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2023 Best Online Bachelor's in Counseling Programs

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 12/16/2022


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2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Counseling Badge

Online bachelor's degrees in counseling aim to create compassionate, empathetic counselors who can listen to patients' problems and help them find solutions. Online learners take courses in general psychology, counseling techniques, social groups, and behavioral disorders. Most counseling bachelor's programs let students pursue a concentration that can help them specialize in their counseling careers, such as mental health counseling, school counseling, and addictions counseling. Some programs specifically prepare graduates for licensure in these areas, but always check with your state's regulations to make sure.

You can review our Best Online Christian Counseling Degrees or Best Online Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees pages if you find yourself drawn to these specializations.

View our methodology for more details about our list, or learn more about OnlineU.

2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Counseling Badge
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Online Counseling Bachelor's Degrees You May Be Interested In

List Of Accredited Online Counseling Schools

School Online Enrollment Annual Tuition
Southern New Hampshire University Online 86,849 86,849 $9,600 $9,600
Liberty University 34,092 $11,700
Arizona State University 33,410 $24,413
Purdue University Global 28,447 $14,358
Brigham Young University - Idaho 17,448 $4,208
Bellevue University 7,352 $7,851
Indiana Wesleyan University Online 6,185 $18,906
Aspen University 4,413 $3,920
Fort Hays State University 4,411 $15,360
SUNY Empire State College 3,754 $17,515

Southern New Hampshire University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Locations: Manchester (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Southern New Hampshire University Online (SNHU) is a private, nonprofit school that offers several counseling-related online bachelor's degrees. The first is a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in addictions, which requires 120 total credit hours that include 12 credits in the concentration. SNHU's Bachelor of Arts in Human Services features optional concentrations in child and family services or substance abuse that might interest future counselors. These 120-credit degrees call for 12-15 credits toward each concentration.

SNHU uses the Brightspace learning management system to deliver online courses to students. The learning outcomes are different for each degree, but students in each program take Introduction to Psychology and Abnormal Psychology.

Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University is a private Baptist institution with several online options for counseling students. These include bachelor of science in psychology degrees with concentrations in addictions and recovery, Christian counseling, and crisis counseling. Liberty also offers an online Bachelor of Science in Religion with a concentration in Christian counseling for a different take on this discipline. Each degree has 120 credit hours and is designed to take four years.

Liberty's distance learners use the Canvas system to access and complete their online coursework. The curriculum and goals are different for each degree, but they all cover basic psychology and its relation to the school's Baptist creed. Therefore, all counseling students take the course Psychology and Christianity.

Arizona State University

  • Annual Tuition: $24,413
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Arizona State University (ASU), a public school, offers a Bachelor of Science in Counseling and Applied Psychological Science comprising 120 credit hours. Interested students might choose a concentration in substance abuse and addictions. Students might finish in four years if they attend full time. The university has a 73% acceptance rate and a 52% graduation rate for bachelor's students.

ASU uses the digital learning platform Canvas to deliver online classes asynchronously. The school's counseling faculty seek to teach a range of mental health and behavioral disorders, along with ethical techniques for treating them. They do this through courses such as Counseling Skills, Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy, and Addiction Group Counseling.

Purdue University Global

  • Annual Tuition: $14,358
  • Locations: Indianapolis (IN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Purdue University Global is a public, fully online university featuring a Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Addictions. This four-year program contains the equivalent of 120 semester credits. Purdue has an open admissions policy, though only 30% of students graduate with a degree.

Purdue uses the Brightspace learning platform to deliver online courses to students. Enrollees in this program study the psychology principles, research design, counseling ethics, and clinical practices. Some required classes include Health Psychology, Case Management in Clinical Settings, and Psychopharmacology of Alcohol and Drugs. Purdue hopes to prepare graduates for licensure as substance use counselors, but requirements for this differ by state.

Brigham Young University - Idaho

  • Annual Tuition: $4,208
  • Locations: Rexburg (ID)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Brigham Young University - Idaho (BYUI) is a private school affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The university offers an online Bachelor of Applied Science in Marriage & Family Studies containing 120 credit hours of coursework, which may take as little as four years to finish. BYUI accepts 97% of applicants and graduates 67% of them with a bachelor's degree.

Online learners work on courses in the Canvas learning management platform. This program's faculty aim to create ethical, thoughtful marriage and family professionals by teaching principles of child advocacy, family relationship behavior, and substance use disorder. Required courses include General Psychology, Marriage Skills, and Parenting, plus an internship in person at an approved location.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Counseling

Online bachelor’s degree programs in counseling typically focus on substance abuse, addictions, and human behavior. While enrollment in a bachelor's degree in counseling provides an introduction to the field, most states require counselors to earn at least a master's degree in order to become licensed.

Admission Requirements

Undergraduate programs in counseling typically follow the standard admissions protocol for all bachelor's programs. Most schools require a high school diploma or GED, SAT/ACT scores, a resume, and letters of recommendation. Prospective students may be required to have a GPA of 2.8 or higher.


