Guide to Counseling Degrees

There are many different types of counseling degrees for you to investigate for a career in counseling.
Top Counseling Areas:
Addiction Counseling, Career Counseling, Clinical Mental Health or Community Agency Counseling, Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling, School Counseling, Student Affairs and College Counseling, Gerontological Counseling, or Counselor Education & Supervision
To become a counselor, you have to pass multiple requirements. According to the American Counseling Association (ACA), a Bachelor's degree (a prerequisite for basically all Masters Programs) AND a Masters Degree in Counseling are the minimum educational requirements. The ACA recommends obtaining a Masters in Counseling degree from one of two accrediting bodies: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) or the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE).

Requirements for Becoming a Counselor

In addition to the educational requirements, the ACA recommends sets forth the following requisite recommendations for becoming a counselor:
  1. Education: Bachelors and Masters degrees in Counseling (see above)
  2. Experience: Practicum and internships or something similar should be included in your counseling program
  3. License / Certification: Licensure is strongly recommended and a requirement for many positions as a counselor.

After completion of your Masters Degree, consider the following:

  • You can become certified as a: National Certified Counselor (NCC), Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and/or a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
  • The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) recognizes counselors that meet all of the above requirements, as well as adequately scoring on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).
  • The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) sets the standard for quality rehabilitation counseling services with its internationally recognized certification program.
  • State by State Counseling Licensure: Each state has their own individual counseling licensure requirements. Many states are similar, but some are different. Be sure to consider with state you plan on settling down in, and view the state counseling licensure information to make sure you are set up properly.

Programs That May Be Currently Accepting Applicants

Northwestern’s Top-12 ranked Online MA in Counseling Program prepares the next generation of clinical mental health counselors. [email protected] offers both full and part time options that allow you to earn a degree on your own schedule and a Bridge to Counseling track designed for students with limited previous experience or knowledge in psychology. GRE scores are not required for admission to the program.
Click for more admissions info.

NYU’s online master of arts program in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness prepares students to become professional mental health counselors who guide clients of all backgrounds toward healthy lifestyles.
Click for admissions information.

Become a professional school counselor in K-12 settings with an online Master of Education (ME) in School Counseling from top-ranked USC Rossier School of Education. Complete in as few as 20 months.
Click for admissions information.

Types of Counseling Degrees

There are numerous options of degrees in Counseling. Here is a quick overview of the top counseling degrees, with more information to follow:

Online Programs

Online counseling programs are extensive and typically specialty-oriented. Online-based degrees are also becoming more common than campus-based programs, especially at graduate levels, such as the Masters in Counseling.

Bachelors Degrees

A Bachelors in Counseling is the most common undergraduate degree. Most people find that psychology and counseling majors are both great complementary degrees for a future master’s degree in counseling.

Masters Degrees

The most common degree for practicing counselors is the Master's in Counseling, which is widely available online at reputable universities. Master's degrees in clinical counseling and rehabilitation counseling are some of the more popular specialties.

Doctoral / Ph.D.

Doctoral or Doctorate of Counseling programs typically last 4-5 years, depending on a student’s rate of study, and are terminal programs for counselors that wish to continue their education or become a teacher or professor.

Counseling Degrees Online

Degree programs in counseling are beneficial at all levels. Undergraduate degrees in counseling can provide graduates with access to many entry level positions in mental health services. Having a degree in counseling provides for a stable foundation for a better career. Those that choose to move into graduate degree programs will find that the possibilities for employment increase with the higher degree.

Most graduates in counseling choose to get a master's degree so that they can obtain licensure through their respective states. Most states require at least a graduate degree, supervised work experience, and passing of a state board exam prior to being approved for a license to practice.

Why Consider a CACREP Accredited Program?

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the premier accreditation board for counseling degrees, and for good reason. CACREP accredited counseling degrees have commonalities in program substance, classes, research, techniques, and processes. Employers know exactly what they are getting from graduates that were educated by a CACREP accredited program.

In addition, CACREP boasts the following statistics:
  • CACREP programs scored significantly higher on the NCE exam than test takers from non-CACREP programs (Adams, 2006)
  • Graduate students from CACREP programs passed the NCE at higher rates (86%) than did students from non-CACREP programs (77%) (Milsom & Akos, 2007)
  • 88% of students from CACREP programs successfully obtained the NCSC credential, compared to only 52% of students from non-CACREP programs (Milson & Akos, 2007)

What is Counseling?

Counseling as a specialty focuses on the professional and client specifically. It refers to the process of guiding a client to a solution to a problem, usually in an emotional context. Counseling is a sister subject to psychology, with both dealing specifically with human behavior. The history and research in both fields has allowed the two subjects to grow together, while still remaining remarkable different. Counseling on its own has evolved into a science of support and understanding for those suffering from stress and overwhelming consequences to life choices. As a whole, counseling has become its own sector of psychology.

