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The Best Doctoral Programs in Counseling Psychology

Best Counseling Degrees - Top Online Master's Programs

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By Staff Writer
Last Updated: May 18, 2020

Counselors focus on helping diverse patient populations, including children, individuals with substance abuse or addiction issues, and clients with mental illness or other disorders.

While counselors can often explore job opportunities at the bachelor's and master's levels, a Ph.D. better prepares and qualifies these professionals for advanced career opportunities in the field. Many doctoral degree-holders also experience higher salaries, especially as they gain more experience.

This page introduces readers to some of the best doctoral programs in counseling psychology. Learners can also consider reviewing more information about tuition-free doctoral programs in counseling and the top CACREP-accredited online doctoral programs in counseling.

Methodology

View our ranking methodology here.

Top 10 Doctoral Programs in Counseling Psychology
Rank University Name
1 Columbia University in the City of New York
2 New York University
3 Lehigh University
4 University of Georgia
5 Boston University
6 Boston College
7 Texas A & M University-College Station
8 University of Wisconsin-Madison
9 University of St Thomas
10 Northeastern University

 

What to Expect From a Ph.D. Program in Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology Ph.D. programs prepare learners to pursue licensure and employment after graduation. These doctoral programs require each applicant to hold a master's degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. During their advanced programs, learners focus on building expertise in multicultural psychology, prevention, and vocational psychology.

State licensure requirements vary, but earning a Ph.D. can prepare each graduate to complete their licensing exam and begin their career. Doctoral degree-holders often enjoy a wider scope of career opportunities and higher salaries across the discipline.

An enrollee can complete their counseling psychology doctoral program in about 4-6 years. Along with their required coursework, many programs require students to complete a one-year internship. At the doctoral level, counseling students explore lifespan developmental psychology, theories of career development, and counseling diverse populations.

Career Outlook for Counselors

With the highest employment levels in the individual and family services industry, counselors provide services to many different patient populations, including children in school, families, and individuals dealing with mental illnesses. California features the highest employment levels in the U.S., with about 4,450 counselors practicing in the state.

Counselors in the elementary and secondary schools industry experience the highest salaries for the occupation, making the most money if they work in New Jersey. These counselors enjoy annual mean wages of $62,860, compared to the overall mean wage for the occupation of $47,740. Counselors in the tenth percentile experience annual mean wages of $26,100, while those in the 90th percentile enjoy annual mean wages of $77,310.

The residential care facilities industry offers the highest concentration of jobs for counselors. At the state level, these professionals can explore the highest concentration of jobs in Louisiana.

Top 2020 Doctoral Programs in Counseling Psychology

25

University of South Dakota

Vermillion, SD

Students at USD can pursue one of the best counseling psychology programs in the country. The rigorous program prepares learners to pursue lucrative career opportunities as counseling psychologists. The contemporary, comprehensive program allows students to engage with a state-of-the-art training clinic and expert faculty members.

Counseling students can take advantage of the counseling and school psychological services center for clinical training and other relevant resources. Qualified students can also consider applying for graduate assistantships to receive financial assistance and additional experience. The program features specialized accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

In addition to their practical coursework, learners take part in research activities with faculty members. During the curriculum, students focus on preventative, therapeutic, and developmental counseling. Enrollees explore many advanced topics, including diagnostic methods, supervision, and case management.

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24

University of Kansas

Lawrence, KS

KU offers one of the best Ph.D. counseling psychology programs in the nation. The program provides training to generalists, preparing them to engage in clinical treatment and academic research. The curriculum follows a scientist-practitioner model for clinicians to apply current research and theory to their practice.

Students evaluate, conduct, and design research to critically evaluate major approaches, emphasizing diversity and multicultural understanding. Along with the required coursework, each degree-seeker must complete an internship in professional psychology. Intended for full-time students, the doctoral program typically takes learners 5-6 years to complete.

Boasting specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association, the program allows students to explore cultural and individual differences in professional psychology, diagnosis and psychopathology, and ethical and legal issues in psychology.

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23

Loyola University Chicago

Chicago, IL

Loyola's Ph.D. in counseling prepares degree-seekers to engage in the professional practice of psychology through one of the best counseling psychology doctoral programs in the nation. Professional practice includes testing, conducting research, and counseling across many different settings.

