In the new age of technology and ease of communication, students may be seeking out convenient options for their education. The cost of living in the United States is constantly rising, making it necessary for college students to maintain full-time employment while pursuing their dream degree. With these factors in mind, many individuals may be searching for online counseling courses that can fit their diverse scheduling needs.
The introduction of 100% online programs may be a game changer for upcoming students who require flexibility. Online counseling programs may consist of courses that require online login, virtual discussions, student chats, and testing tools via the online system. Graduate students at the master’s level may also upload research assignments via online classrooms. Online graduate degree programs typically have the same practicum and field experience requirements as on-campus graduate programs.
Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program
|School and Program Information||Online Program?|
Master's in Clinical Psychology
No GRE Required
Bachelor's Degree Required
Become a Licensed Professional CounselorLearn More
Complete in 27 months
|University of Denver|
Online MA in School Counseling
Designed to adhere to CACREP standards
✔ Live, online classes
No GRE Required; Minimum GPA 2.5 Required
Earn your degree in as few as 24 monthsLearn More
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
No GRE Required
Earn a Master’s in Applied Behavior AnalysisLearn More
Complete online in as few as 15 months
Master of Arts in Psychology
Open to all undergrad majors
No GRE Required
Earn a Master’s in Psychology Online in 18 MonthsLearn More
Master's Degree in Counseling
No GRE—No Entrance Exam
Choose from Addictions, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, or School Counseling specialtiesLearn More
*Sponsored Counseling Programs
Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs
Counseling School Online
Students interested in online degree programs may be concerned with the quality of counseling courses online, as this educational method differs from the in-person college norm.
When considering an online master's degree in counseling, you should consider a CACREP-accredited program. CACREP is considered the gold standard of counseling accreditation for any university, online or campus-based.
Multiple reliable and reputable universities can offer you the option of taking online counseling courses. The following universities operate reviewed and accredited programs that could be a great addition to your current resume:
- Northwestern University: Northwestern’s CACREP-accredited master’s can be completed entirely online, and offers students the option of adding the Child and Adolescent Counseling specialization.
- George Washington University: GW is a great option for students seeking reliable and flexible online master’s programs. GW’s most prominent online counseling program is the online Master of Arts (MA) in Rehabilitation Counseling, a compelling option for students interested in working with vulnerable populations. This degree program can take anywhere from two to three years to complete, depending on how much time you can commit to learning.
- New York University: NYU may be one of the largest providers of online counselor courses in the country, offering an online MA of School Counseling and an online MA of Mental Health Counseling. Each of these programs can help students learn more about providing assessments and treatment planning for clients in the field, the ethical requirements of counselors, and communication methods relevant to client/provider success. Each program can be completed in around three years.
Types of Online Counseling Courses You Might Take
In online counseling programs, students participate in courses that are the same or similar to those they would take in a traditional on-campus learning environment. Courses cover areas such as counseling theories, research methods, core counseling skills, and current issues affecting the U.S. mental healthcare system.
Online courses have varying layouts depending on where students enroll, but all contain similar elements. Students can log in to online course rooms and view a layout of assignments, assigned readings, and course projects, allowing for transparency and preplanning for busy students.
The following are examples of courses that may be required in an online master’s in clinical mental health counseling program:
Counseling Approaches and Intervention
This course begins with a look at the fundamental properties of counseling, theories that have driven growth in the field, and approaches that have shaped counseling techniques as they stand today. This course may include a study of developments in assessment, treatment planning, and psychotherapy interventions designed to help people find solutions to difficult life circumstances.
Crisis Assessment and Intervention
Regardless of which specialty students choose, they may face crises of varying proportions. This course prepares students to appraise crisis levels, implement de-escalation strategies, and plan for treatments that can include future crisis prevention. Students enrolled in this course also learn methods of protecting themselves and others against violence during crises, as well as acknowledging behaviors that can be indicative of distress.
Counseling for Families and Groups
While counseling techniques for individuals can be unique and person-centered, the dynamic slightly changes when more people are involved in the treatment process. Counseling courses online can help students learn more about communication tactics for working with groups, develop mediation skills that can be helpful to keep a peaceful and therapeutic environment, and better understand how group therapy can be a useful tool for individuals and families alike.
Human Growth and Development
In online counseling courses, students learn about the psychological development of humans as infants, children, adolescents, and adults. They study theories regarding the reasons that individuals change in physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional ways during certain stages of life. Applying these developmental concepts to real-life encounters allows counselors to better understand why people behave in certain ways. With an awareness of human growth and development, professional counselors can positively impact individual clients as well as society.
