Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling Programs

Counseling is a broad field with several different focuses and career paths. With a bachelor's degree in counseling, students can learn the necessary skills to work with individuals and families in various settings.

If you enjoy helping people, this degree program might be a good fit. The program covers counseling practices and theories, human development, research methods, and psychopathology. People with a bachelor's degree in counseling can work in various settings, such as mental health clinics, hospitals, and schools.

Consider an online counseling program: Bachelor of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis Learn more.
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Overview of Online Bachelor's in Counseling Programs

There are a few different ways to obtain a bachelor's degree in counseling, including online, in-person, and hybrid. Not only that, but many programs offer an accelerated program for those who can attend full-time and want to complete the program quickly.

An online program gives the most flexibility, whereas you get the benefit of a traditional classroom with an in-person program. A hybrid program combines the best of both program types.

Regardless of the program type, you'll get to work on a specialization that interests you the most, including substance abuse, rehabilitation, or mental health.

Below is a list of some of the more than 80 online bachelor's degrees in counseling programs, covering topics such as psychology, substance abuse, and addiction counseling.

Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program

☰ For detailed degree information, view the guides to:
Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs

Tips for Choosing a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling

  1. Accreditation: Ensure the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body. This guarantees that the education you receive meets industry standards and is recognized by employers.
  2. Specializations Offered: Look for programs that offer specializations aligning with your career interests, such as substance abuse, rehabilitation, or mental health counseling.
  3. Flexibility and Format: Consider whether an online, in-person, or hybrid format suits your lifestyle and learning preferences. Evaluate the flexibility of the program in terms of course schedules and part-time/full-time options.
  4. Faculty Expertise and Resources: Research the qualifications of the faculty and the resources available for students, such as counseling labs, research opportunities, and practical training components.
  5. Career Services and Alumni Network: Investigate the school’s career support services and the strength of its alumni network in the counseling field.
  6. Cost and Financial Aid: Consider the tuition costs and available financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, and work-study programs.
  7. Student Support Services: Look into the support services provided, such as academic advising, mental health resources, and tutoring.
  8. Program Outcomes and Success Rates: Examine the program’s success rates, including graduation rates, job placement rates in counseling fields, and student satisfaction surveys.

What Can You Do With an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling?

With a bachelor’s degree in counseling, graduates can pursue various careers in the mental health and counseling fields. The most common career paths include:

School Counselor: School counselors work in K-12 settings to assist students with academic and social skills. The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors was $60,140 as of May 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment in this field is projected to grow by 5% from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations​​.

Mental Health Counselor or Substance Abuse Counselor: These professionals assist clients with issues such as addiction, alcoholism, and depression. The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $49,710 in 2022, according to the BLS. The field is expected to see a growth of 18% from 2022 to 2032, much faster than average​​.

Rehabilitation Counselor: Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional or physical disabilities live independently. In 2022, the median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $39,990, with an expected job growth of 2% from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations, according to the BLS​​.

Marriage and Family Therapist: These therapists help couples and families work through their relationship issues. In 2022, the median annual wage for marriage and family therapists was $56,570, according to the BLS. Expected job growth from 2022 to 2032 is 15%.

Each of these roles requires specific skills and qualifications, and while a bachelor’s degree in counseling is an important first step, additional training or education may be necessary, especially for licensure. This degree can also be a stepping stone to further education and advanced roles in the field.

Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling vs. Social Work

Core Focus and Coursework: While both degrees involve helping individuals, a Bachelor’s in Counseling focuses on mental health, therapy techniques, and psychological theories. Social Work, conversely, covers a broader range of topics including social justice, community resources, and policy. Counseling programs often delve deeper into therapeutic techniques, while Social Work includes case management and advocacy.

Career Paths and Opportunities: Counseling graduates typically work as counselors in settings like schools, clinics, or private practice, focusing on mental health and personal issues. Social workers often find roles in government agencies, non-profits, and hospitals, addressing broader social issues, providing resources, and advocating for clients.

Licensing and Certification Requirements: For counseling, licensure usually requires a master’s degree and supervised clinical experience. In social work, bachelor’s degree holders can become licensed social workers (LSW), though advanced roles also require a master’s degree.

Impact and Client Interaction: Counselors often work closely with clients on personal and psychological issues over time. Social workers may deal with a wider range of client needs, often including socioeconomic challenges, and may work more on connecting clients to resources than providing long-term therapy.

Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling vs. Psychology

Core Focus and Coursework: A Bachelor’s in Counseling is more practice-oriented, focusing on developing interpersonal skills, understanding therapeutic techniques, and applying counseling theories. Psychology, on the other hand, is broader and more research-oriented, delving into cognitive processes, behavior, and psychological research methods.

