Doctorate in School Counseling Online

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster than average growth in the school counseling field between 2016 and 2026. Increased student enrollment in K-12 and postsecondary schools explains the growing need for learners to earn an online Ph.D. in school counseling. Schools need more counselors to respond to students' academic and developmental needs as enrollment rises.

Important personality traits for students who want to pursue a doctorate in school counseling online include compassion and patience. The best school counselors also possess analytical, interpersonal, speaking, and listening skills.

Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in School Counseling?

Earning an online doctorate in school counseling confers many benefits to graduates. In addition, the choice to get a Ph.D. represents a major investment of time and money. Prospective learners should think carefully about their personal and career goals before deciding to apply to online Ph.D. in school counseling programs.

Students who earn a school counseling Ph.D. qualify for many advanced career paths in the counseling, education, and social work fields. Ph.D. in school counseling graduates can teach counseling at the college or university level. They can also pursue other careers in academia, including counseling research and policy work.

High-level positions eligible to school counseling Ph.D.s typically garner competitive compensation. PayScale reports that the average salary for someone with a master's in counseling is about $49,000 a year, while counselors with a Ph.D. bring in an average of $63,000 annually.

Other students pursue Ph.D.s in school counseling out of a professional desire to further their knowledge, improve their professional services, or to answer a specific research question. They do not necessarily plan to pursue advanced positions or prioritize earning more money. Instead, they want to continue their education at the doctoral level to develop further expertise and mastery of the school counseling field. Still other people pursue a school counseling Ph.D. for personal reasons related to a lifelong love of learning and pursuing knowledge.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in School Counseling?

Graduates of Ph.D. in school counseling online accredited programs qualify for varied careers and opportunities for professional advancement. Graduates work in universities and colleges, K-12 schools, government agencies, and nonprofit groups. They find success as consultants, researchers, teachers, social workers, administrators, and counselors.

School, career, and other counseling fields represent the most traditional professions for students who graduate with a Ph.D. in school counseling. School counselors typically work in public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. Public school counselors typically need a state license. Other counselors may work in private practice, at nonprofits, community centers, and in healthcare settings.

The BLS projects that school and career counseling professions will grow by 13%, as student enrollment increases at all levels of education.

The BLS projects that school and career counseling professions will grow by 13%, as student enrollment increases at all levels of education. School counseling Ph.D. graduates may also find opportunities to work in supervisory positions managing other counselors, running counseling programs or initiatives, consulting for school counseling programs, and coordinating counseling research.

Earning a school counseling Ph.D. also qualifies graduates to work as university faculty and teach counseling at the postsecondary level. Counseling professors frequently participate in research, publishing, and community initiatives related to school counseling. Graduates of some Ph.D. in school counseling programs may also find work in the psychology field, observing and analyzing human behavior. Other career paths include social work and postsecondary education administration.

The following section describes some potential careers for graduates of online school counseling Ph.D. programs.

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help learners succeed academically and socially. They assess students' strengths and interests, provide counseling, and help them develop skills. They work in elementary, middle, and high schools. Career counselors help individuals find employment. They assess client skills, help them make career decisions, and assist them with applying for jobs. Counselors who work in public schools typically need a state-issued license.

Postsecondary Teachers

Professors provide instruction to students beyond the high school level. They plan lessons, create curricula, assess student progress, and provide advising. They also conduct research and publish studies. Postsecondary teachers require a doctoral degree in their field and teaching experience.

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Postsecondary education administrators manage a specific area of a university, like student life, admissions, or the registrar's office. Their exact job duties vary depending on their specialization, but they may include advising students on academic issues, registering learners for classes, and creating promotional materials for their school. Provosts and deans typically need a Ph.D.


Psychologists study behavior and emotional, cognitive, and social processes to try to understand how people relate to each other and the environment. They work with patients, conduct research, and collaborate with social workers and doctors. Psychologists must hold a license and complete training to practice.

Social Workers

Social workers help people deal with problems in their everyday lives, like finding housing, responding to crisis situations, and connecting with social services. Clinical social workers provide psychotherapy services to clients. Most specialize in an area like substance abuse, child and family, or healthcare. Clinical social workers require state licensure.

School Counseling Ph.D. Program Overview

Prospective students might wonder what to expect when pursuing an online school counseling doctoral degree. Program requirements and focuses vary by school, but school counseling Ph.D. programs teach learners to foster academic and social success in K-12 and postsecondary students. The following section explains the difference between two types of doctoral degrees in school counseling. It also provides an overview of application requirements and admission criteria, typical curricula, and program outcomes for school counseling Ph.D. programs.

