online therapist degree

A Guide to Online Counseling Degrees Accredited Online Programs in Counseling & Therapy

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Becoming a Counseling Major? Here’s what you need to know:

If you’re thinking about getting started with education to become a counselor, it’s likely that you have a lot of questions. You may be wondering, “what online degree do I need to be a counselor?” or “what are the types of counseling degrees?” There are many different paths that you can take to an online therapist degree, and your career goals will inform the types of counseling program that make the most sense for you. 

Recommended Online Counseling Degrees

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What Online Programs or Degree Should I Pursue to Be a Counselor?

Well, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider. First, it’s important to think about the area in which you’d like to counsel clients. The accredited online counseling programs that are appropriate for school counselors can be different from the types of counseling programs that make the most sense for adult trauma counselors.

You’ll also want to think about the level at which you’d like to counsel others, and the requirements to become licensed as a counselor in your state. While some states allow you to practice under supervision with a bachelor’s degree in certain counseling fields, others require that you have a master’s degree or even a doctorate degree in order to supervise others. 

Here, we’ll discover exactly what it means to be a counselor, what you need to know about the different types of online counseling programs, how to get help paying for your counseling program, and more. While the process of becoming a counselor can feel daunting, remember, you’ve chosen to go into this field to help others. The time and work that you put into researching and completing your degree program will be well worth it. 

Industries with the Highest Levels of Employment in Counseling and Therapy:

Industry Employing CounselorsEmployment (1)Annual mean wage (2)
Individual and Family Services30,170$44,580
Outpatient Care Centers29,890$44,770
Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities16,160$39,060
Offices of Other Health Practitioners11,490$50,640
Local Government (OES Designation)11,130$55,880
Source: 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2021-31 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

What Does a Counselor or Therapist Do?

Before you decide whether becoming a therapist is a good fit for you, it makes sense to research counseling job descriptions to learn more about what the job entails. The answer to the question of, “what does a counselor do?” varies greatly in different fields of counseling. The work of a therapist who works in a drug and alcohol rehab center can be vastly different than the work of a therapist who counsels people in a hospital who have just lost a loved one. 

While the answer to the question, “what does a therapist do?” differs depending on the field and the counselor’s level of expertise, there are some tasks that fit into most counseling job descriptions, including: 

  • Perform intake interviews with clients to learn about their history and why they’re seeking therapy
  • Work as part of a treatment team that may include other mental health and medical professionals
  • Strategize mental health plans with clients to ensure their well-being during the times in between sessions 
  • Consult with clients to help them uncover patterns, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and behaviors that are not conducive to their health, happiness, and well-being
  • Respond to crises when a client finds themselves in a situation they’re struggling to handle

Now that you know the answer to, “what does a therapist do?” and “what does a counselor do?” let’s check out the next steps that you need to take if you’re thinking that becoming a counselor or therapist may be in your future. 

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Young kid pointing at graphic with a smiley face during a psychotherapy session

How Do I Become a Counselor or Therapist?

Searching for how to become a therapist (and searching for how long does it take to become a therapist) is a smart move before you begin your journey into the field of mental health. Many people call themselves life coaches or life strategists, but most people with these titles don’t have any qualifications in the psychology or counseling fields. When you’re researching how to become a counselor, it’s important that you focus on options that provide you with professional licensure. This will allow you to both responsibly practice and make it easier to get a job in the field. 

To answer the question of how to become a therapist, you’ll first want to search for the licensure requirements in the state where you wish to practice. Many states require that you go through a bachelor’s or master’s program in psychology. Your program may need to be accredited, or you may need to go through testing and supervised licensure hours. The question of how long does it take to become a therapist depends greatly on the level at which you’d like to practice. If you’re interested in getting your bachelor’s degree, it will take about four years, assuming you take classes full time. Master’s degrees can take an additional two years, and doctoral degrees can take an additional three years or more. 

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Online Counseling Degree Programs – What to Expect

While learning how to become a counselor, you’ll likely also need to go through practical training in addition to your schooling. Often, this training is unpaid, which can make it difficult to go through the requirements to become a counselor if you’re also working a full-time job. That being said, it can work, if you’re willing to put in some extra hours on nights and/ or weekends. Some counseling students even find ways to be able to practice at their job (for example, a teacher may work with the school counselor to take on some of his or her caseload, providing internship credit). 

What Can You Do with an Online Accredited Counseling Degree?