Career Paths and Opportunities: Graduates with a counseling degree often pursue roles as counselors, therapists, or support coordinators, mainly focusing on direct client interaction. Psychology degree holders may find opportunities in research, teaching, or in clinical settings, often requiring further education for clinical practice.

Licensing and Certification Requirements: Counseling graduates can pursue licensure as counselors after meeting state-specific requirements, which often include a master’s degree and supervised clinical experience. Psychology students typically need a graduate degree and a state license to practice as psychologists.

Impact and Client Interaction: Counselors directly work with individuals to manage and overcome personal and emotional challenges. Psychologists, while they can also provide therapy, often engage in a broader range of activities, including research, assessment, and teaching, depending on their level of education and area of specialization.

Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling Program Admission Requirements


While the admissions process varies for each program, most schools require a 3.0 minimum GPA for consideration. You will also need to show proof of a high school diploma or GED, along with transcripts.

 Application Requirements


While each program has different application requirements, you can use the Common App to streamline the process.

Application Fee

Application fees range from program to program, some as low as $40, while others can be as high as $100. However, don’t let this deter you from applying, as many programs offer application fee waivers.


All programs require you to submit your high school transcripts or proof of your GED. Additionally, if you’ve completed any college courses, you must include a college transcript with your application.

Test Scores

Unless you’re transferring from another college, you’ll likely need to submit SAT or ACT scores with your application. And while some programs have a minimum score requirement, others look at your application as a whole.

Letters of Recommendation

Many programs require you to submit letters of recommendation to show your academic and personal worth. These recommendations are often written by teachers or those in the community that can speak to your work ethic and values.

Scholarships and Financial Aid Opportunities

When pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Counseling, understanding the available financial aid options is crucial.

  • Types of Scholarships: Many organizations offer scholarships specifically for counseling students, alongside general academic scholarships. Research for scholarships that align with your interests, background, or area of study.
  • Federal and State Aid: Apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This can qualify you for grants, which don’t need to be repaid, and federal loans with favorable terms.
  • Work-Study Programs: These programs provide part-time employment while you study, helping finance your education. Check if your chosen institution offers such opportunities.
  • Institutional Aid: Many colleges and universities provide their own scholarships, grants, or bursaries. Contact your institution’s financial aid office to learn about available aid specific to counseling programs.

Understanding these options can significantly impact your ability to finance your education and reduce financial stress, allowing you to focus more on your studies.

Tips for Choosing a Bachelor’s in Counseling Program

Choosing a suitable bachelor’s in counseling program can be overwhelming, especially if you are just starting your research. But the following tips can help you narrow down your options.

 Determine what’s important to you.

The first step is determining what’s important to you in a prospective program. Factors include location, cost, degree specialization, program length, curriculum requirements, accreditation, and the type of program (in-person, online, or hybrid).

Choose an accredited program.

While seemingly endless programs may offer a bachelor’s in counseling degree, it’s essential to ensure that you choose a regionally accredited university or college. There are many benefits to attending an accredited program, including the capability to apply for financial aid, the ability to transfer to other colleges more seamlessly (if needed), and the guarantee of knowing the program is academically sound.

 Look for additional educational opportunities.

If your long-term plan is to complete your bachelor’s in counseling degree and then apply for a master’s and doctorate, you may want to consider the available post-graduate options at each school.

 A master’s degree in counseling can significantly increase your job opportunities, while a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) can help you secure high-level counseling jobs.

Counseling Bachelor’s Degree Curriculum

 While there are numerous options for counseling programs across the US, there are usually courses that most students take regardless of their program or specialization.

 The options below highlight some standard bachelor in counseling courses:

Introduction to Psychology

This course is a primer for all counseling students, highlighting the principles and theories regarding the human mind and behavior. In addition, students learn the history of psychology and its evolution over time.

Introduction to Counseling

The Introduction to Counseling course reviews the history of counseling, along with theory and practice. In addition, students will explore the counseling relationship, ethical principles, and credentialing requirements.

Methods of Counseling

Students will learn about interviewing techniques in counseling, including guiding a session, assisting the client in defining their concerns, and communicating their goals.

Crisis Intervention

This course teaches students the crisis intervention theory and introduces advanced interviewing techniques and assessment tools for issues such as abuse, trauma, substance abuse, and depression.

Diversity Issues in Counseling

As a counselor, you will be exposed to clients from various cultural, social, and economic backgrounds. This course teaches students how attitudes, biases, racism, and personal beliefs can affect counseling.

