2020 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Counseling Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 3/11/2021
2020 Most Affordable Counseling Bachelors Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 3/11/2021

This list of the most affordable online bachelor's in counseling highlights 25 accredited schools with annual tuition rates under $14,000. A master's degree is required for most counseling careers, but earning a bachelor's degree in counseling or a related field is the first step toward a fulfilling career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for counselors is projected to grow rapidly over the next decade. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will be in high demand, with a projected job growth rate of 25%. Schools on this list offer many specializations within counseling that will prepare students to meet the unique needs of different populations. This guide will give you insights into earning a counseling degree online, the cost of an online program, and whether a degree will be worth it for you, based on future salary and other factors.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online master's in counseling degrees. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 $4,500
# 2 #2 $6,560
# 3 #3 $6,750
# 4 #4 $7,560
# 5 #5 $8,220
# 6 #6 $9,269
# 7 #7 $9,672
# 8 #8 $10,342
# 9 #9 $11,040
# 10 #10 $11,550
# 11 #11 $11,700
# 12 #12 $11,760
# 13 #13 $11,840
# 14 #14 $11,850
# 15 #15 $11,935
# 16 #16 $11,970
# 17 #17 $12,000
# 18 #18 $12,150
# 19 #19 $12,369
# 20 #20 $12,480
# 21 #21 $12,570
# 22 #22 $12,865
# 23 #23 $12,900
# 24 #24 $13,050
# 25 #25 $13,500
#1
#1

Aspen University

Denver (CO)
Annual Tuition: $4,500
Annual Tuition: $4,500
Annual Tuition: $4,500

Aspen University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Studies for those seeking an online counseling degree. This program includes 40 courses that students complete in three to four years. Students learn about various subjects, including addiction studies, addiction prevention, assessment and treatment, and healthcare ethics.

Aspen University delivers this drug counseling program through its online classroom system powered by Brightspace by D2L. Learning is asynchronous, but... courses start according to an academic schedule. Students participate in classes through online discussions, writing assignments, projects, case studies, and exams. Aspen accepts transfer credits and offers students the ability to earn life/work experience credits for prior learning, such as military training and continuing education courses. Financial aid, military tuition discounts, and payment plans are also available. Online students receive personal feedback from professors and have access to academic counselors.

Prospective students can apply online through the school’s website and submit official transcripts and, if applicable, military documentation or a transfer credit evaluation. A minimum GPA of 2.0 is required. Accepted students with no earned college credit are conditionally accepted until they complete an Introduction to Communications course.

  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 23%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,308
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,035
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
  • Phone #: (303) 333-4224

Example Classes: Assessment Procedures in Addiction Counseling, Child Development, Multicultural Counseling Theories, Pharmacology, Psychology of Addiction Counseling, Substance Abuse Counseling

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Studies
#2
#2
Annual Tuition: $6,560
Annual Tuition: $6,560
Annual Tuition: $6,560

Fort Hays State University (FHSU) offers both an online Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Sociology. Both programs offer a concentration in Addictions Counseling for students interested in becoming licensed addictions counselors. The four-year degrees require 120 credit hours, with the BS incorporating six additional sociology course credits and the BA including ten modern language course credits. The curriculums include general education, sociology core courses, addictions... counseling courses, and practicum internships.

Students complete coursework synchronously through the Blackboard learning management system. Course elements include videos, projects, presentations, labs, discussion boards, and exams. Fort Hays State University provides affordable education through financial aid, transfer credits, university scholarships, and military scholarships. Online students receive software and technical support, a free online tutoring and writing center, and career services.

First-year student admission requirements include the completion of the Kansas Qualified Admissions Pre-College Curriculum with a minimum GPA of 2.0. To apply for FHSU's online counseling degree program, prospective students should submit an application through the university's website. First-time students under age 21 should include official school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Transfer students need a minimum GPA of 2.0; those with fewer than 24 credit hours must also meet the first-year student requirements.

  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Acceptance Rate: 89%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 8,608
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,404
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (785) 628-4000

Example Classes: Addictions Counseling with Families, Client Management Procedures, Ethics in Addictions Counseling, Group Counseling with Addiction Populations, Pharmacology & High Risk Medical Issues, Psychopathology & Addictions

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Sociology - Addictions Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Sociology - Addictions Counseling
#3
#3

Union College - KY

Barbourville (KY)
Annual Tuition: $6,750
Annual Tuition: $6,750
Annual Tuition: $6,750

Students looking for an online counseling degree can consider the online Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling offered by Union College. This degree program requires 120 credits. Students can accelerate the degree program through fast-paced courses and can choose from six start dates per year. The curriculum includes liberal education courses and core courses on topics including chemical dependency, psychology, and recovery. A substance abuse internship is also required.

