Best Online Certificates in Counseling 2021

April 16, 2021 • 6 Min Read

Find a program that’s right for you.

Best Online Colleges and Universities badge

Licensed counselors with a master's degree take continuing education (CE) courses to meet licensure renewal requirements and stay informed of best practices. One option involves earning a certificate in counseling, which may offer one or more specializations. Students with a specialization learn new skills, allowing counselors to treat a broader range of patients.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the need for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors should grow 25% between 2019-2029. This figure tremendously exceeds the median projected growth for all professions. The average counselor makes an annual median salary of $46,240. Professionals may increase their salary potential by earning certificates. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Top Counseling Psychology Programs

#1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
#2 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
#3 Hobe Sound Bible College Hobe Sound, FL
#4 Clarks Summit University South Abington Township, PA
#5 William Jessup University Rocklin, CA
#6 Johnson University Knoxville, TN
#7 Brigham Young University-Provo Provo, UT
#8 Converse College Spartanburg, SC
#9 Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, IL
#10 Mississippi College Clinton, MS


What is the difference between counseling and social work? Although professionals in both fields strive to help people resolve psychological issues, social workers identify clients' needs while counselors develop treatment plans.
Do you need a certificate to be a counselor? Students who earn an online counseling certificate already work as counselors. A certificate in counseling imparts additional knowledge and skills counselors need to treat patients.
Do you need a master's degree to be a counselor? Licensure requirements in most states include an advanced degree. Counselors-in-training must pass examinations and attain supervised work experience.

Best Online Certificates in Counseling 2021

University of Florida View School Profile Gainesville, FL 88%
Florida State University View School Profile Tallahassee, FL 79%
Hobe Sound Bible College View School Profile Hobe Sound, FL 54%
Clarks Summit University View School Profile South Abington Township, PA 65%
William Jessup University View School Profile Rocklin, CA 55%
Johnson University View School Profile Knoxville, TN 79%
Brigham Young University-Provo View School Profile Provo, UT 60%
Converse College View School Profile Spartanburg, SC 55%
Lincoln Christian University View School Profile Lincoln, IL 54%
Mississippi College View School Profile Clinton, MS 62%
Eastern Mennonite University View School Profile Harrisonburg, VA 69%
Marywood University View School Profile Scranton, PA 75%
Whitworth University View School Profile Spokane, WA 58%
Bethel College-North Newton View School Profile North Newton, KS 61%
University of Kentucky View School Profile Lexington, KY 48%
Carson-Newman University View School Profile Jefferson City, TN 74%
Saint Vincent College View School Profile Latrobe, PA 43%
Mid-Atlantic Christian University View School Profile Elizabeth City, NC 45%
Trinity International University-Illinois View School Profile Deerfield, IL 65%
Geneva College View School Profile Beaver Falls, PA 47%
North Carolina Central University View School Profile Durham, NC 63%
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota View School Profile Winona, MN 22%
Amridge University View School Profile Montgomery, AL 45%
University of Central Arkansas View School Profile Conway, AR 34%
Northwestern Oklahoma State University View School Profile Alva, OK 42%
Nyack College View School Profile Nyack, NY 68%
Columbia International University View School Profile Columbia, SC 29%
Southeastern Oklahoma State University View School Profile Durant, OK 12%
Southern University at New Orleans View School Profile New Orleans, LA 51%
Freed-Hardeman University View School Profile Henderson, TN 59%
Huntington University View School Profile Huntington, IN 58%
Lesley University View School Profile Cambridge, MA 72%
Saint John Fisher College View School Profile Rochester, NY 70%
University of Iowa View School Profile Iowa City, IA 67%
University of South Florida-Main Campus View School Profile Tampa , FL 46%
Southern Nazarene University View School Profile Bethany, OK 70%
University of Central Florida View School Profile Orlando, FL 79%
Marquette University View School Profile Milwaukee, WI 46%
University of Mary View School Profile Bismarck, ND 62%
Abilene Christian University View School Profile Abilene, TX 80%
University of Scranton View School Profile Scranton, PA

Certificate in Counseling Specializations

Licensed counselors earn an online certificate to broaden their professional horizons and earn a higher salary. The following specializations accomplish this goal while meeting licensure renewal requirements.

Addiction Counseling

Addiction counselors work with people experiencing addiction to drugs or alcohol. They help individuals find new, healthier ways to deal with stress and life's challenges. These interventions promote mental and physical health.

Marriage and Family Counseling

Marriage and family therapists work with married couples and families experiencing difficulty. Counseling sessions involve allowing individuals to voice their concerns and developing recommendations benefiting all family members.

