Tuition-Free Doctoral Programs in Counseling

Tuition-Free Doctoral Programs in Counseling

| Staff Writers

Tuition-Free Doctoral Programs in Counseling
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Counselors work rewarding jobs, guiding people struggling with various mental and emotional challenges. As more people seek counseling services, the profession continues to grow. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors could increase by 25% from 2019-29 — much faster than the national average.

Although counselors need either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in order to obtain licensure, some pursue their studies up to a doctoral degree. This terminal degree can help counseling professionals progress in their careers, earn higher salaries, and/or focus on research and teaching at colleges and universities.

A doctorate may seem intimidating for many reasons, including the length, which can last up to seven years, and the price tag. However, many universities offer tuition-free Ph.D. programs online and on campus. In fact, schools often pay students to work as graduate research or teaching assistants. You can find a list of the best fully funded psychology Ph.D. programs below.


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Best Tuition-Free Doctoral Programs in Counseling

Rank School Location
1 Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI
2 Auburn University Auburn, AL
3 Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA
4 Boston University Boston, MA
5 Columbia University in the City of New York New York City, NY
6 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA
7 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
8 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
9 Marquette University Milwaukee, WI
10 New York University New York City, NY
  • Andrews University

    Berrien Springs, MI

    As a Seventh-Day Adventist institution in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Andrews offers several secular academic programs, such as the doctorate in counseling psychology. Overall, the degree comprises 106 credits: 80 in coursework, 12 in practicum/internship, and 14 in dissertation credits.

    The program requires the typical psychology Ph.D. components, including a 2,000-hour internship and a dissertation. Students can choose from four concentrations: adult, child/family, cultural diversity, and health psychology. In addition to completing their coursework, Andrews encourages students to begin engaging with research in their first years. A three-part comprehensive exam combines an oral assessment, along with at-home and on-campus written tests.

    To meet eligibility requirements for this program, each applicant must possess a master's degree with a minimum 3.3 GPA. They must also submit GRE scores, a writing sample, and a statement of purpose. Incoming learners can apply for graduate assistantships that cover half of their tuition costs.

    Courses Include:

    • Philosophical Foundations for Professionals
    • Psychology of Learning
    • Theories and Techniques of Counseling
    • Group Processes
    • Multicultural Issues for Counselors and Psychologists

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $1352/credit
    • Credits Required: 106
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; American Psychological Association

  • Auburn University

    Auburn, AL

    Alabama-based Auburn offers several academic programs to its nearly 30,000 students, including a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. This full-time degree follows the scientist-practitioner model of training. The program lasts five years, although some degree-seekers take six years to graduate.

    Learners complete various seminars, practicums, a dissertation, and a pre-doctoral internship. They receive many opportunities to participate in training, including psychotherapy, research, and assessment training. Ph.D. candidates also work in small groups for social justice/advocacy projects during their third year.

    All first-year students receive tuition remissions and stipends through assistantships within the psychology department. However, during their late years, students must apply for assistantships either within the psychology department or another university department.

    Auburn requires applicants to submit GRE scores. Although the university does not set minimum GRE or GPA requirements for admission, Auburn enrolls a class of only six students each year from a pool of 60-100 applicants.

    Courses Include:

    • Contemporary Issues in Counseling Psychology
    • Advanced Assessment and Diagnosis in Counseling
    • Career Development and Vocational Appraisal
    • Counseling Applications of Lifespan Development
    • Research Design in Counseling and Evaluation

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $5,898/semester for in-state students; $15,978/semester for out-of-state students
    • Credits Required: 105
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; American Psychological Association

  • Boston College

    Chestnut Hill, MA

    Founded by Jesuits in 1863, BC maintains an affiliation with the Catholic Church, while offering several secular programs, as well. This includes the Ph.D. in counseling psychology, which most learners can complete in 5-7 years. About 92% of graduates obtain licensure.

    The curriculum covers a professional core, statistics and research design, and psychological foundations and measurements. A first-year experience offers students training in practice roles. Each degree-seeker also completes an advanced practicum and pre-doctoral internship.

    The college offers a limited number of assistantships and fellowships to cover tuition costs for this degree. Students can apply for diversity or teaching fellowships, along with research or office assistantships. Full-time assistantships require 20 hours of work each week.

    The college allows applicants with a bachelor's degree to apply directly to the doctoral program, but it prefers prospective students with a master's degree. Candidates must submit GRE scores.

    Courses Include:

    • Counseling Psychology in Context
    • Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior
    • Psychopathology
    • Critical Perspectives in Race, Class, and Gender
    • Advanced Counseling Practicum

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $1,538/credit
    • Credits Required: 54
    • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education; American Psychological Association

  • Boston University

    Boston, MA

    Now classified as a private, doctoral research university, BU traces its roots back to the Newbury Biblical Institute in 1839. The university is now a nonsectarian institute and enrolls about 35,000 students.