From associate’s degree in counseling jobs to jobs with a master’s degree in counseling, completing an online counseling program in this field allows you to understand human behavior, which can be a valuable asset in many industries.

There are many options for jobs with a counseling degree, including: 

  • Detox counselor – This is one of the most common counseling jobs with a bachelor’s degree, and this position can be incredibly rewarding. Counselors in detox can work in hospitals or private detox facilities. 
  • Rehab counselor – Rehab facilities offer many opportunities for jobs with a counseling degree. Some rehab counselors only work with clients at the facility, while others follow clients through their sober living and aftercare plans. 
  • Academic advisor – There are many opportunities for counseling degree jobs in university settings. Academic advisors work with prospective students to help them choose majors, deal with being away from home, and find academic success. College counseling is much needed especially post-covid, where students may need extra help dealing with the disruption of the last few years. Some crossover with career counseling is expected.
  • School counselor – One of the most common degree in counseling jobs, many school counselor positions require at least a master’s degree and state licensure. School counselors are in high demand post-pandemic.
  • Clinical therapist or Marriage and Family Therapists– Clinical therapist counseling degree jobs may include seeing patients in private practice, hospitals, family therapy, or private mental health facilities. 
  • Career counselors – Both college students and adults sometimes struggle to decide where they’d like to go in their careers. Career counselors are one of the many jobs with a counseling degree that allow you to work with clients who need direction in what to do next. 
  • Human resources professional – HR doesn’t necessarily fit into the category of counseling jobs with a bachelor’s degree, but many people who earn their counseling degree find success in human resources. 
  • Crisis counselor – One of the jobs with an online degree in counseling, a crisis counselor works with people who are in trauma, helping them to find their way out of struggle. 
  • Interventionist – This addiction counseling professional works with families and people who are struggling with substance abuse or other destructive behaviors. Addiction counseling is a specialization offered within many online master programs.
  • Mental Health Counselors – Works clients and patients, individually and in group sessions. Often mental health counselors assist in overcoming dependencies, adjusting to life, and making changes. 

Counseling jobs with a bachelor’s degree are often used as a stepping stone for professionals who want to work in the field while also earning a graduate degree. It’s important to note that many degree in counseling jobs consider your life experience. For example, someone who is searching for counseling jobs with a bachelor’s degree may also want to include relevant life experience, such as dealing with addiction or living with a family member who has gone through addiction. This is true of master’s degree in counseling jobs as well.

After graduation, whether you’re searching for associate’s degree in counseling jobs or you’re ready to find jobs with an online masters degree in counseling, you’ll be glad to know that this field is growing, especially as society’s stigma against talking about mental health continues to dissipate.

Recommended Online Counseling Degrees

Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.

Counseling Degree Types: Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral

counseling jobs salary

Online Associate’s 

A two-year degree, earning an online associate’s degree in counseling is a viable option for those who are getting started in their careers. At this entry-level, you’ll have the chance to get your foot in the door in the world of professional psychology. Earning your associate’s degree in counseling online can allow you to further your education on your own time. 

An online associate degree in counseling can provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue a career in counseling. This degree program covers a wide range of topics, such as psychology, group dynamics, human behavior, and communication.

With this degree, students gain an understanding of how to help others through counseling sessions and learn how to diagnose mental health disorders. In addition, the program develops critical thinking skills that are essential for successful counselors. Students completing this program will have the tools they need to work with individuals or families in clinical settings or other areas of mental health services.

Online Bachelor’s 

Getting an online bachelor’s degree in counseling is a serious undertaking, and shows a commitment to learning how to be a therapist. A counseling bachelor’s degree online typically takes four years to complete on a full-time schedule.  

Pursuing an online bachelor’s degree in counseling can be a great way to develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the field of counseling. With an online bachelor’s degree, you can learn the basics of counseling theory and practice, as well as gain a better understanding of the ethical principles that guide professional counselors. Additionally, you will have access to resources such as textbooks, lectures, and assignments that will help you become a successful counselor.

You will also have the opportunity to network with other students and faculty members who are pursuing similar degrees. With an online bachelor’s degree in counseling, you can gain the necessary skills and knowledge needed to make a difference in people’s lives.

Recommended Online Bachelor’s in Counseling Programs

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Online Master’s

Spending two years earning an online master degree in counseling is the final level of education for many therapists. An online counseling master’s may require you to complete some of your coursework outside of the classroom during an in-person internship or practicum experience, depending on your state’s regulations for licensure.  

