Online Counseling Degrees

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For those who want to build a rewarding career helping others through challenging life circumstances, an online Counseling degree may be the perfect first step to your journey! Through the variety of advanced degree programs available in Counseling, you will be able to learn the specialized skills needed to make a difference in your community.

Careers in Counseling

There are several fields within the world of counseling in which you can choose to specialize. Whether you have a passion for helping children and families or you would like to work with disadvantaged populations and addiction, there are a number of ways you can utilize your online Counseling degree in this challenging career field.

Below we have highlighted a few of the most common occupations in the field of counseling, as well as their median annual salaries, to give you an idea of what to except after graduation from your Counseling degree program:

Job Title Job Summary

Median Annual Salary

School Counselor Helps students within the school setting to achieve academic goals and personal or social development.

$51,596

Addiction Therapist Works with individuals who are in the process of rehabilitating from substance abuse and harmful behavioral activities.

$48,694

Licensed Professional Counselor Works in a variety of environments to provide care to individuals with mental illnesses, disorders, or imbalances.

$50,084

Marriage/Family Therapist Responsible for providing counseling and support to couples and families struggling with issues that relate to their personal relationships.

$49,461

Mental Health Counselor Healthcare workers who treat and diagnosis mental health problems and illnesses.

$45,829

*Job and salary data provided by Payscale.com


As you can see, counselors work in a variety of settings and there are many ways to customize your degree program to match your specific interests within the field. While you may make more or less than the average annual salaries listed above, the careers listed typically offer wages above the national average across all occupations.

Types of Online Counseling Degrees

If you are interested in working as a counselor, you likely have a number of questions as to the type of schooling you will need. Typically, the minimum requirement to get started in the field is a bachelor’s degree, and graduate degrees are common among those who work as licensed counselors. Below, we go over the specifics of the programs leading to online degrees that are offered through accredited universities.

Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Counseling

An online bachelor’s degree in counseling will help you develop your communication, empathy, and emotional intelligence skillset that can be used to market yourself as an entry-level practitioner in the workplace. After graduation, you will have typically completed more than 400 hours of field work, which is an important factor to consider when deciding to pursue your education through online learning.

Beyond the general education, counseling, and psychology credits that are standard with this degree program, you may also be able to specialize within a concentration such as:

  • Holistic Psychology
  • Child Psychology
  • Group Counseling
  • Christian Counseling
  • Addiction Counseling

While many graduates from an online bachelor’s degree program continue their education with master’s and doctorate level degrees, there are still a number of job options available with an online bachelor’s in Counseling degree. Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree, you will be able to begin your career in addiction counseling, career counseling, and life coaching.

Online Master’s Degrees in Counseling

In order to work within the specialized field of mental health counseling, it is generally required for licensed counselors to hold a graduate level degree. During an online master’s degree program in Counseling, you will learn advanced skills within your specific field of interest that will allow you to provide professional counseling services. While the majority of your coursework will be able to be completed online, most programs also require in-person internships and fieldwork in order to successfully graduate.

There are a number of different specializations within a master’s degree in Counseling that you can choose for your educational path. These concentrations may include:

  • Addiction Studies
  • School Counseling
  • Human Behavior
  • Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy
  • Mental Health Counseling

After you have completed your master’s degree program, you may need to obtain additional training within your field in order to apply for licensing and professional one-on-one counseling positions. This may be accomplished through certified mentorships through the organization in which you plan on providing services.

Online Doctorate Degrees in Counseling

Certain careers within the field of counseling require a doctorate level degree, and there are accredited programs that offer this level of graduate degree online. There are three types of doctoral degrees that you can pursue in Counseling, including the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), and Doctor of Education (EdD). It is important to do your research into the various doctorate level degree options to ensure that you are pursuing a degree that matches your long-term career goals.

There are several steps to successfully earning your online Doctorate degree in Counseling, and these typically include:

  • Advanced online course work
  • In-person residencies
  • Fieldwork that includes practicum and internships
  • Comprehensive examinations
  • Professional doctoral dissertation

After graduation, a doctorate degree allows you to open your own private counseling practice or take on career roles in management, leadership positions, and education.

Counseling Career Outlook and Salary Information

Due to the increased awareness of the importance of mental health and expanded insurance coverage for counseling services, the overall career outlook for those interested in working within the field of counseling is very positive. It is a wise idea to look at reputable sources, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), to determine the specific occupational growth and salary information of the counseling specialty you are interested in pursuing.

