Online Counseling Degrees

Many schools offer online counseling degree programs. Counselors typically play a pivotal role in the lives of people with mental health issues. And since there is an uptick in stress and substance abuse in society, these skills may be useful. If a therapy related job sounds interesting, one option is to pursue a counseling degree online.

An online counseling degree often studies concepts about human growth, behavior and the mind. Then frames the practical skills needed to help people cope with problems. Like trauma, substance abuse, anxiety and PTSD. One may find online counseling degrees at all levels. Bachelors, masters and PhDs. At each level you may learn methods to assess and treat mental health issues. With that, you may to learn to communicate clearly and listen carefully. 

Bachelors programs in this field are foundational. Once you graduate, you may pursue some careers related to psych and behavior. Or, continue to earn a grad degree to prep for any next steps.  

Masters programs in this field tend to go deeper into practitioner skills. Many programs include an internship and may prep you to take counselor license exams. Once you graduate and earn your license, there are many career paths.  

PhD programs in this field highlight research and upper level decision making. Grads may have expanded skills to help people, couples and families. And many use their skills to teach and craft policy.  

Bachelor’s in Counseling

An online bachelors program in this field is an entry level degree. It tends to entail 120 credits which may take four years to complete. Many schools offer either a BA or BS in Counseling. Standard curricula between a BA and a BS in this field can vary. But both likely cover psych theory, principle, and practice.  

As a basic rule, learners in a BA program may take classes about the mind, behavior and social contexts. Also likely are topics in the liberal arts such as history and sociology. A BS in this field may include similar topics in subsets of psych. At the same time, you may to have more classes in research methods, statistics and analysis.  

Either program may serve as a platform for further study. And if specified, may help prep you to take state board exams. As an aside, these programs often include an internship. To qualify for admission, you need a high school diploma (or equal) with an acceptable GPA. Some schools also ask for official SAT or ACT scores and set bench marks for these too. 

Another factor is the cost of an online bachelors degree in this field. As per DataUSA, the average cost of a counseling psych degree in 2017 was $7,094. That’s if you study in state at a public school. Tuition is higher ($27,580) at private schools. 

Master’s in Counseling

An online masters is a grad degree. It tends to entail 60 credits and an internship which may take from two to three years to complete. Many schools may offer either a MA or MS in Counseling. Curricula can change between academic programs and those that fulfill state rules for counselor licenses.  

As a rule of thumb, programs that prep you to take state exams may include a practical part. While more academic programs may ask for a final written thesis. Career skills are central to both MA and MS programs. So, core classes are likely to equip you to help people live more fully functional lives.  

Apart from theories about growth (normal and abnormal), many programs hone skills in diagnosis. So, you may study ways to assess personality, behavior, group and one to one counseling methods. Beyond the core, students often choose an anchor point to help steer their career. A few areas are mental health, school and addictions counseling.  

To qualify for admission, you need a bachelors degree. Some schools may list an approved major and a min acceptable GPA range. Along with your application, you often submit GRE scores, resume and an essay. A back ground check may be asked of you too.  

PhD in Counseling

An online PhD in this field is a research doctorate. It tends to entail about 45 credits and may take three years. Since there is often a residency, internship or practicum, this time frame may vary. As the highest level degree, a PhD often frames advanced counseling skills. You likely explore theories, but the idea is to know which one to use in a certain setting and situation.   

You may notice that many PhD programs are in education and supervision. In these, the goal is to equip you with the skills to teach, be a mentor, leader and advocate. While broad, many programs also allow for greater focus. You may want to explore ways to guide victims of trauma, crisis, or crime.  

To qualify for admission, a masters degree from a CACREP accredited online counseling degree program may be preferable. Schools may also want to see you have a valid license. Things like a resume, strong personal essay and letters may also be useful. Many programs end with a final dissertation, so a school may ask for a writing sample as well.  

How much might it cost to earn a master’s in this field or a PhD online? The average cost of a grad degree from a public school in the 2015 – 2016 academic year was $11,303. So, some online counseling degree programs may come in more affordable or more expensive than this amount. 

What could I pursue with an Online Counseling Degree? 

A counseling degree may be a portal to a wide range of current and new fields. Stress and anxiety typically create need for therapy in families, couples, workplaces, schools and personal lives. As counseling careers are still evolving, there may be jobs for all levels of education. In some community and social service fields, one needs a bachelor’s degree for entry level roles.

