Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Counseling

Rankings, Salaries & Courses

Updated on: 12/07/2018
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An online counseling degree provides future mental health professionals with the skills to pursue careers in cognitive and behavioral therapy. Using a bachelor's degree as their starting point, most candidates enter the workforce or a master's program after graduation. Mental health professionals are in high demand, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects significant job growth for many types of counselors in the coming decade. Demand for rehabilitation counselors, for example, is projected to grow 13% by 2026.

Students who earn a counseling bachelor's degree online receive the same high-quality education as their on-campus counterparts, delivered in a convenient, flexible format. In this guide, we cover what you need to know about pursuing a bachelor's in counseling, including curriculum and concentration options, graduates' job and salary outlooks, and how you can find accredited programs, financial aid, and scholarships.

Best Online Bachelor's Programs in Counseling 2018-2019

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Best Online Counseling Programs 2018-2019

Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors

Data Sources: Eligibility Criteria:
  • Each college must be accredited
  • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
  • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
  • Each college must have at least one online program 1
  • Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000
Ranking Factors:
  • Affordability
  • Quality
  • Flexibility
  • Program

Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.

  • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
  • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
2-Year Schools

An online counseling degree should align with your academic and career goals. It should also fit your lifestyle, budget, and schedule. To help you get started, we've listed some of the country's best and most affordable online counseling programs. Using data from the National Center for Educational Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, we've rated and ranked the following online bachelor's in counseling programs according to key factors like graduation rates, online course availability, and tuition costs.

Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Johnson University Knoxville, Tennessee $13,000 82% 47% 66% 2 Yes Yes Yes

Those desiring to work in a ministry environment can enroll in the online program to earn a bachelor's degree in pastoral care and counseling at Johnson University. Eligibility requires evidence of spiritual maturity through reference letters and an essay, as well as an ACT score of 17 or above. In order to graduate, students will complete 120 credits covering general education, theology and counseling-specific coursework with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Curriculum is delivered through the web platform Sakai and technical assistance is available at any time.

School website
2 Barclay College Haviland, Kansas $12,500 89% 67% 42% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Barclay College integrates psychology and biblical studies through the online program to receive a bachelor's degree in psychology. Students will engage in 89 credit hours studying foundational courses in theology, research and social sciences. An additional 39 credits will focus on abnormal psychology, personality theories and family systems. Resources such as the writing center and an employment database will assist in your academic journey. Students interested in applying will need to demonstrate a 2.3 GPA, as well as an ACT English score of 18 or SAT writing score of 500.

School website
3 Old Dominion University Norfolk, Virginia $6,330 65% 85% 55% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Graduates of Old Dominion University's online option to complete a bachelor's degree in human services enter into positions as case workers, counselors and advocates working with youth, victims of domestic violence and those with mental or physical disabilities. In order to finish the program, you will satisfy 120 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA. The Student Success Center connects learners with tutoring, online study groups and writing services. The Military Connection Center is host to resources specifically for veterans and active-duty service members. Prospective students will include transcripts and ACT or SAT scores in their application.

School website
4 The King's University Southlake, Texas $9,960 56% 56% 67% 1 Yes No Yes

The King's University offers a fully online format to earn a Bachelor of Biblical Counseling. Students will work through 124 credit hours of coursework covering human development, personality theory and counseling skills. You will also participate in 5 credits of field experience. All curriculum must be passed with a 2.0 grade average. Following degree completion, students are prepared to work in ministry and nonprofit service or to continue on toward graduate studies. Admission is determined by demonstration of a 2.5 GPA and ACT scores of 21 or SAT scores 1600-1075.

School website
5 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, Texas $18,900 70% 23% 42% 4 Yes Yes Yes

Students enrolling in the fully online program to receive a bachelor's degree in counseling will receive a 15% discount on tuition at the Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU). To apply you must submit ACT scores of 19 or an SAT equivalent, a reference from a minister and an essay describing your background and spiritual involvement. A minimum 2.0 GPA is required for admissions and must be maintained throughout the 126 credit hours needed to graduate. You can access all resources afforded to on-campus students including career guidance and Wellness Center services.

