Best Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Programs

| Psychology.org Staff

Best Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Programs

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Students preparing to earn a doctor of philosophy in psychology (Ph.D.) may wonder how to find the right program and how to get into grad school for counseling psychology. This guide focuses on finding the right program for your background and career goals.

Keep reading for more information on identifying the best counseling Ph.D. program for you.

What to Look For in a Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Program

Choosing a counseling psychology doctorate program is one of the biggest professional decisions you can make. In addition to being an investment of time and money, you cannot earn your counseling psychologist license without it.

Curriculum quality is key in helping you choose a program. The graduate application for psychology students and admission requirements can help you identify the right school. It can also show you how likely you are to be accepted. Staff-to-student ratios and program logistics are also important criteria.

Because state boards require a Ph.D. from an accredited program in psychology, this guide does not list unaccredited programs.

Cost and financial aid are also vital considerations. However, if you commit to work in a medically underserved area, you may be eligible for federal or state scholarships or loan forgiveness for psychologists.

Hybrid and Online Options

More psychologists are offering telehealth services than ever before. This is because of the need for mental health in areas without psychologists and the expansion of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, there are no fully accredited entirely online counseling psychology Ph.D. programs.

Psychology professors consider observing a student's work in person to be a vital part of the program, since body language is such an important part of psychologist-patient communications and relations.

However, many counseling Ph.D. programs offer a hybrid component. For instance, students study theory and can conduct research online or in their own communities. They attend labs and practicums on campus. Internships also take place in person.

The specific division of on campus versus online varies based on individual programs and curriculum, but you can expect a around 50-50 split overall.

Practical Experience Requirements

In addition to a thesis, counseling psychology Ph.D. programs require psychology practicums and internships. Practicums emphasize observing and discussing observations with a practicing psychologist and are usually assigned as part of the curriculum. Most take place on campus or in a setting near the campus.

During the internship, students work directly with patients under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, but with an increasing level of independence. Students apply for internships, and the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers arranges matches between doctoral interns and vacancies.

This is one of the most stressful parts of psychology Ph.D. programs, as applicants often outnumber vacancies and demand is high for the most prestigious vacancies.

Featured Online Psychology Programs

Best Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Programs

#1 Online College in Florida

University of Florida

School Information
Location Gainesville, Florida
Admission Rate 37%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A comprehensive research institution, the University of Florida comprises 16 colleges and various research centers and institutes. The Ph.D. in counseling psychology was one of the first programs to earn accreditation from the American Psychological Association. The psychology department highlights the program's stellar outcomes in areas, such as research productivity and job placement. 

The program uses a generalist, scientist-practitioner training model that integrates theory, research, and practice. All first-year students receive funding that can continue through to year five, depending on the student's performance. Paid assistantships provide funding that includes in-state and out-of-state tuition waivers. The psychology department can provide more information on how to get into UF's grad school for counseling psychology.

Applicants generally need a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.8 GPA, and GRE scores to apply. The program also admits students with a master's degree, though master's-level coursework does not automatically apply to the Ph.D. in counseling psychology.

#2 Online College in Florida

Florida State University

School Information
Location Tallahassee, Florida
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 83%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

At FSU, about 45,000 students pursue 283 undergraduate and graduate programs. FSU offers Florida's only American Psychological Association-approved combined Ph.D. in counseling and school psychology. The degree prepares enrollees who can provide psychological assessment, diagnosis, and treatment services. Graduates can pursue a Florida license as a psychologist. 

The program uses a scientist-practitioner training model in health service psychology. Students complete a common curriculum that explores topics, such as cognitive and psychoeducational assessment, evidence-based counseling/psychotherapy, and theories of social psychology. 

Enrollees receive specialized training through a concentration in counseling psychology, school psychology, or dual concentration. Participants complete four semesters of field practicum. Students receive mentorship from faculty with expertise in areas, such as ADHD, addiction, and career counseling.

The program's website provides more information on how to get into FSU's grad school for counseling psychology. Applicants typically need a bachelor's or a master's degree, a minimum 3.0-3.5 GPA, GRE scores, and school transcripts.

