The Best Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree

The Best Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree

| Staff Writers

The Best Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree
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Prospective counseling students should take the time to explore programs at smaller colleges, which we define as schools with fewer than 5,000 enrolled students. These schools, due to their intimate classes and lower student-to-faculty ratios, allow learners to participate in class and interact with professors more frequently.

Pursuing a counseling degree in this setting also helps ensure degree-seekers fully engage in coursework through meaningful research and assignments. Counseling programs support students who want to use talk therapy to help clients process emotions related to grief, depression, addiction, conflict, and more. Finding an accredited counseling program helps learners transfer credits, receive licensure, and compete for jobs.

Methodology

View ranking methodology here.

Top 10 Best Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree

Rank School Location
1 Clarks Summit University South Abington Township, PA
2 Lancaster Bible College Lancaster, PA
3 Emmanuel College Boston, MA
4 Alaska Pacific University Anchorage, AK
5 Kansas Wesleyan University Salina, KS
6 Oak Hills Christian College Bemidji, MN
7 Lesley University Cambridge, MA
8 Kentucky Christian University Grayson, KY
9 Maryville College Maryville, TN
10 Johnson University Florida Kissimmee, FL
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What to Expect From a Counseling Program

Undergraduate counseling courses give learners the knowledge and competencies needed to understand patients’ concerns from a science-backed perspective. Common topics include introduction to counseling and psychotherapy, human lifespan development, history and modern systems of psychology, and counseling and advocacy for diverse populations.

After graduating and receiving licensure, newly minted counselors find work in many different settings, including hospitals, treatment facilities, prisons, or social service agencies. Some counselors maintain private practices. All counselors must maintain an active and unencumbered license, regardless of residence. Requirements vary by state but typically include an accredited degree, completion of supervised clinical hours, state licensure exams, and certification exams. Students should check with their local board to learn specifics.

Career Outlook for Counselors

While many counseling positions require a master’s or doctorate, bachelor’s degree-holders can still pursue certain professional roles. Popular options at this level include substance abuse counselor, behavioral disorder counselor, and mental health counselor. These professionals work in public and private settings to provide individual and group therapy. They typically focus on a particular population, such as college students, assisted living residences, or those living with addiction issues.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that mental health counselors brought home median annual salaries of $44,630 in 2018, with the highest 10% of earners making around $72,990 during the same year. The BLS projects that roles will grow by 22% from 2018-2028 due to increased access and demand for mental health services. Learners can pursue counseling careers and certifications at each degree level.

Top Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree

  1. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    South Abington Township, PA

    A Baptist institution located in Johnson City, New York, CSU enrolls just 990 students across more than 40 academic programs. The college emphasizes community and faith, incorporating Baptist teachings into its undergraduate curricula.

    CSU offers multiple counseling degrees, including a 123-credit . The BS track prepares students to seek counseling licensure or to pursue graduate studies. Though not required, candidates are encouraged to complete an internship. Bachelor's degree-seekers may also select a dual enrollment option, completing CSU's MS in counseling program as they earn their BS.

    The program emphasizes biblical ideologies and philosophies in counseling. Students who reside near CSU's Johnson City campus may also complete training and observation experiences at the university's Foundations Christian Counseling Center.

    Courses include:

    • Adolescent and Adult Psychology
    • Marriage and Family Dynamics
    • Personality Theory
    • Human Growth and Development

     

  2. Lancaster Bible College
    Location

    Lancaster, PA

    Located west of Philadelphia in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, LBC serves a student body of just over 2,045 through more than 50 academic programs. Students at LBC enjoy the advantage of small class sizes, with a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    Learners seeking a small college with a counseling psychology program can earn their at LBC. The 130-credit hour program features a Christian-centered curriculum that emphasizes biblical studies and practices in counseling. Preparing students for entry-level positions or graduate-level counseling studies, the curriculum includes a required field experience and optional internships.

    LBC's counseling program boasts a faculty made up of experienced counselors who assist students with supervised practice experiences. Past students have completed internships at private practices, church counseling centers, and homeless shelters.

    Courses include:

    • Theories of Personality
    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Group Leadership Skills
    • Intercultural Counseling Experience
    • Christian Systems of Counseling

     

  3. Emmanuel College
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Originally founded as a Catholic women's college in 1919, Boston's Emmanuel College now enrolls more than 2,200 students across over 70 academic programs. Emmanuel focuses on the liberal arts and sciences, aiming to embody a Catholic identity and ethics through its programs.

    Emmanuel's School of Science and Health features an undergraduate program in psychology with an available . The program explores empirical assessment, providing students with a wide base of knowledge in diagnostic and treatment practices. Students develop a broad understanding of key ideas, concepts, and theories in psychology and counseling.

    The program emphasizes strong communication skills, including clinical interviewing practices and various research methodologies. Candidates develop a working knowledge of information and technology commonly used in the field. Prior to graduation, learners complete either a research internship or an applied clinical internship.

    Courses include:

    • General Psychology
    • Methods and Statistics
    • Health Psychology
    • Counseling Theories and Techniques

     

  4. Alaska Pacific University
    Location

    Anchorage, AK

    Established in 1960 in Anchorage, APU continues to provide higher education in the Methodist tradition. The university offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in an ongoing mission to embody its Alaska Native heritage through its academic offerings. With a student body of just over 500 individuals, APU maintains very small class sizes, offering a personalized and individual education.

    APU's prepares graduates to immediately enter careers in areas like behavioral health or addiction treatment. Students may apply program coursework toward certifications in chemical dependency and behavioral health. Emphasizing the connection between body and mind, the program employs a positive psychology perspective in treatment.