An online Master’s in Counseling is a great way to gain the skills and knowledge needed to become a successful counselor. With this degree, you will learn how to assess the needs of individuals, couples, and families; develop effective treatment plans; and understand the ethical and legal issues related to counseling. You will also gain an understanding of research methods and data analysis techniques used in counseling. With an online master’s degree in counseling, you can take your career to the next level by becoming a licensed professional counselor.

Recommended Online Master’s in Counseling Programs

Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.

Online Doctorate 

Earning an online counseling doctorate can be a great way to complete your graduate education. When you earn your counseling doctorate online, you get to complete your high-level education on your own time. Online doctorate programs in counseling may require you to attend an in-person component, much like the master’s online option. If you’re thinking about your online doctorate in counseling, it’s likely that you’re already working in the field, and may be able to complete the required practical hours while at work. 

An online doctoral degree in counseling offers students the opportunity to pursue advanced studies in areas such as mental health, marriage and family therapy, and clinical psychology. This type of program provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to become a professional counselor.

Through online courses, students can gain an understanding of counseling theories, research methods, and ethical practices. They will also learn how to effectively diagnose and treat mental health disorders in individuals and families. By completing an online doctoral degree in counseling, students can prepare for a successful career as a professional counselor or therapist.

Recommended Online Doctorate in Counseling Programs

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Popular Specializations in Counseling Programs

Counselors and therapists often find themselves in a difficult situation when it comes to choosing specializations. With so many options available, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for them.

The best way to choose a specialization is by considering your own interests, experience, and skillset. Counselors must also consider their personal values and beliefs when deciding on a specialization. Additionally, they should consider the needs of their clients as well as the current trends in the field of counseling and therapy.

By carefully evaluating all these factors, counselors and therapists can make an informed decision about which specialization is best for them. This will help them provide better care for their clients and ensure that they are providing the most effective treatment possible.

  • clinical mental health counseling
  • mental health counseling
  • addiction counseling
  • career counseling
  • rehabilitation counseling
  • bilingual school counseling
  • adolescent counseling
  • child and family services
  • school counseling specialization
  • crisis counseling
  • human development
  • family counseling

Counseling Program Accreditation: Is CACREP Accreditation Important?

As you search for counseling program accreditation, you’ll find information on CACREP standards, and you’ll start to wonder, “is CACREP accreditation important?” In a word: yes. CACREP accreditation means that your program has been vetted, and you won’t need to undergo additional testing or supervisory hours in order to become a licensed therapist. 

If your program does not meet CACREP standards, you may be required to undergo thousands of additional hours of supervised counseling experience before you can become licensed. 

You’ll likely also find yourself deciding between programs with CACREP vs APA accreditation. When deciding between CACREP vs APA, know that CACREP is the gold standard for counseling; APA is the gold standard for psychology. If you’re using your degree as a means to an end goal of becoming a psychologist, then APA accreditation may be a good fit for you. 

Counseling Certification and Licensure Requirements

While you can earn an online certificate in counseling, you cannot legally work as an unsupervised counselor until you become licensed by your state. In addition to your online certificate in counseling, you’ll need to undergo practicum hours. Online counseling certifications are valuable, but an in-person component is necessary as well to help you hone your craft.  

The coursework for counseling certificates online can be completed without an internship or practicum component, but in order for your online counseling certification to lend itself to state licensure, you must go through an approved internship or practicum as well. Online counseling certificates are just as respected as in-person certificates, and your state will view any accredited program in the same way when it comes to licensure.

If you’re curious about earning counseling certifications online, be sure to do your research about what type of internship or practicum component is required. Earning certificates in counseling online can be valuable, but you may not want to invest the time in your online certificate if you’re not able to complete the in-person component that makes you eligible to work as a licensed therapist. 

counseling specializations

General Requirements for Therapist and Counselor Licensure

Becoming a licensed mental health counselor or therapist requires dedication and hard work. It is important to understand the requirements for licensure in order to make sure that you are on the right path. In order to get licensure as a therapist, you must:

  • complete a certain number of supervised clinical hours
  • pass an exam
  • meet certain educational requirements

Additionally, you will need to complete other requirements such as background checks and fingerprinting, particularly for a professional school counseling program. With the proper preparation, obtaining licensure can be a rewarding experience that allows you to provide therapeutic services in your chosen field.

