The American Psychological Association reports that psychology is one of the most popular and college and university majors and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates mental health counselors with a bachelor’s degree to grow 23 percent through 2024 which is much faster than the national average.
If you’re interested in helping people in a variety of situations, have good interpersonal communication abilities, and have strong people skills, you may want to explore an undergraduate degree in psychology with an emphasis in counseling. This type of bachelor’s degree will prepare you for entry-level positions, working with licensed psychologists or social workers in treating patients with substance abuse, and behavioral, or mental health issues.
You should be certain the school you choose is regionally accredited. Accrediting, nonprofit organizations are recognized by the Department of Education to award accreditation. The schools in this ranking hold accreditation.
You’ll also want to be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)® Federal Student Aid is available for accredited, online programs and schools need the FAFSA for consideration of scholarships or school-based grants for which you may qualify.
Finally, not all online programs are eligible to enroll students from all 50 states. Schools offering distance education and states participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARS) which will open up more online degree program options for you. Be sure to check that the program is eligible for you to enroll, based on your state of residence.
Our Method: Ranking the 15 Best Online Counseling Bachelor’s Programs
To rank the 15 Best Online Counseling Bachelor’s Programs, Best Health Degrees editors researched accredited, trusted programs of all kinds. From our initial pool, we ranked programs according to price, accreditation, reputation, and salary potential, using data from IPEDS and Niche, U.S. News and World Report, and other higher education rating publications.
1. Washington State University-Global Campus
Here’s a highly recognized online BS in Psychology degree with a Clinical/Counseling focus. This program allows you access to several perks such as the Online Psychology Student’s Resource Room and conducting undergraduate research as well as acting as a faculty assistant.
A 120-credit hour program, you’ll take general education courses as well as core classes in psychology. Core studies include Psychology as a Science, Introductory Psychology, Experimental Methods in Psychology, and Elementary Statistics in Psychology. As you transition to your clinical/counseling focus studies, you’ll be able to take Psychology of Gender, Principles of Developmental Psychology, Clinical/Community Psychology, Health Psychology, and others. The program has an offering of several electives in an internship, participation in research, testing and measurement, and more.
If you’re a graduating high school student, you’ll complete a Freshman application and provide official academic transcripts and ACT/SAT test scores are no longer required. Students applying who are 25 years old or older, you’ll complete the Adult Freshman application which will ask for an essay, resume, as well as academic transcripts.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $542-$604/per credit hour
Fast Fact: U.S. News and World Report ranks this WSU program at #8 in its Best Online Psychology Programs and Niche considers WSU as a Best Colleges for Psychology in America
2. Central Washington University Online
Central Washington University takes a unique approach to their BA in Psychology by offering a small plan (requiring a minor and best if you plan to work in social and/or behavioral professions) or a large plan (ideal if your plan is to continue for a master’s) for the degree.
You’ll take general education courses prior to entering the psychology major. The minor in this program will allow you to take a class in Clinical, Counseling and Community Psychology. In addition to that class, the small plan curriculum requires 45 credit hours in classes such as Introduction to the Major, Introductory Statistics, General Psychology, Research Methods in Psychology, and minor courses. A sampling of the minor courses includes Analysis of Everyday Behavior, Theories of Personality, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience, and others. You’ll also be required to take the Senior Assessment which is designed to prepare you for your next step as a professional.
To begin the admission process, you’ll complete an application for online students (with a $60 fee). You also will need to provide academic transcripts with a 2.0 GPA and submit a (FAFSA) application.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $422/per credit hour
Fast Facts: CWU ranks #122 in Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report and Forbes rates the school in its Top Colleges 2021
3. University of Cincinnati Online
If your career goal is to help treat people with substance abuse issues, you’ll want to explore the online BS Substance Abuse Counseling degree from this university with one of the best online undergraduate programs in the country. This program can lead to licensure in the state of Ohio and you’ll want to check with your state’s licensing board if you live outside Ohio.
This 100% online curriculum offers a solid foundation in the field. Among the classes you can take an Introduction to Substance Abuse Counseling, Assessment and Diagnosis in Substance Abuse Counseling, Ethics in Substance Abuse Counseling, Co-Occurring Disorders in Treatment, Advanced Cultural Competence in Substance Abuse Counseling, Group Skills in Substance Abuse Counseling, Crisis Management Skills, and much more. You’ll participate in two Internships where you’ll have real-life experiences under the guidance of a qualified preceptor. The program also allows you to study issues in pharmacology, methods to prevent relapse, and diagnostic counseling for substance abuse.