School website
6 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, Ohio $9,322 58% 76% 72% 1 Yes Yes Yes

There are both online and hybrid options to earn a Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling at the University of Cincinnati. Following the satisfaction of 120 credits, students expecting to work in Ohio will be equipped for licensure under the state's Chemical Dependency Professional Board. Graduates also find employment in social work, probation and nursing. GPA, ACT or SAT scores, essays, references and extracurricular activities are all taken into consideration for admissions decisions. The Student Services Center will link you to academic advising, financial aid opportunities and additional resources.

School website
7 Grace Christian University Wyoming, Michigan $11,890 61% 81% 40% 1 Yes Yes Yes

For those interested in entering the counseling field as a case manager, probation officer, research assistant or health educator, Grace Christian University is host to an accelerated online program to complete your Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Over the course of 24 months, you will complete 60 credits in coursework such as Theology of Leadership, Survival Psychology and Biblical Counseling. Program eligibility requires a high school GPA of 2.0 and submission of a free application. Online learners can utilize the writing lab, library and career services.

School website
8 Toccoa Falls College Toccoa Falls, Georgia $20,714 96% 54% 52% 2 No Yes Yes

Students seeking to pursue a counseling education steeped in Christian values can enroll in an online option to work toward a bachelor's degree in counseling psychology at Toccoa Falls College. The program entails 126 credit hours of biblical curriculum, psychology core coursework and counseling electives. Although there is no minimum GPA required for admissions, students must maintain a minimum 2.0 average throughout their studies. Applicants will need to submit ACT, SAT or CLT scores, as well as an essay describing their spiritual journey. The school's library provides resources to assist in your work.

School website
9 Hobe Sound Bible College Hobe Sound, Florida $5,600 86% - 67% 1 No No No

The Christian-based Hobe Sound Bible College offers prospective counseling students the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree in counseling through a fully online format. In order to graduate, you will complete 129 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA, which includes 30 hours of biblical studies and 7 credits of Christian service. Prospective enrollees must possess a high school diploma and applicants will be connected with an advisor to complete registration. The school works to create a supportive community through online devotionals and a link to submit prayer requests.

School website
10 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, Louisiana $5,180 49% 62% 40% 1 Yes Yes Yes

Students interested in pursuing an education in counseling at Northwestern State University of Louisiana can specialize in either substance abuse or prevention when enrolled in the school's fully online bachelor's degree in psychology. Graduation requires 120 credit hours and classes are delivered via the web platform Moodle. Online learners pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. The Student Help Desk will connect you to advising, tutoring and technical assistance. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA and the submission of ACT or SAT scores in order to determine class placement.

School website
11 Washburn University Topeka, Kansas $7,644 64% - 38% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
12 Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls, Oregon $8,110 60% 73% 50% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
13 University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona $10,160 74% 79% 63% 1 No Yes Yes School website
14 Clarks Summit University South Abington Township, Pennsylvania $22,510 79% 43% 51% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
15 Oral Roberts University Tulsa, Oklahoma $24,750 94% 68% 48% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
16 The Baptist College of Florida Graceville, Florida $9,900 56% 59% 49% 1 No No Yes School website
17 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota $24,250 97% 54% 52% 1 Yes No Yes School website
18 University of Maine at Machias Machias, Maine $6,660 100% - 35% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
19 National Louis University Chicago, Illinois $12,456 5% 76% 25% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
20 Ohio Christian University Circleville, Ohio $10,468 47% - 30% 2 Yes No Yes School website
21 University of Maine at Augusta Augusta, Maine $6,510 40% - 15% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
22 Oklahoma Wesleyan University Bartlesville, Oklahoma $23,720 97% 73% 37% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
23 Faulkner University Montgomery, Alabama $18,320 91% 45% 29% 2 No Yes Yes School website
24 Dallas Christian College Dallas, Texas $16,544 95% 23% 41% 1 Yes No Yes School website
25 Messenger College Euless, Texas $7,800 83% 90% 10% 1 Yes No Yes School website
26 Franklin University Columbus, Ohio $11,856 - - 16% 1 Yes No Yes School website
27 Ecclesia College Springdale, Arkansas $14,250 100% 40% 3% 1 Yes No Yes School website
28 Hodges University Naples, Florida $13,200 20% 60% 25% 1 No Yes Yes School website
29 Trinity College of Florida Trinity, Florida $14,850 88% 71% 22% 1 Yes No Yes School website
30 Bethel College Hampton, Virginia $8,000 100% - - 1 No No Yes School website
31 Arlington Baptist College Arlington, Texas $10,110 21% - 30% 1 No No Yes School website
32 City University of Seattle Seattle, Washington $16,748 - - - 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
33 Palo Alto University Palo Alto, California $17,112 - - - 1 No No No School website
Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Central Texas College Killeen, Texas $2,940 19% 9% 5 Yes Yes Yes School website
2 Northcentral Technical College Wausau, Wisconsin $3,911 - 35% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
3 Kennebec Valley Community College Fairfield, Maine $2,760 34% 35% 2 Yes No Yes School website
4 Thomas Nelson Community College Hampton, Virginia $4,193 6% 17% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
5 Tompkins Cortland Community College Dryden, New York $4,790 11% 26% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
6 Allen County Community College Iola, Kansas $1,800 70% 42% 2 No No Yes School website
7 Rio Salado College Tempe, Arizona $2,064 1% 4% 3 No Yes Yes School website
8 Mohave Community College Kingman, Arizona $2,430 9% 21% 1 No No Yes School website

