Online Counseling Degrees

To respond to industry need, many schools offer online counseling degrees. Counselors play a key 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 are in demand. If a therapy related job sounds rewarding, one option is to pursue an online counseling degree. 

An online counseling degree 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 go deeper into practitioner skills. Many programs include an internship and prep you to take counselor license exams. Once you graduate and have 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 the NCES, the average cost of a counseling psych degree is $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 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 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), most 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 is 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. Most 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 is $11,303. So, some online counseling degree programs may come in more affordable or more expensive than this amount. 

What can I do with an Online Counseling Degree? 

A online counseling degree may be a portal to a wide range of current and new fields. Stress and anxiety create need for therapy in families, couples, work places, schools and personal lives. As careers in this field are still changing, 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, most mental health counselors have a master’s or higher degree. Counselors who provide treatment tend to also need a state license. 

1. Mental Health Counselor 

mental health counselor provides treatment and support to families, couples, groups and one to one. Some also focus on how to help a certain age group whether it is troubled teens or the elderly. Mental health issues span anxiety, grief, depression, low self esteem, stress and suicidal impulses. To work with these issues, 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 empower students with the skills to succeed. In doing so, you steer students towards effective study habits and help them clarify and meet their goals. You may also need to discuss and address keys issues. Like bullying, drug abuse, or planning for school and a career. On top of these skills, you tend to need a master’s degree and state license. 

3. Counseling Psychologist 

counseling psychologist helps their patient understand and manage problems. Such problems may relate to a life stage, relationship, or work place. To do this takes a deep knowledge of the stress caused by a certain issue. And, of the many methods that help people identify and tap into their strengths. Apart from these key skills, counseling psychs need a PhD degree and state license. Some are board certified in a niche practice area as well.  

4. Marriage and Family Counselor 

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

5. Social and Human Service Assistant 

A support role, social and human service assistants help in many fields. Including psych, rehab and social worker. In this role they help clients identify and get benefits and services. Some of the groups they 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 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 can stay out of jail under certain conditions. Most of these officers also work with a certain group like adults or juveniles. In these roles, you make use of solid interview skills and write progress reports. Apart from a valid driver’s license and on the job training, employers tend to hire officers with a bachelor’s degree.  

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 like child welfare 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, opportunity and above average earning potential. Jobs related to community and social service are among the fastest growing. Per the US BLS, if you have the ability to work with addiction and mental health, the future is bright. Jobs in these areas predict 22% growth through 2028. 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 13% more positions by 2028. 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 $82,240. Some counseling psychs also report average annual earnings of $79,010.   

Counseling Degree Jobs & Salary

OccupationAverage SalaryJobs
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 will I take with an Online Counseling Degree?

Most degree programs in this field draw from psych, human growth and therapy methods. These areas 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, psych theories and research methods. Plus, 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 tend to study behavior, both normal and abnormal. In studying these areas, you learn how to assess different personalities and issues. Other classes build your diagnostic and clinical skills. These classes discuss ways to assess, listen to and treat people who face issues. 

Apart from this material, you 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 can change. As a rule of thumb, a full time student needs four years to earn a bachelor’s in this field. Once you graduate, you might 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’s online B.S. entails 180 quarter credits delivered in 10 week course terms. A NAADAC Approved Education Provider, the course work fulfills the education requirements to sit for the NCAC, Level I and II cert exams. In these classes, you study the broader theme of psych (major concepts, values, theories). Then also how it applies to substance abuse (e.g. gambling, eating disorders). Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)  

2

Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Online


SNHU’s online B.A. entails 120 credits and there are six start terms. In the core program, you explore major psych concepts. Also, areas like human behavior and research methods. Apart from the core topics, you can tailor your degree to one of three areas. Child and teen development, forensic psych or mental health. Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)

3

Arizona State University Online

Bachelor of Science in Family & Human Development

Online


ASU’s online B.S. entails 120 credits and there are six start terms. A main 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 have the chance to build skills in written communication, statistics, and research methods. All while honing an ability to communicate clearly and listen carefully. Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

4


Bay Path’s online B.A. 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 also grounds you in analysis and provides the tools to assess, problem solve, and intervene. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
NECHE

5

University of Cincinnati Online

Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling

Online


UC’s online B.S. entails from 60 to 120 credits and you may finish in as few as two years or take four. In the program, you study substance abuse counseling from all sides. From the history to alcoholism, drug and behavior. The courses 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. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

6

North Carolina State University

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Online w/ few campus visits


North Carolina State U’s online M.S. entails 60 credits mapped out over a three year part time cohort program. Core topics of study include developmental and clinical counseling theories and practices. And another focus is on multi cultural 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. Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)


LeTourneau’s online M.A. entails 66 credits which frame counseling through the lens of a Christian world view. The program also aims to equip you to help people live more full lives. Courses reflect this and touch on counseling skills, clinical assessment, testing, and intervention. So, as a grad, you may have all you need to take the state license exams. Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
SACSCOC


Creighton’s online M.S. entails 36 credits or more depending on which track you choose and whether you already have a teaching cert. The core program aims to prep students to pursue a counselor job in elementary or secondary school. You can choose one of these tracks or PK to 12 guidance counselor. Apart from shared courses in ethics, action research and group counseling, the program draws on Jesuit values. There is also a 600 hour internship that meets Nebraska school counseling cert rules. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC


NYU’s online M.S. entails 60 credits, counseling lab, 100 hour practicum and 600 hour internship. So, the main goal is to prep you to pursue license and employment as a mental health counselor. You may complete these requirements in as few as 21 months. Some of the topics covered are theory, individual and group counseling methods and human growth. You also study and learn how to conduct behavioral science research. Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

10


U Buffalo’s online M.S. entails 60 credits and includes 600 experiential contact hours. The main goal of the courses is to build your body of counseling knowledge and skills. And to support these abilities with a knowledge of research and proven data. These courses also express respect for diversity, social justice and ethics. Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
MSCHE

11


Capella’s online PhD entails 72 quarter credits, at least 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours. The goal of the program is to build the skills needed to be a professional mentor and leader in this field. Research focused, you study theories as well as practical ways to apply it.  Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

12

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision

Online


TCSPP’s online PhD entails 600 hours of internship and takes (as a rule) three years. The main goal is to prep grads to act as educators and leaders in this field. So, as a student, you may engage with both theory and practice as well as deep research. Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC, WASC Senior College and University Commission


Walden’s online PhD entails from 65 to 125 quarter credits and includes a practicum, internships, face to face residency and two labs. The program also comes with other options that enable you to customize your study plan. This program focuses on the skills needed to be an effective practitioner, leader or educator within the legal and criminal justice systems. So, as a student, you explore the tools used in forensic psych, learning also, how to apply it. Sample topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

14

Oregon State University

PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision

Hybrid


Oregon State U’s PhD entails 150 credits and includes 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 must complete a 630 hour internship that builds practical skills. Some topics are: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

15

University of the Cumberlands

PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision

Online


U of the Cumberlands online PhD entails 66 post masters degree credit hours, intended to take three years. In your core classes, there are three main areas of study. Leadership, professional research and specialty content. For instance, you can focus on addiction, play therapy, mindfulness, program planning or another area. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

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