Online Counseling Psychology Degree Programs

check mark Reviewed by

Our Integrity Network is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

Learn about counseling psychology degree programs online, including salary, licensure and degree requirements, and steps to becoming a counseling psychologist. 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.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Counseling psychologists diagnose and treat symptoms of mental illness, considering the client's cultural, interpersonal, family, vocational, and rehabilitation perspectives. They treat individuals and provide group, couple/marriage, or family therapy, specializing in mental health disorders, substance use disorders, rehabilitation, vocational guidance, and marriage and family therapy.

Find out how to become a counseling psychologist, learn about the course curriculum, job skills, salary ranges, and other important information about counseling psychology degree programs online.

How Do Clinical and Counseling Psychology Differ?

Although both disciplines may treat people with mental illness, the difference between clinical and counseling psychology is mostly in their theoretical approach. Counseling psychology often integrates a systems perspective, identifying how behavior and experiences influence relationships, while clinical psychology may take a more pathological approach.

Counseling psychologists help facilitate their clients' development, problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, and overall well-being. Counseling psychologists often concentrate on the client's social, emotional, and physical difficulties. Clients seen by counseling psychologists may or may not have mental health disorders. Clinical psychologists focus on psychotherapy, treating severe mental health disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and persistent depressive disorder).

Concentrations for master's in counseling psychology programs include:

  • Addictions counseling
  • Mental health counseling
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • Marriage and family therapy counseling
  • Vocational counseling

Concentrations for master's in clinical psychology programs include:

  • Child, adolescent, and family psychology
  • Clinical neuropsychology
  • Clinical forensic psychology
  • Clinical health psychology

Featured Online Psychology Bachelor's Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Counseling Psychology

What is counseling psychology?

Counseling psychology focuses on helping people with emotional, physical, and mental health issues improve their sense of well-being and alleviate feelings of distress. Counseling psychologists also provide diagnosis, treatment, and assessment for more severe psychological symptoms. Counseling psychology focuses on how people function personally and within their relationships.

Is counseling psychology a good career?

Counseling psychologists can find work in many different settings, providing services to an array of client populations. Professionals can work in independent practices, community mental health centers, colleges and universities, rehabilitation facilities, and other health maintenance organizations. The field offers diverse and well-paying work opportunities.

How much do counseling psychologists get paid?

Although many factors (e.g., geographic location, experience, and education level) can influence the salary for counseling psychologists, according to a December 2022 Payscale report, the average annual wage for counseling psychologists is $60,550.

How do I become a counseling psychologist?

The steps to becoming a counseling psychologist include getting an undergraduate degree, completing a master's and doctoral-level counseling psychology degree, gaining experience (e.g., on the job or through internships), and becoming board certified by complying with state licensure guidelines and passing a written exam. A doctoral degree is needed to call oneself a psychologist.

What's the difference between a counselor and a psychologist?

Counselors and psychologists are required to have different levels of education and licensure requirements; they also differ in salary prospects. Some counselors must typically have at least an associate degree (e.g., addiction counselors), while psychologists need a doctoral-level education and are required to be licensed to practice.

Counselors typically facilitate educational groups and give support, while psychologists do testing, diagnose mental health conditions, and treat patients using various treatment modalities, like psychotherapy.

Can You Get a Degree in Counseling Psychology Online?

Many students benefit from the scheduling flexibility and convenience of online study. Distance learners often complete foundational courses online at the undergraduate and master's level, and some programs offer doctoral-level coursework online.

Potential benefits of the online format include a greater selection of programs, savings, and additional opportunities for collaborative work. Some programs offering an online master's psychology degree in counseling also provide opportunities for distance learners to collaborate internationally, ideal for students planning to focus on multicultural issues.

Online counseling psychology students complete the same coursework and receive the same resources as their on-campus peers. Distance learners set their own study pace and must possess strong self-motivation skills.

For campus-based programs, classes meet on a predetermined schedule, and students access resources, such as library materials and tutoring, in person.

Are Practicums and Internships Required in an Online Counseling Psychology Program?

State licensing and American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation requirements dictate the number of practicum hours required by each counseling psychology program, regardless of whether they are online or in person.

The number of required practicum hours for counseling psychologists varies from state to state. The practicum hour requirements at the bachelor's level depend on the specialty. For example, a bachelor's degree in counseling program for those pursuing a license in addiction counseling may require 12 hours of supervised training in some states, but each state differs in requirements. A master's level counseling psychology degree requires 100 practicum hours. At the doctoral level, students are also required to have 100 practicum hours.

