Counselors guide people from many different walks of life. Substance abuse counselors provide help for those suffering from addictions, while behavioral disorder and mental health counselors assist individuals struggling with internal battles. School counselors offer guidance for students facing academic and personal challenges. Rehabilitation counselors help people cope with physical disabilities.
Counselors must hold an advanced degree to practice. Many aspiring counselors choose to earn a doctorate by enrolling in accredited online doctoral programs in counseling. The best online and hybrid programs hold accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Accreditation ensures programs uphold industry standards and deliver high quality education.
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Top 3 CACREP-Accredited Online Doctoral Degrees in Counseling
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What to Expect From an Online Ph.D. Program in Counseling
Most CACREP-accredited counseling doctoral programs take 5-10 years to complete, requiring a considerable time commitment from students. Ph.D. candidates take advanced courses, gaining professional experience by participating in internships or supervised residencies. While the total number of required supervised hours depends on state and university guidelines, students can generally expect to spend a significant amount of time on this experience. Typically, learners must also research and compose a thesis or dissertation before they graduate.
Candidates who earn a Ph.D. in counseling online acquire the credentials they need to become licensed counselors. Graduates may begin fulfilling any state licensure requirements after finishing their degree. This typically involves passing a state licensure exam. Individuals seeking specialized counseling roles may need to complete an additional professional certification exam.
Career Outlook for Counselors
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for school and career counselors are projected to increase by 8% from 2018 to 2028. The BLS also projects a 22% growth rate for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in that same time period — much faster than average for all occupations combined.
Mental health counselors enjoy a mean annual wage of about $46,050. While these counselors work in many different industries and with different demographics, the highest-paid industries for mental health counselors include management, scientific, and technical consulting services ($65,680 average mean wage); junior colleges ($65,090); insurance carriers ($62,100); and local government ($55,880).
Employment and salary figures also vary by state. The nation’s top-paying states include Alaska, where counselors draw an annual mean wage of $65,520, and Utah, with an annual mean wage of $61,080.
Best CACREP-Accredited Online Doctorate Programs in Counseling for 2020
Located in Alamosa, Colorado, ASU offers a CACREP-accredited Ph.D. in counseling online for students seeking a doctorate in counselor education and supervision. Learners proceed through the four-year program as a cohort, attending online classes and four one-week in-person summer residencies, along with onsite practicums and internships. Graduates become academic and clinical counselor educators, practitioners, researchers, and supervisors.
Admission to the program requires a master's degree from a CACREP-accredited program and eligibility for state licensing or one year of postmaster's counseling experience. Applicants should submit a letter of intent, three references, and a CV or resume. Admitted students can join the Chi Sigma Iota counseling honor society, which offers global networking opportunities with other students, educators, and practitioners.
Students interested in earning a CACREP-accredited doctorate in counseling onlinecan earn their Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision at Virginia's Liberty University. Rooted in Christian principles, the program takes around four years to complete and consists of asynchronous online classes and required in-person intensives. Ideal for those who wish to develop advanced clinical skills and/or teach and conduct research, the curriculum prepares graduates to shape the next generation of counselors.
Program applicants must hold a master's degree with a 3.25 GPA and a professional counselling license. Application materials include official transcripts and MAT or GRE test scores, two letters of recommendation, a statement of intent, and an APA-formatted research paper.
University of the Cumberlands
Based in Williamsburg, Kentucky, Cumberlands offers a CACREP-accredited counseling doctoral programleading to a Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision. The online curriculum prepares students for careers in academia or high-level clinical administration. Courses are delivered in a blend of asynchronous and synchronous formats. The three-year program includes onsite clinical practicums and internships, and allows candidates to specialize in addiction, advanced counseling, or leadership.
Prospective students must hold a master's degree from a CACREP-accredited program with a 3.5 GPA and submit NCE or NCMHCE scores, a writing sample, and two recommendations.