Apart from having a bachelor’s degree, many mental health counselors typically have a master’s or higher degree. Counselors who provide treatment may tend to also need a state license.

1. Mental Health Counselor 

A mental health counselor typically  provides treatment and support to families, couples, groups and one to one. Some may also focus on helping a specific age group whether it is troubled teens or the elderly. Mental health issues typically span anxiety, grief, depression, low self-esteem, stress and suicidal impulses. To work with these conditions, takes a high level of skill as well as a master’s degree and state license.

2. School Counselor 

As a school counselor, your role is to typically empower students with the skills to succeed. In doing so, you may likely steer students towards effective study habits and help them clarify and meet their goals. You may also need to discuss and address critical issues. Like bullying, drug abuse, or planning for college and a career. On top of these skills, you typically tend to need a master’s degree and state license.

3. Counseling Psychologist 

A counseling psychologist typically helps their patient understand and manage problems. Such problems may relate to a life stage, relationship, or workplace. To do this may take  a deep understanding of the stress caused by a particular issue. And, of the various methods that help people identify and tap into their strengths. Apart from these critical skills, counseling psychologists typically need a doctorate degree and state license. Some may be board certified in a niche practice area as well.

4. Marriage and Family Counselor 

As a marriage and family counselor, you typically treat the couple or family as a unit. While there are diverse methods used to do this, many counselors may use cognitive behavior therapy. It may help patients see their harmful thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Then help guide them  into more positive choices. Beyond therapeutic skills, you may tend to need a master’s degree and state license.

5. Social and Human Service Assistant 

A support role, social and human service assistants may help in many fields. Including psychology, rehabilitation and social worker. In this role they typically help clients identify and get benefits and services. Some of the groups they usually help are veterans, immigrants, former prison inmates, the homeless, elderly and people with disabilities. Other than solid interview skills, it may be useful to have a college degree.

6. Addiction Counselor 

As an addiction counselor, your role is to help people with a substance abuse problem make strides. To do this, you may help your clients to understand their issue, and may use a 12 step approach. Some addiction counselors also team up with other health professionals to develop treatment plans. As this is a regulated field, many at work in it have a master’s degree and state license.  

7. Probation Officer 

A probation officer supervises people who the court decides rules may stay out of jail under certain conditions. Many probation officers also work with a specific group like adults or juveniles. In these roles, you may make use of solid interview skills and write progress reports.

8. Social and Community Service Manager 

As a social and community service manager, you might work for an agency that focuses on a certain issue or group. Child welfare, for example, or adoption. In this type of admin role, you might set budget, put policies into play, oversee staff and volunteers. Since each job calls for different business skills, employers tend to hire bachelor or master prepared workers.

Is an Online Counseling Degree worth it?

Expertise in counseling may provide useful skills and opportunity. Jobs related to community and social service are growing at a rate much faster than average from 2019-2029. Per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you have the ability to work with addiction and mental health, the future may be bright. Jobs in these areas predict 25% growth through 2029. This is well above the norm for all occupations which is 5%. 

If you prefer a more admin role, demand is high too. Social and community service manager jobs expect to add 17% more positions by 2029. As far as salaries, these vary by counseling niche and education level. Of the highest earners are marriage and family therapists who report salaries of up to $87,700. Some counseling psychs also report average annual earnings of $80,370.   

Counseling Degree Jobs & Salary

OccupationMedian Annual WageJobs
Mental Health Counselor$46,240304,500
School Counselor$57,040324,500
Counseling Psychologist$80,370181,700
Marriage and Family Counselor$49,61055,300

Top States for Jobs as a Mental Health Counselor

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
CA 15,300 $47,070
PA 13,020 $43,480
VA 8,980 $48,310
NY 6,970 $42,070
MA 6,830 $45,030

What classes could I take with an Online Counseling Degree?

Many counseling degree programs draw from psychology, human growth and therapeutic methods. These areas typically help students gain skills in counseling, clinical assessment, testing and intervention. You may study many of these topics when you pursue an online counseling degree. But each level of degree will do this in their own way. Below are some of the classes you may find at the bachelors, masters and PhD levels.  