Clinical Hours

Becoming a licensed therapist requires more than just completing an educational program. It also requires that aspiring therapists complete a certain number of clinical hours in order to obtain their license. The exact number of clinical hours required for licensure varies from state to state, but most states require between 1,500 and 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Additionally, many states also require that applicants pass a licensing exam before they can be officially licensed as a therapist.

Counseling and Therapist Exams

Becoming a licensed therapist requires passing an exam that assesses your knowledge and skills in the field. Depending on the type of licensure you are seeking, different exams may be required. Generally, these exams include a combination of written and practical components to ensure that you have the necessary skills to practice as a therapist. The specific requirements vary by state and type of licensure, so it is important to research what type of exam you need to take in order to become licensed.

The most well-known, and most portable (meaning it will hold up from state to state) is the National Board for Certified Counselor’s exam. The National Counselor Examination (NCE) is a comprehensive and rigorous exam that assesses the knowledge, skills, and abilities of counselors in the United States. It is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and is required for professional licensure in most states. The NCE consists of six sections which assesses an individual’s understanding of:

  • counseling theories
  • techniques
  • assessment tools
  • research methods
  • ethical standards
  • laws related to counseling

Those who pass this exam are eligible to become licensed counselors in their respective states.

However, many states have their own exam. For instance, the North Carolina Board of Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors (NCBLCMHC) issues their own Jurisprudence exam.

Background Checks for Therapists

Patients want to know what kind of background check is conducted on therapists before they are allowed to practice. It is essential to ensure that their therapist has the necessary qualifications and experience for the job. A thorough background check includes verifying educational credentials, criminal records, professional references, and any other information relevant to the therapist’s qualifications.

Additionally, some states may require additional background checks for certain types of therapists such as those who work with children or vulnerable adults. For example, therapists may (like in the state of North Carolina) have to submit to fingerprinting and having their prints run through a national database.

What is the Difference Between a Counseling Certificate and a Professional Counseling Certification?

A counseling certificate and a professional counseling certification are two different credentials that can open up a range of career opportunities for aspiring counselors. While a counseling certificate is an entry-level qualification, a professional counseling certification is more advanced and requires additional training and qualifications.

A counseling certificate typically requires completion of an accredited program that focuses on the fundamentals of counseling, such as communication, ethics, and psychological theories. You typically get a certificate from a college or university for taking a certain number of credit hours.

On the other hand, a professional counseling certification requires more experience in the field and indicate specialized knowledge in particular areas like clinical practice, assessment techniques, and research methods.

These are usually offered by professional organizations like the American Psychological Association or the American Mental Health Counselors Association. Typically professional certifications require some continuing education courses and passing an exam to show your expertise in the specialization.

By obtaining both credentials, counselors can demonstrate their knowledge in the field of counseling and be better prepared to work with clients in various settings.

How to Become a Counselor in Alabama

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How to Become a Counselor in Kentucky

FAQs for Online Counseling Degree Programs

With the rise of online education, more and more students are looking for information about online counseling degree programs. To help potential students make an informed decision, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about these programs.

How Do I Apply to an Online Counseling Degree Program?

The requirement to apply to an counseling degree program are usually not very different than a conventional program.

  • Have a strong academic background and the necessary qualifications
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent, and preferably have some college credits or an associate degree.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of psychology and counseling concepts, as well as your commitment to helping others in need.

Additionally, you may be asked to provide letters of recommendation from teachers or employers who can attest to your ability to work with people in a compassionate and professional manner.

However, in some ways applying to an online program may be different.

  • It you’ve already been working in the field in some capacity, work experience may make up for lower grades.
  • You may be expected to already have a certificate or a certain number of college credits, especially for a degree completion program.
  • You may have to show a certain level of technological ability.

Of course, every school has its own application requirements, so you should consult with the admissions officer at the specific school you want to attend before applying. It will save you a lot of time if you know what they want up front.

Can I Take an Online Counseling Degree and Still Work Full-Time?

Taking an online counseling degree can be a great way to further your career and gain valuable knowledge while still being able to maintain your current job. With the flexibility of online courses, you can take classes at any time of day or night, allowing you to work full-time while still pursuing your degree. With the right planning and dedication, it is possible to take an online counseling degree and still work full-time.

