Best Online Bachelor’s in Counseling Degrees for 2023

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling Career Options & Salary

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A bachelor's degree in counseling is a credential that students earn after four or more years in college. The degree usually covers the fundamentals of psychology and counseling. Programs often include aspects of research psychology in which students are asked to conduct original research.

In the past, aspiring counselors would first earn a bachelor's degree in psychology or social work and then would earn a master's degree in order to earn their state licensure to work as independent counseling professionals. However, these days, there is such a large demand for addiction counselors that college and universities have responded with degrees that prepare students for licensure in that field and other counseling fields, as needed.

While some states will acknowledge a degree in some related field, such as something in allied health, it's preferred that students earn a bachelor’s counseling degree. This degree offers more focused training that students can use to best serve their clients. A focused counseling degree may also help students land an internship or even a part-time job with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.


  • A bachelor's counseling degree is a great way to kick off a career in the mental health field. Students with a four-year degree can land an entry-level position with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center and earn a good salary. Depending on their state's regulations, they may even be able to conduct some one-on-one counseling sessions, though under strict supervision.
  • Once a counseling professional has some experience, they can make an informed decision as to whether they want to continue on with a master's counseling degree, if not some other graduate program such as a master of social work. In fact, their four-year degree will position them to apply for other master's degrees as well. They could enter an MEd program and become a school counselor, or they may be more interested in working in mental healthcare administration and so pursue an MBA or an MHA.


  • Students who pursue a bachelor's counseling degree should be aware that there are drawbacks. One of the chief drawbacks is that the degree is specialized and may prove to be a detriment in case students decide that they'd rather not work as a counselor. After all, counseling demands a lot of a person on a deep level. In fact, many students of counseling change track after their internship experiences.
  • Another drawback is that a bachelor's degree does not qualify students to work as independent counselors. Their state will probably offer a license to work in addiction counseling, but not as a one-on-one counseling staff member. Furthermore, they may wish to work with a wider population that presents a more diverse set of issues. To earn credentials that allow work in private practice, counseling students will need a suitable master's degree.

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What are the Best Online Bachelor's in Counseling College Programs?


Arizona State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $11,338
    • Out-of-State: $29,428
  • Net Price: $14,653
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 74,795
  • Undergrad Students: 63,124
  • Graduate Students: 11,671
  • Grads Salary: $73,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Arizona State University

North Park University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $32,100
    • Out-of-State: $32,100
  • Net Price: $19,320
  • Retention Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Total Enrollment: 2,831
  • Undergrad Students: 1,846
  • Graduate Students: 985
  • Grads Salary: $68,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 10:1
  • North Park University

Saint Leo University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $24,640
    • Out-of-State: $24,640
  • Net Price: $19,818
  • Retention Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Total Enrollment: 9,832
  • Undergrad Students: 6,945
  • Graduate Students: 2,887
  • Grads Salary: $70,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • Saint Leo University

Bay Path University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $35,781
    • Out-of-State: $35,781
  • Net Price: $19,177
  • Retention Rate: 70%
  • Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,224
  • Undergrad Students: 1,795
  • Graduate Students: 1,429
  • Grads Salary: $61,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 12:1
  • Bay Path University

Spalding University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $25,975
    • Out-of-State: $25,975
  • Net Price: $23,003
  • Retention Rate: 66%
  • Graduation Rate: 58%
  • Total Enrollment: 1,596
  • Undergrad Students: 855
  • Graduate Students: 741
  • Grads Salary: $68,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 11:1
  • Spalding University

Oral Roberts University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $30,930
    • Out-of-State: $30,930
  • Net Price: $20,461
  • Retention Rate: 78%
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Total Enrollment: 4,317
  • Undergrad Students: 3,682
  • Graduate Students: 635
  • Grads Salary: $60,700
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • Oral Roberts University

Clarks Summit University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $26,082
    • Out-of-State: $26,082
  • Net Price: $18,178
  • Retention Rate: 79%
  • Graduation Rate: 68%
  • Total Enrollment: 768
  • Undergrad Students: 507
  • Graduate Students: 261
  • Grads Salary: $48,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 11:1
  • Clarks Summit University

Johnson University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $18,290
    • Out-of-State: $18,290
  • Net Price: $18,292
  • Retention Rate: 80%
  • Graduation Rate: 63%
  • Total Enrollment: 1,039
  • Undergrad Students: 720
  • Graduate Students: 319
  • Grads Salary: $44,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 8:1
  • Johnson University

Central Baptist College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $17,100
    • Out-of-State: $17,100
  • Net Price: $15,547
  • Retention Rate: 57%
  • Graduation Rate: 38%
  • Total Enrollment: 604
  • Undergrad Students: 604
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Grads Salary: $55,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 11:1
  • Central Baptist College

Crown College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $27,980
    • Out-of-State: $27,980
  • Net Price: $25,977
  • Retention Rate: 66%
  • Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Total Enrollment: 1,485
  • Undergrad Students: 1,141
  • Graduate Students: 344
  • Grads Salary: $55,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • Crown College
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Certificate vs. Bachelors

A certificate in counseling can be a great way to start working in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Students may see this as a quick and easy way to launch a counseling career. They are correct, but there are also drawbacks to this approach which make a bachelor's counseling degree the preferred route.