How Much Can You Make in a Counseling Career?

A bachelor's degree in counseling qualifies graduates for a wide variety of positions in the field. Many of these career paths are extremely lucrative, featuring high starting salaries and opportunities for advancement. Demand for counselors is also projected to grow in the coming years. The table below outlines a few potential career opportunities for counseling degree holders, as well as a brief description of duties and the median annual salary associated with each position. Keep in mind, however, that no degree guarantees a certain career or salary. The following examples are just a few of the occupational paths available to graduates.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +14.2%
Job Description

Clinical and school psychologists and counselors help clients manage behavioral and emotional issues through cognitive therapy. They work in a variety of clinical and nonclinical settings, including schools and mental health facilities. Most are expected to hold at least a bachelor's degree. A graduate or doctoral degree is required for certain positions, including private practice.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +23.2%
Job Description

These counselors assist individuals who struggle with addiction and substance abuse issues, mental health challenges, and behavioral disorders. While a bachelor's degree qualifies candidates to pursue some entry-level positions, many counselors eventually pursue a graduate degree and state licensure required for clinical practice.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +5.7%
Job Description

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists strive to integrate parolees and law offenders back into the larger community. They may interview clients, monitor their progress, provide them with career and life resources, and write and maintain reports on all probationers and parolees under their care. They may also testify in court on behalf of offenders and present progress reports.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +16.4%
Job Description

Social and human service assistants are employed in many different sectors, including social work and rehabilitation. They may work alongside other mental health professionals to create and implement treatment plans, monitor client progress, connect clients with community resources, and help patients find the necessary assistance and services. Some hold titles like case work aide or family services assistant.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +18%
Job Description

By collecting and analyzing data, social and community service managers assess community members' needs to develop and implement programs accordingly. They maintain data regarding each initiative's effectiveness and alter services as necessary. Social service managers may also write funding proposals for future programs and community outreach events.

Sources: BLS 2018

Numerous factors influence salary potential, including education, professional experience, and geographical location. Where you live and work can greatly affect your earnings and impact job availability in your field. Paying attention to regional job growth data can help you make an informed career choice, fulfill your long-term goals, and maximize your earning potential. The data below looks at counseling job growth and average salaries in each state.

What Courses Can be Taken for an Online Counseling Degree?

While every online counseling degree is different, each curriculum typically includes a mixture of general education, major, and elective courses. Undergraduate coursework builds foundational knowledge, introducing major concepts in cognitive and behavioral therapy, as well as advanced and specialized topics. Some programs include concentrations in areas such as substance abuse counseling or corrections. Although course offerings vary from school to school, many curricula include one or more of the following classes.

Introduction to Counseling

Nearly all counseling curricula include an introductory course which covers key concepts and ideas. Offering a broad survey of major counseling topics, this class serves as a knowledge base for more specific courses.

Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology courses provide an overview of various mental and cognitive disorders, as well as clinical and pharmacological treatment methods.

Speaking and Communication

Studies in effective speaking and communication play an integral part in any online counseling degree. This course instills fundamental public speaking skills, as well as one-on-one communication strategies such as mediation.

Behavioral Healthcare

Behavioral healthcare courses present evidence-based clinical and nonclinical treatment options for many different behavioral and mental health problems.