Graduates of the program who meet all of the state's licensing requirements can sit for the clinical psychologist licensure exam. Based on the scientist-practitioner model of training and graduate education, the program emphasizes the interdependence of the psychology profession and science.

Each applicant must hold a master's degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. Along with a completed application, a prospective student must provide official transcripts and GRE test scores. Learners complete rigorous coursework and an internship to finish the doctoral program in about 5-6 years. The degree follows a cohort format, allowing students to begin and end their degree with the same group of students.

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22

University of Denver

Denver, CO

The Ph.D. counseling psychology program at DU prepares learners to pursue licensure and subsequent careers as counseling psychologists. Through rigorous coursework and hands-on experience, this program provides students with the tools they need to evaluate theories and perform critical research.

Degree-seekers develop their skills and become more equipped to provide solutions to the interpersonal and societal challenges faced by patients of diverse populations. Research areas include multicultural counseling, vocational psychology, health psychology, and health disparities.

To complete the program, each doctoral student must complete at least 90 quarter credit hours. In addition to their required coursework, an enrollee must complete two supervised practicum components; a supervised, year-long, full-time internship; comprehensive exams; a pre-dissertation research project, and a dissertation.

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21

Andrews University

Berrien Springs, MI

Located just two hours from Chicago in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Andrews offers one of the top doctoral counseling psychology programs. The program prepares learners to consider several settings for their postgraduate careers, including clinical settings, businesses, churches, and academia.

All counseling psychology students must pursue a specialization in health psychology, adult psychology, child/family psychology, or cultural diversity. Specializations prepare doctoral students to focus on a particular patient population after graduation.

The program features a practitioner-scholar model based on the bio-psycho-social philosophy, which promotes social, mental, physical, and spiritual development. The curriculum emphasizes scientific research and teaches students to provide psychological services centered on culturally sensitive and research-based approaches.

Each candidate must complete an application, along with providing official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a professional curriculum outlining information about employment and special projects, GRE test scores, a research paper, and a statement of purpose.

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20

Springfield College

Springfield, MA

As one of the best counseling psychology doctorate opportunities, Springfield's Psy.D. in counseling psychology boasts programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association. The program follows the practitioner-scholar model, emphasizing the application of research to practice and clinical training.

In addition to the required coursework, each doctoral student must complete a dissertation research project and a full-time internship. Learners also receive ongoing faculty mentoring and graduate with research experience on their resume. The unique curriculum allows learners to focus on social justice and service as they build upon their advanced knowledge of the counseling psychology discipline.

Degree-seekers at the doctoral level typically complete their program in 4-6 years of full-time study to graduate with a strong understanding of research, theory, and practice. During the advanced curriculum, students explore counseling diverse populations, foundations and methodology of social inquiry, and ethical, legal, and professional issues in psychology.

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19

University of Houston

Houston, TX

UH offers one of the best counseling psychology doctoral programs. The program provides students with the tools, knowledge, and skills they need to contribute to research in multiculturalism, social justice, and behavioral health. The program trains psychologists to become psychological researchers and health service psychologists.

Counseling psychology doctoral students can add a health psychologist emphasis to their doctoral training, which requires additional coursework. The emphasis includes three courses and two semesters of a clinical health psychology practicum, which can satisfy one of the practicum placements already required in the doctoral program.

Boasting programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association, the doctoral program typically takes students 5-6 years to complete. The intensive program develops students' professional leadership abilities through coursework, a residency, an internship, a practicum, a research project, comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation.

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18

University of Kentucky

Lexington, KY

UK features one of the best Ph.D. counseling psychology programs in the United States. The program boasts accreditation from the American Psychological Association and follows a scientist-practitioner model, emphasizing issues in social justice.

Learners must pursue full-time study, enrolling in 9-12 credits each semester. In addition to the required coursework, each enrollee must participate in a year-long, full-time internship. The program's philosophy remains rooted in the goals and values of a socially just society, promoting the health and well-being of all people.

