Students pursuing online counseling degrees should conduct research to find the program that best suits their needs. This guide provides information about the application process, course examples, skills developed, career opportunities and salary data, accreditation, and professional organizations in the field. Students should consider these factors when making their decisions and should thoroughly review potential programs before finalizing their choices.
Overview of Counseling Degrees
Students who earn their counseling degree online graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the field. Those who pursue a counseling degree typically want to help others; they want to learn to communicate and listen effectively. In counseling programs, students learn to connect with their patients and understand their struggles, disorders, and mental illnesses. Additionally, students learn to develop a course of action for their patients, dedicating themselves to helping them cope with illnesses or disorders to improve their quality of life.
Counseling programs are a fit for students who can engage with others, empathize, ask the right questions, and think critically. Bachelor's degrees in the field can be stepping stones to advanced degrees, unlocking more career opportunities.
Every online counseling degree program has different admissions requirements. Most programs have an application fee, typically between $40 and $60. Many programs also require students to submit their high school transcripts and any other undergraduate transcripts they may hold.
Some universities ask students to submit letters of recommendation, and many programs require an essay along with the application. Most schools also have ACT and SAT score requirements. Other requirements may include a resume, statement of purpose, and a cover letter.
What Will I Learn?
Counseling programs are typically comprised of 120 credits of coursework. These credits include electives, allowing students to tailor their degrees to their interests and goals. Some counseling programs feature specialized areas such as mental health counseling programs or substance abuse counseling programs. Course topics and requirements vary depending on the program. Students can review curricula on the school websites they are considering.
Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling
The ethics and legal issues in counseling course equips students with the skills and knowledge they need to understand how to use ACA ethical standards and apply them to their counseling treatment. Students review how to incorporate ethical decision-making models and they learn about the prominent ethical and legal issues within the profession.
Human Growth and Development for Children and Adolescents
In the human growth and development for children and adolescents course, students gain an understanding of the needs and nature of people at different developmental levels from childhood to adolescence within a multicultural context. Students learn about the implications of assessing patients and developing intervention strategies.
Human Growth and Development for Adults
Students in the human growth and development for adults course focus on the development of adults from a multicultural context. They also learn about the implications for preventive and supportive intervention strategies and assessment.
In the psychodynamic viewpoints course, students learn about the psychodynamic theories of social and personality systems. They learn how to apply an analysis of helping and interpersonal relationships and personality dynamics and development. In the course, students focus heavily on assessment and intervention as they relate to individuals and organizations.
Theories and Techniques of Group Counseling and Psychotherapy
The theories and techniques of group counseling and psychotherapy course equips students with an understanding of intergroup relations and group dynamics including development, theories, dynamics, purpose, skills and methods in a multicultural context. Students also learn about different educational and therapy groups.
Assessment in Counseling for Adults
In the assessment in counseling for adults course, students develop an understanding of the individual approaches to assessment that exist in a multicultural society across the lifespan. They review commonly used assessments in counseling like characteristics, administration, and rationale. The course brings all points back to the care of adults.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Counseling?
Graduates who earn their bachelor's in counseling online develop useful skills to help them succeed. Counseling programs prepare students for careers including social work, mental health counseling, and psychology. While many students choose to pursue an advanced degree to further their careers and salary opportunities, professionals with their bachelor's can find many attractive career opportunities.
Counseling students learn to develop service plans and promote shared decision-making to motivate change. They also learn how to establish a rapport with people with disabilities and evaluate their strengths and deficiencies to better understand how to help them. In online counseling programs, students learn to partner effectively with family caregivers to navigate systems of care and advocate for patients with disabilities. Program curricula focuses on evidence-based practice, teaching students to use research to carry out individual and group counseling.
