Online Ph.D. In Counseling

Why earn the highest degree in counseling? Learn more about online Ph.D. in counseling programs, the common coursework, admission requirements, career outcomes.

Updated October 20, 2023 · 5 Min Read

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You do not need a Ph.D. in counseling to prosper in clinical practice, but this terminal degree can offer greater distinction, along with opportunities to work in administration, research, and academia. An online Ph.D. in counseling can provide the flexibility and convenience of pursuing the highest degree in counseling with less disruption to your personal and professional obligations.

Explore this guide to see if you'd make a good candidate for an online Ph.D. in counseling program. Also, discover tuition estimates, common course structure, and career options.

Price Check

The median lifetime return on investment for a doctoral degree is 416.3%, according to calculations made by the Education Data Initiative.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Counseling Ph.D.s

Are online Ph.D. in counseling programs legitimate?

Reputable colleges and universities offer fully online Ph.D. in counseling programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. In addition, the American Psychological Association accredits Ph.D. in counseling programs that offer online courses. These programs have the same amount of legitimacy as their on-campus equivalents.

Are online Ph.D. programs worth it?

Yes — if you have the dedication and ability to study independently, an online Ph.D. in counseling program can be a worthwhile pursuit. You can often earn an online Ph.D. in counseling quicker than in a traditional program without having to step foot on campus. Both online and traditional Ph.D. programs can provide a high return on your investment.

How long does an online Ph.D. in counseling program take?

Expect to spend 3-5 years of full-time enrollment earning an online Ph.D. in counseling. You'll need to complete between 50-70 credits. Exact timelines depend on your prior educational experience and the given program.

Is a Ph.D. worthwhile for counseling professionals?

The degree you pursue depends on your career objectives, salary expectations, and the academic challenge you desire. Online Ph.D. in counseling programs may provide opportunities to work in small cohorts and contribute to research.

Popular Online Counseling Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Get an Online Ph.D. in Counseling?

Pursuing an online Ph.D. in counseling offers a convenient format to study the advanced theories and practical applications of working with specific client groups. Other benefits of an online Ph.D. in counseling include:

Choosing an Online Counseling Ph.D. Program

How can you choose the right online counseling Ph.D. program for you? These considerations can help you to find a program that meets your expectations.

How Much Does an Online Counseling Ph.D. Cost?

Online Ph.D. candidates do not always have fully funded positions. You can offset the cost of tuition for graduate school by receiving grants, assistantships, and/or tuition remission.

Expect to see cost differences when comparing public and private institutions. Because of the variations in tuition prices, you could pay between $595-$900 or more per credit for your Ph.D. Rates may differ depending on part-time or full-time enrollment choice.

Additional Cost Considerations for Online Students

In addition to tuition, you need to factor in additional costs associated with online learning. Online Ph.D. candidates need a stable internet connection and reliable computers. Many schools charge additional technology fees for distance learning. Also, you'll need transportation for internships and practicum experiences, if required.

How to Fund an Online Ph.D. in Counseling

Ph.D. programs often provide full funding through the school if students teach undergraduate courses or agree to assistantships. Institutions may limit funding for online Ph.D. candidates because of the non-traditional nature of remote learning. For instance, online learners may not be able to teach on campus.

You can subsidize your Ph.D. education through various institutional and government grants and scholarships. Before committing to a program, contact the school's financial aid office to discuss potential funding opportunities.

Curriculum and Course Structure

Ph.D. programs have more competitive admission processes and accept fewer students than master's programs. With smaller cohorts, Ph.D. candidates have more opportunities to collaborate with faculty and their peers. The courses provide comprehensive training in teaching, leadership and advocacy, clinical counseling procedures, and counseling supervision.

Specializations and Concentrations

You can gain in-depth knowledge of specific areas of counseling through various specializations. The entire Ph.D. program may focus on an area of counseling or offer specialized courses in areas like:

Internship and Practicum Opportunities

Field experiences offered in online Ph.D. in counseling programs complement coursework, providing direct clinical practice and experience in your specialized field area. For instance, if you focus on teaching counseling, your internship may consist of working as a college lecturer. If you concentrate your studies on counselor education, your internship may include supervising counselors during group sessions.

Many programs require a practicum and/or internship, which you must complete in person on campus or at a nearby site. However, some online Ph.D. in counseling programs have neither practicums nor internships. When required, the internships usually include a teaching and supervisory component of about 600 hours. Practicum experience may require 100 hours.

Research Opportunities

Along with opportunities for independent research, Ph.D. candidates take courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods. Traditional Ph.D. in counseling programs offer more opportunities to join research apprenticeships with advisors.

At regional and national conferences for professional organizations, Ph.D. candidates can present their findings and make connections. In contrast, online Ph.D. in counseling programs may limit research opportunities compared to on-campus programs.

Admission Requirements for Online Ph.D. in Counseling Programs

At a minimum, you need a master's degree in counseling or a similar major to qualify for admission. Candidates are screened by admissions committees, which consider factors like work experience and academic achievement. You may need a minimum 3.0-3.25 GPA and a counseling license to receive admission. Some Ph.D. programs require interviews, as well.

Career Opportunities and Salary Potential with an Online Ph.D. in Counseling

Individuals with Ph.D. and/or master's degrees in counseling often pursue the following careers.


A Ph.D. in counseling or psychology qualifies you for careers providing clinical services in private practice, healthcare facilities, and/or telehealth. You'll need a state license to practice clinical counseling. Psychologists can also pursue teaching and research opportunities.

  • Median Annual Salary: $85,330
  • Projected Growth (2023-2033): +6%

Postsecondary Teachers

With a master's degree, you can work at a community college or secure an adjunct lecturer position. A Ph.D. in counseling allows you to pursue full-time faculty positions at four-year colleges and universities. Academics teach undergraduate and graduate courses while publishing original research.

  • Median Annual Salary: $80,840
  • Projected Growth (2023-2033): +8%

Medical and Health Services Administrators

Degree requirements for these professionals, also known as healthcare executives, vary by employer. Mental health services administrators develop programs and implement efficiency and quality measures to meet long-term goals at health facilities. A bachelor's degree may suffice for certain positions, but employers often prefer candidates with graduate degrees.

  • Median Annual Salary: $104,830
  • Projected Growth (2023-2033): +28%

Substance Misuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance misuse and mental health counselors work with clinical and administrative staff to provide counseling assessments and evaluations to diverse populations. Mental health counselors need to earn licensure, which requires a master's degree. In some cases, a Ph.D. can put you in a higher pay bracket.

  • Median Annual Salary: $49,710
  • Projected Growth (2023-2033): +18%

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists hold master's or Ph.D. degrees in counseling, psychology, or related majors. They work on multidisciplinary teams to counsel families in homes, clinics, or virtually.

  • Median Annual Salary: $56,570
  • Projected Growth (2023-2033): +15%

School and Career Counselors

School and career counselors usually hold master's degrees and state credentials, especially if they work in public schools. Elementary, middle, and high schools need school counselors to provide students with behavioral treatment services and improve academic achievement.

  • Median Annual Salary: $60,140
  • Projected Growth (2023-2033): +5%

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