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.
Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
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.
Auburn University's counselor education Ph.D. program is one of four advanced counseling degree programs in the university's Counselor Education Programs department. Complete with a practicum and internship, Auburn's program has produced graduates presently working in mental health, rehabilitation, counselor education, and school counseling.
As part of the coursework, the practicum for this tuition-free Ph.D. focuses on teaching, supervision, and advanced counseling. Also, the internships are adjustable to the students' professional goals. Graduate students meeting the university's requirements can receive a tuition waiver from the tuition fellowship program. To be eligible for the tuition waiver, students must obtain a graduate assistantship.
Counselor Education Pedagogy Advanced Theories: Cognitive/Behavioral Theories Research Design in Counseling and Evaluation Contemporary Issues in Counselor Education Diversity and Social Justice in Counselor Education
Cost:$11,796 Credit Required:61 Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
At Ball State, the pathway to becoming a doctor of counseling psychology features several emphases, including rehabilitation counseling, clinical neuropsychology, and school psychology. Most students satisfy the degree requirements within four to five years. Every Ball State doctoral student is eligible for a graduate assistant tuition and fee remission program.
Career Theories and Realities Theories and Techniques of Counselor Supervision Psychopathology Objective Personality Appraisal Analysis of variance
This tuition-free Ph.D. program provides students with the foundational knowledge consistent with the American Psychological Association (APA) format. Most BC graduate students complete all of the program's requirements in six years. The university guarantees assistantships with tuition remission awards for the first four years.
Quantitative Research Design in Counseling and Developmental Psychology Biological Bases of Behavior Advanced Psychological Assessment Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior Quantitative Research Design in Counseling and Developmental Psychology
Cost:$38,450 Credits required: 54 Accreditation: New England Commission on Higher Education
Carlow's Psy.D. in counseling psychology demands about four years of dedicated study with a year-long internship, a dissertation, and a practicum. The program does practicum placements at well-known mental health agencies, medical hospitals, and rural locations in the Pittsburgh area. For tuition concerns, the university sponsors a limited number of assistantships, scholarships, and grants.
Counseling Skills and Techniques Diagnosis of Abnormal Psychology Social and Cultural Foundations of Diversity Training Research Methods (Statistical and Quantitative Methods) Human Growth and Lifespan Development
Cost:$26,475 Credits Required: 93 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
CSE's Ph.D. program requires the doctoral students to complete the four categories of discipline-specific knowledge (DSK): the history of psychology systems, basic knowledge in scientific psychology, integrative knowledge in scientific psychology, and methods of inquiry and research. Most students complete the requirements for this degree in four years. Assistantships pay for one course (3 credits) for every 10 hours of work.
Advanced Psychometrics Advanced Cognitive and Personality assessment Physiological Psychology Social Aspects of Behavior Child & Adolescent Psychopathology
Cost:$19,236 Credits required: 88 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Along with the standard Ph.D. program requirements, Marquette engages its students in multicultural research, top-ranked internships, and opportunities to work with prominent qualitative researchers. Its students perform practicums in top hospitals and veterans administrations. After completing the program in four to five years, many graduates assume leadership roles in their specialties. Marquette offers assistantships with a full stipend and merit-based aid.
Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior Consultation Strategies Biological Basis of Behavior Professional Ethics and Legal Issues Career Development and Counseling
Cost:$81,900; Marquette offers assistantships with a full stipend and merit-based aid. Credit required:91 Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Upon completing the degree requirements, students are ready to become competent and licensed psychology practitioners. The average program completion period is five years, including a one-year internship. This doctorate program's design meets the requirements of Texas state licensure. It focuses more on the delivery of services than the standard research activity aspect of psychology. OLLU Graduate assistantships are available to offset the cost.
Cognition and Emotion Psychoeducational Assessment: Cognitive Testing Abnormal Psychology Advanced Systemic Approaches to Psychotherapy Behavioral Neuroscience
Cost: $23,315 Credits required:117 Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
This tuition-free doctorate program primarily concentrates on rural mental health, but it also favors social justice, cultural diversity, and evidence-based psychology. Since it stresses clinical teaching and application, students must complete a 2,000-hour internship. For full-time students in good standing, Radford provides tuition remission through assistantships and grant-funded fellowships.
UAlbany's Ph.D. program requires proof of research tool competence, a 2,000-hour internship, a dissertation, and dissertation defense. Upon completion of the four-year curriculum, graduates are eligible for licensure in New York State. All first-year students receive guaranteed tuition funding, with assistantships covering the remaining years.
Proseminar in Research in Counseling Psychology Regression Analysis for Counseling Research Ethics and Professional Issues in Counseling Psychology Multivariate Applications in Counseling Psychology Doctoral Practicum in Specialized Procedures
Cost:$13,454 Credits: 81 Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Students benefit from student-faculty mentorship, top-notch sites for clinical training, and a robust curriculum. This Ph.D. program also offers a health psychology emphasis. Even with the addition of this 15-hour minor, most students complete the program within five to six years. UH Doctoral students can use assistantships and tuition fellowships to offset the cost of tuition and fees.
Atypical Growth and Behavior Advanced IRT Theory Models in Psy/Educ Research Clinical Interventions in Counseling Psychology Inferential Statistics in Psychological and Educational Research Human Growth and Development
Cost: $18,528 Credits required: 48 Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
All UofM coursework and program requirements focus on a scientific approach to understanding and dealing with human behavior's positive and negative dynamics. For this tuition-free Ph.D. program, a typical doctoral student completes the coursework in three years and the internship in one year. This schedule makes graduation reachable by the end of the fourth year. Graduate assistantships provide a stipend and a tuition/fee waiver.
UM's Counseling Psychology doctoral program allows students to participate in grant-funded projects that address underserved populations' health-related needs. On average, most students complete the required coursework in four years and the internship in one year. Assistantships alleviate cost concerns with a tuition remission benefit.
The Social Bases Of Human Activity And Flourishing Adult Psychopathology Cultural Diversity and Mental Health Quantitative Methods II Vocational Psychology and Career Development
Cost:$40,220 Credits required: 72 Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Doctoral students get specialized training in several fields such as vocational psychology, integrated behavioral healthcare, leadership, and grant writing. They work alongside nationally acclaimed faculty members serving as mentors in critical research. On average, UND doctoral students complete the standard and electives required for this program in four to six years. Assistantships and tuition waivers are available to offset the cost of tuition.
As part of becoming licensed psychologists, doctoral students go through two-plus years of systematic in-clinic practicum activities. It generally takes four to six years to complete the dissertation, internship, coursework, and supervised clinical training. Through assistantships, doctoral students can get full-tuition assistance for up to 10 credit hours per semester.
This Ph.D. program has a curriculum that dispenses discipline-specific knowledge to the students in six categories: research methods, psychometrics, the history and systems of psychology, basic content areas, advanced integrative knowledge of the basic content areas, and quantitative methods. Students with a master's degree in counseling psychology can finish the program in four to six years. OU offers scholarships and doctoral research awards to offset the tuition.
Educational statistics Micro Counseling Skills Professional Ethics Multiple Regression in Educational Research Child-Family Interventions
Cost: (Based on 5 years) $17,787 resident, $149,995. OU offers scholarships and doctoral research awards to offset the tuition. Credit required:165 Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
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