2020 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Counseling Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/1/2021
2020 Most Affordable Counseling Bachelors Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/1/2021

This list of the most affordable online bachelor's in counseling highlights 24 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. 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 Aspen University $4,500
# 2 #2 Fort Hays State University $6,560
# 3 #3 Union College - KY $6,750
# 4 #4 Lee University $7,560
# 5 #5 College of Biblical Studies-Houston $8,220
# 6 #6 University of Maine at Augusta $9,269
# 7 #7 East Central University $9,672
# 8 #8 University of Cincinnati $10,342
# 9 #9 Toccoa Falls College $11,040
# 10 #10 Washington State University $11,550
# 11 #11 Liberty University $11,700
# 12 #12 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $11,760
# 13 #13 Nazarene Bible College $11,840
# 14 #14 Clarks Summit University $11,850
# 15 #15 Faulkner University $11,935
# 16 #16 Ottawa University Online $11,970
# 17 #17 Bay Path University $12,000
# 18 #18 Oral Roberts University $12,369
# 19 #19 Ohio Christian University $12,480
# 20 #20 Lindsey Wilson College $12,570
# 21 #21 Houston Baptist University $12,865
# 22 #22 Southern Wesleyan University $12,900
# 23 #23 Johnson University Florida $13,050
# 24 #24 Hope International University $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: 0%
  • Graduation Rate: 0%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,413
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,356
  • 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: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Acceptance Rate: 89%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,411
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,453
  • 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: 39%
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 153
  • 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: 60%
  • Acceptance Rate: 85%
  • Average SATs: 910 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 446
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 49
  • 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: 67%
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 34
  • 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: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 13%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,342
  • 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: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Acceptance Rate: 48%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 276
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 387
  • 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: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 71%
  • Acceptance Rate: 76%
  • Average SATs: 1120 -1350
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,455
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,731
  • 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: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Acceptance Rate: 59%
  • Average SATs: 920 -1150
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,008
  • 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: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Acceptance Rate: 73%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,437
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,137
  • 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: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 30%
  • Average SATs: 1040 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 34,092
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 36,337
  • 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: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 6,185
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,637
  • 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: 36%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 696
  • 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: 88%
  • Acceptance Rate: 55%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 238
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 235
  • 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: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Acceptance Rate: 57%
  • Average SATs: 1000 -1160
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 648
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 499
  • 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: 205
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 56
  • 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: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Average SATs: 960 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 870
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 523
  • 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
Annual Tuition: $12,369
Annual Tuition: $12,369
Annual Tuition: $12,369
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Acceptance Rate: 93%
  • Average SATs: 988 -1240
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 501
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 121
  • 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
#19
#19

Ohio Christian University

Circleville (OH)
Annual Tuition: $12,480
Annual Tuition: $12,480
Annual Tuition: $12,480
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,264
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 246
  • 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
#20
#20

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: 281
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 338
  • 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
#21
#21
Annual Tuition: $12,865
Annual Tuition: $12,865
Annual Tuition: $12,865
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 293
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 414
  • 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
#22
#22
Annual Tuition: $12,900
Annual Tuition: $12,900
Annual Tuition: $12,900
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Acceptance Rate: 53%
  • Average SATs: 948 -1153
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 348
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 280
  • 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
#23
#23
Annual Tuition: $13,050
Annual Tuition: $13,050
Annual Tuition: $13,050
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Acceptance Rate: 93%
  • Average SATs: 855 -1090
  • 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
#24
#24
Annual Tuition: $13,500
Annual Tuition: $13,500
Annual Tuition: $13,500
  • Online Degrees: 6
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Acceptance Rate: 28%
  • Average SATs: 910 -1070
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 198
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 364
  • 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

  • BA in Human Development
  • BA in Human Development - Addiction Studies
  • BA in Human Development - Behavioral Psychology
  • BA in Human Development - Community Mental Health and Counseling
  • BA in Human Development - Family Studies
  • BA 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. Some bachelor's programs offer specializations, such as 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. If you're considering a career in counseling, earning a bachelor's degree — whether online or in-person — is often only the first step toward achieving your professional goals. Most professional counseling positions also require a master's degree for state licensure.

