How to Get a PhD of Counseling Degree


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In contrast to masters level programs offered in counseling, doctoral level students are seeking advanced skills to take leadership or teaching roles. They have already been licensed counselors and are looking to take their skills up to the next level.

These professionals begin to see counseling in theoretical terms, and seek to learn the art as well as the tools to best analyze and interpret everything learned from past and future research on the topic. Many feel driven to create their own research studies in order to dig deeper into an area of counseling they find particularly interesting.

These PhD graduates can use these newly developed skills to work in any of the following positions:

  • Clinical Director of Counseling
  • Faculty Member
  • Church Administrator
  • Professional Counselor
  • Family Therapist
  • Pastor/Youth Pastor
  • University Administrator
  • Director of NonProfit Organization
  • Residential Treatment Center Director

Why Earn a Ph.D. in Counseling

There are many good reasons that you should earn your Ph.D. in counseling. Here are the most common ones:

  • Many career paths in psychology require a Ph.D. Generally, if you want to work as a tenure track professor that has both teaching and research duties in psychology, you will need your Ph.D. Note that it is possible to get a job teaching at a community college with a master’s degree, but this is getting harder. More community colleges are now requiring professors to have their Ph.D.s as well. It also is getting more difficult to work in academic research in counseling psychology without your Ph.D.
  • Research and analysis skills can be applied to other careers. Most Ph.D. in counseling or psychology programs will feature a very strong component of research design and analysis. You can apply those skills to career paths in other areas, such as market research, data analytics, product development and even strategy consulting.
  • You enjoy intellectual uncertainty. The more you learn, the more you will become aware of the things that you do not know. A doctoral education in counseling will show you the many gaps that you have in your liberal arts knowledge. Being highly successful in postgraduate work will require you to understand that you do not know very much. If you enjoy like going through large amounts of information and reaching conclusions, you should find earning your Ph.D. in counseling to be enjoyable and worthwhile.
  • You like to learn and to then share it. People who earn Ph.D.s tend to want to do a lot of research about a problem and to study it. These research skills are very useful for successful careers in psychology, counseling and many others.

Featured Online Ph.D. in Counseling

  • PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy-Child and Adolescent Therapy: Northcentral University offers this degree for those interested in being practitioner to families with children. They would receive the most modern teachings that research and study have shown in this profession. This program will equip them with the tools to best address the dynamics going on in troubled families.
  • Doctor of Education in Counseling Psychology: Argosy University makes this online degree available to students that have already been working in counseling environments, but want to advance their ability to take leadership roles in the field of counseling psychology. In addition to leadership roles, successful graduates of this program often times return in a teaching capacity at an institute of higher learning.
  • Doctor of Education in Pastoral Community Counseling: This degree offered at Argosy University provides the teachings to students interested in becoming strong leaders in their religious communities. The coursework address both the educational side of counseling, but also works on developing strengths in leadership that can be put to action in the community to provide stronger growth and more responsible treatment of the people involved.
  • Doctor of Education in Counselor Education and Supervision: Argosy University provides the opportunity for currently licensed counselors to advance their education to the doctorate level. This would advance their abilities by helping to teach them the skills to become a leader, either in supervising licensed counselors or by teaching counseling in an educational setting.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Advanced Studies in Human Behavior: Capella University offers this degree as a very theoretical study of counseling and the research that has been done to explain it. They look to new studies and ways evaluate why people react as they do, and to take that information to improve the human condition. Coursework for this program includes child and adolescent studies, family in social context, eating disturbances, addictive behaviors, and advanced study in many types of research methods.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in General Counselor Education and Supervision: Capella University aims for its students to become highly qualified to be pioneers in the counseling field after graduating with this degree. Combining online classes, residency, and clinical experiences, the program empowers them with the ability to better address how counseling can best address the issues of its clients. Equipped with extensive coursework in the research and statistical analysis of behaviors, they can better assess their success.
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling: Liberty University offers this program to those interested in public practice, private practice, or to teach counseling courses at the college level. On beginning one’s studies, they must choose which path they are interested in specializing, either pastoral care and counseling or professional counseling.
  • PhD in Counseling: Oregon State University prepares its students to re-enter the workforce as advanced counselors that can put the skills learned to practice. That can be assuming leadership roles in their current positions or to become educators in the workplace or in the educational setting. Coursework addresses assessments, group counseling, consultation, advanced theory and practice.
  • Doctor of Christian Counseling: The Christian Leadership University makes part of its broad Christian-based offerings for those who seek formal degrees to add to their skill in offering wisdom and advice to members of their congregations. Focus is on applying things to real world situations as they are learned through coursework. Helps to learn how to channel faith and religion-based ideals to the struggles and hardships that their members deal with.
  • PhD in Counselor Education and Practice: At Georgia State University, each student is required to select their specialization, and has many choices to pick from. College counseling, marriage counseling, therapy, and rehabilitation in a counseling setting, are a few. This curriculum takes an artistic view of counseling, and considers philosophically how the current practice of counseling works in fulfilling its duties to the clients.
  • PhD in Counseling Psychology: The Georgia State University intends this program to sharpen the skills of practicing counselors in order to become university professors or to lead departments of counseling in larger organizations. These skills can be used in working with clients of all ages, all walks of life, all income levels, by assessing the internal components making each person do what they do. Considering positives of each person, rather than focusing on negatives or undesirable behaviors is what separates a counseling psychology practitioner.

