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.

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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 2020

  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

     

  11. Delaware Valley University
    Location

    Doylestown, PA

    Learners seeking the best small colleges may find a home at DVU. Located just outside Philadelphia in Doylestown, DVU serves a student body of 1,980 undergraduate and 446 graduate students. Offering over 25 undergraduate programs, DVU keeps class sizes small, with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 13:1.

    DVU's 125-credit-hour emphasizes practical experience through the university's program. The BA program introduces students to counseling practice, featuring courses that provide practical training in the field. Candidates survey basic counseling techniques and theories, exploring concepts in child and adolescent development and personality theory.

    Students also complete coursework in statistics and research methods, preparing them to conduct relevant field research and pursue graduate study. During the required senior seminar, students compose a research paper under faculty supervision.

    Courses include:

    • Measurement and Assessment in Psychology
    • Introduction to Counseling Techniques
    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Substance Use and Abuse

     

  12. Arizona Christian University
    Location

    Phoenix, AZ

    A Christian liberal arts institution, this Glendale-based university opened its doors in 1960. ACU still holds firm roots in the Christian faith, offering more than 50 academic programs with biblical foundations. With just over 900 enrolled students, ACU maintains a small average class size of 15.

    The 120-credit-hour behavioral health program stresses Christian principles, teaching students to incorporate Christian values into counseling practice. The curriculum includes 15 required credits in biblical and theological studies. Students may complete the program on campus or online.

    Courses include:

    • Principles of Counseling
    • Counseling Theories
    • Human Development
    • General Psychology

     

  13. Johnson & Wales University-Denver
    Location

    Denver, CO

    Established in 1914, JWU now offers programs at four campuses across the country. The university boasts small class sizes and offers more than 80 academic majors. JWU students participate in more than 3,400 internships each academic year.

    The BS in counseling psychology curriculum includes a mandatory six-credit-hour internship. With faculty approval, students with relevant prior experience may apply that experience to the internship requirement. JWU also offers a five-year BS-to-MS in psychology program, allowing candidates to streamline their undergraduate and graduate studies.

    Courses include:

    • Counseling Theories and Techniques
    • Principles of Group Counseling
    • Introduction to Crisis Intervention
    • Cultural Psychology

     

  14. Toccoa Falls College
    Location

    Toccoa Falls, GA

    TFC is a Georgia institution serving a student body of more than 1,670 individuals. The liberal arts college incorporates Christian principles into all of its 75 academic programs. Students seeking a small college with a counseling psychology program may find a great fit at TFC.

    The program provides students with a broad knowledge of counseling and psychology theory, including fundamental concepts, principles, skills, and competencies in the field. Students also complete service outreach projects throughout their second and third years of study.

    Courses include:

    • Counseling Skills
    • Crisis and Trauma Therapy
    • Christ-Centered Counseling
    • Developmental Psychology

     

  15. College of St Joseph
    Location

    SCHOOL CLOSED, SCHOOL CLOSED

    A private Catholic institution in Rutland, Vermont, the College of St. Joseph (CSJ) offers a 120-credit-hour . Designed for completion in four years of continuous enrollment, the program includes nine credit hours of field experience in community development and counseling, under the supervision of a faculty member.

    The program prepares students for entry-level positions in helping professions like human resources and social services, and for graduate study in counseling. CSJ's Psychology & Human Services Division also offers tracks in related fields like alcohol and substance abuse services, clinical mental health counseling, and school counseling.

    Courses include:

    • Personality Theory and Evaluations
    • Case Management and Counseling
    • Culture and Community in Human Services
    • Human Growth and Development

     

  16. Southwestern Assemblies of God University
    Location

    Waxahachie, TX

    Founded in the Pentecostal Christian tradition in 1943, SAGU now enrolls 2,102 graduate and undergraduate students. The university, located in Waxahachie, Texas, boasts a small college atmosphere with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 15:1.

    SAGU offers a consisting of 126 credit hours. The program introduces integral theories and ideas in psychology and counseling, combining biblical concepts with counseling practices. Students complete 57 credit hours within the major. The curriculum was developed to lay the academic groundwork for graduate studies in counseling.

