Online Counseling Programs


Updated April 18, 2024

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Are you ready to discover your college program?

Whatever counseling field you are most interested in, there is an online counseling program to match your needs and career goals. This page explores types of counseling degrees and specialties to help you make the right choice. Explore online counseling degrees and programs today.

Types of Online Counseling Degrees

You can work in the counseling field with any level of on-campus or online counseling degree, although most states require a master's degree to become a licensed counselor. States and employers may have various requirements for job categories and titles, so the listing of job options available to graduates may vary. All salary figures are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Associate Degree in Counseling

An associate online counseling degree is the most affordable option since two-year degree tuition is generally cheaper than four-year or graduate programs. In addition, an online degree is often cheaper than an on-campus alternative without boarding and transportation costs. Most associate degrees take two years to complete for full-time students. Typically, the curriculum includes general education courses and psychology and counseling courses.

  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Potential Job Titles: Family advocate, counseling assistant, counseling technician, mental health technician
  • Salary Range for Associate Degree in Counseling Graduates: $28,610-$58,770

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Bachelor's Degree in Counseling

A bachelor's degree in counseling can prepare you for graduate school to become a licensed counselor or for other counseling-related careers, such as youth programs. Depending on the state, you may be able to work as a substance use counselor with a bachelor's degree. A typical counseling degree takes four years of full-time study to complete. The curriculum includes general education requirements and a broader range of social science and counseling courses than a two-year program.

  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Potential Job Titles: Youth counselor, crisis counselor, substance use counselor, caseworker, social service manager
  • Salary Range for Bachelor's Degree in Counseling Graduates: $34,000-$123,320

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Master's Degree in Counseling

In most states, you must have a master's degree in counseling to become a licensed counselor. An on-campus or online counseling degree emphasizes fieldwork, practical learning, and classroom work. You can specialize in relationship and family counseling, career counseling, or grief and bereavement counseling.

  • Program Length: 2-3 years
  • Potential Job Titles: Relationship and family counselor, marriage therapist, trauma/PTSD counselor, career counselor
  • Salary Range for Master's Degree in Counseling Graduates: $38,280-$98,530

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Doctoral Degrees in Counseling

With a doctoral degree in counseling, you can teach, lead a department or team, or head an organization, and work as a counselor. During a doctoral program, you will learn more about research and research methodology, explore teaching methods, and complete a doctoral thesis. The combination of classwork and research can take 3-8 years to complete.

  • Program Length: 3-8 years
  • Potential Job Titles: Counselor, counseling professor, department head, director of counseling
  • Salary Range for Doctoral Degree in Counseling Graduates: $47,370-$173,730

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Careers for Counseling Degree Graduates

Counselors report salaries in line with the median weekly earnings, and many areas report a high demand for this career.

For example, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors could see 18% job growth from 2022-2032, according to BLS projections. That ranks among the fastest-growing careers in the country.

Similarly, marriage and family therapists may see 15% job growth based on BLS projections, while school and career counselors could see 5% projected job growth. Learn more about your earning potential and job opportunities with an online counseling degree.

Addictions Counselor

Addiction counselors, also known as substance use counselors or drug abuse counselors, help clients address substance use disorders through counseling. They work in various settings, including in-patient programs, health clinics, private practice, and nonprofit organizations.

  • Minimum Degree Required: Bachelor's degree required; master's degree preferred
  • Required Credentials: State licensure
  • Annual Median Salary: $53,710 (BLS, May 2023)

Bereavement Counselor

Bereavement counselors, also known as grief counselors, help clients cope with loss, especially the death of a family member. They may work with clients after the loss or in what is called anticipatory grief counseling, as the client prepares for a loved one's death. Bereavement counselors can work in private practice or in senior centers, first responder organizations, mental health clinics, or nonprofits.

  • Minimum Degree Required: Bachelor's degree required; master's degree preferred
  • Required Credentials: State licensure
  • Annual Median Salary: $54,700 (Payscale, March 2024)

Licensed Professional Counselor

Licensed professional counselors may provide general counseling or specialize in age groups, conditions, or treatments. The specific title, such as licensed mental health counselor or licensed professional counselor, may vary by state. Counselors can practice independently, as part of a group practice, affiliated with a hospital or other healthcare provider, or for other organizations.

