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Earning an online bachelor’s in counseling is often the perfect choice for students passionate about understanding and assisting others in various life challenges. These programs are ideal for those interested in human behavior and mental health, instilling the eight core counseling competencies: empathy, active listening, ethical practice, self-awareness, and more. With an average cost of $25,910, these four-year programs provide students with the necessary tools to excel in their future counseling careers.

While providing a solid foundation, it’s important to note that counseling is generally a masters-entry field for licensure. Upon graduation from an undergraduate program, counseling students are prepared for roles as Human Resources specialists, case managers, or admissions counselors. Those who continue to graduate school often pursue careers as licensed counselors and earn a median salary of $49,710, with top earners reaching $82,710.

How to Choose an Online Bachelor’s in Counseling Program

Choose your area of study

Selecting the right area of study, also referred to as specialization, for your bachelor’s in counseling is pivotal, as this decision will shape the foundation for your future education and licensure. It’s essential to consider your interests and career to choose a specialization that aligns best with your professional goals. To illustrate, Clinical Mental Health Counseling is best for those interested in individual or group therapy. School Counseling may work better for those passionate about guiding students, and Substance Abuse Counseling for those drawn to addiction-related issues.

Research schools and programs

Now that you’ve settled on a specialization, you can research schools and programs. First, verify each program’s accreditation status, which is essential for future educational pursuits and eventual licensure. Then, consider the following questions to help guide your research further:

  • What is the faculty’s expertise in your chosen specialization?
  • Are there virtual support services for online students?
  • What is the student-to-faculty ratio in online classes?
  • How does the program facilitate networking and collaboration among online students?
  • How does the program stay updated on industry trends and evolving counseling practices?

You may benefit from exploring programs offering bachelor-to-master tracks depending on your interests. These integrated paths streamline the journey toward licensure, allowing a seamless transition to advanced studies.

Prepare for tests and applications

Once you’ve identified potential schools, it’s time to prepare for tests and applications. Ensure you meet standard admission requirements, and begin gathering your transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. Consider enrolling in a test prep course if your chosen school requires SAT or ACT scores. However, it’s crucial to double-check specific requirements, as some institutions may prioritize elements like a compelling personal statement over standardized test scores.

Select your program

If you submit more than one application, it’s possible to receive multiple acceptance letters. In this situation, you may have a significant decision to make. Now is a great time to revisit the initial criteria from your research — identify the programs that stood out, the faculty you’re eager to learn from, and who has strong online student support. Align these insights with the total cost of attendance and available financial aid opportunities.

Taking this holistic approach ensures that you’ll make a well-informed decision that meets your academic and support needs and considers the financial aspects.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Figuring out how to fund your degree may seem daunting, but several resources are available to help. Start by exploring scholarships and grants, prioritizing those directly related to counseling or your chosen specialization. Next, consider federal student aid options, including grants and subsidized or unsubsidized loans. If you’re interested in part-time employment, consider work-study programs for on-campus or community service opportunities. Meanwhile, those currently employed should check with their employer about tuition reimbursement programs — as these can significantly offset educational expenses.

By strategically combining these resources, you can construct a solid financial plan to support your educational pursuits in counseling.

Best 50 Accredited Online Bachelor’s in Counseling Programs

Best Online Bachelor's in Counseling Degree Programs

Clarks Summit University

Toccoa Falls College

Crown College

Ecclesia College

Hobe Sound Bible College

Regent University

Arizona State University

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How We Rank Schools

Undergraduate counseling programs typically require Bachelor of Science degrees, meaning you will get in-depth knowledge of psychology principles and counseling techniques. While all programs cover foundational skills for working as a counselor, some programs include a more narrow focus on a topic such as substance abuse counseling.

All of the programs on our list have regional accreditation, which is especially important in counseling, where a bachelor’s degree is typically a step toward a master’s degree. Most master’s programs require that you have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school to be eligible for admission. Attending a non-accredited school can be an obstacle to furthering your education in the future.