    Doctoral candidates at BU can pursue a tuition-free Ph.D. in counseling psychology and applied human development. The curriculum focuses on data analysis, research methods, and psychological foundations of behavior. In addition to a required dissertation and year-long internship, an enrollee may also complete an optional externship.

    The program allows students to specialize their degree on two levels. Doctoral candidates may choose a concentration in either counseling psychology or applied human development, along with tracks in child and adolescent development/mental health or sport/performance psychology. The degree lasts 4-5 years, depending on a student's specialization.

    Ph.D. candidates enrolled in this program receive free tuition. BU considers applicants with a master's degree and may consider applicants with a bachelor's degree, as well. The university requires GRE scores for admission.

    Courses Include:

    • Human Neuropsychology
    • Cognitive Affective Bases of Behavior
    • Effective Interventions
    • Prevention in Counseling Psychology
    • Intellectual and Behavioral Assessment

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $56,854/academic year for graduate students; Free tuition for Ph.D. in counseling
    • Credits Required: 97
    • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education; American Psychological Association

  • Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York City, NY

    At Columbia, students can pursue a 90-credit doctorate in counseling psychology through the university's teachers college. The program lasts at least five years for full-time students, including four years of instruction and a one-year internship.

    In addition to the internship, each student must complete a research methods exam, comprehensive exam, practicum, and dissertation. They may also participate in an externship if they need more supervised work hours. Doctoral candidates usually take the exams during their third year, and then work on their dissertation during their fifth and sixth years.

    Columbia offers scholarships, grants, assistantships, and fellowships to help students pay for tuition. These come with tuition waivers and stipends. However, Columbia does not guarantee funding for everyone, so incoming students must apply for these opportunities.

    To apply for the program, each prospective student must submit GRE scores and an academic writing sample.

    Courses Include:

    • Psychology of Memory: Cognitive and Affective Bases
    • Multicultural Counseling and Psychology
    • Seminar in Lifespan Developmental Psychology
    • Psychological Measurement
    • Consultation in Community Agencies and Resources

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $1,768/credit
    • Credits Required: 90
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; American Psychological Association

  • James Madison University

    Harrisonburg, VA

    JMU began as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women in Harrisonburg in 1908. Over a century later, the Virginia-based university now enrolls both men and women in its several academic programs. Among those programs, the Ph.D. in counseling and supervision accepts a class of about 15 students each year.

    Ph.D. candidates may enroll either full or part time, generally completing the program in 3-5 years. The degree builds upon master's level coursework, with courses focusing on counseling techniques and research methods. Each enrollee participates in a doctoral practicum, doctoral internship, teaching internship, and supervision internship. The program also includes a dissertation.

    Each incoming student must possess a master's degree and submit a personal statement. The university does not require GRE scores for admissions. Additionally, incoming students may apply for funding through assistantships.

    Courses Include:

    • Intermediate Inferential Statistics
    • Advanced Supervision in Counseling
    • Leadership and Advocacy in Counseling
    • Counselor Education
    • Crisis and Emergency Services for Counselors

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $10,978/academic year for in-state students; $27,082/academic year for out-of-state students
    • Credits Required: 48
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; American Psychological Association

  • Lehigh University

    Bethlehem, PA

    Based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh's College of Education offers a Ph.D. in counseling psychology that students can finish in 4-6 years. The full curriculum comprises 102 credits, but an incoming learner with a master's degree only needs to complete 72 doctoral-level credits.

    The curriculum covers the biological, social, and cognitive bases of behavior, in addition to counseling and assessment techniques. Each doctoral candidate must complete a dissertation, a full-time internship over two semesters, and a college teaching apprenticeship.

    Incoming students may apply for graduate or research assistantships, which include tuition waivers and stipends. Enrollees can pursue tuition scholarships and grant opportunities, as well. An interested individual can apply with either a bachelor's or master's degree, as long as their GPA meets the minimum 3.0 requirement. Applicants must also submit GRE scores.

    Courses Include:

    • Counseling and Therapeutic Approaches
    • Counseling Issues and Skills: Advanced Techniques in Counseling
    • Behavioral Neuroscience
    • Social Basis of Human Behavior
    • Assessment of Adult Intellectual Functioning

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $565/credit
    • Credits Required: 102
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; American Psychological Association

  • Loyola University Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    The Ph.D. in counseling psychology at Loyola follows the scientist-practitioner model and equips graduates for careers as licensed psychologists.

    The curriculum includes 69 credits of coursework, research, and professional practice. If incoming students come from non-psychology backgrounds, they may need to take up to 33 credits of prerequisite courses. Each learner also completes an internship, comprehensive exams with written and oral components, and a dissertation with an oral defense. Degree-seekers generally finish the program in 4-5 years, plus an additional year for the pre-doctoral internship.

