 as of May 2021.

See where a bachelor's in counseling degree can take you. Learn more about counseling careers.

Career Paths

Addiction Counselor

Addiction counselors work with people managing alcohol or drug misuse. They may work with individuals or groups and incorporate the basics of 12-step programs. Clients may be voluntary participants or require counseling as part of a judge's sentencing. Counselors with a bachelor's degree usually work under the supervision of a licensed clinical counselor.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $48,520


Social Worker

Entry-level nonclinical social workers typically require a bachelor's degree. These professionals assist their clients by helping them connect with community resources. They may specialize in supporting a specific population, such as children, families, veterans, or people with chronic diseases. Clinical social workers who supervise or perform counseling need a master's and licensure.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $50,390


Social and Community Service Manager

The minimum requirement to pursue a role as a social and community service manager is a bachelor's degree and several years of experience. These managers usually oversee programs that support community members. This may include administrative tasks, budgeting, and determining the effectiveness of their organization's programs and services.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $74,000


Case Manager

Case managers may interview clients to assess their needs, such as housing, healthcare, employment, or food. They monitor clients' progress, write up plans, and coordinate care between service providers and individuals. Unlike social workers, case managers usually do not provide counseling.

Average Annual Salary (July 2022): $40,740


Victim's Advocate

These advocates provide emotional support and offer crisis management for survivors of violent and traumatic crimes. These professionals may work with law enforcement. They can help people find needed resources, apply for compensation, and access benefits. They typically act as a liaison between their client and the criminal court system.

Average Annual Salary (June 2022): $38,780


Counseling Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Many graduates who earn a bachelor's in counseling go on to pursue a master's. These advanced degrees may lead to more opportunities, enabling degree-holders to pursue licensing for one-on-one counseling roles. In a master's program, students usually specialize with a concentration.

A few common advanced degrees students pursue include:

Should I Choose a Popular Online Bachelor's in Counseling Degree Program?

Popular online bachelor's in counseling programs may seem like the best option. However, it's better to consider which program is right for your career and academic goals.

Find the online programs that offer your area of interest. Then, research each school, including its values and the opportunities it provides online students. The following represent essential considerations when choosing an online program.

Additional Program Factors to Consider

Cost

Tuition for online bachelor's in counseling programs varies by school type and a student's residency status. In-state students attending public institutions usually pay lower tuition rates. However, some online programs do not charge out-of-state fees. When choosing a school, consider the costs of online versus on-campus programs and the true cost of online programs.

Program Format

Schools may offer synchronous or asynchronous online learning formats. Asynchronous learning allows students to access lectures at their convenience. Synchronous learning usually involves weekly scheduled virtual class sessions. In addition, some programs offer part-time or full-time enrollment. Others provide accelerated bachelor's degrees that reduce the time to completion.

Location

Location should also factor into whether students attend college online or on campus. Some online programs require on-campus participation, requiring learners to consider travel costs. In addition, some public colleges charge online students nonresident fees. Online students may also appreciate living close to campus to participate in networking or internship opportunities.

Accreditation

Online college and programmatic accreditation ensure that schools and programs offer the highest quality education. Accreditation also affects federal financial aid, college credit transfers, and degree recognition. While undergraduate programs in counseling do not receive accreditation, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredits graduate programs.

Student Support

Student services play an important role in a student's success. Schools offer varying levels of online student services. Some offer mentorship opportunities, career services, and tutoring. Others provide support in finding local internship placement. In addition, an active and engaged alumni network allows students to make meaningful connections.

Most Popular Accredited Online Bachelor's in Counseling Degree Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $390
Out of State | $390

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

A private Christan college based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty offers one of the state's most popular counseling degrees. The school's BS in psychology program emphasizes crisis counseling, training students to provide immediate, short-term counseling to clients experiencing recent trauma. The program offers a biblical approach to psychology, framing coursework in the context of Christian values.

Program applicants must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA. Liberty does not require candidates to submit SAT or ACT scores.

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#2

East Central University

School Information
Location Ada, Oklahoma
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 37%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 65% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $316
Out of State | $541

Credits to Graduate
124

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

Located in Ada, Oklahoma, ECU offers a BA in human services counseling. Candidates gain the skills needed to pursue entry-level careers in counseling and case management. This online bachelor's in counseling offers five concentration options: aging, counseling, rehabilitation, services to the Deaf, and prevention science.