The competency-based approach to training within the program emphasizes multicultural psychology, cultivating a program focused on diverse populations. Each candidate must provide a completed application, official transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. Most admitted students hold a master's degree in psychology or related field, but strong applicants who hold an undergraduate degree in psychology also receive consideration.

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17

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

UI offers one of the best counseling psychology doctoral programs in the nation, which prepares counseling psychologists to promote psychology as a science and advance the profession. Each enrollee must complete at least 103 semester hours, including a dissertation requirement.

Following a scientist-practitioner model of training, the curriculum prepares students to become proficient practitioners and competent researchers. Doctoral learners complete coursework in basic psychology core competencies, college-wide research requirements, counseling psychology core competencies, and electives.

Most students complete their program requirements within 5-6 years of study. The program does not allow learners to enroll part-time. During the rigorous curriculum, students focus on courses in psychotherapy of change, multicultural counseling, and issues and ethics in professional psychology.

Along with the required coursework, each degree-seeker must complete a practicum component of at least 18 semester hours, an internship, comprehensive exams, and a dissertation.

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16

Northwest University

Kirkland, WA

NU offers a counseling psychology doctorate to prepare learners for professional licensure as psychologists. Graduates pursue careers as evaluators, therapists, and diagnosticians. The program also prepares aspiring psychologists for teaching and research positions at the college or university level.

Boasting specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association, the doctoral program follows the practitioner-scholar model, training students to become skilled practitioners who embrace evidence-based and theory-focused practice. The curriculum follows a Christian worldview, with a dedication to social justice and a focus on the global community.

During the program, learners can develop their skills and competencies by participating in international and local immersion experiences, preparing them for their postgraduate careers. The unique program follows a cohort format, allowing degree-seekers to begin and end their program with the same students, which cultivates a supportive learning environment and a solid professional network.

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15

Auburn University

Auburn, AL

Located in Alabama, Auburn offers a Ph.D. counseling psychology program that integrates the practice and science of counseling psychology. During the program, all learners must complete a year-long, full-time internship. The rigorous curriculum provides learners with the advanced skills they need to provide psychological services in private practices, medical facilities, college counseling centers, and correctional facilities.

Coursework focuses on a scientist-practitioner model, integrating social and multicultural justice perspectives into instruction. To earn their doctoral degree, each learner must complete at least four years of on-campus training and coursework, an internship, and a dissertation. Students explore advanced topics, such as advanced assessment and diagnosis in counseling, contemporary issues in counseling psychology, and counseling diverse populations.

The counseling psychology program boasts specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association.

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14

Marquette University

Milwaukee, WI

Marquette offers one of the top counseling psychology doctoral programs in the nation. The program follows a scientist-practitioner model and focuses on providing learners with the skills to pursue successful counseling psychologist careers in community mental health clinics, colleges and universities, and private practices.

During this unique program, students engage in research and explore the therapy process, normal and abnormal human development, and treatment effectiveness. The program boasts specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association and integrates clinical practice and science, allowing students to engage in professional activities, such as behavioral and psychological assessment, clinical interventions, and health service psychology.

In addition to the required coursework, each learner must complete a practicum and an internship. The program also requires each student to complete a dissertation, demonstrating the competencies they developed throughout their curriculum.

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13

James Madison University

Harrisonburg, VA

JMU offers a Ph.D. counseling psychology program with accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. The program's selective admissions process typically only admits 4-15 students and features 48 credits of coursework focused on leadership skills, counselor education, counseling services, and supervision strategies.

The rigorous curriculum emphasizes crisis counseling and emergency services. Full-time students usually complete their degree requirements within three years of study, while part-time learners take closer to five years to earn their degrees.

During the doctoral program, learners focus on building the necessary knowledge and skills for effective, evidence-based counseling. The curriculum prepares students to deliver culturally competent services and demonstrate ethical practice. Courses emphasize leadership and advocacy, crisis and disaster response, and effective teaching. Learners also focus on understanding the key professional dispositions and competencies for counselor training.

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12

University at Buffalo

Buffalo, NY

UB offers one of the top counseling psychology doctoral programs in the nation. Boasting accreditation from the American Psychological Association, the program prepares students to provide, evaluate, and enhance human services through scientific practice and inquiry.

