Best Doctoral Programs in Counseling Psychology

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Career mobility and salary growth can all motivate future counselors to earn a Ph.D. Future counseling psychologists, professors, and researchers also pursue a counseling psychology Ph.D. to develop their research skills and gain training in specialized areas, such as multicultural psychology and prevention. While master’s in psychology degrees concentrate on the clinical aspects of the field, a doctorate prepares Ph.D. candidates to work in a professional practice.

Counseling psychology Ph.D. programs, as the highest level of education, create a secure path for the top-paying careers in the field. A Ph.D. in counseling psychology provides access to fast-growing careers. With a greater need for counseling services in schools and hospitals, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 3% job growth from 2019-29 for psychologists and 14% for counselors and social service specialists.

We created this guide to give you quick access to the best doctoral programs in counseling and fast facts, including how much you can earn.

Methodology

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Best Doctoral Programs in Counseling Psychology

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 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

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  • Andrews University
    Location

    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.

  • Auburn University
    Location

    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.

  • Boston College
    Location

    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.

  • Boston University
    Location

    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.

  • Columbia University
    Location

    New York City, 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.

  • James Madison University
    Location

    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.

  • Lehigh University
    Location

    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.

  • Loyola University Chicago
    Location

    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.

  • Marquette University
    Location

    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.

  • New York University
    Location

    New York City, 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.

Applying to a Doctoral Program in Counseling Psychology

Admissions requirements for counseling psychology programs vary among colleges, but most applicants arrive at counseling doctoral programs after earning a master’s in psychology or counseling from an accredited college. Certain programs may offer admissions to candidates who only hold a bachelor’s degree.

Admissions offices usually require a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and 3.5 graduate GPA. Applicants also commonly must submit their GRE scores.

When candidates apply, they usually include supplemental materials, such as a resume, personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.

Students come to Ph.D. counseling psychology programs with different levels of work and volunteer experience. Some have licenses and certificates before they enroll, but schools rarely require it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where do counseling psychologists work?

    As a terminal degree, a counseling psychology Ph.D. opens the doors to a professional practice in a variety of industries. Counseling psychologists work in research, academia, and counseling practice where they diagnose and treat patients. After earning a Ph.D., many graduates sit for the state license examination.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    When students enroll in Ph.D. counseling psychology programs accredited by the American Psychological Association, they receive assurance that their education meets industry standards. Accrediting agencies ensure the quality of curriculum, educational outcomes, and faculty. Going to an accredited counseling psychology Ph.D. program also carries more prestige among employers and graduates for licensure.

  • How much do you make with a doctoral degree in counseling psychology?

    As counseling psychologists earn higher degrees, their salary usually increases. Median annual salaries for psychologists reached $80,370 in 2019, and the BLS reports that the top 10% earned $132,070. Exact salaries vary by industry. Psychologists employed in industrial organizational psychology make a median annual salary of $92,880, while clinical, counseling, and school psychologists make $78,200.

  • What can I do with a doctoral degree in counseling psychology?

    With a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, graduates can choose their career trajectory. They can work at the college level teaching classes in psychology or as a dean. Counseling psychologists also contribute to research departments or work as licensed health professionals.

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