The classes counseling students take as undergraduates often mirror the courses they may take as graduate-level students, but the undergraduate curriculum revolves around learning existing theories rather than developing one's own ideas and techniques.

Learners enrolled in online counseling degree programs study general psychology and sociology through classes such as child development, addiction, abnormal psychology, and emotional disorders. Other courses discuss particular counseling issues, such as case management, drugs and behavior, substance abuse recovery, counseling skills, and counselor ethics. Counseling majors also take a broad array of general education classes in math, sciences, communications, and social sciences. Some schools also require students to complete some type of capstone projectto become a counselor.

In order to gain the hands-on work experience that an expert counselor needs, most online bachelor's in counseling programs require students to complete a practicum and internship experience.

In order to gain the hands-on work experience that an expert counselor needs, most online bachelor's in counseling programs require students to complete a practicum and internship experience. Practicums put students in mock counseling settings, which allow them to work on their counseling skills in low-stakes situations. Internships in a counseling office allow students to shadow experienced counselors and practice their counseling skills under the watchful eye of a professional. The amount of fieldwork required will depend on the state in which the training takes place and the type of counseling the student specializes in. Online students may need to take greater responsibility for their practice experience by finding an internship in a local school, clinic, or community agency to acquire the clinical practice hours they need.

Interested in learning about similar degrees? Explore online bachelor's programs in substance abuse counseling, Christian counseling, and psychology.

Common Courses in an Online Bachelor's in Counseling Program

The core courses and electives required for online bachelor's in counseling degrees vary widely, often depending on the area of specialization or focus of the program. In general, they require students to complete extensive reading and writing assignments, and they provide opportunities for students to develop their counseling skills through role play activities, group work, and class discussions. The following is a list of courses often included in counseling programs.

Clinical and Counseling Psychology

This class discusses how personality and personal interaction can manifest in the client-counselor relationship. Students explore different methods of working with clients, depending on what the client wants to get out of counseling. Coursework covers different tools, such as standardized questionnaires, which can be used to determine a patient's diagnosis.

General Psychology

An introductory course in general psychology gives students a broad overview of the science. In addition to covering the history of psychology and various theories, coursework explores fundamentals such as cognition, perception, motivation, and learning.

Lifespan Development

This course discusses how people change from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood and old age. All aspects of human development are covered, such as cognitive, physical, and emotional development. Coursework may include methods of helping people adjust to common life changes.

Multicultural Psychology

At its core, multicultural psychology is the study of the ways in which culture can affect how people think, feel, and act. Some of the common topics discussed include racial identity, prejudice and stereotyping, and adaptation.

Physiological Psychology

This field of psychology explores the biological basis for behavior, specifically the relationship between the brain and a person's actions. Coursework covers the nervous system, sensory perception, sleep, emotions, and memory. Students may also learn how physical injury and trauma can alter behavior.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Counseling Degree?

Counselors are found in many healthcare settings and populations, so a wide variety of career paths are available. Possible work environments include community agencies, schools, colleges, hospitals, and private practice.

Although graduate study in counseling is necessary to become a licensed counselor, graduates with a high school or bachelor's degree and relevant experience may qualify for counseling-related positions, such as social and human service assistant, social and community service manager, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor. With a master's degree and a state-issued license, graduates can go into clinical mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, career counseling, and marriage and family counseling.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Counseling Degrees

What Undergraduate Degree Is Best for Counseling?

The best undergraduate degree for a career in counseling depends on your specific goals. If you are certain you want to become some type of counselor — marriage and family, substance abuse, mental health, school, or career — a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in counseling, applied psychology, or even sociology may work for your needs. You could also consider earning a bachelor's degree in social work. If, however, you are intent on earning a doctorate and becoming a licensed clinical or research psychologist, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology may be the better option.

What Is the Difference Between a Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?

Although both types of programs are designed to prepare students for graduate school, there are distinct differences between a bachelor's degree in counseling and a bachelor's degree in psychology. In general, counseling programs focus on using therapeutic techniques to help clients of all ages work through issues such as addiction, trauma, or relationship problems. Psychology programs include courses on clinical counseling but also cover more scientific topics and research methods, such as how to conduct diagnostic testing or psychoanalytical research.

How Long Does It Take To Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling Online?

Most students need four or more years to complete the approximately 120 credit hours needed to earn a bachelor's degree in counseling. However, students who have already accumulated some higher education credits — possibly by earning an associate degree — may be able to transfer credits and graduate sooner.

What Are the Benefits of an Online Bachelor’s in Counseling Degree?

Earning a bachelor's degree in counseling online offers several important benefits. In addition to obtaining the skills and knowledge you'll need to enter this rewarding field, you'll be able to choose the program that best fits your interests and career goals without having to relocate to attend school. Online programs also give you greater flexibility in your schedule, which is a significant advantage if you're working full time or have other time constraints.

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