When a student takes a fully online program there will be in-person requirements to fulfill the required number of practicum hours. Some schools help students to set up their own practicums in their geographic location. The school must approve practicums procured by students.

While locating internships for counseling psychologists can prove more challenging for online students, resources such as the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers, along with platforms such as Handshake and LinkedIn, offer ways to streamline and refine your search. The APA also maintains a list of research opportunities for undergraduates.

What Do You Need to Be a Counseling Psychologist?

According to a 2016 APA survey, those with doctoral degrees in counseling psychology reported $78,000 of debt related to their graduate education, which is lower than the mean for all graduates of doctoral programs in psychology.

A learner who enters with a bachelor's degree takes about 5-6 years to complete the requirements for a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.), which includes one year of internship work. Getting state licensure may add 1-2 years, depending on state requirements.

Online study offers benefits for counseling psychology students. Benefits of online counseling include:

  • A flexible study schedule (ability to work around your school schedule)
  • Easier to maintain school/life balance
  • Cost effective (e.g., tuition is often lower, no expense for expenditures like daily travel costs)

Online Bachelor's Degree in Counseling Psychology

While most counseling psychologists major in psychology, many graduate schools do not require applicants to hold an undergraduate in psychology. Other common undergraduate majors for professionals in the field include:

  • Education
  • Social work
  • Sociology
  • Human services
  • General liberal arts or humanities

Some students pursue online bachelor's degrees with specialties in:

At the bachelor's level, students find many 100% online programs. For graduate study, counseling psychology degree programs require on-site supervised fieldwork. Our page featuring online bachelor's degrees in psychology offers a more in-depth look at what to expect.

Example Courses

  • Social Psychology

    A social psychology course involves the study of interpersonal dynamics and social challenges, such as criminal behavior, substance misuse, and social bias. Class topics may include research on how groups behave and how the public perceives specific issues.
  • Introduction to Case Management

    Degree-seekers explore the history, principles, and functions of case management in counseling. Topics include interviewing, medical evaluations, effective communication skills, and developing and coordinating plans for services.
  • Abnormal Psychology

    An abnormal psychology course focuses on mental health disorders, such as psychotic, anxiety, and depressive disorders. The course also involves classes on the diagnosis and treatment of these disorders.
  • Statistics and Research Methods

    This course prepares students for research by emphasizing design, sampling, and data analysis. Topics include basic concepts of measurement, such as validity, reliability, and scoring; basic statistical concepts, including correlation, frequency distributions, and variability; research design and program evaluation; and ethical considerations, such as informed consent.

Online Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology

Most professional positions in counseling psychology need an advanced psychology degree. Counseling psychologists also commonly have education or social work degrees. Motivated distance learners can complete their coursework in an accelerated format, which allows them to finish their program more quickly.

Some programs also offer discounted tuition rates or other incentives to attract in-state students interested in completing their degrees online.

Example Courses

  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Counseling

    This course focuses on the clinical, therapeutic, and practical factors involved in counseling. Topics include confidentiality, therapist-patient privilege, scope of practice, trends in mental health professions, and professional misconduct.
  • Psychopharmacology

    Students prepare to counsel patients and learn to prescribe psychotropic medications. Enrollees explore classifications, side effects, indications, and contraindications. Topics covered include alternative medicine, psychoneurology, pharmacokinetics, and medication management strategies.
  • Personality Assessment

    To prepare students for accurate diagnosis and treatment of clients in mental health counseling, this course examines the principles and methods of personality assessment, with an emphasis on ethics and diversity.
  • Theory and Philosophy of Counseling

    This course provides an in-depth survey of the major contemporary theoretical perspectives in counseling, such as humanistic, existential, cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic, and client-centered therapies.
  • Marriage and Family Counseling

    Including both classroom and practical learning, this course offers an integrative and contemporary study of marital and family therapy. Students examine relationship dynamics, strategies of intervention, and the fundamentals of assessment with couples.

Online Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology

A bachelor's and master's degree in counseling psychology can be completed online, but an online doctoral degree in counseling psychology program does not meet accreditation or APA requirements. Students taking fully online doctoral degree programs will not qualify for licensure.

An online doctoral degree in counseling prepares students for fields in research, supervision, therapy, or education, depending on the concentration. Online Ph.D. in counseling courses are available, but the accredited courses are not entirely online; part of the graduation requirement includes in-person residencies and internships.