For admission consideration, you’ll need to complete an application and submit academic transcripts and ACT/SAT test scores.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $5,460/per semester
Fast Facts: UC ranks #75 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs with Niche naming it one of its Best Colleges for Psychology in America
4. East Central University Online
You may be able to earn your degree in two years with this online Human Services Counseling degree from this Ada, Oklahoma university, with transfer credits. ECU Online has a liberal transfer policy and can accepts up to 94 hours from an accredited school.
The degree requires 124-credit hours for completion, with 44 hours of general education classes as well as Human Services courses. You can choose from several specializations, including Counseling. Prerequisite, psychology classes include Fundamentals in Counseling, Human Behavior and Social Environment, Interviewing Techniques, and a Human Services Counseling Internship. The counseling concentration offers Group Processes and Practices, Counseling Services, Employment and Placement Techniques, as well as Intervention Processes and Techniques.
You’ll file an application for admission which will require academic transcripts. You may be asked to provide letters of recommendation, a resume, ACT/SAT test scores, a personal statement, and/or proof of licensure.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $264/per credit hour
Fast Facts: ECU is rated at #50-#66 by U.S. News and World Report’s Top Public Schools as well as a Top Public School ranking by Niche
5. University of South Dakota
If your interests lie in helping people with addictions, you’ll want to look at the online Bachelor of Science in Addiction Counseling and Prevention from USD. The program holds accreditation by National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC).
The 120-credit curriculum is designed to lead to certification and allows you to choose a specialization in either counseling or prevention. You’ll take 45 hours in the major and are required to take classes such as Ethical and Legal Issues in the Addiction Profession, Study of Alcohol Use and Addiction, Fundamental Skills of Group Counseling for Addiction, Addictive Family Systems and Family Counseling, as well as a supervised practica in group and individual addiction counseling. You’ll also complete an Internship. The department offers a large selection of electives in addiction and other topics.
You can apply for this program through either the USD Application for Admission or the Common Application (with a $20 processing fee). Admission requirements include ACT/SAT test scores and academic transcripts.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $355/per credit hour
Fast Facts: Niche considers USD one of its Top Pubic Universities in America as well as one of U.S. News and World Report’s Top Public Schools as well
6. Saint Leo University
You can earn a BA in Psychology-Clinical Counseling degree online from this Florida university. This degree can help you enter the counseling profession as a researcher, caseworker, mental health counselor, crisis intervention counselor, and more.
The core courses require classes in Introduction to Psychology, Foundation of Psychology Seminar, Research Methods, and a seminar in Current Issues in Psychology. You’ll be able to take classes in the counseling specialization in Interviewing and Counseling Skills, Personality Theory, and Abnormal Psychology. Elective courses are available in Psychological Tests and Measures, Social and Cultural Foundations of Behavior, Introduction to Community Counseling and Mental Health, as well as an Internship Seminar, Counseling Principles and Practices, and others. This bachelor’s degree requires 120-credit hours for completion, including general education courses along with the psychology major classes.
Online admission requires the completion of an application. Additionally, academic transcripts from all schools you’ve attended are needed. You may be able to receive academic credit for any professional training or work experience and you’ll want to discuss this with an Admission Advisor.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $380/per credit hour
Fast Facts: Saint Leo University was founded in 1889 the Order of Saint Benedict of Florida and recognized by Money Best Colleges 2020
7. Regent University
This Virginia Beach, Virgina school is a Christian university and awards an online, 120-credit hour BS in Psychology with a concentration in Clinical & Counseling Psychology.
You’ll take general education classes (Biblical Worldview, Communication, English, etc.) along with the psychology core requirements in this curriculum. Some of those classes involve studies in Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Research Methods, Introduction to Psychology, Theories of Personality, and others. A Capstone Seminar in Ethics and Professional Identity is included in the core requirements. Among the concentration are courses in Counseling Skills, Case Management, Treatment Planning, Crisis Intervention, Survey of Psychological Assessments, etc. This program will prepare you for numerous career options as well as post-graduate studies in the field.
You’ll submit the application to begin the steps to admission. Be prepared to submit unofficial academic transcripts and a copy of your government-issued ID (driver’s license, military ID, etc.).
Estimated Tuition Cost: $395-$450/per credit hour
Fast Facts: Regent University is listed at #277 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and is one of Niche’s Online Colleges in America
8. Faulkner University
Faulkner University, a private, Christian college in Alabama, has an online BS in Counseling Psychology. This program is developed to prepare you to enter a career in addiction or family counseling, healthcare systems and hospitals, social work and more.