Planning an online counseling degree while working full-time can be challenging but with the right strategies and tools, it is possible to achieve success.

Before you decide to plan your online counseling degree while working full-time, it is important that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. To help you identify the tools and strategies that will work for your situation, consider the following questions:

1) What are my end goals?

2) What are my personal strengths?

3) Where am I in my life and career right now?

4) What is my current degree level or previous experience?

5) What is one thing at which I am especially skilled?

The good thing is, if you’re a working professional already in some counseling-related field, you can answer most of these questions already. Being able to answer these questions will help you:

  • decide which kind of program works for you (ie asynchronous or synchronous, accelerated, full-time or part-time, etc)
  • decide on a specialization (ie pediatric, couples, substance abuse, trauma, etc)
  • manage your schedule to fit in your study time

Online programs are ideal for working adults and professionals who already have experience. Take that experience and build your future.

Will an Online Counseling Degree Prepare Me for Licensure?

Are you considering pursuing an online counseling degree? If so, you may be wondering if the program will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to become a licensed counselor. The answer is yes, as long as you choose an accredited program that meets all of your state’s requirements.

As mentioned before, an online degree will have exactly the same value as a traditional on-campus degree. The main differences, as far as licensure, will be how you obtain the practical hours needed to get licensure in your state. That’s where the unique issues of a practicum or internship for an online program come into play.

Do I Have to Do a Practicum or Internship in an Online Counselor Program?

Because counseling and therapy are so strongly oriented to human interaction, virtually all degree programs require some sort of practicum or internship experience. How else are you going to practice working with patients? Plus, most states require hands-on experience for licensure.

Since many students in an online counselor program are already working in the field in some way, many programs will allow you to use your current workplace in place of a practicum or internship. You may not be able to work as a licensed therapist, but you can shadow an experienced counselor.

The practicum provides an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in their courses and practice counseling techniques in real-world situations. This allows them to gain a better understanding of how their clients respond and interact with them, as well as how they can best help them. It also gives them the chance to develop relationships with clients that may prove beneficial once they become certified counselors.

Another possibility, if you’re short on practical work experience, is a virtual practicum or internship. A virtual practicum can be an excellent opportunity to gain experience in the field of counseling while developing your professional skills. Some programs will actually allow you to do your practicum online, with a counselor who is seeing patients through telehealth.

It is a great way to gain hands-on experience in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, and mental health facilities. You will gain invaluable knowledge and understanding of the mental health field, as well as insight into the unique challenges faced by counselors working with clients online.

During your practicum or internship, you will be able to observe established counselors in action and learn about their techniques for providing effective care. Additionally, you will have the chance to practice counseling skills under supervision from experienced professionals. Through this program, you can gain valuable practical experience that can help you become a successful online counselor.

Are There Funding or Grant Opportunities for an Online Counseling Degree?

Pursuing an online counseling degree can be a great way to start a career in counseling. However, many students may not have the financial resources to cover the costs of tuition and other expenses associated with pursuing this degree.

Finding funding or grants for an online counseling degree can be a daunting task. However, there are many resources available that can help you find the funding you need to pursue your dream of becoming a professional counselor. Whether you are looking for scholarships, grants, or other forms of financial aid, there are numerous options available to assist you in achieving your educational goals. With the right research and dedication, you can find the perfect funding option for your online counseling degree.

Grants: Fortunately, there are a number of grants available to help offset the costs associated with getting an online counseling degree. These grants come from both public and private sources, and they can be used to pay for tuition, books, and other related expenses. In this article, we will explore some of the different kinds of grants available for an online counseling degree.

There are also many scholarships available for students interested in earning a degree in this field. Scholarships range from those specifically designed for students pursuing an online counseling degree to more general scholarships that can help cover tuition costs.

Scholarships for Counseling and Therapy Degrees

Earning undergraduate and/ or graduate scholarships for counseling can seriously cut down on your higher education cost. 

Check out these options for graduate school scholarships for counseling:

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

Scott and Paul Pearsell Grant

David H. and Beverly F. Barlow Grant

As you search for federal financial aid scholarships for online counseling degrees, including undergraduate and graduate programs, be sure to remember that grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back, unlike student loans. If you’re struggling to afford the cost of your education, talk to your financial aid office about how your school can work with you to develop a financial aid package that helps you earn your education without draining your bank account. 

Recommended Online Counseling Degrees

Explore our featured online programs to find the right match for you today.

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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?