    All students complete a field practicum during the program. SAGU encourages students to pursue a minor in an area like marriage and family counseling, youth ministries, or addictions counseling. Students must complete a biblical studies course every semester.

    Courses include:

    • Counseling Children and Adolescents
    • Addictive Behavior and Recovery
    • Advanced Methods and Techniques in Counseling
    • Counseling Adult Populations

     

  17. Hobe Sound Bible College
    Location

    Hobe Sound, FL

    Located in Florida just north of West Palm Beach, HSBC offers 55 unique academic programs. HSBC students enjoy all the advantages of the best small colleges, with HSBC's average class size resting at just nine learners and a total student body of 303 individuals. HSBC is a great option for candidates seeking a small college with a counseling psychology program.

    HSBC's prepares students to practice Christian-centric counseling. The program emphasizes the growing need for Christian counselors to work alongside pastors and church leaders, and the curriculum prepares students for those careers.

    HSBC's BA in counseling provides the necessary academic background and experience to pursue board certification as a biblical or pastoral counselor. The program also prepares students for related graduate studies, as necessary for clinical licensure.

    Unique features:

    • 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio
    • Average online class size of 3.6

     

  18. Cornerstone University
    Location

    Grand Rapids, MI

    This interdenominational Christian institution is located outside downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Cornerstone serves only 1,250 enrolled students through more than 70 undergraduate programs, allowing learners looking for the best small colleges to benefit from small class sizes.

    Cornerstone offers a through its Social Science Division. The 120-credit program includes courses in biblical and theological studies, and students explore Christian perspectives alongside psychological theories and principles. The program culminates in a required counseling and psychology research paper, and students may opt to present their paper at a local or national conference in the field. All candidates must participate in an internship or practicum.

    Full-time students generally complete the program in eight semesters. Cornerstone's Social Science Division reported 100% of its students gained employment or pursued graduate education within six months of graduating.

    Courses include:

    • General Psychology
    • Theories of Personality
    • Theories of Counseling
    • Marriage and Family Counseling

     

  19. Emporia State University
    Location

    Emporia, KS

    Kansas-based ESU was originally founded as a teacher's college in 1863. Today, the university boasts a student body of 5,800 enrolled in more than 200 academic programs.

    ESU's is ideal for learners interested in undergraduate counseling programs. The program features an optional addiction counseling concentration. Students complete a minimum of 120 credit hours, including 38 credit hours within the addiction counseling specialization. The curriculum takes a holistic approach to providing rehabilitation services and counseling, placing a special emphasis on working with handicapped or disabled clients.

    The program includes a required six-credit-hour internship in rehabilitation, which students generally complete in their final year of study. During that internship, learners take a seminar course to share their experiences with peers and discuss problems and issues they may face in the field.

    Courses include:

    • Psychopharmacology
    • Substance Abuse in Counseling
    • Ethics in Human Services
    • Family Issues and Advocacy

     

  20. Mid-Atlantic Christian University
    Location

    Elizabeth City, NC

    Founded in 1948 as the Roanoke Bible College and later renamed Mid-Atlantic Christian University, MACU now serves undergraduate and professional students at its campus in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. With a student body of just 196, MACU offers small class sizes and individualized academic assistance.

    MACU offers a . Both tracks require at least 120 minimum credit hours, including 42 credit hours within the major. Students pursuing the BA track complete a 12-credit language component. MACU's degree in counseling and psychology prepares candidates to work as Christian counselors, emphasizing skills useful to positions in Christian services and communities.

    The program examines core theories, themes, and principles in psychology and counseling, using scientific methods of inquiry to interpret psychological findings. All counseling and psychology students complete an 18-credit-hour biblical studies minor.

    Courses include:

    • Counseling Theories
    • Cross-Cultural Counseling
    • Developmental Psychology
    • Abnormal Psychology

     

  21. Averett University
    Location

    Danville, VA

    Averett opened in 1854 as a women's school in Danville, Virginia. Today, the private, coeducational institution enrolls 1,500 students in more than 35 academic programs. With an average class size of just 12 students, the university has established itself as one of the best small colleges in the area.