Learning is synchronous,... with course terms that span eight weeks and have specific start dates. Online coursework is delivered through Union College’s uLearn platform. Financial aid and transfer credits help make the program affordable. Online students receive access to resources, including 24/7 support for the online platform, online research guides, tutoring, and online career research tools.

To apply, prospective students must complete an application form and submit official transcripts, documentation of high school graduation or GED, and, if applicable, documentation of military training, specialized training, and/or standardized testing. As an alternative to the online application, paper applications are available through the Office of Admissions.

  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Average SATs: 936 -1066
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 199
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 133
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (606) 546-4151

Example Classes: Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience, Deviance And Criminology, Drugs And Society, Forensic Psychology, Juvenile Delinquency, Lifespan Development

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling
#4
#4

Lee University

Cleveland (TN)
Annual Tuition: $7,560
Annual Tuition: $7,560
Annual Tuition: $7,560
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Acceptance Rate: 85%
  • Average SATs: 960 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 479
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 61
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (423) 614-8000

Example Classes: Methods of Counseling, Pastoral Counseling, Personality Theory, Psychology of Human Sexuality, The Christian Family, Theories of Counseling

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Ministry Leadership - Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership - Counseling
#5
#5
Annual Tuition: $8,220
Annual Tuition: $8,220
Annual Tuition: $8,220
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 0%
  • Graduation Rate: 13%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 107
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (713) 785-5995

Example Classes: Analysis of Common Problems Through Biblical Framework Counseling, Biblical Counseling Process and Methodologies, Comparative Analysis of Psychological Counseling, Christian Integrative Counseling, and Biblical Counseling

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies and Biblical Counseling - Accelerated Degree Completion
#6
#6
Annual Tuition: $9,269
Annual Tuition: $9,269
Annual Tuition: $9,269
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 17%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,103
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (207) 621-3000

Example Classes: Addiction and the Family, Adolescence, Substance Abuse & Criminality, Chemical Dependency Counseling, Models of Addiction, Substance Abuse Counseling for Special Populations, Trauma and Addiction

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS in Mental Health and Human Services
  • BS in Mental Health and Human Services - Addiction Counseling
  • BS in Mental Health and Human Services - Adult Mental Health Rehabilitation
  • BS in Mental Health and Human Services - Child & Family Services
  • Post-Baccalaureate of Science in Mental Health and Human Services
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $9,672
Annual Tuition: $9,672
Annual Tuition: $9,672
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 35%
  • Acceptance Rate: 48%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1110
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 141
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 405
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (580) 332-8000

Example Classes: Employment and Placement Techniques, Intervention Techniques, Medical, Social and Psychological Aspects of Disability

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Counseling
  • Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Counseling - Aging
  • Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Counseling - Counseling
  • Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Counseling - Rehabilitation
  • Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Counseling - Services to the Deaf
#8
#8

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati (OH) (and 1 other)
Annual Tuition: $10,342
Annual Tuition: $10,342
Annual Tuition: $10,342
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 68%
  • Acceptance Rate: 76%
  • Average SATs: 1160 -1370
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,460
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,820
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Case Management and Treatment Planning in Substance Abuse Counseling, Co-Occurring Disorders in Treatment, Drug and Alcohol Use Impacting Children and Adolescents: A Developmental Concern, Historical Perspectives in Substance Abuse Counseling, Stress Management in Clinical and Community Settings, Substance Abuse Counseling for Families and Other Relationships

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling
#9
#9

Toccoa Falls College

Toccoa Falls (GA)
Annual Tuition: $11,040
Annual Tuition: $11,040
Annual Tuition: $11,040
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Acceptance Rate: 59%
  • Average SATs: 960 -1160
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 816
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (706) 886-6831

Example Classes: Child & Adolescent Therapy, Counseling Skills, Crisis & Trauma Therapy, Group Counseling, Premarital & Marital Counseling

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Counseling Psychology
#10
#10
Annual Tuition: $11,550
Annual Tuition: $11,550
Annual Tuition: $11,550
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Acceptance Rate: 73%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1210
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,352
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 993
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NWCCU
  • Phone #: (509) 335-3564

Example Classes: Behavior Disorders of Children and Adolescents, Clinical/Community Psychology, Experimental Methods in Psychology, Principles of Developmental Psychology, Psychology of Aging, Psychology of Gender