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

  • Some pursue roles as school counselors, where they either work with children and teenagers in grades K-12 or adults in a higher education setting.
  • Others become mental health counselors and work in clinical settings. This may involve a focus with specific populations, such as older adults, children, couples, or families.
  • Substance use and addiction counselors work with individuals to help them overcome reliance on drugs, alcohol, and other substances that negatively impact their health and well-being.
  • Some counselors work with people who are incarcerated. They support them in prison and during their transition after release.

Online programs follow the same curriculum and degree path as campus-based programs. Many students prefer to take online classes due to their convenience, flexibility, and affordability. Some online programs include livestreaming classes held at set times, while others allow students to watch prerecorded lectures on their own time. Also, online classes are often available as accelerated part-time or full-time courses of study. Lastly, online degrees appeal to many students because they can be significantly more affordable.

Students interested in pursuing a counseling degree online should always seek an accredited program.

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


Is an Online Degree in Counseling Worth It?

When considering whether an online counseling degree is 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 invest in their education, and what they'll ultimately get out of it.

Professional counselors work directly with patients to help them overcome emotional, psychological, social, and physical difficulties that impact their personal life. Counselors connect people with the resources and tools they need to help them improve their overall health and well-being. If you feel compelled to work as a counselor, you'll likely need to earn a bachelor's and master's degree in order to become licensed, and an online degree is a viable option for either degree.

While a graduate degree in counseling is a requirement for licensure and certification, students do not need a bachelor's degree in counseling to enter a master's program or even the field. Those who earn their bachelor's degree in another field are still eligible to apply to a master's program in counseling, but they may need to complete additional prerequisites. There are also opportunities to work in counseling without a degree, such as through non-profits or working as a peer counselor, case manager, or an aid to a counselor.

Counseling Careers

It's also important to consider how much money you'll make after graduation and the employment rates for your chosen career path. The following salary data and job growth outlooks provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can provide prospective students with a clearer picture of how their financial future may 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 it is lowest for correctional treatment specialists.

Correctional Treatment Specialists

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

  • Job Outlook: The BLS places probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in a single category. They have a projected growth rate of 4%, which aligns 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).

Marriage and Family Therapists

These therapists help couples and families work through a variety of issues to improve interpersonal relationships within their 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 at $72,230 per year on average. Meanwhile, those who work in outpatient care centers earn approximately $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 enrolled in school. Career counselors, on the other hand, work with individuals in various stages of their professional life to support them in shaping their careers by determining some professional goals and the steps to achieve them.

  • Job Outlook: The need for school and career counselors is projected to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is 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. Although they can be distinct, often crossover exists between the positions.

  • Job Outlook: Compared to the national average of 4% for all jobs, this specialty has significantly higher employment rates than many other occupations. Especially as states begin to shift away from incarcerating people with drug/alcohol addiction in favor of court-ordered treatment and counseling services, the need for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to grow by 25% from 2019 to 2029.
  • 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, as hospital employees earn median salaries of $49,100 per year.

Common Bachelor of Counseling Courses

Course requirements for a bachelor's in counseling differ by program but generally cover a few core subjects that prepare students to work with individuals experiencing challenges. Below are some of the most common program courses, which are intended to give students a firm foundation in the history and best ethical practices of the counseling profession.