Bachelors Degree Courses

Classes in an online BA or BS in counseling are intro level. You tend to study key values, psychological theories and research methods. You may also study  ways to assess mental health issues, manage cases and work with people who struggle. That said, BA classes often explore more topics in the arts, humanities and social sciences. While BS classes may delve into pharmacology, statistics and natural sciences. 

Other topics tend to revolve around your major. For instance, substance abuse counseling or family systems. A few topics at the bachelors level might also be: 

Introduction to Addictive Disorders

This course is a base level of course. It generally focuses on what addiction is and how impairment occurs. Students may review theories on substance use disorders. They could learn aspects of identifying, preventing, and treating them. They may learn a history of these disorders and diagnostic skills for them. Many courses focus on current research and methods.

Life Span Human Development

Counseling students often need to learn the process of human development. This may include physical and cognitive aspects of it. It may also include psychological aspects of development. Students may learn things like how a person’s environment impacts them. Gender roles and sexuality may be a part of this course. Students may also learn about psych disorders.

Ethics and Professional Responsibility

Ethics and pro responsibility is a type of class desgined to teach key topics. This may include legal and moral responsibilities as they apply to those that work in this sector. Students may learn about counseling relationship that is healthy. This type of program typically focuses on ethical issues of all types. It also may focus on moral dilemmas when competing moral obligations are present.

Counseling Theory and Practice

Students may learn basic counseling skills in a counseling theory and practice course. They may learn about relationship building. They may talk about helping and communication skills. Also, they may focus on the stages of the counseling process. The goal of this program is often to learn how to help people within special populations to get support they need.

Graduate Degree Courses

Classes in an online MS in this field are practical. You typically to study behavior, both normal and abnormal. In studying these areas, you learn how to assess different personalities and issues. Other classes may build your diagnostic and clinical skills. These classes discuss ways to assess, listen to and treat people who face challenges.

Apart from this material, you may often learn about testing and how to interpret results. Then also, ways to filter existing research into a treatment plan. Classes in an online PhD in this field are advanced. You tend to study upper level counseling classes that discuss the usefulness of certain approaches. Then also, which tactic might address a certain mental health problem.  

Apart from nurturing these skills, many programs explore the things a clinical supervisor needs to know. From ethical issues to leadership and strategies for teaching and advocacy. Other than these, you are likely to study complex reasoning, analysis and research methods. In these types of courses, you may learn how to develop interview guides, collect data and problem solve. 

A few topics at the grad level might also be:

Psychopharmacology

Students taking this course may learn about prescription meds. The focus is often on psychotropic medications. They may also learn topics such as biological concepts in areas of mental distress. There may be some focus on ethics and working with others as it relates to medication use. Students may also learn about emotions and cognition balance with these meds.

Group Counseling

Master students may wish to take a course in group counseling. It may help them build awareness and skill when they work in a group session. This type of course may teach topics such as how to create and lead groups. It may focus on the many dynamics in a group setting and leadership styles to use. It may include ethics and selection procedures.

Career and Vocational Counseling

Many students may take this type of course to learn about vocational theory and career counseling methods. They may learn how to work through challenges related to vocational opportunities. This may include marriage, family complexities, and mental health. The goal of this program is often to prep a student to guide others into making vocational decisions.

Fundamental Counseling Skills

Students in this type of course may learn skills on helping others. This may include learning methods for communication. It may focus on how to develop stronger relationships with clients and counselors. Students may learn skills such as structuring and summarizing. They may learn about attending behaviors and eliciting as well.

How long does it take to get an Online Counseling Degree online?

The time it takes to earn an online counseling degree may change. As a rule of thumb, a full time student may need four years to earn a bachelor’s in this field. Once you graduate, you may need two to three years to complete a masters degree in this field. After you have a masters degree and license, it may take three years to complete a PhD.  

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
Purdue University Global Bachelors 180 QC 3 48
Southern New Hampshire University Bachelors 120 6 48
Arizona State University Online Bachelors 120 6 48
North Carolina State University Masters 60 3 36
LeTourneau University Masters 66 3 36
Creighton University Masters 36 3 24
Capella University PhD 72 QC Multiple 36
Chicago School of Professional Psychology PhD N/A 6 36
Walden University PhD 65 – 125 Multiple 36

15 Schools with Online Counseling Degrees

We compiled a list of 15 schools with online counseling degrees. Our methods use data from the NCES. 