Research Methods

In a research methods course, students learn quantitative and qualitative research strategies commonly used in counseling and the behavioral sciences. These courses often come in introductory and advanced levels.

How to Choose the Best Online Counseling Program

As you research online counseling degrees, you should keep several factors in mind before selecting the program that best meets your needs. Because degrees often differ considerably between institutions, it is important to research each school carefully, taking into consideration aspects like accreditation status, program offerings, graduation requirements, and tuition rates. Read on to learn more about choosing the best online bachelor's in counseling program for your budget and goals.

How should I choose which courses to take?

The courses included in an online counseling degree depend largely on your program's structure. For example, if you select a concentration like behavioral therapy or substance abuse counseling, you may take concentration-specific courses in addition to major, general, and elective courses. While most undergraduates must meet certain general education guidelines, you may receive the option of tailoring some of these requirements to your major.

How does earning this degree online differ from on-campus programs?

Online counseling degrees provide the same education as their on-campus counterparts, and differ only in delivery methods. You take the same courses as students earning their degree on campus, and classes are taught by the same qualified, experienced instructors. However, many online courses may be completed asynchronously, whenever and wherever you have internet access. While distance learners enjoy greater scheduling flexibility, they must still meet set deadlines for turning in assignments and taking exams.

Does this degree require any internships or fieldwork?

Many online degrees include face-to-face practicums or fieldwork components. Some programs require candidates to complete an internship or another type of field experience prior to graduation. These requirements are usually more common in graduate-level programs, as students must complete a certain amount of supervised experience before applying for a counseling license.

What concentrations or specializations should I look for and pursue?

Some online bachelor's degrees in counseling allow students to choose a concentration, or specialized academic track, within their major. For example, many counseling programs include concentrations such as substance abuse and addiction counseling, rehabilitation, marriage and family therapy, and clinical counseling. Concentrations can help you develop a specialty and jumpstart your career.

How will this degree help me meet my goals?

A bachelor's degree provides a great foundation for any counseling career, and graduates qualify for many entry-level jobs in the field. To practice as a licensed counselor or therapist, however, you must earn at least a master's degree and complete a period of supervised clinical practice before obtaining state licensure. Many students earn a bachelor's degree in counseling before moving on to graduate study.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Counseling Programs

Many candidates find that paying for their degree is the most stressful aspect of attending college. Fortunately, students earning an online counseling degree enjoy many different funding options, including grants, loans, and scholarships. Some learners seek federal or private student loans, both of which must be repaid later. Scholarships and grants, however, do not need to be repaid after graduation. The following scholarships are just a few of the many funding opportunities available to students pursuing a bachelor's in counseling.

Future Counselors of America Scholarship

Sponsored by, this scholarship is intended for undergraduate or graduate students pursuing a career in relationship counseling or a related area. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay about the psychology of dating, addressing the different psychological issues they believe couples and singles face. One winning essay receives a $1,000 award. Eligible applicants must have a valid .edu email address.

Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship Program

Gallagher Student Health offers this renewable, two-year scholarship for students entering their junior or senior year of a bachelor's degree in a healthcare-related field. The scholarship, valued at $7,500, is awarded to six students each year. Applicants do not need to be insured by Gallagher Student Health to apply. Winners receive the award in two parts: half in the fall semester, and half in the spring. Graduate students and incoming high school students are not eligible. Scholarship for Bachelor's in the Social Sciences

Students enrolled in (or high school students admitted to) a social sciences degree program at an accredited institution are eligible to apply for this scholarship. Funds may be used to cover school-related costs such as tuition, fees, and textbooks. Selection criteria includes employment history, academic achievements, and service work. Students majoring in anthropology, psychology, sociology, and related fields qualify to receive the $500 one-time award.

National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholarship Program

Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, this special scholarship rewards students from underprivileged backgrounds who intend to pursue careers in the biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences. Applicants must submit a form and application which demonstrates financial need. The NIH scholarship pays up to $20,000 each year in tuition, fees, and other degree-related expenses. Recipients must agree to participate in NIH research training workshops.

National Pathfinder Scholarship

The National Federation for Republican Women awards the National Pathfinder Scholarship to students who plan to enter the substance abuse counseling field. Created in 1985 to honor former First Lady Nancy Reagan, the fund offers three annual, $2,500 scholarships to female students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels; however, high school seniors and undergraduate freshmen are not eligible to apply.

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