This is because a bachelor's degree typically has more strength in the employment market. A bachelor's degree can lead to a better license with the state and it prepares the holder for a master's degree. Those with only a counseling certificate will still need to return to school for their bachelor's degree before even qualifying to apply for a master's degree program.

What Counseling Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?

These counseling degrees prepare students to work with substance abuse patients. Most states offer licensure for associate degree holders who want to work with clients who suffer from substance abuse disorders. Licensure will require a period of supervised experience, an examination, and letters of recommendation, among other requirements.

Bachelor of Science Degree in Counseling (BS)

Students who complete a bachelor of arts in counseling typically focus on counseling theory and big-picture concepts in psychology. They may have exposure to the more scientific aspects of counseling and psychology, including a research methods course, but their degree will emphasize theories and critical thinking, though statistical analysis should also be a part of the curriculum. Some programs even offer special curriculum that covers addiction counseling which can lead to state licensure and a fruitful career.

Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Counseling (BAS)

A bachelor of science degree in counseling will take a harder look at the statistical data that informs the practice of counseling. These degrees may require that students take statistics in the math department or conduct independent studies. While this may seem like a departure from a bachelor of arts, BS degree holders can also seek state licensure to work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinics. Their transcripts will likewise be accepted by master's counseling degree programs.

What are the Admission Requirements?

To enter a bachelor's in counseling degree program, prospective students need to gain admission to a suitable college or university. This frequently involves submitting a high school transcript, letters of recommendation, and scores on a college admission examination, such as the SAT or ACT. However, some colleges and universities have open admission policies and no longer have as many requirements as other schools.

Once admitted to the institution, some may need to undergo a second admissions process. This is because some counseling programs wish to see that students have completed certain prerequisite courses with a satisfactory grade point average before they can declare this as their major. Though this is often not an issue, students should investigate their school's counseling degree program so that are fully prepared.

How Long does it Take to Earn a BS Counseling Degree?

A bachelor's degree in counseling is structured to take a full-time student four years to complete. However, these days the norm is shifting more to a six-year time frame for an undergraduate degree. Online bachelor's degree in counseling students should strive to take a full-time load as often as possible so that they can graduate in a timely manner.

Traditional students may find that it's difficult to schedule their classes, especially if they need to work or take care of a family. These students can take a portion of their counseling courses online to help expedite their degree. This is called a hybrid program, in which in-person classes are combined with online classes to help the student complete their degree. Since most bachelor's degree in counseling students will later want to pursue a master's degree in counseling, it's worthwhile to complete the four-year degree as soon as possible.

Potential Careers for Graduates

  • Career Counselor:
    A career counselor works with students to help them achieve their career goals and dreams. They work to provide the sorts of career resources students need to learn about various careers, and they may even administer personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs, to help students find the best fit for them. While there are no academic requirements for this line of work, many career counselors start their path with a graduate degree. However, it may be possible to start working in a career counseling office with a bachelor's degree while working on an online master's degree.
  • Addictions Counselor:
    A bachelor's degree in counseling or even an allied health profession can help launch a career in drug and alcohol addiction counseling. Most states these days are offering those with a bachelor's degree the opportunity to attain licensure to work in rehabilitation facilities. While this degree and licensure may not allow for one-on-one counseling sessions, licensed professionals can gain valuable experience prior to enhancing their academic credentials.
  • College Admissions Counselor:
    Colleges use admissions counselors to help determine which students they intend to admit to their institution. Very often college admissions counselors are graduates of the school, but that is not a requirement for the job. What will help is a bachelor's counseling degree and a love of higher education. Counselors will spend their time interviewing prospective students and then conferring with their colleagues to determine which candidates are most worthy of admission.
  • Health Counselor:
    These counseling professionals work with people who wish to improve their overall health and wellbeing. While some may have degrees in nutrition, others pursue certificates from life coaching institutions. The requirements can vary, but health counselors will always benefit form formal education and degrees. Some even enter the field with a master's degree in mental health counseling and then focus on people who seek physical health as well.
  • Pastoral Counselor:
    This profession can come on the heels of a bachelor's degree in counseling, divinity, or both. To work as a pastoral counselor, it is vital to have a formal degree as well as an affiliation with a recognized church or other spiritual organization. Many pastoral counselors work in end-of-life care and offer counseling services to the dying as well as the bereaved.

Options to Advance

Since many states are now offering substance abuse counseling licensure at various academic levels, the counseling profession is easier to enter than ever. Depending on their state's regulations, counselors may start their careers with a high school diploma and a state license. They can then advance their careers and licensing status with a bachelor's counseling degree in counseling. After that, counselors may wish to earn a master's degree and earn a license that enables them more professional freedom.

Counseling professionals choose between two of the primary advanced degrees, a master's counseling degree that focuses on psychology and mental health, or a master of social work. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but the licensure requirements for both are about the same. However, all students should consult with their state's regulatory body for licensing details.

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