Comprised of general education coursework in Biblical Studies, math, history, English, etc., the degree has core requirements in the study of psychology. You’ll take classes in Introduction to Psychology, seminars in Special Topics in Psychology, Foundations in Psychology, and Readings in Psychology. Research Methods, Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, as well as an Internship and Capstone Research Project. The counseling concentration offers classes in Counseling Skills, Professional Counseling Theories, Abnormal Psychology, and Theories of Personality. Electives will round out your studies.
You need to be a high school graduate, have ACT/SAT test scores and provide official academic transcripts for admission and submit an application.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $740/per credit hour
Fast Facts: Founded in 1942, Faulkner University is rated #104-137 in the Regional Universities South category of U.S. News and World Report
9. Coker University
This private university in Hartsville, South Carolina (est. 1908) prides itself on being student-focused and awards an online BA in Psychology with a Counseling concentration. The school’s small size (approximately 1,000 students) allows for a low teacher-student ratio.
This degree’s curriculum, as shown in the school’s catalog (p. 206), includes general education studies and core psychology coursework. You’ll take classes in General Psychology, Introduction to Research Methods and Behavioral Statistics, Techniques of Counseling, Scope and Methods, Theories of Counseling, etc. Additionally, classes in Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Physiological Psychology, and others. The department recommends you consider an Internship and/or graduate school to enhance your psychology degree.
You’ll begin admission consideration with an application. Admission requirements include academic transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 GPA (or GED certificate). Additional information requested, such as ACT/SAT scores, a phone interview, personal essay, letters of recommendation, etc. Admission decisions usually are made in seven days.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $425/per credit hour
Fast Facts: CU’s online programs are ranked as one of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs and is named in The Princeton Review’s “2022 Best Colleges: Region by Region”
10. Southwestern Assemblies of God University
Founded in 1927 as a collaborative of three Bible schools, SAGU provides an online BS in Human Services with a counseling specialization.
According to the school’s catalog (p. 140), this 120-credit hours degree requires studies in general education and general biblical studies in addition to the Human Services coursework. Among the classes, you’ll take for the bachelor’s degree are Introduction to Counseling, Cultural Issues in the Helping Professions, Advanced General Counseling, Advanced Methods and Techniques in Counseling, Developmental Psychology, and others. A field experience is part of the program and, as an online student, you’ll want to discuss with the admission advisor how you’ll complete that requirement.
Following submission of the application, you’ll need to provide official academic transcripts showing a minimum of a 2.0 GPA. Additional materials may be requested.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $399/per credit hour
Fast Facts: SAGU is listed as one of U.S. News and World Report’s Regional Universities West and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
11. Trinity College of Florida
This BA in Psychology with a counseling concentration is offered 100% online and is rooted in a Christian worldview. (Note: there is also a Trinity College located in Hartford, CT. These two schools are not associated).
The coursework is developed requiring General Studies as well as Bible and Theology, in addition to your major classes. Among the psychology classes, you’ll take are Introduction to Counseling, Psychopathology, Stress Management, Counseling Nontraditional Families, Crisis Counseling, Counseling Skills Lab, Counseling Adolescents, etc. You’ll also be able to choose electives from classes in Cognitive Psychology, Research Methods, Statistics, and more. This program is developed to provide you an understanding of psychological theories, concepts, and empirical findings.
Admission will require you to, of course, complete an application (and submit a $35 fee). You’ll also need to submit references, ACT/SAT scores, academic transcripts and an essay.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $450/per credit hour
Fast Facts: TC of Florida began in 1932 and is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation (ABHE)
12. Crown College
Crown College is a Christian-based school and was established in 1916. You can earn a BS in Psychology/Counseling completely online from this college.
As with other Christian-centered schools, the curriculum includes both Christian Studies and General Education Core classes. For the Psychology/Counseling major, you’ll take foundational courses in General Psychology, Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy, Crisis Intervention, Statistical Concepts, and Methods of Counseling, and more. You’ll also have a slate of electives from which to choose. The degree requires a total of 125-credit hours for completion. Crown College also offers an Accelerated Counseling Master’s degree, if your goal is to continue to graduate school.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $425/per credit hour
Fast Facts: U.S. News and World Report includes Crown College in its Regional Universities Midwest rankings and Niche named it one of its Best Colleges for Psychology in America
13. Ecclesia College
Among the several online degree programs from this Arkansas-based, private evangelical Christian college, is a BS in Psychology & Counseling.
A review of the 120-credit hour program shows the curriculum is comprised of biblical studies along with general education courses. The major classes include General Psychology, Counseling Skills, Human Sexuality, Counseling Theory, Marriage and Family Counseling, along with other studies. Other studies are in Data Analysis & Interpretation, Abnormal Psychology, etc. You’ll also participate in a Counseling Practicum and may need to complete a Senior Project.
