Counseling Associate Degree and Programs

Home > Associate Degrees > Social Science > Associate's in Counseling

It's never too early to start building the education and experience necessary for a successful counseling career. An associate degree in counseling can introduce some fundamental concepts of the discipline and help aspiring counselors way to get started on the path.

Counselors typically need at least a bachelor's degree before they can find work that involves much autonomous responsibility, but associate degrees in counseling can help you get valuable first-hand insight into the demands and opportunities of human service professions. A two-year degree in counseling or psychology can also provide a practical foundation for some entry-level jobs related to counseling, particularly at inpatient care facilities or mobile emergency units,

Courses and Skills

Most associate degree programs in counseling require around 60 credits, which typically take four semesters of full-time study to complete. At many schools, Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees in psychology take the place of associate degrees in counseling, offering many of the same introductory courses.

Here's a quick list of classroom subjects in that may be available at the associate level of psychology and counseling degrees, depending on the institution:

  • Social psychology
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Individual counseling
  • Group and family counseling
  • Developmental psychology
  • Introduction to human services
  • Psychology of personality
  • Case management

Dr. Mary Read, director of clinical training at the Cal State Fullerton counseling department, stressed the importance of extracurricular work during early education in counseling. "Helping elders in residential care or working with a youth sports team offers chances to develop counseling (aka 'listening') skills," Dr. Read said. "Any position that reinforces listening and helping skills, from a social justice standpoint, will be useful in a counseling career."

Associate degrees in psychology and counseling can also be earned online at many institutions, which can allow students to take a number of counseling courses and general education core credits without making the full commitment of time and money necessary for a traditional campus-based degree program.

Careers with an Associate Degree in Counseling

Dr. Emily Yowell, director of training in the counseling psychology master's program at the University of Southern Mississippi, pointed out that future counselors can gain career experience in some unexpected places. "Aspiring counselors should not discount what they learn working in customer service fields or positions that expose them to crisis management (e.g., EMT). Some inpatient mental health facilities have jobs broadly referred to as direct care staff that are available to individuals with an associate degree."

Here's a table of some careers relevant to a counseling education, along with some salary and job outlook data reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Career title Annual salary (2014 average) Education level required Projected job growth (2012-2022)
Substance abuse or behavior disorder counselor $41,870 Diploma, associate degree, bachelor's degree or master's degree 21 percent
EMT or paramedic $35,110 Associate degree or career training 23 percent
Social worker $58,410 Bachelor's or master's degree 19 percent
Mental health counselor $43,990 Master's degree 29 percent
Rehabilitation counselor $37,890 Master's degree 20 percent
School or career counselor $56,040 Master's degree

12 percent

Employers of social workers and substance abuse counselors may set a range of educational requirements, depending on the level of responsibility required for each open position. Counseling psychologists and other independently practicing members of the counseling profession typically have post-graduate education and hold Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees.

Choosing the Right Schools

If you've found a school that offers an attractive associate degree in counseling, don't jump in without doing adequate research. You'll likely need to transfer the credits from that program into one that leads to a bachelor's degree and beyond, and colleges and universities are far less likely to accept transfer credits if the institution where you did your early study isn't accredited by a regional or national accrediting board.

It's also helpful to check and make sure that your chosen program provides options for extracurricular and volunteer activity that will support the development of strong counseling skills. Students applying to the counseling psychology Master of Science (M.S.) program at the University of Southern Mississippi, according to Dr. Yowell, "have often engaged in volunteer opportunities with people in the mental health community (e.g., crisis hotline; autism camp counselor) or have been active in relevant clubs at the undergraduate level (e.g., psychology club, Psi Chi)."

Dr. Mary Read had some additional words of wisdom for students considering taking the path to a counseling career. "The glory of walking a healing path is that you are immersed in healing - you can't keep it off of you. So the counselor is continually growing into becoming their best self, even as they help their clients do the same." With the right education and a dedicated attitude, your associate degree in counseling could be the first step on a path to a rewarding career working with those who need it most.

1. Interview, Dr. Mary Read, August 21, 2015, Interview, Dr. Emily Yowell, August 21, 2015
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, accessed August 22, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/: Social Workers, School and Career Counselors, Psychologists, Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists, EMTs and Paramedics, Rehabilitation Counselors, Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
3. Associate of Arts in Psychology - Christian Counseling, Liberty University Online, accessed August 22, 2015, http://www.liberty.edu/media/1270/PYCC-AA-D_1415.pdf
4. Associate of Science: Psychology, Colorado Christian University, accessed August 22, 2015, http://catalog.ccu.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=19&poid=4101
5. Associate of Science in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling, National University, accessed August 22, 2015, http://www.nu.edu/OurPrograms/CollegeOfLettersAndSciences/Psychology/Programs/AssociateofScienceinAlcoholandDrugAbuseCounseling.html
6. How to Get an Associate's Degree, City College of San Francisco, accessed August 22, 2015, https://www.ccsf.edu/Info/How_to_Get_An_Associates_Degree/
7. May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed August 22, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

Counseling Associate Degree and Programs

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Prefer exploring options talking to our staff?
            Call toll free now: 1.855.330.6938
            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Bachelor of Science in Psychology with Online or On-Campus Options
            • Prepare for a variety of careers: Case Manager, Career Counselor, Sales/Marketing & more!
            • Helps prepare students for entry-level positions in agencies and organizations that seek to help those in need.
            • Offering courses 100% online or on campus for flexible and convenient options.
            • Provides the necessary foundation for students interested in pursuing their graduate degree in business or psychology.
            • Speak with an enrollment counselor today!
            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
            • Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
            • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year
            • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities (beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities.
            • Accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WUSCUC).
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Online MBA program ranked 6th in the USA by CEO magazine.
            • In a university-sponsored survey, 4 out of 5 alumni reported being satisfied with their experience.
            • #1 Online School for military veterans according to Military Times.
            • 75,000+ graduates across all industries offer extensive networking opportunities.
            • My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.) lets students watch, view, read, or hear content.
            • Smartphone app available for on-the-go learning.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
            • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
            • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
            • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
            • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
            • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
            • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
            • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
            • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits