Get Your Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology – Everything You Need to Know in 2024

At a glance

Summary A PhD in Counseling Psychology is a doctoral-level program that focuses on counseling theories, human development, social and cultural diversity, and ethical and legal issues in counseling
Entry Requirements Master’s degree in psychology or a related field
Completion Time 4-6 years
Coursework & Credits 80-120 credits, including coursework in counseling theories, research methods and professional ethics
Cost $11,000 – $38,000 per year
Post PhD Steps After earning the PhD, most individuals need to become licensed to practice as psychologists, which entails additional supervised hours and passing a licensing exam.
Career Opportunities Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Counseling Psychologist, Professor/Researcher, School Counselor, Private Practitioner and more
Earning Potential $78,000+ annually


A PhD in Counseling Psychology is frequently the final educational step for students on the path to becoming a licensed Counseling Psychologist and helping individuals overcome emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal challenges through counseling and psychotherapy. But this qualification opens up a wealth of career opportunities across psychotherapy, education, sports, academia and Government.

A PhD in Counseling Psychology is a doctoral-level degree program that typically takes 4-6 years to complete.

During the program, students will take a variety of courses in areas such as counseling theories, research methods, human development, social and cultural diversity, and ethical and legal issues in counseling. They will also receive extensive training in counseling techniques, including individual, group, and family counseling, as well as assessment and diagnosis of mental health disorders.

What do you cover in a PhD in Counseling Psychology?

A Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology is a rigorous program that prepares students to become competent and ethical counseling psychologists. Here are some of the topics likely to be covered:

  • Counseling Theory and Practice: different counseling approaches, such as humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, and psychodynamic, and how to apply them in practice.
  • Research Methods: learn about research design, data analysis, and how to conduct research in counseling psychology.
  • Assessment and Diagnosis: learn how to assess and diagnose mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, using different assessment tools and techniques.
  • Human Development: learn how individuals develop physically, cognitively, and socially over the lifespan, and how developmental factors influence mental health.
  • Multicultural Counseling: learn how culture, ethnicity, and other diversity factors impact counseling and the importance of cultural competence in working with diverse populations.
  • Ethics and Professional Issues: learn about ethical and legal issues in counseling, including confidentiality, informed consent, and boundaries.
  • Supervised Clinical Practice: gain hands-on experience in counseling by providing therapy to clients under the supervision of licensed professionals.
  • Dissertation: Students are required to conduct original research in counseling psychology and write a dissertation that demonstrates their ability to contribute to the field.
Doctoral study in counseling psychology is both challenging and rewarding. It is a time of great intellectual and personal growth, as students develop expertise in counseling, psychological assessment, and research methods. They also gain deep insights into the human condition, and develop the skills and compassion needed to help others overcome their struggles and reach their full potential. It can be a demanding and rigorous process, but it is also deeply fulfilling and prepares students for a range of rewarding careers in the mental health field.
Dr. Jeffrey E. Barnett, a counseling psychologist and professor at Loyola University Maryland

Here is a sample curriculum:


First Year

  • Introduction to Counseling Psychology
  • Counseling Theories and Techniques
  • Research Methods in Counseling Psychology
  • Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Multicultural Counseling

Second Year

  • Human Development and Counseling
  • Advanced Counseling Theories and Techniques
  • Group Counseling and Group Dynamics
  • Ethics and Professional Issues
  • Supervised Practicum

Third Year

  • Psychological Testing and Assessment
  • Advanced Research Methods in Counseling Psychology
  • Child and Adolescent Counseling
  • Family Counseling
  • Practicum

Fourth Year

  • Career Counseling
  • Cognitive and Behavioral Approaches in Counseling
  • Addictions Counseling
  • Dissertation Proposal Development
  • Practicum

Fifth Year

  • Advanced Topics in Counseling Psychology
  • Dissertation Research and Writing
  • Internship in Counseling Psychology
  • Teaching Assistantship
  • Professional Development

Why get a PhD in Counseling Psychology?

Obtaining a PhD in Counseling Psychology can lead to an incredibly rewarding career. Graduates can help others to achieve their full potential, conduct important research that advances our understanding of the human experience, and work with communities to create policies that promote social justice and wellbeing. Additionally, a PhD in Counseling Psychology provides a strong foundation for leadership and innovation, and can lead to diverse career opportunities in academia, research, private practice, and beyond.
Dr. David Blustein, a Professor of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology at Boston College

Career Opportunities

Pursuing a PhD in Counseling Psychology opens up a wide range of career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is projected to grow by 3% from 2020 to 2030. Moreover, a PhD in Counseling Psychology allows for a variety of career paths, including clinical practice, teaching, research, consulting, and administration.

See also: what is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a counseling psychologist?

Professional Recognition

Earning a PhD in Counseling Psychology can lead to professional recognition and respect within the mental health field. Graduates of PhD programs are recognized as experts in their field, and this recognition can open up opportunities for leadership positions, speaking engagements, and consulting work. Moreover, a PhD in Counseling Psychology can provide a competitive advantage when seeking employment or pursuing advanced certification or licensure.

