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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 courses provide an overview of various mental and cognitive disorders, as well as clinical and pharmacological treatment methods.
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 courses present evidence-based clinical and nonclinical treatment options for many different behavioral and mental health problems.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sponsored by DatingAdvice.com, 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 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.
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.
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.
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.