Q&A: Can I Become A Counselor Online?

A: For the most part, yes.

Let me expand on that. The requirements for becoming a counselor vary from state to state. Many people who know they want to become mental health professionals take undergraduate classes in psychology. There are lots of colleges offering online classes in psychology, so that part of the training is easy to find.

After that, a master's degree is often required. You won't find as many schools offering a master's in online counseling, but there are a fair number. You can find lists of these programs online. A few of these programs have residency requirements, but for many of them, the classes are completely online.

However…the process of becoming a counselor does not stop with academic knowledge (and that's a good thing!). You're also going to have to do a practicum and/or internship. For that part of the program, you'll need to find an actual face to face situation where you can work directly with clients, under supervision. Now, a good online program in counseling will guide you with this, and help you set it up, but there is no way to avoid doing it. You also might have to do more of the set-up work than you would with a traditional program.

After your formal education is done, you'll also need to take a licensure exam. These vary by state, so you'll need to research this on your own. Finally, you'll have to get a position with someone who is already licensed to supervise you, because state licensing rules specify specific numbers of supervised hours (which must be in person). You can take the classes and get the credits towards a counseling degree, but some of the process will be face to face.

Greg BeattyGreg Beatty has a PhD in English from the University of Iowa and over twenty years experience in higher education. He’s taught everything from standardized test prep courses and freshman orientation and composition courses on up to serving on doctoral committees. He’s taught in the traditional classroom, correspondence courses, online courses, and hybrid courses. He’s developed curriculum for several colleges (sometimes as sole author, sometimes working collaboratively), and served as a textbook manuscript reviewer for Longman. He’s won grants for course development, and awards for his teaching. Greg has mentored new teachers and co-taught workshops on teaching excellence. He’s also served on a range of committees and college advisory boards, and has served as an area chair for humanities.