Other typical courses in a bachelor of counseling degree include:

  • Human development
  • Personality theories
  • Family therapy
  • Abnormal psychology


Once you get past the general coursework for your bachelor’s degree, you can focus on your specialization.

Some of the more popular disciplines are:

  • Addiction counseling
  • Career counseling
  • Clinical mental health counseling
  • Clinical rehabilitation counseling
  • Marriage, couple, and family counseling
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • School counseling
  • Mental health counseling

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling?

Like most bachelor’s degree programs, completing a bachelor’s degree in counseling usually takes four years. Depending on the type of program you choose, the required credits can range between 120-180 credits, depending on whether the program uses a semester or quarter-based system.

 Full-time students will complete the program faster than part-time students, but there are also options for accelerated bachelor’s degree programs. These faster-paced programs allow students to complete their degrees in as little as three years.

How Much Does a Counseling Bachelor’s Degree Cost?

The cost of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Counseling varies based on several factors including the type of institution (public or private), whether the program is online or in-person, and the student’s residency status (in-state or out-of-state).

  • Public vs. Private Institutions: Public universities typically charge lower tuition for in-state residents compared to private institutions. However, out-of-state students may pay higher rates at public universities, closer to those of private colleges.
  • Online Programs: Online programs can sometimes be more cost-effective due to lower overhead costs for the institution. However, this is not always the case, and tuition fees can vary widely between programs.
  • Tuition Fees: According to the College Board, the average annual tuition and fees for a public four-year college were about $11,260 for in-state students and $29,150 for out-of-state students for the 2023-2024 academic year. For private colleges, the average was around $41,540. These figures give a general sense of the potential cost differences.
  • Additional Costs: Beyond tuition, students should consider other expenses like books, supplies, and living costs. Online programs may have different cost structures, potentially saving on commuting and housing costs.
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships: Students should explore financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Many students utilize these resources to help offset the costs of their education.

Post-Graduation Certification and Licensures

Certificates and licensures can help counselors gain employment in more fields or get promoted to advanced positions. They can also help counselors become more competitive in their area, with the potential for higher salaries. These are just a few of the more common ones:

 State Counseling License

Every state has different licensing requirements, but most will require a counseling degree, the completion of an internship, and a state licensure exam.

 National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I

The NCAC I certificate is the way to go if you want to be an addiction counselor. It requires state licensure, three years of experience, 270 hours of substance abuse disorders training, and a passing score on the NCAC I exam.

 National Certified Adolescent Addictions Counselor

If you want to work with children as an addictions counselor, the NCAAC requires state licensure, five years of experience, 270 hours of substance abuse disorders training, and a passing score on the NCAAC exam.

 Sexuality Counselor Certification

If you want to work as a sex therapist or counselor, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) offers a sex counselor certificate. In addition to three years of counseling experience, you must do field experience and complete at least 90 hours of sexual education.

Online Bachelor’s in Counseling FAQ

Is an online bachelor’s degree in counseling the same as an on-campus degree program?

Yes, online and on-campus counseling programs often have similar curriculums. However, online programs offer greater flexibility, which can be beneficial for working students or those with family obligations.

How do I know if a bachelor’s degree in counseling is right for me?

If you’re passionate about helping others, have strong communication skills, and are interested in mental health, a degree in counseling might be a good fit. Consider your career goals and whether they align with the opportunities this degree offers.

Can I practice as a counselor with a bachelor’s degree?

While a bachelor’s degree in counseling provides foundational knowledge, most counseling positions require a master’s degree and state licensure. However, a bachelor’s degree can lead to entry-level roles in related fields or be a stepping stone to further education.

Is a bachelor’s degree in counseling worth it?

This depends on your career goals. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in counseling or a related field, a bachelor’s degree is a necessary first step and can provide valuable skills and knowledge.

What is the highest paying job for a bachelor’s in counseling degree graduate?

The highest paying jobs typically require advanced education, but with a bachelor’s degree, roles like human resources specialist or rehabilitation counselor can be well-paying options.

List of Programs

Still Looking For A Counseling Degree?

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

List of Programs

Capella University 🗹 Online

BS in Psychology - Applied Behavior Analysis
Capella University is HLC Accredited

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters 🗗 Bachelors

Colorado Christian University 🗹 Online

B.S. - Applied Psychology - Clinical Counseling
Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Accredited

University of West Alabama 🗹 Online 🗖 Bachelors

East Central University 🗹 Online 🗖 Bachelors

Counseling Career Guide

Still Looking for a Counseling Degree?

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

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