Online Doctorate in Counseling

Online Counseling Doctoral Degree: An Overview
Counselors help clients modify problem behaviors and are trained to offer advice on many mental health issues. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 63,300 counseling jobs will be created between 2016 and 2026.

This growing demand for trained counselors and therapists can be attributed to more people seeking help with substance abuse and veterans who need mental health services, according to the BLS. And as more students seek training as counselors, the need for postsecondary teachers specializing in counselor education will grow as well.

An online doctoral degree in counseling prepares students for clinical, academic and leadership roles. Whichever path chosen, these professionals develop the capacity to have an impact on the mental health of individuals.

An online counseling doctorate program offers flexibility for students who are also working professionals. Web-based programs typically follow the same rigorous curricula as brick-and-mortar options, leading to similar advancement opportunities for graduates. The online format is also ideal for students who must tackle additional commitments – such as child or family care – on top of their work and class schedules.
How long does it take to earn a doctorate in counseling online?
To complete counseling Ph.D. programs online, students typically are required to earn between 51 and 72 credits. For full-time students, this usually takes between three and seven years.

How much does an online doctorate in counseling cost?
The cost of an online counseling degree depends on several factors. State residency is an important consideration, since many colleges and universities charge higher tuition for out-of-state students. However, some schools charge flat tuition for online students regardless of state residency. Technology fees are another key factor; these fees often apply to online students but not their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Per-credit costs for an online counseling doctorate typically range from $520 to $650. Students should expect to pay between $27,000 and $47,000 in total tuition.

Online doctorate in counseling admissions requirements
Online counseling doctoral programs typically require students to have a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. Some may require students to submit GRE scores and to have one to three years of professional experience.

Choosing an accredited online counseling degree program
Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for prospective students. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school’s educational programs and student services.

A school’s accreditation impacts course credit transferability, as well as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so students should ensure the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.

Online Coursework

Many counseling Ph.D. programs offer coursework in clinical supervision. In these classes, students explore the literature, theories, models and styles of supervising those providing counseling services. Many programs also offer students the opportunity to supervise counselors and trainees in clinical settings.

Students may also take courses that examine issues of diversity and multiculturalism as they relate to counseling and counselor education. They learn how to effectively advocate for marginalized and traditionally underserved populations.

Most programs require students to complete coursework in quantitative and qualitative research. Students learn about data collection, measurement, analysis and interpretation. These classes prepare students to conduct research or to apply research in their practice.

Research project
In most online counseling doctoral programs, students are required to produce a dissertation or research project. Usually, students take a course or series of courses in which they select a faculty-approved topic, conduct and analyze original research and write their dissertation. When the dissertation or project is completed, counseling program students defend their work in front of a faculty committee.

Professional Associations in Counseling
Professional associations provide a wide range of valuable resources for students earning a Ph.D. in counseling online, as well as for recent graduates. Benefits of membership typically include access to online journals and trade publications, professional development opportunities, job listings and in-person networking events. Three professional associations for counseling are outlined below.

American Counseling Association: In addition to raising awareness of the profession, ACA also helps counselors earn continuing education credits through online courses and other programming. The association’s website also features career development resources.
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: AAMFT represents the professional interests of more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists working in the U.S. and abroad. The association provides educational resources, including webinars, a collection of clinical update articles and a scholarly journal. AAMFT also organizes national and regional events and maintains a job board.


Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs: CACREP provides accreditation for postsecondary counseling degree programs worldwide. The council also helps students considering a career in counseling, looking for an accredited degree program or seeking information on how to become licensed after graduation.

Job Outlook and Salaries for Graduates
Graduates of counseling Ph.D. programs online have good chances in the job market. The BLS predicts that employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors will grow by 23 percent from 2016 to 2026. Employment for marriage and family therapists is projected to increase at the same pace, while job opportunities for postsecondary teachers are projected to increase by 15 percent during the same period.

What can you do with a doctorate in counseling?
Graduates of online doctoral programs in counseling can find work as academics or practitioners. In academia, they may teach counseling at higher education institutions. As practicing therapists or counselors, they may choose to work at mental health centers, hospitals, treatment facilities or employee assistance programs. They may also pursue careers in private practice.

Marriage or family therapist: Marriage and family therapists help couples and families manage problems in their lives and relationships, such as divorce or losing a job. Therapists can either work in private practice or at medical centers. They are required to hold an advanced degree in a field like counseling.
Postsecondary teacher: Postsecondary teachers instruct students and may conduct research at colleges, universities and professional schools. Professors are generally required to hold a doctoral degree in their field.
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder or mental health counselor: These counselors help individuals cope with a range of issues, including alcoholism, drug addiction, stress and eating disorders. Educational requirements vary depending on the field, but mental health counselors typically need to have an advanced degree.

Licensure and certification
Not all postsecondary schools require counseling professors to be licensed, but they can benefit from licensure. Practicing therapists and counselors must be licensed, after earning a degree, completing a period of supervised clinical work and passing a state-administered exam. Licensure requirements vary by state.

How much are salaries for counseling graduates?

Median salaries

Job title Salary
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder or mental health counselor
$42,840
 

Marriage or family therapist
$49,170
 

Postsecondary teacher
$75,430

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