  • Behavior Disorders of Children and Adolescents: Many counseling programs require a course sequence that covers issues that may occur across a lifespan. This course introduces theories of human development and methods for diagnosing and treating behavioral problems in youth. Students learn to examine the social contexts of their patients — including race, class, and gender — and the effects they have on their behavior.
  • Case Management: In this course, students learn the administrative side of their chosen field. The faculty teaches client assessment, treatment plan options, and the legal requirements associated with effective record keeping. Topics covered in this course may include treatment in various clinical settings, the assessment of a patient's home, and stress management related to caseloads.
  • Ethics in Counseling: This course presents a history of ethics in counseling and the currently accepted standards of ethical behavior. Professors often present hypothetical scenarios in which the correct behavior isn't immediately clear. Students focus on learning how to build trust with clients by adhering to legal mandates governing intervention, record keeping, and patient confidentiality.
  • Group Process: This course can be useful for understanding the social pressures on different client populations. Specifically, professors discuss the formation and function of various groups. The topics covered include social dynamics, leadership styles, and communication within a wider group.
  • Crisis Intervention: Students study how to assess clients who are experiencing mental health crises and apply proven techniques to improve the situation. They will be asked to consider the legal landscape and the ethical requirements of intervening in both real and hypothetical situations. Students who take this course as part of a concentration (e.g., substance abuse counseling) may be able to focus their work on scenarios related to their preferred population.
  • Pharmacology in Addictions Counseling: This course teaches the physiological basis of addiction. The aim is to better understand the brain chemistry underlying chemical dependency and the effects that various substances have on different body systems. This course may also cover prescription drug interactions and discuss how scientists design clinical trials to test the safety of drugs.

How Much Does an Online Counseling Degree Cost?

Generally speaking, online degree programs are more affordable than campus-based programs. In this list of affordable online counseling degrees, tuition ranges from $4,500 to $13,500 per year. The degree’s cost depends on where you enroll and how many credits a program requires to graduate. For the 2020-21 school year, the 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. On average, public universities are more affordable than private ones. Although, schools may offer institutional grants and scholarships to help reduce your education cost.

Average Online Tuition Quick Facts
  • Public Universities: $12,570 per year
  • Private Universities: $14,068 per year

A degree’s cost also depends on whether you have credits from a prior college experience that you can transfer and apply toward your degree. Online programs often have flexible transfer policies that allow students to reduce the number of credits they need to finish their degree. Many attend community college to earn credits at a lower cost. Then, they can later apply these credits to their bachelor's degree (in accordance with individual school transfer policies). Alternatively, a student may decide to transfer their online college credits to an on-campus program.


Funding an Online Bachelor of Counseling

Students earning their online bachelor's in counseling qualify for the same financial aid as campus-based students. Financial aid comes from federal and state governments, colleges/universities, and private organizations (e.g., nonprofits or businesses). Federal and state aid is typically in the form of grants, work-study funding, and student loans. Scholarships from your college/university, your program department, private businesses, and nonprofit organizations can also help offset the cost of tuition and other educational expenses.

More than half of employers offer tuition programs as part of their employee benefits package.

Some students may also qualify for tuition assistance through their work. According to a 2019 study from the Society of Human Resources Management, more than half of employers offer tuition programs as part of their employee benefits package. Military students, veterans, and their families can also qualify for aid through the GI Bill and other military tuition programs.

Always check program eligibility requirements to make sure you qualify, as certain factors may play a role, like accreditation or funding. Contact the financial aid office at your college to make sure any financial aid you receive can be applied toward your online degree.

Applying for Aid

Students apply for most types of aid by using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form determines a student’s financial need and eligibility for federal funding and additional aid from your state and university. Our comprehensive FAFSA guide describes how the application process works and some common mistakes to avoid when filling out the form.

After exhausting other financial aid options, students may take out federal or private student loans to help bridge the gap between gift aid and the cost of higher education. Federal student loans are generally preferred over private lenders due to their low fixed-interest rates and flexible repayment options.

While undocumented students are ineligible to receive federal financial aid, they qualify for grants in some states. Alongside state aid, many undocumented students use scholarships to help pay for their education, as some are open to students regardless of citizenship while others are specifically for undocumented students, like those listed by Immigrants Rising.

Where to Look for Additional Financial Assistance

Check with your program department and the financial aid office at your school to find out about additional funding opportunities. The following scholarships are open to counseling students pursuing a bachelor's degree:

Scholarship Eligibility Requirements Amount
Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign
  • Currently enrolled as a full-time student in high school or college
  • Must show proof of acceptance into a college or university
$1,500
Lullellia W. Harrison Counseling Scholarship
  • Enrolled in a counseling degree program
  • Awarded for one academic year of full-time study
Varies
Elevate Mental Health Awareness Scholarship
  • Current high school or college student
  • U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Must have either personally experienced or been close to someone with mental health challenges
$500