Popular Career Paths for Ph.D. in Counseling

The job market for counselors is widely believed to be strong and is expected to remain positive and even grow in the future. The public’s increasingly positive perception of counseling will continue to see increases in the number of people who seek out counseling/therapy services each year.  This higher demand will mean that qualified PhD graduates will be sought after and will see better job prospects because of it.

The extra education and experience of these graduates will find them likely to receive salaries that average on a national basis in a range from $70,000-$115,000. The lower salaries will be for positions in religious institutions or medical facilities, and the higher salaries seem to be in academia or higher level positions in clinical facilities. Directors of Nonprofit Organizations receive some of the highest salaries of all of these graduates.

Specific jobs that are available to professionals with a Ph.D. in counseling include:

School Psychologist

A school psychologist works in primary or secondary schools to treat and diagnose various behavior and learning issues in children. They often work closely with other educational professionals including teachers, administrators and sometimes doctors.

The National Association of School Psychology states that there are five areas where school psychologists provide vital services:

  • Consultation
  • Evaluation
  • Intervention
  • Prevention
  • Research and planning

School psychologists also assist educators to have a better understanding of child development, behavior issues and behavior management skills.

A school psychologist also is dedicated to helping children to overcome a variety of social, emotional, academic problems. It is expected that job demand in this field will rise by 11% by 2024. The median salary is $58,630.

Some school psychologists may find employment in private health care clinics, hospitals and state agencies.

Counseling Psychologist

Counseling psychologists help people in all age groups to handle their emotional, social, developmental and various other life issues. These counseling professionals use many advanced strategies to assist people to manage behavioral problems, deal with stress, reduce distress and anxiety, and to deal with the associated issues that are involved with psychological problems.

As a counseling psychologist, you will focus on offering therapeutic treatments to your clients. While most counseling psychologists will provide psychotherapy to clients, you also may work in research, testing and career counseling.

You may work in an academic setting, hospital, mental health clinic and some are even self employed and have their own offices.

The median salary for counseling psychologists is $72,400 per year. Job demand will increase by 15% by 2024.

Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist is highly trained in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. Clinical psychology is the largest employment area in the field of psychology. Clinical psychologists can work in many settings, such as mental health clinics, hospitals and private practice.

Your level of experience will have a major impact on your compensation level. For instance, a clinical psychologist with five years of experience may earn $54,000, while those with more than 10 years of experience earn in some cases more than $100,000 per year.

Clinical psychologists are trained in various techniques that theoretical approaches that can be used on the many different types of mental health problems. Some psychologists may specialize in specific disorders, and others may work with clients who suffer from many types of mental health issues.

All clinical psychologists must keep highly detailed records of the assessments they perform on their clients, including diagnosis, treatment notes and therapeutic goals.

Approximately 65% of clinical psychologists work in private practice, and 20% work in medical settings.

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychology has become a popular subfield in the counseling and psychology fields in the last decade. There are more students who are interested in this career path due to television shows that are dedicated to criminal psychology. If you have a strong interest in law, criminal justice and psychology, this could be a good option for you.

Forensic psychology involves the application of psychology to criminal investigations and the criminal justice and legal process. Forensic psychologists use their knowledge of psychological principles and techniques to understand different aspects of our legal system.

Forensic psychology is the fastest growing discipline in psychology, and job demand for forensic psychologists will grow by at least 12% by 2024.

People interested in this field should know that forensic psychologists usually practice psychology as a science within the courts and criminal justice system. It would be unusual for these psychologists to work as criminal investigators in the field.

Many forensic psychologists actually work on custody disputes, insurance claims, and various civil lawsuits. Some may work in the family courts and provide psychotherapy services to adults and children.

Most in this field will make between $60,000 and $70,000 per year.

The majority of forensic psychologists have a Ph.D. in counseling or clinical psychology, possibly with a specialty in forensic psychology.

Industrial/Organizational Psychologist

This type of psychologist applies psychology to the workplace by utilizing various principles of psychology and research techniques to solve work related problems and increase the quality of life at work. You may study workplace productivity matters, styles of work on the job, and how to increase employee morale.

These psychologists often work with upper level management to help them to hire the best employees, retain them, and to ensure that the workers are matched with the best jobs.

These psychologists make a median salary of $77,350 per year.

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