Online PhD in Counseling Studies

Online PhD programs in counseling studies provide the coursework necessary for candidates to transition into clinical practice, clinical management, and other leadership positions within the field of counseling. With the option of concentrating in a particular area of study – such as substance abuse counseling or marriage and family counseling – it is easy for students to tailor their counseling studies doctorate degrees online to meet their specific needs. The online PhD in counseling studies can take up to five years to complete, but dedicated students can decrease that timeframe by taking coursework year-round. During enrollment, online PhD counseling studies students take coursework in areas such as social psychology and human development, after which they take a comprehensive examination over everything they have learned. Once students pass the comprehensive exam, they work on a thorough research project known as a dissertation. The result of all of this hard work is an online counseling studies doctorate. Graduates leave these programs feeling prepared to use their expertise to help individuals and the counseling field as a whole.

About Online PhD Programs in Counseling Studies

The online counseling studies PhD curriculum is designed to hone students' research and clinical skills in order to cultivate a strong foundation in counseling theory and practice. With coursework in various areas of psychology, therapy and diagnosis, students learn effective means for supporting and assisting their patients. Online doctoral degrees in counseling studies provide coursework over the internet and allow students to complete research independently, with the use of digital resources and textbooks. Though online curricula only require an internet connection for access, the coursework for counseling studies doctorate degrees online does not widely differ from campus-based counseling studies PhD programs. As an example of the classes online PhD students can expect to take, some of Walden University's Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology courses are listed below.

Year One:

  • Foundations for Graduate Study. This course prepares students for a doctoral-level approach to psychological research and studies.
  • History and Systems of Psychology. As an overview of psychology's historical and philosophical beginnings, this course explores the evolution of psychology over time.
  • Lifespan Development. Counselors must have an understanding of human development and how people grow and change, in order to develop effective therapeutic approaches. This course delves into the development of human beings across the lifespan.

Year Two:

  • Psychology of Personality. This course provides groundwork in personality theory and assessment, including behaviorist, constructivist and other theories. Students will examine the research that fuels these theories.
  • Biopsychology. In this class, students will explore biology's effect on human psychology and psychological processes.
  • Cognitive Psychology. Using cognitive neuroscience as a lens, this course will explore memory, language, and other cognitive faculties.

Year Three:

  • Social Psychology. Human beings are social creatures. This course explores group behavior, aggression, social cognition, and other social behaviors.
  • Psychological Assessment. This course provides strong grounding in methods of assessment within the fields of counseling and psychology.
  • Psychotherapy Interventions. Using an evidence-based approach, this course explores effective methods of psychotherapy.

Year Four:

  • Research Sequence. Students will take coursework that provides a strong grounding in the research that their doctoral dissertations will require.

After students complete all coursework, they take a comprehensive examination over the concepts that they have learned. Counseling studies PhD online comprehensive exams review the areas of cognitive, social and biological psychology, as well as methods of assessment, diagnosis and therapy. Once students pass the comprehensive examination, they begin to work on the proposal, writing and defense of their dissertations. Past dissertations in the field of counseling studies include To Thine Own Self Be True: A Phenomenological Investigation into the Role of Self in a Moral Dilemma by Patricia McCarthy Broderick and Sober and Alone: A Phenomenological Exploration of the Loneliness Experienced by Recovering Alcoholics by Timothy John Evans. As we are constantly discovering new explanations for the way people function and think, there are always emerging topics for online counseling studies PhD students to research.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Counseling Studies

Online doctoral programs in counseling studies are an excellent choice for individuals that harbor a strong desire to help others during trying times. Individuals that are interested in learning about the human mind, how people think, and the factors that contribute to various psychological disorders could also benefit from online doctorate degrees in counseling studies. For individuals that are seeking licensure in addition to a PhD, campus-based classes may be a better alternative, as online doctorate programs in counseling studies do not provide the supervised clinical experience necessary to obtain licensure. However, for counselors that are already licensed, an online PhD in counseling studies provides an excellent method of advancing one's career and one's research interests. Candidates must keep in mind that while online degrees do provide an opportunity for individualized research and online coursework, most counseling studies doctorate degrees online require students to visit the physical campus to fulfill residency requirements a few times throughout enrollment. Candidates that have careers and other daily obligations may want to consider night classes if they cannot meet university residency requirements.

Application & Admission Requirements

In order to be considered for an online doctorate in counseling studies, applicants are required to have completed a master's degree. Most accredited programs want students to come from psychology backgrounds, so a master's degree in psychology, counseling or a related area is preferable. Top programs require students to have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average during their master's education. Career experience in the field is helpful as well, as admission departments will review resumes and curricula vitae. The best online doctoral programs in counseling studies will request a statement of purpose in order to get a sense of the applicant's academic writing abilities. Other required documents include transcripts and Graduate Record Exam test scores. It is also recommended that applicants have good listening skills, analytical minds, and the ability to comfort people that may be in emotional or mental distress.

Career Options & Job Market

As experts in counseling psychology, assessment and diagnostics, graduates from online PhD programs in counseling studies have the opportunity to establish careers both within and outside of clinical settings. Depending on their concentrations, graduates may go on to be marriage and family counselors, substance abuse counselors, and even mental health counselors. As aforementioned, counseling is a growing field, which means that there is a need for more counseling professionals. Counseling also averages an annually salary of $44,380. Another option for graduates with online PhD degrees in counseling studies is to teach higher education. Candidates that have a PhD will have the best post secondary teaching job prospects, and can make an average of $71,280 as counseling professors. Other opportunities for graduates from counseling studies programs include consulting and research, as well as clinical management positions.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

It is no secret that education is expensive. Even with online PhD programs, which are generally cheaper than their on-campus counterparts, costs can accumulate to more than the amount necessary to purchase a brand new car. For instance, Walden University charges $435 per credit hour for its counselor and supervision PhD and Capella charges only a little more for its version of the same program. At both schools, most doctorate courses run at least three credit hours, but some can run up to as much as six. The cost of tuition does not include the price of their residency programs, technology fees or books. When you look at the whole picture, even online education is expensive. Luckily, most universities – both online and campus-based – provide financial aid opportunities for students. There are also a number of outside aid opportunities as well, a few of which are listed below.

Essential Advice

  • If you do not already have your license to practice, do not pursue an online doctorate in counseling studies. Online programs are not designed for licensure. Instead, they serve as a means for already licensed individuals to further their education and experience.
  • Contact current and former online PhD counseling studies students in order to gain further insight into what will be expected of you as a counseling studies PhD student.
  • Join a professional association to gain access to many professional development opportunities that are not available to the public. These will boost your resume.
  • Don't be afraid to call university admission departments. They are there to answer any questions you may have.