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Clinical/Counseling
#11
#11

Liberty University

Lynchburg (VA)
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Acceptance Rate: 30%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 32,610
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 31,396
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (434) 582-2000

Example Classes: Multicultural Counseling & Research Issues, Physiological Psychology, Psychological Measurement, Psychology & Christianity, Psychology of Personality, Statistics in Psychology

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS: Psychology: Crisis Counseling
  • BS: Psychology: Addiction & Recovery
  • BS: Psychology: Christian Counseling
  • BS: Religion: Christian Counseling
#12
#12
Annual Tuition: $11,760
Annual Tuition: $11,760
Annual Tuition: $11,760
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 5,219
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,418
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (765) 677-2870

Example Classes: Addiction Programs and Professional Development, Counseling Addicted and Dysfunctional Family Systems, Minority Group Relations, Physiological Psychology, Psychology of Abnormal Behavior, Theories of Personality

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • B.S. Addictions Counseling
#13
#13

Nazarene Bible College

Colorado Springs (CO)
Annual Tuition: $11,840
Annual Tuition: $11,840
Annual Tuition: $11,840
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Graduation Rate: 0%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 708
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (719) 884-5000

Example Classes: Counseling and Christian Thought, Developmental Issues in Counseling, Managing Change and Conflict

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Ministry - Counseling for Christian Ministries
#14
#14

Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit (PA)
Annual Tuition: $11,850
Annual Tuition: $11,850
Annual Tuition: $11,850
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 58%
  • Acceptance Rate: 55%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 49
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (570) 586-2400

Example Classes: Crisis Counseling, Dynamics of Discipleship, Examining Worldviews, Historical and Contemporary Theories in Counseling, Pastoral Counseling, Physiological Psychology, Social Psychology, Women Counseling Women

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Addictions Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Counseling Ministries
#15
#15

Faulkner University

Montgomery (AL) (and 2 others)
Annual Tuition: $11,935
Annual Tuition: $11,935
Annual Tuition: $11,935
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 28%
  • Acceptance Rate: 57%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1190
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 647
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 477
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Coping with Loss and Grief, Drugs and Society, Human Sexuality, Life-roles and Career Development, Parent-Child Relationships

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Counseling Psychology
#16
#16
Annual Tuition: $11,970
Annual Tuition: $11,970
Annual Tuition: $11,970
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 164
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 31
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (785) 242-5200

Example Classes: Group Counseling in Addiction, Multi-Cultural Competencies in Addiction Counseling, Professional Responsibility: Legal and Ethical Issues of Addiction Counseling, Psychopathological and Co-Occurring Disorders, Special Issues in Addiction Counseling, Theories of Personality and Addiction

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Addiction Counseling
#17
#17

Bay Path University

Longmeadow (MA) (and 1 other)
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 886
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 615
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE

Example Classes: Cognitive Psychology & Neurosciene, Counseling Diverse Populations, Counseling Ethics & Profess Develop, Interviewing & Counseling, Psychological Stastics, Women as Empowered Leaders and Learners

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Counseling Foundations
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Foundations of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Human Services & Rehabilitation
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Offender Rehabilitation & Victim Advocacy
#18
#18

New England College

Henniker (NH)
Annual Tuition: $12,150
Annual Tuition: $12,150
Annual Tuition: $12,150
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 648
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 407
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (603) 428-2211

Example Classes: Advanced Topics in Alcohol and Drug Use and Abuse, Child Psychology, Interpersonal Relationships, Marriage and Family, Substance Use, Understanding Trauma and Addiction

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Psychology/Addiction and Substance Abuse
  • BA in Psychology/Marriage Therapy and Family Counseling
#19
#19
Annual Tuition: $12,369
Annual Tuition: $12,369
Annual Tuition: $12,369
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Acceptance Rate: 93%
  • Average SATs: 1015 -1225
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 501
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 64
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (918) 495-6161

Example Classes: Developing Helping Skills, Issues/Identity of Caregiver, Lifespan Development, Pastoral Approaches to Counseling, Practical Application of Helping Skills

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Christian Caregiving and Counseling
#20
#20

Ohio Christian University

Circleville (OH)
Annual Tuition: $12,480
Annual Tuition: $12,480
Annual Tuition: $12,480
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 31%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,687
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 349
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (740) 474-8896

Example Classes: Diagnostic Evaluation and Personal Assessment, Ethical and Legal Issues in Counseling, Family Dynamics in Substance Abuse, Individual Chemical Dependency Counseling, Prevention Strategies, Spiritual Dimensions of Illness and Recovery

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Substance Abuse Counseling
#21
#21

