Complete Guide to an Online Counseling Psychology Degree

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $20,114
Avg Salary: $51,977

There are 48 schools offering online counseling psychology degrees. In these programs, students will learn how to provide patients of all ages and different mental health backgrounds with counsel. Counseling psychologists may encounter a number of patients with different issues on a daily basis, including mental illness, social problems, developmental issues, and addictions They may work in a number of different healthcare settings, including mental health centers, prisons, hospitals, and schools at all different levels. Some counseling psychologists may even choose to open their own private practice.

When it comes to seeking any level of education accreditation is very important. Accreditation keeps college-level programs accountable when it comes to quality. Many employers also look for resumes that include accredited education to gain that same confidence that their candidate has been well trained.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Counseling Psychology Degrees (48)

Online Counseling Psychology Degree Overview & Career Information

This guide to an online counseling psychology degree covers associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate programs. While there aren't associate degrees specifically in counseling psychology there are programs that can prepare aspiring psychologists for further education. Associate programs in general psychology exist and may be an appropriate choice for those looking to get started in the field. Graduates of an online associate program may be prepared for certain entry-level jobs within the industry, such as in administration or social services.

A bachelor's degree in psychology may prepare an individual for graduate-level work, and can also lead to jobs in human resources, law enforcement, and marketing research. A master's degree is the minimum needed in order to work as a counselor, though master's degrees are not typically offered specifically in counseling psychology. However, there are master's degrees in similar disciplines like mental health counseling. In order to work as a licensed counseling psychologist an individual must hold a Ph.D. Those who have a doctoral degree may also go into research and teaching at the university level. Certificate programs are also available for those who want to gain knowledge of psychology or counseling skills for personal or professional reasons, though these programs don't lead to licensure.

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Online Associate Degrees in Counseling Psychology

While there are no online associate degree programs specifically in counseling psychology, there are programs in general psychology that can help people to prepare for advanced study in this field. An online associate degree program in psychology will typically consist of 60 required credit hours of study which can be finished within two years. Students will be required to complete both general education classes and core classes that are specific to the psychology major. These core courses include General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Writing in Psychology, Psychology of Personality, Psychology in the Community, and Abnormal Psychology.

Along with filling out an application, individuals who have no prior college experience will be required to submit their high school diploma or GED certificate during the admission's process. Some programs will require that applicants have at least a 2.0 high school GPA. Applicants who have previously earned college credit or a degree from an accredited institution will need to also submit their official transcripts. Though there are fewer job opportunities for individuals who just hold an associate degree there are some entry-level opportunities for graduates in the areas of mental health services, social services, and administration, though these professionals will not be able to provide patients with counseling services. This type of program can be found at community colleges as well as four-year colleges and universities.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Counseling Psychology

Like with an online associate degree, online bachelor's programs focused specifically on counseling psychology are not common. However, an online bachelor's degree in general psychology is a good choice for individuals who wish to work as a counseling psychologist, because this type of program will prepare them for the graduate studies required for this line of work. Students participating in a psychology program at the baccalaureate level will often graduate within four years depending on their schedule. Classes that make up the required 120-credit hours include Lifespan Development, Theories of Personality, Psychology of Learning, Behavior Modification, Statistics for Psychology, and Research Methods. Some programs will also require students to complete a project towards the end of their studies to showcase their applied knowledge. An online bachelor's degree is often used as a stepping stone to graduate programs, however, individuals who wish to end their academic studies can find work in such fields as human resources, marketing research, social services, law enforcement, and non-profit agencies. Individuals can seek online bachelor's degree programs in psychology at colleges and universities. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalency. Any college credits that have been earned previously will need to be submitted for review and possible transfer. Some online programs aimed at adult learners will have an minimum age requirement ranging between 22 and 24, which might be waived based off of prior college experience and/or military experience.

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Online Master's in Counseling Psychology

Individuals who wish to work as a licensed counselor will need to earn at least an online master's degree. Online master's degrees can be found in various counseling-related specialties, such as mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, and clinical psychology. Job titles available to a graduate of one of these programs include mental health counselor, drug abuse counselor, school psychologist, and family services worker. An online master's programs in psychology or a related discipline can be found at the university level, and can be completed in two years or less depending on the student's academic plan and pace of study.

Students must complete 36 to 50 credit hours of coursework which includes classes in Psychopathology, Theories of Psychotherapy, Biological Basis of Behavior, Ethical and Legal Issues in Professional Counseling, and Applied Social Psychology. Specific courses will vary depending on the specialty. Some kind of clinical and/or research component will also be required. In order to qualify for this level of program applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, though it does not necessarily have to be in a related field. Other typical requirements include letters of recommendation, some kind of essay or writing sample, and a resume.

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Online Doctoral Degrees in Counseling Psychology

In order to work as a licensed Counseling Psychologist, a PhD in the field will be required. Other types of counseling work are available to those with a master's but in order to be officially called a Psychologist an individual must have a PhD. Many graduates will go on to become licensed counseling psychologists and work with patients with a number of different mental health backgrounds. Some online doctoral graduates will also go on to conduct research within the field of psychology or teach at the university level. Online PhD students can finish with their degree in four to seven years depending on the program.

The first half of the program will consist of regular study while the last half of the program will consist of a dissertation, which is required to be completed by all participants. Students can expect to participate in classes such as Functional Neuroscience, Quantitative Foundations in Educational Research, Multicultural Counseling, and Advanced Theories of Counseling. Most programs will also require that students participate in an internship program. Online cunseling psychology doctoral programs can be found at the university level, and in order to be granted admission an applicant will have to have a bachelor's degree, and some programs will require applicants to have completed a master's as well. Other typical requirements include letters of recommendations—usually three—from sources that can attest to the applicant's success in their educational and professional background, GRE test scores, and a personal statement.

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Online Certificates in Counseling Psychology

Online certificate programs are a way for individuals to seek education in the field of psychology without committing to a full degree program. These programs are available at colleges and universities and are offered at the graduate and undergraduate level. Students can graduate with their certificate in under a year. While a certificate will not allow a graduate to earn a counseling license it can provide them with an advantage in various career fields, such as career coaching, consulting, and teaching.

Programs typically require 15 credit hours of study comprising of courses like Introduction to Clinical Psychology, Positive Organizational Psychology, Behavior Modification, and social Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships. In order to qualify for an undergraduate certificate program students must have a high school diploma or hold a GED certificate. Those applying at the graduate level must have at minimum an undergraduate degree. Applicants will also need turn in a professional resume and write a letter of intent describing their educational and career aspirations. Graduate programs may also require two letters of recommendation.

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The Importance of an Accredited Online Counseling Psychology Degree

Before making a final commitment to any college-level program, individuals should take into consideration the importance of regional accreditation. Accreditation is the process in which outside organizations conduct quality reviews on programs offered at the post-secondary level of education. This quality assurance gained through accreditation gives students confidence that their professors, student resources, and program structure is going to well prepare them for the professional workforce. Accreditation can also factor into the hiring process upon graduation due to the fact that many employers prefer candidates who have received an education through an accredited school.

Another important role that accreditation plays is in financial aid. Federal financial aid is only available to programs that hold current accreditation, thus students who are in need of aid will have no other option but to enroll in an accredited program. Students in master's programs in counseling psychology should also check that their program is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC), which ensures that a student's counseling psychology education meets the current standards in the field. 

Careers in Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology is a specialty within the larger field of psychology. Counseling psychologists help people of all ages work through a variety of issues, such as career and education concerns, mental distress related to health issues, and crisis resolution. Those who have a PhD in counseling psychology can work as licensed psychologists, as well as researchers and teachers at the university level. They may specialize their counseling practice further by working with a specific group of people, such as children or those with substance abuse issues. Individuals who have a similar degree at the master's or bachelor's level, such as in mental health counseling or general psychology, can also find work in the field. Those who have a master's can find work as counselors, and those who have a bachelor's can work in various areas, such as social services, human resources, and law enforcement.


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