  • Minimum Degree Required: Master's degree
  • Required Credentials: State licensure
  • Annual Median Salary: $53,710 (BLS, May 2023)

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists, sometimes called relationship and family counselors, can work as independent practitioners, as part of a group practice, or affiliated with other organizations. Some clergy members receive professional training in marriage and family therapy as well.

  • Minimum Degree Required: Master's degree
  • Required Credentials: State licensure
  • Annual Median Salary: $58,510 (BLS, May 2023)

School and Career Counselor

School and career counselors typically work for education systems, especially high schools and colleges, though career counselors also practice independently. These professionals help individuals seeking new careers to identify their interests, set goals, and establish plans for meeting those goals.

  • Minimum Degree Required: Master's degree
  • Required Credentials: State licensure
  • Annual Median Salary: $61,710 (BLS, May 2023)

What Counseling Degree Concentrations Are Offered Online?

Aspiring counselors often specialize in a particular area of counseling. Many online counseling degrees offer the opportunity to explore potential specializations in the core curriculum, elective courses, or fieldwork, even if the program itself does not have a specialty. Specializing can give you an advantage in finding a job in a particular niche, not just in academic preparation, but in networking.

  • Addiction Counseling

    Addiction counseling is one of the most popular concentrations for online counseling degrees. It prepares students to work as substance use disorder counselors or to provide counseling for other forms of addiction, such as gambling.
  • Career Counseling

    Career counseling focuses on preparing clients to enter or make a transition in their careers. It can prepare you to work as a career counselor in a school, HR function, or in nonprofits that help people find jobs.
  • Grief Counseling

    Grief counseling helps clients deal with a loss, either retrospectively or as a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal condition. Grief counselors can work for or in association with services for older adults or in independent practice.
  • School Counseling

    School counselors work in education systems to improve student and school outcomes. In addition to working as a school counselor, a background in school counseling could prepare you for further education to become a school psychologist.
  • Behavioral Counseling

    Behavioral counseling emphasizes helping clients understand and change their behaviors. It is based on behavioral psychology approaches and could lead you to a career as a behavioral psychologist if you choose to get a doctorate.
  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling

    Clinical mental health counseling emphasizes treating mental health disorders. It is based on clinical psychology, and you can pursue a career as a clinical psychologist by earning a doctorate and completing other licensing requirements.
  • Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling

    Clinical rehabilitation counseling helps people with disabilities address mental health challenges. Clinical rehabilitation counselors can work with clients with various disabilities or specialize in an area, such as cognitive or sensory disabilities.
  • Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling

    Marriage, couple, and family counseling helps individuals understand and address personal relationship challenges. Like other counseling specialties, you can pursue this specialty as a counselor or as a psychologist with further education and qualifications.
  • College Counseling and Student Affairs

    College counseling and student affairs focus on supporting college students through counseling, campus climate initiatives, and other programs that support student mental health. Further education and career opportunities could include a psychology doctorate or a degree in school administration.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Counseling Degrees

What is the best degree for counseling?

The best degree level for counseling depends on your career goals. A master's degree in counseling from an accredited program offers the most options to work in counseling. You must have at least a master's degree in counseling or a related field to become a licensed counselor in all states.

How do I become a licensed professional counselor (LPC)?

How you become a licensed professional counselor (LPC) varies by state. In general, you must earn a master's degree, complete supervised experience, and pass a licensing examination. Check your state licensing board for specific requirements.

How long does it take to become an LPC?

The exact time to become an LPC varies by state. You will likely need six years of college -- four for undergraduate and two for graduate -- and 1-3 years of supervised experience. Check with your state licensing board for further details.

How much do LPCs make?

On average, LPCs earn a median of $53,710 per year, according to the BLS. Salaries vary based on your experience, geographic location, and type of workplace.

What is the difference between an online and in-person counseling degree?

Online and in-person counseling degrees often differ primarily in the delivery mode. On-campus and online students often complete the same coursework and graduation requirements. However, online programs offer virtual learning formats, with the option to complete clinical requirements in your local area.

What is the best online degree to become a counselor?

The best online degree to become a counselor is a master's in counseling. With an online counseling master's degree, you can specialize in areas, such as mental health counseling, behavioral counseling, or marriage and family therapy.

What are the in-person requirements for an online counseling degree?

The in-person requirements for an online counseling degree typically include an internship and practicum. These components strengthen individual and group counseling skills. Online programs often work with distance learners to find internship and practicum placements in their local area.

Page last reviewed on December 6, 2023

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