#3 Online College in Georgia

University of Georgia

School Information
Location Athens, Georgia
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

One of the nation's oldest colleges, the University of Georgia administers degrees through 18 schools and colleges. The Ph.D. in clinical psychology trains clinical scientists using a "learning by doing" approach. Graduates can pursue roles in research-oriented and applied settings. Students complete coursework and mentored research projects and also engage in teaching experiences.

The program's teaching clinic provides outpatient services to adults and children. It also gives enrollees facilities to observe experts at work and engage in their own supervised training. Enrollees have access to several on-campus research centers focused on fields, such as gerontology and biomedical and health sciences. 

Admitted students can receive financial aid in the form of teaching, research, or clinical assistantships. The funding typically includes a full tuition waiver funded for a minimum of four years. Admission requires a bachelor's or master's degree, a minimum 3.00-3.5 GPA, and GRE scores. Visit the psychology department for more information about how to get into grad school for counseling psychology at UGA.

#4 Online College in Massachusetts

Northeastern University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 18%
Graduation Rate 89%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in the heart of Boston, Northeastern University is a comprehensive research college with more than 270 majors. The Ph.D. in counseling psychology prepares mental health professionals who can practice in a variety of settings. The 62-credit program emphasizes an ecological model, diverse faculty, and student research teams. 

Enrollees move through the program as part of a supportive cohort. Faculty teach concepts, such as advanced multicultural psychology, personality assessment, and the cognitive and affective bases of behavior. Students learn how to provide clinical interventions to individuals and others. Research courses prepare enrollees to develop a dissertation.

Participants complete at least two years of clinical training that includes advanced fieldwork in the Boston area. During a one-year internship, students receive site supervision and complete case assignments. 

Enrollees may receive a stipended graduate assistantship or scholarship. Admission requires a master's degree in psychology, or a related field, and a preferred 3.5 GPA. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

#5 Online College in Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin-Madison

School Information
Location Madison, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin-Madison enrolls about 48,000 students. The school's catalog includes 250 graduate and professional programs. The Ph.D. in counseling psychology enrolls students with a bachelor's or a master's degree. Program graduates qualify to seek licensure in Wisconsin. Enrollees complete 75-87 credits, depending on their academic background.

Coursework explores topics, such as abnormal behavior and psychopathology and research methods in counseling psychology. All enrollees learn data analytic methods, such as structural equations and hierarchical linear modeling. Participants receive hands-on experience during a clinical training sequence of practicums. An internship in health service psychology further enhances students' clinical expertise.

Incoming Ph.D. students receive guaranteed funding for 4-5 years based on their educational background. The funding comes through fellowships and graduate assistantships that provide tuition waivers and health benefits. Admission requires a bachelor's or master's degree, school transcripts, and GRE scores. The program admits students in the fall term.

#6 Online College in Maryland

University of Maryland-College Park

School Information
Location College Park, Maryland
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Maryland-College Park enrolls about 40,000 students on a campus located just outside the nation's capital. The Ph.D. in counseling psychology uses a scientist-practitioner model. The curriculum includes general psychology courses, research, and applied counseling experiences.

Enrollees explore concepts, such as the biological bases of behavior, research in counseling psychology, and assessment in counseling psychology. The program's practicums include hands-on experience in group interventions and counseling psychology. Participants conduct research for the dissertation. 

Enrollees complete an internship once they finish coursework, pass comprehensive exams, and complete a dissertation proposal. The supervised internship requires a full-time, one-year or half-time, two-year commitment at a service agency. Most students complete their internships at VA hospitals or counseling centers.

Students can pay for their education with graduate school fellowships, assistantships, and scholarships. Admission requires at least a bachelor's degree and all school transcripts.

#7 Online College in Texas

Texas A & M University-College Station

School Information
Location College Station, Texas
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 82%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Texas A & M University is the state's first institution of higher learning. About 69,000 students study on the main campus in College Station. The Ph.D. in counseling psychology enrolls students with a bachelor's or a master's degree. Enrollees complete a minimum of 64-96 credits, depending on their educational background. 