Contribution to the Field

Pursuing a PhD in Counseling Psychology offers the opportunity to contribute to the field of mental health and make a positive impact on people’s lives. Through research, students can advance the knowledge and understanding of mental health issues and improve treatment approaches. They can also develop and implement innovative interventions that address the unique needs of diverse populations.

How much does a PhD in Counseling Psychology cost?

According to data from the National Science Foundation, the average cost of tuition and fees for doctoral programs in Psychology (including Counseling Psychology) is approximately $18,100 per year for in-state students at public institutions, and $34,600 per year for out-of-state students at public institutions. At private institutions, the average cost is approximately $33,800 per year.

What jobs can you do with a PhD in Counseling Psychology?

A PhD in Counseling Psychology opens the doors to a wide range of opportunities in and out of the mental health field including:

  1. Counseling Psychologist (or any other licensed psychologist – see some examples below): After meeting state-specific licensure requirements, you can provide therapeutic services to individuals, couples, families, or groups in private practice or group practices. Find counseling psychologist jobs.
  2. Licensed professional counselor: A licensed professional counselor (LPC) is a certified mental health professional trained to provide therapeutic services to individuals, couples, and groups for a variety of emotional and psychological challenges. See available LPC jobs on our board.
  3. School Counselor or Psychologist: Work in schools to help students navigate academic and personal challenges, although this may require additional certifications depending on the jurisdiction. See all our available school psychology jobs.
  4. Forensic Psychologist: While this might require additional training or specialization, you can work within the criminal justice system, evaluating defendants, making recommendations to courts, or providing therapy to offenders. Perhaps a Ph.D. in forensic psychology may be a better fit for you however if you are looking to become a forensic psychologist. Find forensic psychology jobs.
  5. Sports Psychologist: While this may require further training in sports psychology, it involves working with athletes and teams to optimize performance and deal with sports-related stress. See our latest sports psychology jobs.
  6. Researcher: Conduct research in universities or research institutions on topics related to counseling psychology, mental health, interventions, psychopathology, or other related areas. Find open research jobs.
  7. Professor: Teach undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology and related fields at colleges and universities. This role often includes conducting research, publishing articles, mentoring students, and participating in academic service.
  8. Consultant: Offer expert advice to organizations, schools, or businesses on topics like stress management, conflict resolution, and employee well-being.
  9. Director of Counseling Services: Oversee the delivery and quality of counseling services at institutions such as universities or community centers.

How much can you earn with a PhD in Counseling Psychology?

The earning potential for someone with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology can vary widely based on factors such as geographical location, years of experience, specific role, work setting, and individual expertise.

Here are some of the average salaries for jobs commonly held by those with a PhD in counseling psychology. The links take you to specific salary guides that provide further insights such as what you can expect as a starting salary and how your salary might grow as you gain years of experience or complete additional education.

  1. Counseling Psychologist – $81,040
  2. School Counselor or Psychologist – $60,000
  3. Forensic Psychologist – $101,000
  4. Sports Psychologist – $72,255
  5. Professor – $80,370
  6. Consultant  – $150,000
  7. Director of Counseling Services – $120,000

What to look for in a PhD program

Choosing a Ph.D. program in Counseling Psychology is a significant decision, and several key considerations should guide this choice. When assessing any program, it’s a good idea to visit if possible, talk to current students and faculty, and review program websites and literature for up-to-date statistics and information.


Ensure the program is accredited by a recognized body, such as the American Psychological Association (APA). Accreditation ensures the program meets certain standards and can be crucial for licensure and employment. Historically, graduates from APA-accredited programs have had higher EPPP (Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology) pass rates compared to non-accredited programs.


Be sure to review the overall cost of any particular PhD program taking into consideration the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses. Tuition and fees for counseling psychology PhD programs can vary widely, from $18,000 a year to nearly $34,000 per year.

Cost of living is frequently overlooked when considering programs but this can significantly impact the overall cost. For example, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research, the cost of living in San Francisco is 62% higher than the national average.

Students should also research available financial aid, scholarships, and grants, as well as the availability of paid research or teaching assistantships.

Program’s Approach and Curriculum

Some programs may emphasize certain therapeutic modalities, research methods, or populations. Individual preferences vary, but it’s crucial to find a program that aligns with your career goals and theoretical orientation.

Faculty and Research Opportunities

Another important consideration when comparing counseling psychology PhD programs is the faculty and research opportunities available. Students should look for programs that have faculty members who are experts in their areas of interest and who are actively conducting research in those areas. This will provide students with the opportunity to work with and learn from experienced researchers and practitioners in the field. Additionally, students should consider the research opportunities available, such as access to research facilities, grants, and other resources.

Practical Experience and Internship Opportunities

Finally, students should consider the practical experience and internship opportunities offered by any given PhD program.

Students should look for programs that offer ample opportunities for clinical experience, such as supervised practicums or internships. Additionally, students should consider the quality of the internship opportunities offered, including the reputation of the sites, the level of supervision, and the diversity of the clients served.

Post-Graduation Job Placement

Investigate where graduates typically work after completing their degrees – in academia, private practice, hospitals, etc. Does this align with your career goals?

The majority of psychology doctorate recipients, around 70% according to the APA, find their first postdoctoral employment in health service provision settings.