Applicants must submit transcripts. ECU may require ACT or SAT scores depending on an applicant's level of study. Individuals applying as first-time college students must have a GPA of at least 2.25.

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#3

Toccoa Falls College

School Information
Location Toccoa Falls, Georgia
Admission Rate 60%
Graduation Rate 46%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 65% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $360
Out of State | $360

Credits to Graduate
126

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

A Christian college, TFC offers online and in-person education from its main campus in Toccoa Falls, Georgia. The school's bachelor's in counseling combines training in counseling theory with labs and practicum experiences. The program offers two concentration options in social work and counseling in ministry.

Applicants must submit high school or college transcripts and a personal testimony that explains their relationship to Christianity. TFC does not require standardized test results. Applicants may also undergo a personal interview.

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#4

Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix

School Information
Location Phoenix, Arizona
Admission Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 58%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 57% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $561-$661
Out of State | $561-$661

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

One of the country's largest online education providers, ASU hosts a popular online BA in psychology program. Students complete a curriculum that builds broad knowledge of human behavior and counseling practices. Covered course topics include research methods, statistics, and brain functions.

Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA or be in the top 25% of their high school graduating class. Applicants must also submit SAT or ACT scores, which may affect their course placement and scholarship opportunities.

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#5

University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

School Information
Location Cincinnati, Ohio
Admission Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 71%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $549
Out of State | $564

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

A top public college, UC offers one of the most popular counseling degrees in Ohio. The school's BS in substance abuse counseling program trains students to help clients living with drug and alcohol dependency. The program curriculum prepares graduates to obtain chemical dependency counselor licensure in Ohio and several other states.

First-year applicants must hold a minimum 2.7 GPA. Transfer students from other colleges must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA on all college coursework.

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Popular Online Counseling Programs

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

How We Rank Schools

In order to create the Best Online Degree Program in Counseling ranking, the BestColleges Rankings Team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

We identified five schools that qualify for our ranking list, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (50%), affordability (25%), and the availability and popularity of online programs (25%).

Frequently Asked Questions About Popular Counseling Degree Programs

Are popular online bachelor's programs more difficult to get into?

The admission requirements for online bachelor's programs often do not differ from a school's on-campus requirements. That means popular, competitive colleges are usually more difficult to get into, whether a student is pursuing an online or on-campus education.

Some of the hardest colleges to get into include Columbia University, Stanford University, and Harvard University. That said, many online programs offer the same content and quality education as their on-campus counterparts. Some schools have rigorous admission requirements, while others accept most applicants.

What are the most popular college majors?

According to NCES, of the 2 million bachelor's degrees conferred in 2019-2020, 58% were in six fields. Business made the top of the list as the most popular college major. Health professions and related programs came in second, followed by social sciences and history.

Engineering, biological and biomedical sciences, and psychology rounded out the programs with the highest number of bachelor's degrees. Between the 2009 and 2019 academic years, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in business increased by 8%. In comparison, the number of bachelor's degrees conferred in health professions grew by 98%.

How should I choose an online degree program?

When exploring online degree programs, some important considerations include cost, location, and student support services. Consider the net cost of the tuition most students pay after factoring in financial aid. Also, research if the college charges nonresident fees for out-of-state online students.

Accreditation also plays a critical part in choosing a college. Accreditation ensures quality education and that employers and other colleges recognize the degree. The U.S. Department of Education provides a Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Are the most popular online programs also the highest quality?

An online program's popularity can be an indication of its quality. Many colleges with the highest online enrollment built a solid reputation for a high-quality education. Keep in mind that some colleges have bigger promotion budgets, and what's right for one student isn't necessarily the best college for another.

A few important considerations include the instructors, accreditation status, and learning format. Asynchronous learning is ideal for students with additional responsibilities, such as full-time work or caring for a family. Students that thrive in an environment with interactions between students and instructors may consider synchronous online learning formats.

What jobs can I get with an online bachelor's in counseling?

An online bachelor's in counseling prepares graduates for entry-level roles. A few of the positions these degree-holders qualify for include social workers, substance misuse counselors, and victim's advocates.

These professionals may work in hospitals, prisons, community service organizations, and addiction centers. While finding a job as a recent college graduate can seem overwhelming, with the right tools and attitude, you can secure your first professional job.

Many students pursue a graduate degree after earning their bachelor's in counseling. A master's, along with clinical experience, readies them for state licensure, enabling them to provide one-on-one counseling.

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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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