Top Online Counseling Programs for 2018

Use the below quick links to navigate to in-depth information on the top counseling degrees, including information on which universities offer the degree at the level you are interested in. Overall, there are currently 736 counseling programs in the US accredited by CACREP, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

What Does a Counseling Degree Consist of?

Universities that provide degree programs in counseling are vast throughout the United States. There are a number of different sites and majors to choose from. Individuals should choose a university that best fits their needs. Location, online availability, financial aid, and accreditation are huge factors that assist students in choosing the right school. Schools that are accredited in counseling are more likely to be accepted by different states for licensure requirements, leading to a more prosperous career in the future.

Top Online Counseling Degrees

  • ASSOCIATES IN COUNSELING: The first level of counseling for professionals, most available at community colleges.
  • BACHELORS IN COUNSELING: A 4-year undergraduate path that provides learners with the foundation they need for a successful career in the field of counseling.
    View Bachelors Programs
  • MASTERS IN COUNSELING: Most counselors are required to have their Master’s and be licensed by their respective states prior to practicing with the public. We have 1000+ Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs in our directory.
    View Masters Programs
  • DOCTORATE IN COUNSELING: The highest of accomplishments for individuals in this field. After receiving a degree and becoming licensed, counselors can work in hospitals, private practices, state agencies, or even start their own business.
    View Doctoral Programs

Online Learning vs. Campus-Based

Online Counseling ProgramsThe recent innovations to online learning have drawn a lot of students away from the classroom. However, the benefits of in-person learning are as appealing as ever, especially for students that are motivated to get the very best experience from their counseling degree program. Attending classes allows for students to make better connections with their instructor as well as other students. Questions about the material can be answered quickly and directly without having to wait days for a response.

In the classroom there is no interruption due to network problems or internet lag, problems that can occur frequently when engaged in online programs. Traditional classroom experience is the most trusted fashion for obtaining an education. Working in laboratories or research facilities in person provide a much more meaningful experience for those involved than simply completing online coursework.

Even though more people are obtaining online degrees, traditional in-class degrees are still the very trusted for employers. Traditional degrees do not require any additional testing or verification for employers, making it the most popular form of degree acquisition. For those that are interested in finding a college to attend, there are a number of universities all across the United States that can provide everything a student is looking for.

Specialty Counseling Degree Programs

Counselors are not specific to one area, but can provide assistance in a variety of areas. After deciding that counseling is a desired path, individuals should research the different specialties available. Choosing a specialty can provide extensive knowledge on the chosen subject, meaning even more reliable care for clients. Sometimes life can prove to be more than a person can handle on their own. That is the very reason that these degree programs have continued to grow in popularity over recent years. There are an outstanding amount of counseling programs available in the United States, and you can get started here.

Career Opportunities for a Counselor

Careers in CounselingAfter obtaining a degree, the career opportunities in counseling are endless. More counselors graduate every year, promoting great economic growth in the field. As a counselor, professionals are not only in a field that is untouched by recession, but also a field that is rewarding for those involved. Using highly researched techniques, counselors will work with clients to solve every day problems.

Those having issues with relationships also confide in counselors for advice. People struggling with dangerous addictions rely on substance abuse counselors for resources and techniques to change their lives. In a way, counseling is a life changing field. Without the help of counselors, there would be a lot of people dealing with their struggles without any guidance. View the top counseling careers here.

Serving the Public: Clinical vs. Private Practice

Online Clinical Counseling ProgramsCounselors serve the public in many different settings. Clinical or mental health counselors usually work alongside clinical psychologists in hospital or private practices. These career paths are similar in nature, with psychologists dealing more specifically with serious mental illness.

Counselors are more likely to cease education at a master’s degree level while psychologists require doctoral level training. On the other end of the spectrum, school counselors work with students with day to day problems. Students confide in school counselors as a resource for educational and personal support. More specific areas of counseling include marriage and family counseling and substance abuse counseling, both areas that are highly regarded as reliable resources for families and those suffering from addiction.

Overall, counseling is a field that is beneficial for both the professional and the client. Dealing with people and society as a whole is a remarkable choice that can truly bring overwhelming feelings of satisfaction to those in the field. Educationally, the provisions for success are endless. Professionally, there is no end to the potential career opportunities, especially in the years to come.

Who Should Become a Counselor?

For those with great communication skills, counseling is a perfect educational and career field. Counselors should be able to convey empathy to clients, while communicating effective solution plans in a professional setting. A strong dedication to success is also important. Clients dealing with emotional distress need a person to lean on and confide in. The interpersonal skills required for this positions are not difficult to achieve. Those that can connect with others and assist kindly with every day problems are a perfect fit for the counseling field.

Learn more about the top counseling careers.

Counseling Video from CACREP: Advice to Prospective Counseling Student

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Still Looking for a Counseling Degree?

Here are some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page you will find a detailed writeup of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.