    Students complete a field experience and a senior project. The 128-credit curriculum includes 60 major credits. A transfer-friendly college, APU allows students to transfer in up to 32 credits earned through previous college coursework or work experience.

    Courses include:

    • Lifespan Human Development
    • Counseling Skills
    • Health Psychology
    • Crisis Intervention and Community Resources

     

  5. Kansas Wesleyan University
    Location

    Salina, KS

    Founded in Salina in 1886, KWU now offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. This small Christian college in the Methodist tradition enrolls just 716 students, keeping class sizes small with an 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

    Learners seeking small colleges with counseling psychology programs can pursue KWU's and choose from a variety of concentrations, including addictions and substance abuse counseling and educational counseling. The program prepares students for both entry-level work in the field and graduate study.

    The core curriculum includes courses in psychology, human services, and counseling, preparing students for practice with skills in counseling, research methods, and theory. All candidates complete a 150-hour internship during the program. Students who select the addictions counseling track complete 400 supervised practice hours to earn licensure.

    Courses include:

    • Psychological Research Design
    • Professional Ethics in Psychology
    • Principles of Counseling Practice
    • Psychopharmacology
    • Theories of Counseling

     

  6. Oak Hills Christian College
    Location

    Bemidji, MN

    An interdenominational school founded in 1946, OHCC is a small institution located in Bemidji, Minnesota. The college enrolls just 100 students in 14 academic programs, and all of OHCC's bachelor's degrees center around a biblical studies major.

    Students seeking the best colleges for a counseling degree can earn their at OHCC. The program explores the various causes of addictions, such as alcohol and drug abuse, examining addiction through a Christian viewpoint. The program prepares students to become licensed drug and alcohol counselors in Minnesota, and many graduates go on to work in treatment and counseling centers.

    The BS in addictions counseling includes a full, 30-credit-hour major in biblical studies and 47 credit hours in addictions counseling. Students also complete at least 880 hours of field experience to fulfill Minnesota licensing requirements.

    Courses include:

    • Diagnosis, Intervention, and Treatment of Chemical Dependency
    • Integration of Psychology and Theology
    • Foundations of Addiction
    • Psychopharmacology

     

  7. Lesley University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lesley serves just over 2,700 undergraduate students across more than 35 academic programs. Originally founded in 1909 as a teacher's college, Lesley now offers 483 unique bachelor's degrees, maintaining small class sizes with a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    Lesley's introduces basic foundations in psychology and human development. Designed to take around four years to complete, the program includes specialization options in expressive arts therapy and holistic psychology. Students complete two internships, and often work at Cambridge-based locations like the Franciscan Hospital for Children or Horizons for Homeless Children. Most internships take place during learners' final two years of study.

    The 120-credit-hour program prepares students for both entry-level counseling positions and graduate study. Students may also pursue Lesley's dual degree option and earn both a BS and MA in counseling.

    Courses include:

    • Lifespan Development
    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Foundations and Systems in the Helping Professions
    • Trauma and Crisis

     

  8. Kentucky Christian University
    Location

    Grayson, KY

    Located in Grayson, KCU enrolls only 500 students, boasting an average class size of just 14 individuals. KCU offers 28 unique academic programs across five schools, including degree options for learners seeking undergraduate counseling courses.

    Presented through KCU's School of Social Work and Behavioral Health, the requires a minimum of 120 credit hours. The curriculum includes courses in counseling psychology, along with foundational courses in biblical studies. The program's 400-hour internship component provides students with interactive experience in the field.

    The department offers minors in areas like child and family studies and general psychology. The program prepares students for further study in counseling, careers in human services settings, and church-based service positions.

    Courses include:

    • Developmental Psychology
    • Techniques of Counseling
    • Social Sciences Research Methods
    • Marriage and Family Therapy
    • Crisis Management, Prevention, and Intervention

     

  9. Maryville College
    Location

    Maryville, TN

    A Presbyterian-affiliated school located just north of the Great Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee, Maryville enrolls 1,148 students across more than 60 majors. The college boasts an atmosphere of community and personalized, individual instruction, with an average class size of 17.

    Maryville offers a BA in psychology with an . The program emphasizes human cognition and behavior, providing foundational knowledge in different mental processes and behavioral patterns. The counseling track prepares students to pursue relevant graduate studies, and to eventually work in clinical settings.

    The counseling track in Maryville's psychology program offers a strong knowledge base in areas like human behavior, along with applications in different helping professions. Students in this concentration may enter the field upon graduation, working in various social service professions, although many go on to pursue a graduate degree for clinical practice.

    Courses include:

    • Theories of Personality
    • Contemporary and Professional Issues in Psychology
    • Cognitive Psychology
    • Advanced Counseling

     

  10. Johnson University Florida
    Location

    Kissimmee, FL

    Johnson was originally founded in 1893 as the School of Evangelists. Today, the university maintains campuses in both Tennessee and Florida, enrolling a total of 1,270 students across all majors and programs. Located in Kissimmee, Johnson's Florida campus serves a tight-knit student body of just 184 undergraduates, making it one of the state's best small colleges.

    Johnson offers both a . Both are ideal for students seeking a counseling degree that emphasizes biblical studies, ministry, and skills in church leadership. The programs prepare students to lead churches and provide ministry development as they apply psychological theories and concepts to pastoral practice.

    The key difference between the BA and BS options are the core arts and sciences course requirements: the BA core includes 52 credits, while the BS requires 50. Both degrees require 27 and 30 credits in biblical studies, respectively.

    Courses include:

    • Encountering Cultures
    • Biblical Teaching and Preaching
    • Introduction to Counseling Ministry
    • Pastoral Counseling

     

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