What Are the Different Types of Online Counseling Degree Programs?

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  • Written By: A. Reed
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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Online counseling degree programs provide training and education for mental health careers in substance abuse counseling, school counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Available degrees begin at the associate degree level, continuing through doctorate degrees in education, with opportunities for specialization in various areas including couples and teen therapy. As most positions require licensing or certification, requirements vary by region and the type of counseling provided.

Degrees in substance abuse counseling can be earned online at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Associate degree programs last approximately two years and qualify students to work as drug counselors and obtain certification in the field, helping those faced with substance or alcohol abuse. While online counseling degree programs offering the bachelor's degree​ in addiction counseling allow for advanced certification, individuals who hold a master's degree can become licensed to provide one-to-one therapy, manage a private practice, and teach college courses.

To become a school counselor, it is necessary to complete an accredited online graduate degree such as the Master's of Education (M.Ed) in School Counseling or the Doctor of Education in Counseling Psychology (Ed.D). These online counseling degree programs permit licensing in most regions, allowing individuals to provide educational and career guidance to students in elementary, middle, and high school, as well as those attending college. Also qualified to assist students with issues of a personal or emotional nature, school counselors are required to take courses in assessment, ethics, and counseling.


Focusing on counseling of couples, individuals of all ages, and families, marriage and family therapists can obtain training online by completing a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT). A typical course of study includes courses in family therapy with children, psychopathology, and brief therapy. The doctorate allows for more specialized study, useful for working particularly with certain groups of individuals such as teens, young children, and couples. Besides completing a dissertation, other requirements for online counseling degree programs in this field include taking courses in research, bereavement, and parenting.

Mental health professionals are typically required to hold certifications or licenses in their respective areas of practice. Frequently, a certain number of internship hours are necessary in addition to completing academic coursework and will be determined by the region of practice. Internship hours refer to time that students spend engaged in providing supervised counseling to gain experience in applying theoretical knowledge learned to actual cases. It is important to verify that certain online programs will meet conditions for licensing.


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