This doctoral program follows a scientist-practitioner model for training to provide learners with the chance to take advantage of concentration opportunities in either school psychology or counseling psychology. The counseling psychology concentration focuses on older adolescent and adult populations, while learners in the school psychology concentration focus on child and adolescent populations.

Each student must satisfy 96 credits of coursework. Full-time enrollees typically take at least five years to complete their program. During the admissions process, each candidate must provide a completed application, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a statement of purpose.

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11

University of Miami

Coral Gables, FL

Offering a counseling psychology doctorate program, UM promotes multicultural competencies for learners. Boasting accreditation from the American Psychological Association, the doctoral program prepares students to understand the promotion of individual, community, and family well-being, along with prevention and optimal human development.

The curriculum focuses on the scientist-practitioner model of training, providing learners with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue licensure after graduation. The unique program emphasizes and embraces diversity to promote the development of multicultural competencies.

The counseling psychology program usually receives around 100 applications every year to admit a class of only five doctoral students. Each candidate must submit a completed application, GRE scores, official transcripts demonstrating a 3.5 or higher GPA, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Prospective students should demonstrate previous experience in research and counseling.

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10

Northeastern University

Boston, MA

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern features a counseling psychology doctorate opportunity for graduate students. The program trains counseling psychologists with multicultural competencies, preparing them to conduct, conceptualize, and evaluate research across cultural, biological, and relational systems.

The program provides learners with clinical training, preparing them to assist with health-related and psychological issues. During the curriculum, students focus on an ecological model, connecting science and practice within urban and multicultural contexts.

Featuring programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association, the doctoral program requires enrollees to complete at least two years of intensive clinical training and a one-year, full-time pre-doctoral internship.

During the admissions process, each applicant must provide a completed application, three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a personal statement, a current resume, and GRE scores. A candidate must hold a master's degree in psychology or a related field, along with a 3.5 minimum GPA.

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9

University of St Thomas

Saint Paul, MN

The Graduate School of Professional Psychology at UST offers one of the best counseling psychology Ph.D. programs in the United States. Degree-seekers enrolled in the doctoral program build upon their previous training in psychology to pursue psychology licensure and work in clinical settings. During the program, learners cultivate advanced skills in psychotherapy, counseling, supervision, assessment, and evaluation.

Boasting specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association, the doctoral program exposes students to coursework in contemporary approaches to psychotherapy, advanced group and social behavior, and diversity issues in counseling psychology.

Each applicant must hold a master's degree in counseling psychology from a regionally accredited college or university. During the admissions process, every candidate must submit a completed application, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a writing sample, and GRE test scores.

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8

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, WI

UW features a Ph.D. counseling psychology program with specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association. Centered around a scientific basis for practice, a social justice orientation, and a multicultural competence, the doctoral program requires learners to complete coursework and supervised clinical training experiences.

A degree-seeker with a master's degree in counseling can complete their program in about five years, satisfying 63 credits of coursework. Full-time students typically focus on coursework for three years, followed by one year for an internship and one year to complete their dissertation. A student enrolling in the program without a master's degree should anticipate a minimum of six years to earn their doctoral degree.

Each candidate must complete an application and provide official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a current resume. Learners also submit their GRE scores and undergo criminal background checks.

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7

Texas A&M University-College Station

College Station, TX

Texas A&M offers one of the best counseling psychology Ph.D. programs in the nation. This doctoral degree provides learners with the skills and knowledge they need to conduct independent research grounded in the scientist-practitioner model. The program encompasses coursework along with residency and technical requirements.

A student who holds a master's degree, doctorate of veterinary medicine, doctor of dental surgery, doctor of dental medicine, or medical doctor degree from an accredited U.S. institution must complete a minimum of 64 credit hours. A candidate who holds a bachelor's degree, but not a graduate degree, must satisfy 96 credit hours of coursework to earn their Ph.D.

The counseling psychology program features specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association. During the program, enrollees develop ethical and clinical competencies, exploring concepts of multiculturalism, community engagement, and interdisciplinary collaboration. In addition to the required coursework, each student must complete a field practicum requirement.