Counseling students learn about psychiatric rehabilitation, recovery-oriented treatment for substance abuse disorders, child and family interventions, and other clinical skills needed in the field. Graduates leave equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to find employment in addictions counseling, individual and group counseling, family and child support services, and crisis intervention.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Graduates who earn their bachelor's degree in counseling online enjoy a multitude of career opportunities. While many jobs in the field require a master's degree, professionals with their bachelor's can take the first steps in advancing their career. Counselors work in a variety of fields including mental health, rehabilitation, social work, and psychology. Counseling professionals find work in schools, hospitals, government, private practices, and larger organizations. Many counseling roles require licensure in addition to a bachelor's degree. Licensing varies by state, so individuals should review their state's requirements before settling on a career option. Professionals who move to another state will need to apply for licensure in that state and meet all of the requirements beforehand.
Licensed Professional Counselor
Annual Median Salary: $50,000
Responsible for facilitating adult or youth groups and individual counseling sessions, licensed professional counselors work in many environments. LPCs provide mental health care to individuals with mental disorders, illnesses, or imbalances. They also work with patients to set attainable goals to maintain mental health.
Mental Health Therapist
Annual Median Salary: $43,434
Mental health therapists interact with clients to provide therapy and suggest services as needed. They write progress notes and coordinate with other care providers to ensure the best course of action for their clients. Mental health therapists often work in private practice but can work for a specific company or organization.
Annual Median Salary: $44,824
Social workers work closely with patients and their families to treat and assess a variety of issues. They help their patients understand and cope with emotional and social problems. Social workers maintain documentation for each case and reevaluate their patients at necessary intervals.
Annual Median Salary: $74,572
Psychologists perform psychological testing, provide diagnostic interviews, and carry out individual and group psychotherapy. After conducting psychological exams, psychologists provide treatment recommendations and develop treatment plans. They also respond to crises with the appropriate means of intervention and modify treatment plans whenever necessary.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst
Annual Median Salary: $58,187
Responsible for designing and implementing support education and behavioral programs, board certified behavior analysts help with intervention and therapeutic program evaluations. They help children, teenagers, and adults with behavioral and mental health issues and carry out assessments to track progress and development.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Counseling?
Earning a bachelor's degree in counseling online is a starting point for a career in counseling. While many jobs in the field require a master's degree, obtaining a bachelor's and starting a career is a viable option. Bachelor's degrees prepare students for many entry-level careers and serve as a gateway to more advanced programs and career opportunities. Advanced programs require some in-the-field experience; licensing requirements also include field experience and employers gravitate toward candidates who have experience. Bachelor's students can advance their careers even without an advanced degree, they simply need to look for entry-level positions and work their way up.
Accreditation for Counseling Bachelor's Programs
Students researching counseling degrees online should pay close attention to accreditation. Employers and graduate programs typically require candidates to hold a degree from an accredited institution. Accreditation mandates the quality of a school or program, meaning employers and admissions teams can trust that a candidate has the necessary qualifications to succeed. Students should also pay attention to the type of accreditation their institution holds.
Nationally accredited institutions do not offer easy-to-transfer credits and are often excluded from tuition reimbursement plans while regionally accredited schools boast credits that easily transfer, and they maintain eligibility for most tuition reimbursement programs. Regionally accredited institutions are more prestigious than nationally accredited schools. Some counseling programs also feature programmatic accreditation. Programmatic accreditation exists within specialized programs. While not all counseling programs hold this type of accreditation, the ones that do tend to receive it from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), and the American Psychological Association (APN).
Counseling Professional Organizations
Graduates with online counseling degrees can join professional organizations in their field. These organizations offer many benefits. Members can attend events and network with other professionals and learn about various job opportunities. Networking may lead to future job referrals and lasting professional connections. Additionally, members have access to resources like publications and discussions. These resources offer opportunities for professional development, allowing members to stay up-to-date.
American Counseling Association
The ACA is a not-for-profit educational and professional organization committed to growing and enhancing the counseling profession. ACA is the world's largest organization for the profession, representing counselors from a variety of practice settings.
American Psychological Association
Dedicated to advancing the communication, creation, and application of psychological knowledge to improve people's lives and benefit society, the APA encourages the application and development of psychology on a broad spectrum. The organization uses meetings, reports, professional contacts, papers, publications, and discussions to increase members' knowledge.
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
The AAMFT represents more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists across the U.S. AAMFT understands relationships connect to the well-being and health of individuals, couples, families, and communities and, as a result, works hard to advance the profession.