Online Doctorate (PhD) in Counseling Programs

A doctorate in counseling is a terminal degree for the counseling subject field, meaning it is the highest level of education one can pursue. There are similar programs at the doctoral level, such as a doctoral degree in counseling and a PhD in counseling. These programs can equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed as a counselor and advance in their careers.

There are numerous doctorate of counseling degrees in the U.S.. Doctoral students can pick from a PhD (more research based), a doctorate of counseling, or even a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), among others.

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At the top of the educational tier, doctorate in counseling programs are among the most prestigious and sought-after degree programs throughout the country. Read on to learn about the differences and commonalities of each Doctor of Counseling program option.

For individuals already on the counseling path, online doctorate degrees in counseling could be great options for satisfying careers.

Doctorate (Phd) in Counseling Degree Programs Online

Individuals interested in counseling can find a college that provides online doctorate degrees that make a difference in their lives as well as the lives of others. There are multiple types of doctoral counseling degrees.

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☰ For detailed degree information, view the guides to:
Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs

Consider Online PhD Counseling Programs

Online doctoral counseling programs can provide the same quality of coursework that traditional programs provide. Instructors are readily available through email and course room message boards, making online classrooms even more efficient than traditional course rooms.

With the rise in technology, furthering education has never been easier for busy adults. Most people cannot realistically quit their jobs in order to get back into a degree program. Below are some of the types of programs individuals can pursue online.

Some individuals need degree programs that effectively work around their career, family, and other responsibilities. As online degree programs have gained respect over the years, more people are taking part in advancing their degrees while maintaining their previous commitments.

Qualifications for a Doctorate in Counseling Degree

Considering a doctoral degree in counseling is a terminal degree, there are strict educational qualifications just to get into a program at any university, either online or on campus.

Below are the most common qualifications candidates should keep in mind. Remember that every university and program is different, so be sure to check with the admissions department of each program before applying.

1. Educational Requirements      

Individuals who apply to doctorate programs typically hold related undergraduate degrees. Most online doctoral counseling programs require that applicants hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or other mental health-related fields, as well as a master’s degree in counseling.

2. Existing Counseling Experience 

Due to the in-depth nature of the degree program, students should have knowledge of the counseling field prior to entry. During the program, students will be introduced to the research side of counseling.

3. Excellent Understanding of Counseling and Psychology      

While taking courses related to research in counseling, students will be expected to construct their own thesis, which is required prior to graduation. This will demonstrate the knowledge students have learned throughout their education. 

4. Ability to Take Online Classes and Fulfill In-Person Requirements      

Although doctorate programs are completed mostly online, these programs do require that students take part in an in-person practicum. The locations of these in-person requirements vary depending on the university.

It is important that students research these requirements prior to enrolling in a doctorate program. There are many options for specialties at the doctorate level.

Online Doctorate in Counseling Curriculum

Students interested in pursuing a career in education may find that doctorate degrees, such as those in general mental health counseling or counseling education, are great fits.

For individuals interested in applied science, mental health counseling, marriage and family counseling, and school counseling can be good choices. Depending on which path a student takes, the curriculum will weigh heavily upon the subjects at hand.

Most doctorate in counseling programs can be completed in three to four years, depending on whether a student has completed a master’s program prior to entry.

Benefits of Getting a Doctorate in Counseling

Getting a doctorate degree in counseling can help increase a candidate’s job opportunities and professional growth. Below are some of the benefits of earning a doctorate in counseling.

Help Others

Counselors can give guidance and support to individuals with mental health disorders or who are dealing with challenging circumstances. They may find that this career provides benefits that go beyond financial security or professional accomplishment. 

A higher degree could allow the opportunity to work in important fields of research, as well as government agencies. These higher-level job opportunities could grant counselors the ability to help more individuals. 

Expected Growth      

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 25% for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the projected average for all occupations. There is a projected growth of 8% for school and career counselors between 2019 and 2029, also much faster than the projected average for all occupations. This could mean that there will be many more job opportunities opening up for counselors in the near future. 