The program uses a scientist-practitioner model and focuses on three themes: multiculturalism, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community engagement. The curriculum includes classroom instruction and field experiences. Enrollees receive training in areas, such as group process, personality assessment, and counseling and psychotherapy techniques. They develop proficiency in research methods, statistical analysis, and psychometrics. 

Students complete practicums and advance to an internship in year five. All enrollees must complete a dissertation. Participants may receive funding through graduate assistant teaching and non-teaching positions, lecturer positions, and fellowships. Admission requires a bachelor's or a master's degree, 3.0 undergraduate GPA (recommended), and school transcripts.

#8 Online College in New York

Columbia University in the City of New York

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 5%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Columbia University is one of the nation's Ivy League colleges. Columbia's Teachers college offers a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. Students complete a 90-point sequence of study beyond the bachelor's degree. 

The curriculum includes coursework in research design and methodology, intervention strategies and methods of inquiry, and scientific and professional ethics and standards. Students can choose a bilingual Latinx mental health concentration. Participants can also take courses in specialized areas of counseling psychology and from other departments.

Students complete a research practicum as part of their faculty mentor's research team. Enrollees must also complete a one-year internship that provides supervised experience in an approved setting. A research project and seminar help prepare participants to produce a dissertation.

Though students can complete some courses on a part-time basis, the Ph.D. in counseling psychology is a full-time program. Students can finish the APA-accredited degree in about five years. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, school transcripts, and GRE scores.

#9 Online College in Minnesota

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

School Information
Location Minneapolis, Minnesota
Admission Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 83%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is the flagship college of the five-campus U of M system. The Ph.D. in counseling psychology's scientist-practitioner model emphasizes broad training in practice and research. 

The curriculum requires coursework in areas, such as interviewing and intervention, assessment in counseling psychology, and cognitive and biological development. All students take a statistics course, such as applied multivariate analysis or hierarchical linear modeling.

Students begin research in the first year and culminate the program with a dissertation. Enrollees complete a 510-hour beginning practicum on campus and an additional 600-800-hour advanced practicum in the Twin Cities area. The predoctoral internship requires a full-time, one-year commitment at sites like VA medical centers and university medical centers.

The program guarantees five years of full financial support to admitted students. This includes tuition, a nine-month stipend, and health insurance. Admission requires a bachelor's or a master's degree, prerequisite psychology coursework, and school transcripts.

#10 Online College in Massachusetts

Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Students at Boston University can choose from 300 programs delivered on three campuses. The Wheelock school of education and human development administers the Ph.D. in counseling psychology and applied human development. Enrollees choose one of two specializations, completing 97 credits in counseling psychology or 81-90 credits in applied human development.

Students receive training in the psychological foundations of behavior and research methods and data analysis. All enrollees complete core courses exploring issues, such as effective intervention, vocational psychology, and prevention in counseling psychology. Counseling psychology students complete several practicums and a two-semester internship.

Enrollees in the applied human development specialization complete independent study and a four-semester sport/performance psychology practicum. All students pursuing the Ph.D. complete 5-7 research methods courses and a dissertation. Admission requires a bachelor's or a master's degree (preferred). Applicants do not need to submit GRE or MAT scores.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between clinical and counseling psychology?

Counseling psychology emphasizes helping patients to maximize their mental well-being, while clinical psychology emphasizes diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. Both require state licensing.

What is counseling psychology?

Counseling psychology supports patient well-being through discussion, exercises and treatment modalities, and advice. It typically focuses on helping individuals with a particular problem or issue, rather than diagnosing or treating mental health conditions.

Should I get a Psy.D. or a Ph.D.?

The main difference between the two psychology doctorates is that Ph.D. programs emphasize research and teaching, while doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) programs emphasize practice.

You can earn a license with either program. But if you want to go into academics, a Ph.D. is more common.

Is a counseling psychology Ph.D. worth it?

The median counseling psychologist salary, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $79,820. This is the lowest-paying psychology specialty, but its value depends on your professional and financial goals.

Feature Image: wagnerokasaki / E+ / Getty Images

Latest Posts