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6

Boston College

Chestnut Hill, MA

The Ph.D. counseling psychology program at BC boasts programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association. Throughout the curriculum, students focus on areas of research covering workplace, community, school, and international concerns.

To earn their doctoral degree, each learner must complete 20 courses, comprising 54 credits. The program spans a minimum of five years of full-time study. Students who do not hold a master's degree in counseling or a related field take longer to satisfy their requirements. The program features a singular fall start date.

The rigorous curriculum allows degree-seekers to focus on cognitive behavior, professional issues in counseling psychology, and quantitative research design in counseling and developmental psychology.

Each doctoral candidate must complete an application and provide a current resume, personal statement, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, GRE scores, and a writing sample.

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5

Boston University

Boston, MA

BU offers one of the top counseling psychology programs in the United States. The doctoral program prepares learners to develop the skills and competencies needed to function as leaders in the field after graduation. During their coursework, degree-seekers use evidence-based practices to promote the development of youth, children, and young adults across many different settings.

The counseling psychology and applied human development program allows students to focus on either applied human development or counseling psychology. The program maintains a structure across the two areas of specialization. Students can also pursue tracks in sport/performance psychology or child and adolescent development.

In both specialization areas, learners receive training in two key areas of study, including research methods and data analysis and psychological foundations of behavior. The program features specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association.

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4

University of Georgia

Athens, GA

Promoting a scientist-practitioner training model emphasizing the most important elements of counseling psychology, the counseling psychology doctorate program at UGA equips students with the skills they need to pursue successful careers as health service psychologists. During the curriculum, learners focus on aspects of social justice and multiculturalism to meet the needs of diverse cultural communities.

The rigorous program prepares students to pursue licensure as psychologists in all states by providing them with training in advanced assessment, supervision, and health psychology. The curriculum emphasizes a strength-based approach to understanding social and human experiences. Coursework explores the core discipline of psychology, along with the applied discipline of counseling psychology.

In addition to the required courses, this counseling psychology program features training in psychological assessment, psychotherapy, and multiculturalism, along with a year-long internship, a publishable paper project, and a dissertation.

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3

Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA

Boasting specialized accreditation from the American Psychological Association, Lehigh's Ph.D. counseling psychology program prepares learners to become efficient and effective counseling psychologists with the advanced skills needed to help patients from diverse backgrounds.

Enrollees with master's degrees must complete 29 courses during their curriculum, comprising 72 credits. Students who do not hold a master's degree upon enrolling in the program must complete 38 courses worth 102 credits. Typically, learners satisfy the requirements of the doctoral program within 4-5 years, depending on their educational background, the amount of credits they enroll in during a particular semester, and the requirements of their specific college or university.

Each doctoral candidate must provide a completed application, official transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 or higher GPA, GRE test scores, a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation.

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2

New York University

New York, NY

Located in New York City, NYU offers one of the top counseling psychology programs in the nation. The program requires each enrollee to complete 79 credits of coursework following a basic scientist-practitioner model. The main components of the program include coursework, research training, and clinical training.

The counseling psychology program emphasizes the integration of theory, practice, and research. Students focus on cultivating a developmental understanding of their clients and an appreciation of the cultural, institutional, gender-specific, and class contexts of people's lives, along with how they affect counselors and clients.

The program's unique format allows learners to develop as both practitioners and scientists by covering four components: the successful completion and defense of a dissertation, a year-long internship, coursework, and an oral exam.

NYU holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the counseling psychology program boasts programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association.

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1

Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY

Columbia offers a Ph.D. counseling psychology program, which prepares counseling psychologists to use strategies of remediation, intervention, and prevention to help their clients develop coping skills and effective responses to their environments.

Enrollees engage in psychologically appropriate, culturally relevant psychotherapeutic interventions by integrating practice, theory, and research. The program also offers a bilingual Spanish mental health concentration.

Throughout the rigorous curriculum, learners explore psychological measurement, research design and methodology, and professional ethics and standards. Along with their course requirements, each student must complete a practicum, a year-long externship, and an internship. Each degree-seeker must also complete a dissertation to demonstrate the competencies they developed throughout their program.

The university boasts accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the program features programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association.

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