Professionalism and Ethical Practice
Students taking counselor courses online learn about the professional and ethical requirements of counselors. They explore the history of the field of counseling and study different philosophical approaches to the discipline. Professors lead discussions revolving around ethical questions counselors may face on a daily basis. They introduce ongoing and current legal issues in the field and show students examples of how professionals have addressed similar issues in the past. Students make decisions about their own ethical and professional philosophies and how they will conduct themselves in their future practice.
Gain Counseling Experience
Online counseling programs can offer flexible coursework that students can complete while working full time and managing everyday responsibilities. Within these programs, students manage their own schedules to complete coursework and engage with other learners online. At the end of these programs, students need supervised practice hours to qualify for licensure.
Some programs help students secure placement for supervised experience, while others leave it up to the students. It’s important to review what support a program offers to make sure that you have a path to licensure after graduation.
Types of Careers for Graduates of Online Counseling Programs
Counseling degrees offer graduates the opportunity to help people in need, and allow for a high degree of specialization. Common counseling career paths include the following:
Child and Adolescent Counselor
Median 2019 Salary: $57,040
Child and adolescent counselors, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups with school and career counselors, work with children from age 5 through their teenage years. They work with children as they progress through some of life’s most complex developmental stages by assisting them through traumatic events and helping them set goals for the future.
Substance Abuse Counselor
Median 2019 Salary: $46,240
Substance abuse counseling involves working with individuals and groups to identify the root causes of addiction, establish alternative behavioral paths, and identify support systems. Addiction counselors may work for rehabilitation centers, in hospitals, or with private organizations.
Median 2019 Salary: $57,040
Vocational counselors, which the BLS groups with school and career counselors, can be a valuable resource for professionals seeking career guidance. They may conduct assessments to determine their clients’ skills, helping to effectively match them with a profession. They also have access to career centers and can refer clients to employers in need of skilled employees.
Median 2019 Salary: $49,610
Geriatric counselors, which the BLS groups with marriage and family therapists, provide clinical mental health counseling services to the aging population. They help individuals work through grief and feelings of despair due to illness and degeneration. Common positions include working in retirement homes or hospice services.
Median 2019 Salary: $35,950
Rehabilitation counselors work with people who have disabilities or impairments that require them to learn or relearn skills for living normal lives. They assist clients who are working through the frustration of losing access to skills and develop treatment plans for clients to work toward goals.
Median 2019 Salary: $46,240
Trauma-focused or mental health counselors work with those who have experienced a recent loss of a loved one, received a diagnosis of a dangerous disease or illness, or endured a traumatic event. They can also help clients who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses, disorders, disrupted behavior symptoms, or trauma-induced issues.
Median 2019 Salary: $57,040
School counselors provide support and guidance to students. They help students develop educational goals, move toward rewarding careers, or work through personal issues that may be impeding their development. Some school counselors play a role in a student’s college planning process, which can be crucial for students with little educational support.
Online vs. Traditional Counseling Courses Online
Counseling students work to acquire the skills and knowledge to guide others to happy and satisfying solutions. Those who show an interest in this field work hard to help others meet their goals, have empathy for those undergoing difficult life circumstances, and have the drive to regularly work through difficult situations. One of the best ways to help others is to become a licensed counselor. Online counseling programs can be a convenient route to meeting educational licensure requirements. Prospective students interested in online counseling programs should consider these benefits.
Online programs can provide students with a flexible alternative to a traditional degree. Self-directed students with the discipline to stay on track may find this to be the best option for an advanced degree. Online programs can also be excellent options for currently employed professionals seeking career advancement without forfeiting their employment.
Ideal for Mid-Career Master’s Candidates
While a traditional learning environment may be preferable for undergraduates or new college graduates interested in immediately undertaking a master’s, those pursuing higher education to advance their careers or embark on new ones may benefit from an online program. Students with family or work obligations may prefer the freedom of studying from home, without the need to relocate.
How to Apply to Online Counseling Programs
Applying to an online counseling program shares many similarities to applying to a traditional degree program. Typically, candidates should have a bachelor’s degree in counseling, social work, or a related field. Some programs also require applicants to have experience in the field; however, this is not always the case. Individuals without a degree or background in professional counseling can sometimes take prerequisite courses upon admission. Other application requirements may include the following:
- GRE scores
- Letters of recommendation
- A statement of intent/purpose
Requirements for different master’s in counseling programs can vary. Applicants should consult their chosen schools’ websites.
Learn More About Counselor Courses Online
Individual needs will determine whether an online or traditional program is preferable. Online counseling degrees may be a better option for someone interested in completing coursework at their own pace.
Online counseling programs also allow students to communicate with classmates and instructors through online classrooms, which is convenient for those who need assistance or support. However, some students are drawn to in-person programs where they can engage in the traditional experience of group learning in a campus environment.
The choice is ultimately yours and should be based upon your needs and preferences. Learn more about how different counseling degree programs can help you pursue your professional goals.