According to the BLS, marriage and family therapists can expect to see a 22% occupational growth between 2019 and 2029. During this same time frame, employment for school and career counselors will grow 8%, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will grow 25%. These numbers all represent occupational growth that is as fast as or faster than the national average across all occupations, which is positive news for those looking to enter into a counseling career.

The annual salary for those who work as a counselor varies based upon specialty, educational level, and professional experience. For example, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors with a bachelor’s degree made an average of $46,240 as of May 2019, while marriage and family therapists average $49,610 and school and career counselors earned $57,040, with master’s degrees.

View our list of the top 40 Counseling careers to compare jobs and salaries in this field.

Is an Online Degree in Counseling Right for me?

There are several factors to take into consideration when you are determining whether you should pursue your degree for counseling online or at a traditional campus. With advancements in technology, students who take online classes are able to receive the same high-quality education as on-campus students, but they also have the added flexibility of logging into their courses at times that fit their busy schedule. If you have career or family obligations that you are balancing with your education and have an organized, self-motivated approach to learning, then an online degree in Counseling program maybe the perfect option for you!

If you choose to enroll in an online Counseling degree program, there are several advantages to working towards your degree through distance learning, including:

  • Ability to choose a concentration within your Counseling degree
  • Full access to advanced educational platforms that allow you to connect with students and instructors across the country
  • Flexible scheduling options for coursework and in-field requirements
  • Potential for lower tuition costs and options to accelerate your degree program

An important factor to consider is that many online degree programs still require students to complete in-person practicums, internships, or field study in order to meet the graduation requirements. Be sure to check into your school’s unique policies before enrollment to ensure that you will be able to meet these course expectations.

Do I need a license to become a counselor?

The answer to this question isn’t black or white, and it depends on the type of counseling career that you wish to pursue as well as your state’s specific regulations. Volunteer or entry-level counseling positions may not require you to hold a professional license. However, if you wish to work as a professional counselor or specialize in a specific counseling focus, such a marriage and family counseling, it is generally required that you obtain licensure.

The minimal education level that allows counselors to take licensure exams varies based upon your state’s regulations. While you may be able to obtain a counseling license after completing a bachelor’s degree program, it is often required that professional counselors hold a master’s or doctorate level degree before practicing within their field.

Comparing Top Counseling Degree Programs

When deciding upon an online Counseling degree program, there are many aspects to your education that are important to consider. The information below is a great starting point for questions you should ask before committing to enrollment within a degree program:

Accreditation

A Counseling degree program is considered accredited after the college has undergone a voluntary review of its educational curriculum by one of the many recognized accrediting agencies. This is an essential factor to consider when pursuing your Counseling degree, as non-accredited degrees may not be recognized when it is time for you to pursue licensure or professional employment.

There are both regional and national accrediting agencies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and a few of the top names to look for during your research include:

For more information on the recognized agencies for your region and Counseling specialty, you can take a look at the U.S. Department of Education’s website!

Student to Faculty Ratio

Choosing a school that is committed to low student to faculty ratios is important throughout the course of your Counseling education.  With smaller class sizes, students will be able to have a more personalized educational experience and receive a greater level of support and connection from their instructors and classmates.

With the nature of the counseling field, you will want to be sure that the skills you are learning throughout your online degree program are taught by experts within the field. To find out more about the credentials and background of the professors at your prospective college, take a look at the “Faculty” section of your school’s website.

Academic Advising and Student Services

A solid educational foundation goes beyond the textbook, and many of the top universities that offer online Counseling degrees provide distance learning students with additional support services to help them succeed. A few of the services that you may find throughout your research include:

  • Virtual academic advisement services to assist you with choosing the course path that best suits your future career goals
  • Opportunities for accredited practicum and internship experiences in a range of counseling fields
  • Online support through tutoring and mentorship programs
  • Workshops and seminars to help you prepare for professional licensure exams

For those with a passion for helping others and a desire to support individuals in working through challenging life circumstances, a counseling degree is an excellent starting point to enter into this rewarding field. Through graduate studies and professional licensing, you will have the chance to specialize within your specific field of interest and make a difference within your community – one person at a time!

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.