    Graduate students may apply for scholarships and assistantships that cover tuition costs and come with $18,000-$26,000 yearly stipends. Assistantships require recipients to work an additional 20 hours on top of their full-time study.

    Each candidate must already have completed a master's degree in counseling, psychology, or another applicable field. Loyola also requires applicants to take the GRE, including the GRE subject test in psychology.

    Courses Include:

    • Advanced Theories in Psychotherapy
    • Intellectual and Personality Assessment
    • Seminar in Supervision and Consultation
    • Psychology of Immigration
    • Diagnostic Appraisal and Treatment Planning

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $949/credit
    • Credits Required: 69
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; American Psychological Association

  • Marquette University

    Milwaukee, WI

    At Milwaukee-based Marquette, students enroll in a Ph.D. program in counseling psychology that trains degree-seekers in both professional counseling and scientific research. About 96% of graduates obtain licensure.

    The full curriculum includes 91 credits: 27 credits of psychological foundations coursework, 52 credits of professional core requirements, and 12 research credits. Each student completes at least 1,000 hours of a doctoral-level practicum at two different locations. Following the supervised work experience, degree-seekers must also participate in a predoctoral internship.

    In addition to a dissertation, each Ph.D. candidate takes part in a collaborative research project under the guidance of experienced researchers.

    Many students fully cover tuition costs through fellowships, research assistantships, and scholarships. Each applicant must submit GRE scores, previous academic transcripts, three recommendation letters, and a personal statement.

    Courses Include:

    • Cognitive/Affective Bases of Behavior
    • Social Bases of Behavior
    • Lifespan Development
    • Professional Issues in Counseling Psychology
    • Cognitive Assessment

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $1,170/credit
    • Credits Required: 91
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; American Psychological Association

  • New York University

    New York City, NY

    As one of the largest public universities in the U.S., NYU enrolls about 52,000 students in its many undergraduate and graduate programs. The university's Ph.D. in counseling psychology follows a scientist-practitioner model to explore coursework, clinical training, and research training.

    Students begin the degree with coursework in psychology theory and counseling methods. Learners only become full doctoral candidates after passing an oral exam. During their final years, each degree-seeker completes a one-year internship and dissertation. Learners may only pursue this degree through full-time study.

    The university offers funding opportunities for doctoral students, including research assistantships and fellowships through the Steinhardt Fellows Program. Learners who receive the research assistantships each work for about 20 hours per week on faculty-led research projects. Both of these funding opportunities include a full tuition waiver and stipend.

    Each Ph.D. applicant must submit GRE scores and a professional autobiography.

    Courses Include:

    • Neuropsychology of Behavior
    • Emotional Development: A Cognitive Perspective
    • Interpretation and Use of Tests in Counseling Adults
    • Advanced Practicum: Individual and Group
    • Cross-Cultural Counseling

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $1,867/credit
    • Credits Required: 79
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; American Psychological Association

Applying to Tuition-Free Doctoral Programs in Counseling

When applying for doctoral programs, students usually need a master’s degree within the field they wish to study. For counseling Ph.D. candidates, that means holding a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field.

Doctoral programs also come with rigorous academic expectations, which means students need to submit their previous educational transcripts showing a high GPA. Doctoral programs may set the GPA minimum requirement at 2.5-3.2, but prospective students can make their applications more competitive with a GPA above 3.5.

Applicants should submit resumes detailing their work experience. Some doctoral programs might look for previous professional experience, but this is not a general requirement. Prospective students may need to submit GRE scores and usually need to send in recommendation letters and participate in an admissions interview.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where do counselors work?

    Counselors find employment in various work environments. Many work in outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, individual and family services, hospitals, residential and substance abuse facilities, and government agencies. They can also find jobs at prisons, halfway houses, juvenile detention centers, and employee assistance programs.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    It’s important to look for accreditation when searching for potential degree programs. Accreditation certifies that a particular school or academic program will provide a valuable education and prepare you for your career. Graduates need accredited programs when searching for jobs or applying for certifications and licenses.

  • What does it mean when a program is tuition-free?

    Students enrolled in tuition-free Ph.D. programs do not have out-of-pocket costs for their studies. These programs usually give tuition waivers for graduate students and often offer monthly stipends or low salaries, for students who work as graduate teaching or research assistants. Some graduate programs offer benefits, as well, such as health insurance coverage.

  • What can I do with a doctorate degree in counseling?

    Professionals with a doctoral degree in counseling can work as psychologists, researchers at an institute, or faculty members at a university. Additionally, counselors sometimes pursue a doctoral degree simply to continue their professional education.

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Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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