Lindsey Wilson College

Columbia (KY)
Annual Tuition: $12,570
Annual Tuition: $12,570
Annual Tuition: $12,570
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 38%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 224
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 172
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (270) 384-2126

Example Classes: Abnormal Psychology, Assessment in the Helping Professions, Case Management, Intake & Referral

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Human Services and Counseling
#22
#22
Annual Tuition: $12,865
Annual Tuition: $12,865
Annual Tuition: $12,865
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 188
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 334
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (281) 649-3000

Example Classes: Contemporary Issues in Christian Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling, Methods and Strategies of Christian Counseling

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Christian Counseling
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Marriage and Family Studies
#23
#23
Annual Tuition: $12,900
Annual Tuition: $12,900
Annual Tuition: $12,900
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Acceptance Rate: 53%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1150
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 461
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 325
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (864) 644-5000

Example Classes: Group Dynamics, Multicultural Counseling, Practical Counseling Skills

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Human Services - Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Human Services - Marriage and Family Services
#24
#24
Annual Tuition: $13,050
Annual Tuition: $13,050
Annual Tuition: $13,050
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Acceptance Rate: 93%
  • Average SATs: 910 -1110
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 0
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (407) 847-8966

Example Classes: Conflict and Communication, Family Life Education Methodology, Pastoral Counseling

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Pastoral Care and Counseling
  • BS in Pastoral Care and Counseling
#25
#25
Annual Tuition: $13,500
Annual Tuition: $13,500
Annual Tuition: $13,500
  • Online Degrees: 6
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 28%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1090
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 261
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 340
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Phone #: (714) 879-3901

Example Classes: Abnormal Psychology, Career Counseling, Christian Perspectives in Human Development, Community Mental Health, Counseling Skills, Counseling Theories

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS in Human Development
  • BS in Human Development - Addiction Studies
  • BS in Human Development - Behavioral Psychology
  • BS in Human Development - Community Mental Health and Counseling
  • BS in Human Development - Family Studies
  • BS in Human Development - Graduate Studies

Can I Get a Counseling Degree Online?


Students today have access to a wide range of online bachelor's programs in counseling, psychology, sociology, and related fields. If you're considering a career in counseling, earning a bachelor's degree online or in-person is the first step toward achieving your professional goals. Most professional counseling positions will require a master's degree for state licensure, and a bachelor's degree in one of these fields will provide a solid foundation of knowledge to build on in a master's in counseling program. Some bachelor's programs offer specializations in addiction counseling and substance use, marriage and family, Christian counseling, offender rehabilitation, and victim advocacy. These options prepare students to meet the unique needs of specific populations in a counseling setting.

Counselors typically follow a few different career paths depending on their interests:

  • Some people pursue roles as school counselors working with children and teenagers in K-12 school settings or adults in higher education.
  • Others become mental health counselors and work in clinical settings, sometimes with specific populations such as older adults, children, couples, or families.
  • Substance use and addiction counselors work with individuals to help them overcome addictions to drugs, alcohol, and other substances that negatively impact their health and wellbeing.
  • Some counselors work with people who are incarcerated to support them while in prison and as they transition after their release.

Online programs follow the same curriculum and degree path as campus-based programs do. Many students prefer to take online classes due to the convenience and flexibility they offer, as well as their affordability. Some online programs include live video classes held at set times, while others allow students to watch pre-recorded lectures on their own time. They also are often available as accelerated part-time or full-time courses of study. Online degrees are appealing to many students because they can provide more affordable options than students have access to in their local area and don't include costs such as room and board or transportation to campus.

Students interested in pursuing a counseling degree online should always seek an accredited program. Accreditation ensures colleges and universities are held to universal academic standards and indicates to other schools and employers that graduates have received a quality education. All of the programs on this page are offered through accredited colleges and universities.


How Much Does an Online Counseling Degree Cost?


Tuition costs at the universities included in this list of affordable online counseling degrees range from $4,500 to $13,500 per year. The cost of your degree will depend on where you enroll and how many credits a program requires to graduate. For the 2020-21 school year, average tuition rates for all online degree programs at public universities were $12,570 per year, while private colleges charged an average of $14,068 per year for online programs. Generally speaking, online programs are more affordable than campus-based degree programs. On average, public universities are also more affordable than private ones, although schools may offer institutional grants and scholarships to help reduce your education cost.