    Candidates enrolled in Averett's may choose to earn a BA or a BS. The program's optional concentration in counseling and clinical psychology prepares students for graduate study in the field. The BA and BS tracks both feature core psychology courses that provide strong foundational knowledge in psychological theories and concepts.

    The program culminates in a senior capstone psychology seminar course that offers a space for reflection on the coursework while providing a brief history of psychology. This seminar stands in place of a formal internship requirement.

    Courses include:

    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Personality Theory
    • Helping Relations
    • Psychological Measurements

     

  22. Morningside College
    Location

    Sioux City, IA

    A private, four-year institution in Sioux City, Iowa, Morningside enrolls 1,300 full-time students and offers more than 65 academic programs. The college boasts a job and graduate school placement rate of 99%. Students at Morningside enjoy the advantage of small class sizes, with just 13 students per faculty member.

    Learners enjoy opportunities to partake in valuable learning experiences at Morningside's Counseling Lab, where they may observe sessions and practice their skills. The program culminates in a senior capstone, in which candidates read and discuss works by influential psychologists.

    Courses include:

    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Research Methods in Psychology
    • History and Systems of Psychology
    • Psychological Testing

     

  23. University of Holy Cross
    Location

    New Orleans, LA

    Situated along the Mississippi River outside New Orleans, UHC was established as a religious teaching college in 1916. UHC still embraces Catholic traditions, following the teachings of the Marianites of Holy Cross. The university offers small class sizes and a close-knit community, boasting a total enrollment of just 1,260 and an average class size of 20 students.

    UHC's is ideal for students interested in undergraduate counseling courses with a focus on rehabilitation practice. Housed in UHC's Behavioral Sciences department, the degree highlights foundations in that area, integrating general behavioral science concepts with skills in addictions counseling.

    The program consists of 120 required credit hours, with opportunities to participate in research during the final year of study. Students must complete theology electives as part of UHC's general education curriculum.

    Courses include:

    • Introduction to Addictive Behaviors
    • Addiction Counseling
    • Crisis Intervention
    • Advanced Abnormal Psychology

     

  24. Oklahoma Baptist University
    Location

    Shawnee, OK

    Located just 90 miles from Tulsa in Shawnee, OBU got its start in 1910. The university enrolls 1,868 students in 88 areas of study, boasting a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1.

    OBU offers a with a pre-counseling concentration, requiring 128 total credit hours. Students complete 37 credit hours within the pre-counseling major and select an 18-credit-hour minor from options like general psychology and advocacy. The pre-counseling track specifically prepares students for careers and graduate study in counseling, emphasizing elements of practice and theory often overlooked in general psychology programs.

    The includes required courses in biblical literacy, along with a flexible set of core courses that allow students to tailor the program to their interests. Many students present their original research at local and national conferences.

    Courses include:

    • Child and Adolescent Development
    • Statistics for the Behavioral and Social Sciences
    • Theories of Personality
    • Psychotherapy and Family Therapy Theories

     

  25. Ecclesia College
    Location

    Springdale, AR

    Located in Springdale, Arkansas, Ecclesia College is a Christian institution with a student body of just 218. Students seeking a biblically-focused undergraduate foundation benefit from Ecclesia's desire to integrate religious principles and teachings into all academic programs.

    Ecclesia's teaches students to apply Christian thought to basic counseling principles and skills. The program prepares students to employ counseling strategies as they work within social organizations, churches, and similar arenas. Candidates learn to effectively communicate and actively listen, gaining a basic understanding of laws, policy, and ethics within the counseling profession.

    The 120-credit curriculum includes 30 credit hours of institutional requirements, 21 credit hours of Bible and theology coursework, and 43 credit hours within the major. The program culminates in a senior capstone, which consists of a seminar and a counseling practicum.

    Courses include:

    • Principles of Counseling
    • Interviewing Counseling Skills
    • Counseling Theories
    • Pastoral Counseling

     

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