We evaluated each program based on its course offerings, cost, flexibility, and price, then calculated an Intelligent Score on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From an Online Bachelor’s in Counseling Program

An online bachelor’s in counseling program offers an extensive foundation for aspiring counselors, laying the groundwork for further licensure pursuit. Typically completed in four years, the program covers coursework encompassing psychology, human development, and counseling theories. During these courses, students build communication, empathy, and problem-solving skills — essential for creating a thriving counseling practice. Graduates are prepared for many roles in mental health support, but many pursue their graduate degrees to be eligible for state licensure. Most online programs are designed for accessibility and are therefore delivered entirely online, eliminating the need for in-person residencies, though some exceptions exist.

Many students interested in mental health pursue degrees in counseling or psychology. While these disciplines share similarities, such as focusing on understanding human behavior, their approaches and applications diverge. It’s essential to thoroughly research both fields to comprehend the differences and ensure you align your educational choices with your specific career goals.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online bachelor’s in counseling program

  • Introduction to Psychology: This foundational course explores the fundamental principles of psychology, introducing students to key concepts such as behavior, cognition, and the biological bases of mental processes. It lays the groundwork for understanding human behavior and sets the stage for more specialized coursework.
  • Counseling Theories and Techniques: Students delve into various theoretical approaches to counseling, learning about the principles and application of major counseling theories. This course equips students with a theoretical framework to guide their future counseling practice and provides practical skills for effective therapeutic communication.
  • Developmental Psychology: This course examines psychological growth and changes from infancy through old age. Learners gain insights into the cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of human development, improving their understanding of clients across different stages of life.
  • Ethics in Counseling: This course addresses ethical considerations and professional standards in counseling and prepares students for the moral challenges they may encounter. It emphasizes the importance of confidentiality, informed consent, and ethical decision-making, ensuring that future counselors adhere to ethical guidelines.
  • Abnormal Psychology: This course explores psychological disorders, their classification, and treatment modalities. Students learn to recognize and understand mental health conditions, developing a foundation for later coursework and practical application in counseling settings.

Online Bachelor’s in Counseling Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online bachelor’s in counseling degree program?

To apply for these programs, you’ll want first to assess if you’re considered a first-time enrollee or a transfer student. Typically, completion of prerequisite coursework is required before declaring counseling as a major.

In addition, applicants are often asked for a personal statement highlighting their writing skills and detailing their enthusiasm for counseling. Transcripts and letters of recommendation are commonly requested. While some programs have moved to test-optional policies in recent years, many still require scores from the ACT or SAT. If your schools require these scores, consider enrolling in a test prep program to gain a competitive advantage.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to contact an admissions counselor for further guidance on submitting your application — including getting answers to your questions and more information on program specifics.

How much does an online bachelor’s in counseling degree cost?

For the 2020-2021 academic year, the average tuition at public universities was $19,374, significantly more affordable than the $45,920 average at private colleges. Public schools are often more cost-effective due to state subsidies and government funding.

There are some costs specific to online learning that you should factor into the overall cost of attendance. These will vary by institution, but typically include:

  • Virtual learning fees
  • Library fees
  • Textbooks and course materials

Despite these costs, online learners usually save money by eliminating commuting expenses, room and board, and fees for on-campus facilities — offering a more budget-friendly alternative for anyone seeking flexibility and cost efficiency in pursuing their degree.

How long does it take to earn an online bachelor’s in counseling degree?

While traditional, full-time students often complete these degrees within four years, online programs offer greater flexibility, allowing students to progress at their own pace. The inherent adaptability of online learning caters to individual schedules and commitments, offering students the freedom to tailor their educational journey based on their needs and circumstances. Enrolling part-time can extend the duration, with some students taking additional years to finish.

Moreover, the number of required credits significantly influences program length; generally, more credits means a longer completion timeline.

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