Example Courses

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

    This course explores the influences of biological mechanisms on the mind and behavior. Students perform data analysis and research design for laboratory components. Topics include neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, and the roles of neurotransmitters in motivation, learning, memory, sensation, and perception.
  • Advanced Developmental Psychology

    Designed for students already familiar with undergraduate developmental psychology, this course focuses on the cross-cultural perspectives of human development. Students examine the interplay of social, environmental, biological, and cultural factors across the lifespan.
  • Vocational Psychology

    This course helps students understand influential factors that affect a person's career choices. The classes focus on how to help people make effective career decisions.
  • Group Psychotherapy

    This course examines the major theoretical frameworks, techniques, and interventions of group therapy. Students design and apply group interventions by developing core skills in group facilitation and analyzing group therapeutic change processes.
  • Multicultural Counseling

    To prepare students for cross-culturally responsive counseling, this course surveys the theory, concepts, research, and practices related to culturally and ethnically diverse clients. Topics addressed include discrimination, oppression, stereotypes, cultural heritage, and family systems.

Required Licenses and Internships to Become a Counseling Psychologist

Specific criteria for licensure vary by state, but most states share a similar process for licensure.

Although each state has its own requirements for licensed counselors, many share a similar process and have many of the same requirements. These include successful completion of an accredited graduate degree program, two years' work experience (e.g., internships or postgraduate work), and a passing score on a state-approved licensing examination. Some states also offer licensure at the master's level with proof of completion of specific coursework.

Most states require:

  • Successful completion of a master's or doctoral program
  • A specific number of job experience hours
  • A passing score on a written exam

Requirements for licensure differ depending on the state that issues your license. Usually, these requirements are very similar, but some states have specific mandates. For example, in Texas, school counselors must have a minimum of two years of experience in classroom teaching. Be sure to check with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards and the American Counseling Association for detailed information on licensing requirements.

Those with a doctoral degree in counseling psychology and a minimum of two years of clinical or professional experience may be eligible to apply for the American Board of Professional Psychology's certification in counseling credential.

Featured Online Psychology Bachelor's Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Careers for Counseling Psychology Degree-Holders

Career paths in counseling psychology often focus on:

  • Offering vocational rehabilitation and guidance
  • Providing mental health crisis counseling
  • Improving relational functioning
  • Facilitating well-being

The field typically attracts compassionate, ethical practitioners with strong emotional resilience and interpersonal skills.

Graduates with master's or doctoral degrees in counseling psychology often follow a scientist-practitioner model, combining advanced clinical training with in-depth research in the field. The list below outlines five well-known careers in counseling psychology.

Substance Abuse Counselor

These professionals specialize in assisting, counseling, and supporting clients and families who struggle with addiction. Job duties include evaluating patients with assessments and interviews, leading support groups, managing caseloads, and making referrals to community services.

A substance misuse counselor typically holds a master's degree and a professional counselor license.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities live independently, whether the disability is caused by physical, mental, developmental, or emotional issues. There are many settings in which rehabilitation counselors work, including youth organizations, rehab facilities, and assisted living facilities. The typical requirements for this career include a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling; many require licensure or certification.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Licensed mental health counselors assist clients with mental health challenges such as depression and substance misuse. They work in homes, shelters, courts, hospitals, and institutions. Responsibilities include conducting intake, outreach, assessment, and psychosocial intervention. This position requires a master's degree, two years of supervised clinical experience, and a state license.

School Counselor

A school counselor aims to support students' success, helping them achieve their academic goals. Other job duties involved in school counseling include assisting students in developing and applying positive interpersonal skills and addressing any mental health or family issues that may interfere with their school work or peer/teacher relationships.

School counselor requirements differ from state to state. However, most states require the completion of a master's degree from an accredited school counseling program and work experience. Some states require school counselors to have classroom teaching experience, so it's essential to check your state's requirements.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

A marriage and family therapist specializes in psychotherapy and works with couples, individuals, or family units. These mental health professionals are trained to analyze mental disorders and use treatment modalities to offer clients suggestions for coping with challenging life circumstances.

While each state's requirements differ, most mandate two years' work experience, successful completion of an accredited graduate program, and a passing score on a written exam.

What Does a Counseling Psychologist Make in a Year?

A counseling psychologist's yearly salary fluctuates depending on many factors, including the geographic area, education level, specialty, and licensure/certification. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly pay for psychologists is $38.96 per hour. In a December 2022 report, Payscale says the average salary for counseling psychologists is $60,550 per year.

Psychologists in private practice can make significantly more than the average counseling psychologist.

Page last reviewed November 22, 2022

Latest Posts

Discover Online Programs by Specialty

Find the psychology program that best fits your career plans and budget.