Mental Health Counseling

People turn to mental health counselors when they experience depression, anxiety, grief, or similar emotions. Mental health counselors work with these individuals one on one or in small groups to discover underlying issues and recommend a treatment plan.

Rehabilitation Counseling

Rehabilitation counselors assist people with a physical, mental, or emotional disability live their best life. They locate resources suited to their clients' needs and develop a long-term treatment plan promoting well-being and independent living.

School Counseling

School counselors help young adults identify and remedy issues affecting their academic performance and social development. They collaborate with teachers and administrators to ensure students' short- and long-term success.

Courses in a Certificate in Counseling

A typical online certificate requires 5-6 courses and involves honing analytical and communication skills. Course format mirrors what students experienced in their master's in counseling program. However, graduation requirements do not include a thesis. Please keep in mind that course titles and requirements vary by university and the specialization certificate-seekers select.

graduation cap

Ethical and Legal Issues in Professional Counseling

Ethical and legal issues in professional counseling trains counselors to perform their job with an ethical mindset. Students examine different ethical dilemmas and methods to address them. Other coursework involves meeting the unique needs of diverse groups. Professors gauge learners' mastery of these topics through examinations and written assignments.

graduation cap

Interventions for Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders

Substance abuse counselors must apply treatment best practices when they work with individuals or small groups. Interventions for substance-related and addictive disorders feature these techniques, long-term care plans, and the latest treatment intervention research. Marriage and family therapists-in-training also take this course, as addiction negatively affects family relationships.

graduation cap

Crisis Intervention and Trauma Response

Crisis and trauma counselors work on the psychology field's front lines, treating people who recently experienced major emotional or physical trauma. Crisis intervention and trauma response emphasizes psychological first aid, a set of best practices crisis and trauma counselors use when working with individuals. The class also features coursework in self-care and ethical principles.

Career and Salary Outlook for Counselors

Licensed counselors choose from various career paths. Professionals in the following four careers work toward the same goal: improving clients' lives. Each position requires either specializing during a master's program or earning an online certificate after graduation.

The BLS projects strong job growth for different counseling professions. A certificate in counseling program prepares students well for exploring the various job opportunities in the field. Median to high median salaries allow counselors to live comfortably in most parts of the United States.

  • Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors provide similar counseling services to different populations in need. They develop treatments and meet with clients multiple times to gauge progress. Other responsibilities include referring clients to other mental health resources. Primary work locations include mental health centers, hospitals, and residential mental health facilities.
  • School and career counselors work in K-12 schools and colleges. They meet with students to discuss long-term career goals. Students experiencing poor academic performance turn to these counselors to discover the root causes and find remedies. The profession involves detailed recordkeeping and collaborating with teachers and administrators.
  • Some people have a disability from birth, while others begin living with a disability later in life. Rehabilitation counselors work with both groups, helping clients adjust to life with their disability. Like their peers in other counseling subfields, rehabilitation counselors create treatment plans and work with other professionals to provide clients with the resources they need.
  • All families experience conflict on some level. Couples and families who cannot resolve their differences meet with marriage and family therapists. These counselors ask clients to express their frustrations and emotions, indicators of what causes conflict within a family. They help families develop and use techniques to reduce friction and live happier lives.
CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor$46,24025%
School and Career Counselor$57,0408%
Rehabilitation Counselor$35,95010%
Marriage and Family Therapist$49,61022%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certifications and Licensure for a Certificate in Counseling

After completing a counseling certificate program, graduates must also obtain a state-issued counseling license and renew it by completing CE courses to keep practicing. Counselors can increase their career and salary potential by earning one or more certifications from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Like certificates, certifications require proving mastery of specific topics and involve periodic renewal.

  • Counselors need to meet their state's licensure requirements to practice independently. Different counseling positions all follow unique licensure steps. All candidates should earn a master's degree in counseling, pass an examination, and gain supervised work experience.
  • Licensed counselors earn the NCC credential to show their mastery of counseling techniques and best practices. Candidates must possess an advanced degree, attain 2,400 hours of supervised work experience over two years, and pass an examination. Renewal requirements include completing 25-50 CE credits annually.
  • NBCC awards two certifications in addition to NCC: certified clinical mental health counselor and national certified school counselor. NBCC does not currently offer the master addictions counselor certification. Candidates should already possess the NCC credential. These specialty certifications require an advanced degree, professional experience, and satisfactory examination scores.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

See All Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Shape your future with an online degree

Connect with a community of peers, and find a program that will allow you to continue your education in a fast and flexible way.