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Can I Get a Counseling Degree Online?

Written by: Staff Writers
Last Updated: May 2020

If you want to pursue a degree in counseling but can't commit to a full-time, on-campus program, you can accomplish your goal through online learning. This resource guides you through how to get a counseling degree online, including information on accreditation, common coursework, and potential career paths. 

The Advantages of Online Degrees

Taking counseling courses online instead of enrolling in a traditional on-campus program offers several advantages, especially for students with professional or personal obligations. For example, many students wonder, "What are the best counseling night courses near me?" Online programs provide added flexibility and accessibility that traditional programs do not. Many online schools for counseling offer asynchronous courses, which allow students to log on at their convenience. 

Distance learners who care for kids, work full time, or simply do not live near a college benefit from this flexible format. Online programs also tend to cost less than on-campus programs and generally offer the same curriculum in their online and on-campus courses.

Accreditation for Online Counseling Programs

When searching for online schools for counseling, make sure to look for accredited programs. Accreditation essentially amounts to an evaluation process through which outside agencies assess schools and programs, ensuring they offer a valuable education and sufficiently prepare students for their careers. Graduate programs and employers prefer candidates with accredited degrees. 

Online schools for counseling can also possess either national or regional accreditation. Regional accreditation agencies, like the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, evaluate schools within a specific area. National accreditation agencies, on the other hand, generally focus on vocational and religious schools. Regional accreditation agencies tend to possess a better reputation. 

Academic programs can also hold programmatic accreditation. Look for counseling programs with accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. You can search for schools and their accreditation status on this U.S. Department of Education site

Courses in an Online Counseling Program

Taking counseling courses online does not significantly differ from taking those same courses on campus. The curriculum usually starts with foundational courses covering theory and techniques related to counseling, psychotherapy, and mental health. Students may take more specialized courses if they choose concentrations, such as marriage and family or addiction counseling. 

Counseling programs also usually involve a research element. Distance learners generally need to take research methods courses that help them develop their analytical skills. Students dedicate some course credits to using those research skills with an independent master's thesis or project to culminate their degree. 

Career and Salary Outlook for Counselors

Counseling can lead to several different specialties. Counselors can work with many types of clients, including small children in elementary schools and the elderly in long-term care facilities. The following list outlines common types of counselors, and the table below provides their median salary and projected job growth rates. Some states require different types of licensure for these various roles, so make sure to verify your state requirements. 

  • School and Career Counselors: School counselors may help children balancing difficult home lives with their schoolwork or advise high school students on what college to choose. College counselors help students deal with the pressures of higher education and guide them in determining their post-college roadmap. Career counselors may aid professionals in assessing their strengths to decide on a career path. 
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: These professionals help people with behavioral and mental health issues. They provide guidance to people dealing with grief, addiction, depression, or anxiety disorders. These counselors may develop treatment paths for their clients or organize interventions. 
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: People with certain developmental or physical disabilities may need a bit of extra help in learning how to live independent lives. Rehabilitation counselors guide these individuals by locating resources and establishing treatment plans. These professionals may also work with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who need help readjusting to civilian life. 
  • Counselors: Many counselors work in roles that do not necessarily fit any of the previous descriptions. They may work for the government, religious organizations, food and housing relief services, or residential care facilities. These counselors help people who need guidance in many different settings. 
Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)
School and Career Counselors $57,040 8%
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $46,240 22%
Rehabilitation Counselors  $35,950 10%
Counselors $48,800 12%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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