Ph.D. in School Counseling 2021

Search for online colleges by subject.

Best Doctorate in School Counseling badge

School counselors play a central role in the educational system. They help students develop their social and emotional learning, prepare learners for careers after graduation, and promote student success.

A Ph.D. in school counseling prepares graduates for academic, research, and leadership roles in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school counselors make above-average salaries and enjoy strong projected job growth. Our ranking lists the best online doctorate in school counseling programs to help prospective school counselors find the right fit for their needs and career goals.

Accredited Online College Programs

Explore our featured online programs and find the right match for you today.

Top 10 Programs for School Counseling

Frequently Asked Questions About School Counseling


  • Q. What is the best degree for school counseling?

    School counselors, including college counselors and career counselors, typically need a graduate degree in counseling. A doctorate in school counseling prepares graduates for leadership roles in the field.


  • Q. Are school counselors in high demand?

    Yes, the BLS projects jobs for school counselors to grow 8% between 2019-2029, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations.


  • Q. What does a school counselor do?

    School counselors help students manage academic, emotional, and social problems. They also advise students on college and career readiness.


Why Get a Degree in School Counseling?



School counselors help learners overcome social and behavioral challenges. They also advise students on career and college opportunities, and design programs to improve wellness in school. A doctorate in school counseling prepares graduates for leadership roles in the field. Examples include school counseling program director, school counseling professor, and school counselor.

The flexibility of an online Ph.D. in school counseling allows students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Additionally, many schools offer tuition discounts to online students.

Online Guide to Accredited Colleges and Universities

How Much Does a School Counseling Degree Cost?



Doctoral degrees typically take 3-5 years to complete. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate tuition averaged around $19,300 per year in 2018-2019. In-state students at public universities paid around $12,200 in tuition and fees for the same year, while private school students paid nearly $27,800 in tuition and fees.

However, costs vary widely by program and credit requirements. For instance, as of June 2021, Oregon State University (OSU) offers an online Ph.D. in counseling that costs $590 per credit, while Regent University’s online Ph.D. in educational psychology program costs $775 per credit. However, OSU requires 150 credits for the doctorate, while Regent requires 67 credits.

An online learning format can save doctoral candidates money. Many schools offer tuition discounts to online students. Additionally, online students often save on some of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting costs.

Additional Online Student Fees for School Counseling

Beyond tuition costs, prospective school counseling students should consider additional fees related to their degree, such as technology fees. Online learners may also need to upgrade their computing systems or pay for faster internet to access their coursework.

In some programs, students earning their school counseling degree online complete residencies on campus. Learners should factor in the costs associated with these in-person requirements, such as food and travel expenses, when budgeting for school. Textbooks and other course materials also impact the overall cost of an online Ph.D. in school counseling.

How Much Do School Counseling Majors Make?



School and career counselors earn a median annual salary of $58,120 per year, according to BLS data. The BLS also projects much faster-than-average job growth for these professionals from 2019-2029.

However, school counselor salaries vary significantly by factors like location, experience, and education. Counselors with a Ph.D. typically earn higher salaries than those with a master’s degree, for example.

With experience and education, school counselors often see their earning potential increase. The highest-paid school counselors earn nearly $98,000 per year. In addition to careers in school counseling, a Ph.D. meets the requirements for academic and leadership positions such as counseling professor, district counseling director, and program director.

Courses in School Counseling



Ph.D. in school counseling programs build advanced skills in individual counseling, group counseling, career development, and crisis counseling. Doctoral students also learn how to create counseling programs based on evaluations of student needs and outcome data.

Most doctoral programs incorporate a supervised internship or practicum to meet counseling licensure requirements. During these experiential learning components, doctoral candidates strengthen their program development and counseling abilities. Programs may also offer specializations in areas like elementary school counseling, college readiness planning, or career counseling.

Courses vary by program, but the following list introduces several common school counseling courses.


  • Advanced School Counseling

    The course examines counseling theory, the counseling process, and techniques for counseling children and adolescents. Students build advanced interviewing and evaluation skills. Learners also explore how to develop a counselor identity.


  • School Counseling Program Planning

    School counseling program planning courses train doctoral students to conceptualize, design, and implement programs. The class also covers data-informed planning and program evaluation and modification. Learners may examine case studies and design a pilot program.


  • School Counseling Practice

    Doctoral students learn how to implement research-based methods and policies. The course covers the practical application of evidence-based school counseling techniques, testing practices, and career development practices. Learners may also complete hands-on service work.


Certifications and Licensure for School Counseling



School counselors typically need a license or certification to practice, particularly in public schools. Requirements vary by state, but most licenses require a graduate degree, a supervised internship, and passing scores on an examination. In some states, school counselors must also hold a teaching license. In addition to required licenses, school counselors can pursue certifications to advance their careers.

School Counselor Certification


The certification requirements for school counselors at public schools vary by state. However, typical licensure requirements include a graduate degree in a counseling field, supervised experience, and passing scores on an examination. School counselors must complete continuing education requirements to maintain their credential.

Explore Here

National Certified School Counselor


The NCSC credential recognizes board-certified counselors who specialize in school settings. Candidates must complete graduate-level coursework in counseling program development, counseling children, and addictions counseling. The credential also requires six semesters of supervised field experience, at least two years of work experience, and passing scores on a certification exam.

Explore Here

School Psychologist License


A Ph.D. in school counseling may meet the requirements for a school psychologist license. Licensure requirements vary by state, but most states require a doctorate, supervised experience, and a residency. Candidates generally also must pass a licensing exam.

Explore Here

How to Become a School Counselor

School counselors typically need a master’s degree or higher in school counseling or a related field, like educational psychology or career counseling. After completing the degree, school counselors can pursue licensure.

Public school counselors may need a credential from the state teaching board or counselor’s board. School counselors can also pursue licensure as mental health counselors. These credentials typically require a minimum number of supervised practicum hours and passing scores on a licensure exam.

Ph.D. in School Counseling 2021



See Our Rankings Methodology

Latest Posts

See All Posts
Understanding the Different Levels of Nursing

Understanding the Different Levels of Nursing

July 23, 2021   |   Genevieve Carlton

More than four million nurses work in the United States. As nurses earn higher degrees, they see their earning potential increase. Demand for nurses continues to grow, making nursing a strong career path. Though people often equate nurses with RNs, nursing professionals hold various levels of nursing credentials. CNAs or LPNs provide basic nursing care, […]

What are Google Career Certificates?

What are Google Career Certificates?

July 21, 2021   |   Nina Chamlou

In the early 2010s, Lynda.com and Coursera began offering massive open online courses (MOOCs). Common subjects include coding, mathematics, and language. These accessible, self-paced courses provided a quick way to...

Search for Online Colleges by Subject

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.