Online PhD in School Counseling Programs

For candidates who want to earn their PhD or Doctor of Education (EdD) but who have busy schedules or other obligations, an online doctorate in counseling program could be a great fit. Below are some quick facts about the online doctorate programs on offer. 

Doctorate of School Counseling Degrees

TOTAL PROGRAMS: 76 different Doctorate of School Counseling degrees

AVG SALARY: According to the BLS, school and career counselors earn an annual median salary of $58,120.

Specialized Doctoral Counseling Programs

Often, those who have their master’s degree enroll in a variety of counseling PhD or EdD programs. These kinds of programs can help students become specialized counselors and focus their career trajectory. They can also take advantage of shortages in the field. For example, the need for bilingual counselors and counselors with a disability specialization have helped create new degree programs in focused areas that were overlooked before.

What Online Doctorate in Counseling Degrees Are Available?

Professionals who have their master’s degree in school counseling often seek to earn their EdD in Professional Counseling and Supervision. Below are some of the types of doctorate degrees students can pursue. 

PhD in Counseling         

Students can earn their PhD in Counseling to sharpen their supervision, assessment, counseling, and group counseling skills. These programs often dive into topics such as diversity training and advanced theory and practice. Certified counselors with advanced degrees can work in a wide variety of settings.

PhD in Counseling Psychology            

PhDs in Counseling Psychology and School Psychology are more education-based programs. These can be good options for those who want to work in universities or in community-based services that help children outside school.

What Specific Courses Should I Expect From a Doctorate in Counseling Degree?

Since doctorate-level degrees can be specific and focused, the coursework in these programs can vary greatly. However, there are common topics that doctorate degrees in counseling could address. 

Core Coursework

Students may take classes that cover topics including statistical methods, personality assessment, neuroscience, social psychology, perspectives in school psychology, and counseling children and teens.

Working With Teachers and Administrators          

Students can also learn how to work with teachers, administrators, and parents who are involved in shaping the lives of students. Most programs require some form of internship or research project for completion. 

Gaining Professional Experience        

Professional experience requirements can include spending 100 hours at school settings working with counselors or performing research on a specific topic of focus. Requirements and specifications can vary, so students should speak to faculty members of each program they are applying to in order to ensure that the program is a good fit. 

Organizations to Know for PhD School Counseling Students

Professional counselors should keep up with current trends, best practices, and changes in the field. Organizations such as the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) can be a great resource for this and provide career support to professionals. The ASCA also offers scholarships and grants for students to take advantage of during their studies. 

Counseling Licensure

Licensure is required for graduates who plan to work with the public after graduation. Most states require that applicants for licensure graduate from an accredited university, pass a state board exam in counseling, and take part in one to two years of supervised employment. However, requirements may vary by state, and the types of counseling often require different certifications.

PhD in Counseling Career Paths

Having a doctorate in counseling is the highest of accomplishments for individuals in this field. After receiving a degree and becoming licensed, counselors can work in hospitals, private practices, and state agencies, or they can even start their own private practice.


There is no end to the possibilities for those who are willing to put in the time and effort required to be the best professional in the field. Doctorate-level graduates are needed in research to help determine new techniques for effective counseling as well as testing current theories.

Applied Counselor

Applied counselors work with individuals with emotional distress or mental disorders. Counselors can help guide patients through these circumstances with therapy and life planning.

School Counselor

School counselors can work in educational facilities to support students and their families. They can guide students through application processes, help with administrative tasks, and offer support to them once they move on to the next step of their education.

If you are still interested in becoming a counselor, read more below about some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page is a detailed write-up of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.

Consider your options for obtaining a doctorate in counseling and which program could help you reach your career goals.

American School Counselor Association, About ASCA
American School Counselor Association, School Counselor Roles & Ratios
Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, Counseling Specialties
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors and Advisors
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

List of Programs

Capella University 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters 🗗 Doctorate

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National Louis University 🗹 Online 🗗 Doctorate

National Louis University 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters 🗗 Doctorate

Northcentral University 🗹 Online Courses Start Weekly

Northcentral University 🗹 Online Courses Start Weekly

Counseling Career Guide

Still Looking for a Counseling Degree?

Here are some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page you will find a detailed write-up of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.