  1. Purdue University Global 
  2. Southern New Hampshire University   
  3. Arizona State University Online   
  4. Bay Path University
  5. University of Cincinnati Online
  6. North Carolina State University 
  7. LeTourneau University 
  8. Creighton University 
  9. New York University 
  10. University of Buffalo
  11. Capella University
  12. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  13. Walden University
  14. Oregon State University
  15. University of the Cumberlands

FIND AN ONLINE COUNSELING DEGREE

Here is a closer look at the 15 schools where you might earn an online counseling degree.  

1

Purdue University Global

Bachelor of Science in Psychology in Addictions

Online


Purdue offers an online Bachelor of Science in Psychology in Addictions. It entails 180 quarter credits delivered in 10 week course terms. A NAADAC Approved Education Provider, the course work typically fulfills the education requirements to sit for the NCAC, Level I and II certification exams. In these classes, you may study the broader theme of psychology (major concepts, values, theories). Then also how it applies to substance abuse (E.g. gambling, eating disorders). Sample topics may include:

  • Health psych
  • Case management
  • Psychopharmacology

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $14,358
Grad $10,580
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$4,464

Average Net Price:
N/A

2

Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Online


SNHU offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (online). It entails 120 credits and there are typically six start terms. In the core program, you may explore major psychological concepts. Also, areas like human behavior and research methods. Apart from the core topics, you may tailor your degree to one of three areas. Child and adolescent development, forensic psychology or mental health. Sample topics may include:

  • Intro to anatomy and physiology
  • Statistics for psych
  • Intro to psych

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $31,136
Grad $18,810
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,888

Average Net Price:
$39,071

3

Arizona State University Online

Bachelor of Science in Family & Human Development

Online


ASU offers an online Bachelor of Science in Family & Human Development. It entails 120 credits and there are six start terms. A typical goal of the program is to equip you with focused knowledge in human growth. From infancy through the life span as well as the how families form, grow and dissolve. Along the way, you may have the opportunity to build skills in written communication, statistics, and research methods. All while honing an ability to communicate clearly and listen carefully. Sample topics may include:

  • Family ethnic and cultural diversity
  • Marriage and family relationships
  • Intro to statistics

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $29,428
Grad $27,048
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$9,985

Average Net Price:
$13,081

4

Bay Path University

Bachelor of Arts in Counseling Foundations

Online


Bay Path offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Counseling Foundations. It typically entails 120 credits and explores mental health theories and behavioral research. As a student in the program, you may gain a deeper grasp of areas such as human motivation, cognition and perception. The program may also ground you in analysis and provides the tools to assess, problem solve, and intervene. Sample topics are:

  • Abnormal psych 
  • Counseling diverse populations
  • Interviewing and counseling

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $35,081
Grad $14,670
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$12,099

Average Net Price:
$21,100

5

University of Cincinnati Online

Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling

Online


UC offers an online Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling. It typically entails from 60 to 120 credits and you may finish in as few as two years or take four. In the program, you typically study substance abuse counseling from all sides. From the history to alcoholism, drug and behavior. The courses may also discuss assessment, diagnosis and case management. Once you graduate, you may meet Ohio state rules for Licensed Chemical Dependency counselor II and III (LCDC II and LCDC III. Sample courses are:

  • Crisis management skills
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Stress management

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $26,994
Grad $26,210
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,933

Average Net Price:
$20,085

6

North Carolina State University

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Online w/ few campus visits


North Carolina State U offers an online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. It typically entails 60 credits mapped out over a three year part time cohort program. Core topics of study may include developmental and clinical counseling theories and practices. And another focus is usually on multicultural diversity. If you intend to pursue a license in NC, you may be eligible to take the licensing exams in your field during the final semester of the program. Sample topics may include:

  • Group counseling
  • Multi cultural life span
  • Special problems in guidance

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $29,220
Grad $28,999
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$10,097

Average Net Price:
$14,771


LeTourneau offers an online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. It entails 66 credits which typically frame counseling through the lens of a Christian worldview. The program also aims to equip you to help people live more fully functional lives. Courses reflect this and touch on counseling skills, clinical assessment, testing, and intervention. So, as a graduate, you are likely to have all you need to take the state licensure exams. Sample topics may include:

  • Counseling skills
  • Life span human development
  • Integrative theology for counselors  

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $31,270
Grad $18,618
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$15,882

Average Net Price:
$23,386


Creighton offers an online Master of Science in School Counseling and Preventive Mental Health. It typically entails 36 credits or more depending on which track you choose and whether you already have a teaching certificate. The core program usually aims to prep students to pursue a counselor job in elementary or secondary school. You may choose one of these tracks or PK-12 guidance counselor. Apart from shared courses in ethics, action research and group counseling, the program draws on Jesuit values. There is  typically  a 600 hour internship that may meet Nebraska school counseling certification rules. Sample topics are:

  • Counseling techniques
  • Diagnosis and mental health issues
  • Issues in child and teen growth

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $41,400
Grad $17,898
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$21,961

Average Net Price:
$31,317

9


NYU offers an online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. It typically entails 60 credits, counseling lab, 100 hour practicum and 600 hour internship. So, the main goal is to prep you to pursue licensure and employment as a mental health counselor. You may complete these requirements in as few as 21 months. Some of the topics covered may include theory, individual and group counseling methods and human growth. You may also study and learn how to conduct behavioral science research. Sample topics may include:

  • Group dynamics
  • Individual counseling
  • Professional orientation

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $53,308
Grad $35,562
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$29,480

Average Net Price:
$39,935

10

University of Buffalo

Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Online


U Buffalo offers an online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. It typically entails 60 credits and includes 600 experiential contact hours. A main goal of the courses is to build your body of counseling knowledge and skills. And to support these abilities with an understanding of research and proven data. These courses also express respect for diversity, social justice and ethics. Sample topics include:

  • Psychopathology
  • Multi cultural counseling
  • Counseling theory

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $28,194
Grad $25,920
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$8,549

Average Net Price:
$15,895

11


Capella offers an online PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. It typically entails 72 quarter credits, at least 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours. A goal of the program is to build the necessary skills to be a professional mentor and leader in counseling. Research focused, you likely study theories as well as practical ways to apply it.  Sample topics may include:

  • Leadership and advocacy in counseling
  • Advanced counseling practice
  • Counselor education teaching

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $14,540
Grad $15,233
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$5,051

Average Net Price:
$13,387

12

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision

Online


TCSPP offers an online PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. It generally entails 600 hours of internship and takes (as a rule) three years. A goal is to prep grads to act as educators and leaders in the field of counseling. So, as a student, you may be likely to engage with both theory and practice as well as rigorous research. Sample topics include:

  • Advanced group counseling
  • Practicum
  • Advance counseling theories

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $12,316
Grad $21,934
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
N/A

Average Net Price:
N/A


Walden offers an online PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision in Forensic Mental Health Counseling. It typically entails from 65 to 125 quarter credits and includes a practicum, internships, face to face residency and two labs. The program may also come with other options that enable you to customize your study plan. This program emphasizes the skills needed to be an effective practitioner, leader or educator within the legal and criminal justice systems. So, as a student, you typically explore the tools used in forensic psychology, studying also, how to apply it. Sample topics may include:

  • Understanding forensic psych 
  • Assessment in forensic psych
  • Advanced counseling theories

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $12,150
Grad $12,539
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,885

Average Net Price:
$21,276

14

Oregon State University

PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision

Hybrid


Oregon State U offers a hybrid PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. It entails 150 credits and may include some face to face and online instruction for each course. While exploring current issues, the program aims to prep you to be a counselor, educator, leader and supervisor. These issues are thus central, as are research and publication. To graduate, you may be required to complete a 630 hour internship that builds practical counseling skills. Sample topics include:

  • Group counseling
  • Social justice
  • Consultation

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $31,215
Grad $26,844
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,596

Average Net Price:
$18,625

15

University of the Cumberlands

PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision

Online


U of the Cumberlands offers an online PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. It typically entails 66 post masters degree credit hours, intended to take three years. In your core classes, there may be three main areas of study. Leadership, professional research and specialty content. For instance, you could focus on addiction, play therapy, mindfulness, program planning or another area. Sample topics are:

  • Online teaching and learning
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Multi cultural issues

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $9,875
Grad $5,970

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$15,130

Average Net Price:
$17,588

*Unemployment Earnings. Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.