The cost of your degree will also depend on if you have credits from a prior college experience you can transfer and apply to your degree. Online programs often have flexible transfer policies that allow students to reduce the number of credits they'll have to take to finish their degree. Many students attend community college to earn credits at a lower cost that they can then apply to their bachelor's degree. However, it can be difficult to transfer all previously earned credits depending on individual school transfer policies. A case study done by the Community College Research Center found that even when students weren't able to transfer all of their credits, most still saved money on their undergraduate degree by attending community college and transferring those credits.


Is an Online Degree in Counseling Worth It?


Many people who are passionate about helping others will find a career in counseling extremely rewarding. Professional counselors work directly with patients to help them overcome emotional, psychological, social, and physical difficulties that impact their personal life. They also connect people with resources and tools to help them improve their overall health and wellbeing. If you feel compelled to work as a counselor, you'll likely need to earn a bachelor's and master's degree to become licensed.

A graduate degree in counseling is a requirement for licensure and certification, which students will need to practice as a counselor in many cases. However, students do not need a bachelor's degree in counseling to enter a master's program or even to enter the field. There are opportunities to work in counseling without a degree, such as working with nonprofits, working as an aid or another supporting role with a counselor, or roles as a peer counselor or case manager. Those who earn their bachelor's degree in another field are still eligible to apply to a master's in counseling program, but may need to complete additional prerequisite classes.

When considering whether or not an online counseling degree will be worth it, students should think about their professional and personal goals, why they're interested in the field, how much time and money they can put into their education, and what they'll get out of it.

Another important consideration is how much your degree will cost, how much money you'll make after you graduate, and employment rates for your chosen career path. The following salary data and job growth outlooks provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can give prospective students a clearer picture of how their financial future might look in each career path. From the list of counseling careers below, school and career counselors tend to earn the highest median salaries while rehabilitation counselors earn the lowest. Projected growth in jobs is highest for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors and lowest for correctional treatment specialists.

Correctional Treatment Specialists

Some counselors train to work specifically with people who are in prison or have been recently released. They provide direct support to people as they transition out of correctional facilities, creating rehabilitation plans that may include substance abuse counseling, job training, securing safe housing, and other resources and services. These counselors also administer drug testing and help people comply with other requirements for their release from prison.

  • Job Outlook: The BLS includes probation offers and correctional treatment specialists in one category, with a projected growth rate of 4% in line with the national average for all occupations.
  • Salary: Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earn median salaries of $54,290 per year, or $26.10 per hour, according to the BLS.

Marriage and Family Therapists

These therapists help couples and families work through a variety of issues to improve interpersonal relationships in the family.

  • Job Outlook: The BLS projects a rapid growth rate of 22% from 2019 to 2029 for marriage and family therapists.
  • Salary: Professionals in the field earn median salaries of $49,610 per year or $23.85 per hour. Counselors who work for state governments earn significantly higher median salaries of $72,230 per year. Those who work in outpatient care centers earn $52,140 per year.

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors work with patients who have physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities to help them overcome any setbacks or limitations they may experience. This can include coordinating care, accessing resources or services, working with employers to help them understand employee needs, and helping clients work through any issues they experience in their life due to their disability.

  • Job Outlook: The need for rehabilitation counselors is projected to grow by 10% from 2019 to 2029.
  • Salary: Rehabilitation counselors earn median salaries of $35,950 per year, or $17.28 per hour, according to the BLS. Those employed by state governments, excluding education and hospital employees, earn the highest average salaries for this job at $51,260 per year.

School and Career Counselors

School counselors work with students in K-12 or college settings to help them navigate the academic, social, and emotional landscapes while in school. Career counselors work with individuals in various stages in their professional life to help them shape their careers by determining professional goals and setting steps to achieve them.

  • Job Outlook: The need for school and career counselors is projected to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, twice as fast as the national average of 4% for all occupations.
  • Salary: School and career counselors have the highest median salary rates for counseling occupations at $57,040 per year, or $27.42 an hour.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

The BLS combines these three roles into one occupation, and while they can be distinct, there is often crossover between the positions.

  • Job Outlook: The job outlook for counselors in these three areas is very high. The need for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to grow by 25% from 2019 to 2029 as people continue to seek treatment for mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction. This role is expected to grow as it becomes more common for states to shift away from incarcerating people who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction in favor of court-ordered treatment and counseling services. Compared to the national average of 4% for all jobs, this area of counseling will have significantly higher employment rates than many other occupations.
  • Salary: Counselors in this field earn a median salary of $46,240 per year or $22.23 per hour. Those who work for government agencies earn the highest wages, at $52,720 per year. Hospitals are also a top industry for counselors in this field, with hospital employees earning median salaries of $49,100 per year.