Admission is simple and starts with an application. You’ll need to be prepared to submit a reference form, academic transcripts, apply for financial aid, and ACT/SAT test scores.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $300/per credit hour
Fast Facts: EC is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Education (ABHE) and was founded in 1975
14. William James College
Located in Newton, Massachusetts, William James College awards a hybrid BS in Psychology and Human Services which is a “…bachelor’s completion program offered through… a combination of online courses and 1-2 Saturdays per month for an on-campus course.”
With an AA or AS degree (or 60-credit hours from an accredited college/university), you can earn your bachelor’s degree in 60-credit hours. Among the courses in this degree are Abnormal Psychology, Introduction to Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy, Introduction to Behavioral Health Care, Psychology of Aging, Introduction to Family Systems and Family Therapy, etc. You’ll also learn of Research Design and Methods in Psychological and Social Sciences, Chronic and Severe Mental Illness and will complete a Senior Internship.
An application begins the admission process which will require academic transcripts. Remember, this is a degree completion program and you’ll need to hold an AA or AS degree to be considered for admission.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $500/per credit hour
Fast Facts: WJC began as the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in 1974 and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
15. Eastern Kentucky University
You’ll receive all the benefits of the on-campus program without ever going to the EKU campus with this BS in Psychology with a Substance Abuse concentration.
The 120-credit hour curriculum is the same as the on-campus classes and is offered in accelerated 8-week periods. General education classes are required (humanities, science, math, etc.) along with core psychology studies. You may take classes in Introduction to Psychology, Statistics and Research Methods, along with classes in specific psychology disciplines, such as Cognition/Learning, Social/Personality, and a Capstone Project. The Substance Abuse concentration includes studies in Introduction in Behavior Therapy as well as Psychological Perspectives on Substance Abuse. A Capstone Project finishes the degree.
You’ll need to complete an application and be prepared to provide academic transcripts (demonstrating at least a 2.0 GPA) and other documents as requested. If you’re a transfer student, EKU has a generous transfer policy and can accept up to 90 credit hours from accredited schools.
Estimated Tuition Cost: $417/per credit hour
Fast Facts: U.S. News and World Report rates EKU in its Best Value Schools ranking as well as one of its Best Online Bachelor’s Programs
Why Should I Get My Counseling Degree Online?
Distance education has long existed in the United States, beginning with correspondence classes during the Pony Express era, and later the U.S. Postal Service. In the latter part of the 20th century, computers and the Internet dramatically changed the way people could earn college degrees. Early online degrees were largely unaccredited; but, as computer technology advanced and the Internet expanded, accrediting organizations and the U.S. Department of Education began to include online degree programs in accreditation.
Colleges and universities, in order to offer more enrollment opportunities, began to increase the number of online degrees offered. These degrees are the same programs offered on campus with the same curriculum and faculty. Online courses are more intensive and typically shorter in duration. Offering classes in relatively short 5-8 weeks segments, degrees can be earned in less time and less money. This is especially beneficial if you need to work as you pursue a degree, online classes allow you to continue working and helps you to have a more balanced work-life experience.
You’ll find most schools offer in-state tuition for their online degrees, regardless of your state of residence. This can greatly increase your school/program options and open more programs and options without adding significant tuition costs.
What Kind of Degree Should I Get to Become a Counselor?
That’s a question with several answers.
The type of degree you need to become a counselor depends on your professional goals. If you want to become a licensed, clinical psychologist, you’ll want to earn a master’s degree in psychology. Want to be a clinical psychotherapist? You’ll want to plan for a doctoral degree. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree? You’ll be able to work in the field under the supervision of a licensed and/or board certified psychologist or counselor.
The type of undergraduate degree you’ll need depends on your interest. You can earn undergraduate degrees in Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorders, or Mental Health Counselor. Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees in psychology, with a counseling concentration, is the minimum degree you need to become a counselor.
The undergraduate psychology degree should include studies such as introductory coursework in psychology, research methods and statistics, various concerns such as cognitive, behavioral, abnormal, forensic psychology, and others. You’ll want to search for a program which offers a counseling concentration that may offers an internship, practicum, and capstone project. Those experiences, along with a solid psychology curriculum, will help you better move into a graduate program.
Lastly, be sure the degree you earn is from an accredited college or university. While a bachelor’s degree doesn’t allow you to be licensed, it may help you earn certification in a specific area, such as Marriage and Family Counseling or Substance Abuse. You’ll want to check with your state to see what the licensing board requires and if your program meets certification requirements.