Types of Doctoral Degrees in School Counseling

Prospective students who want to pursue a doctorate in school counseling can choose between two types of degrees: a Ph.D. or a school counseling doctorate (Ed.D.). Both constitute professional terminal degrees that focus on advanced research methods and theories of counseling. The two degrees also differ in some ways.

Practitioner-focused Ed.D. in school counseling programs emphasize research that finds practical solutions to real-world problems. Students draw heavily from their own previous professional experience and knowledge. Readily recognized in the education field, the Ed.D. appeals to students who plan to work as practicing counselors upon graduation.

Ph.D. in school counseling programs focus on theory and take a more scientific, academic approach. School counseling Ph.D. graduates often pursue careers in research and academia. The Ph.D. degree is recognized more widely than the Ed.D. outside of the education field. Ph.D. programs typically take longer to complete than Ed.D. degrees. While Ph.D. programs require completion of a dissertation, Ed.D. programs often waive this requirement in lieu of a capstone course.

Students should consider their specific academic interests, prior experience, and future career goals before making the choice between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. Those who want work as practicing counselors may find benefits to pursuing the Ed.D., while students who want to conduct research and perform other work outside of counseling practice may prefer the Ph.D.

Application Requirements and Admission Criteria

Application requirements and admission criteria for prospective online doctoral students in school counseling vary by school. Applicants typically need a master's degree in counseling or a related field, a minimum 3.0-3.5 GPA, and 3-5 years of professional counseling experience. They may also require a counseling license.

Most programs require students to submit official transcripts from all previous colleges, a resume demonstrating relevant professional experience, and GRE or MAT test scores. Applicants typically need three letters of recommendation from former professors or work supervisors who can attest to their academic aptitude. Most programs also require a statement of interest outlining the applicant's academic interests and career goals. Some schools necessitate that students answer essay questions and submit other supplemental materials like a portfolio.

International applicants may need to demonstrate English proficiency by submitting passing scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language.


Doctorate in school counseling online programs prepare learners for advanced careers in counseling and education. Coursework explores counseling techniques, research methods, counseling theories, and issues specific to counseling young people in educational settings. Specific program requirements and courses for online Ph.D. in school counseling programs vary by school. Prospective students should carefully evaluate programs to make sure curriculum and program outcomes line up with their career goals.

Most school counseling doctoral programs take 3-7 years to complete and require anywhere from 60-150 credits. Some programs allow students with a master's accredited by The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) to apply part of that credential toward the doctorate, decreasing the time it takes to earn the Ph.D. Part-time learners and those with family and professional obligations may take longer to graduate.

A 60-credit school counseling doctoral program might consist of 20 core credits, 20 specialization or elective credits, and 20 dissertation credits. Many programs also require Ph.D. students to complete an intensive internship and/or practicum. Most Ph.D. in school counseling programs incorporate a heavy research focus throughout the entire program. The following section includes a sample school counseling Ph.D. curriculum.

Research in Counseling

Students receive an in-depth look at statistical analysis, program evaluation, and research methodology in counseling. The course explores quantitative, qualitative, evidence-based, and action research evaluation methods.

The DSM for School Counselors

This course covers the regulations related to providing counseling services to K-12 students as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Foundations of Professional School Counseling and Guidance

This class provides a detailed overview of the school counseling profession. Students explore the administration and organization of school counseling programs.

Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues in Counseling

Prospective counselors learn about the profession's legal and ethical standards. The class looks at the evolution of these standards over time and current issues in the field.

Group Counseling

Students explore small group dynamics and group counseling techniques, learning how to observe interactions in a group setting.

Program Outcomes

School counseling doctoral programs prepare graduates for advanced careers as counselors, professors, researchers, program evaluators, and counseling supervisors. They may also find work as psychologists, clinical social workers, and education administrators. Graduates work in clinical, academic, and research contexts. They gain leadership, problem-solving, critical-thinking, decision-making, program evaluation, and counselor education skills. School counseling Ph.D. programs focus on issues facing today's counselors and help students find strategies that they can use in practice.

Doctoral counseling programs give students advanced knowledge of the numerous counseling techniques and theories they need to effectively work with students from diverse backgrounds in a clinical setting. They also develop expert research and project management skills by going through the dissertation process. Graduates use these skills in positions like program evaluator, researcher, and professor. Students may gain additional specialized skills if they pursue a concentration.

Accreditation for Online School Counseling Doctorate Programs

Universities undergo the voluntary process of accreditation as a way to prove that they meet minimum academic standards. Choosing an accredited school ensures that students receive a high-quality education. Prospective learners should choose regionally accredited schools and look for accrediting bodies like the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

CACREP provides separate programmatic accreditation for top online Ph.D. in school counseling programs. Not every online Ph.D. in school counseling program holds CACREP-accreditation. Those school counseling doctoral programs that CACREP provides accreditation to meet the highest standards of school counseling education.

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