Ph.D. in School Counseling

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Who Gets One & What to Expect

School counselors play an integral role in the development of K-12 learners and emerging professionals. This field requires ongoing research to explore new best practices and theories. Clients and junior professionals benefit from school counselors with extensive credentials who can serve as subject-matter experts. Earning a Ph.D. in school counseling online develops research, evaluation, problem-solving, program development, and leadership skills.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data projects an 8% increase in employment through 2028. School counselors who hold a Ph.D. gain a competitive advantage among other applicants and qualify for more lucrative careers.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in School Counseling

Earning a Ph.D. in school counseling online requires an extensive time and financial commitment. However, this degree offers multiple personal and professional benefits. Therefore, applicants should identify clear reasons for enrolling in a program. The list below provides five reasons students should consider earning this degree.

Transferable Skills

A Ph.D. in school counseling offers transferable skills that promote growth throughout a professional career. Notable skills include analysis, problem solving, interpersonal communication, project management, and information management expertise.

Choice in Content

While programs require core coursework, universities allow students to control the direction of their degree. Dissertation coursework typically focuses on pertinent areas of the field students want to explore.


A Ph.D. in school counseling indicates to employers that a candidate possesses a thorough understanding of research, evaluation, leadership, school counseling theories, and ethical practices.

Higher Wages

Employers recognize the value of professionals who earn a doctorate. Therefore, Ph.D. graduates typically gain access to higher-paying positions than candidates with a master’s degree.

Elite Career Opportunities

While school counselors qualify for applied roles with a master’s degree, a Ph.D. in school counseling online prepares graduates to take the lead. Additionally, some roles only consider candidates with a Ph.D.

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

Before selecting a program, students should note the difference between a doctoral-level degree and a Ph.D. While both emphasize research and elite skill acquisition, a doctoral program offers the highest attainable applied degree in a discipline. By contrast, a Ph.D. reflects original research and evaluation of theory.

Students should also note that job titles vary. Professionals typically work in K-12 school environments and in colleges or universities as career counselors. However, professionals may enter academia to groom emerging school counselors. A Ph.D. in school counseling may also lead to roles in social assistance, while some practitioners open private practices.

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Earning a Ph.D. in school counseling online can lead to many employment opportunities. While many school counselors work in elementary or secondary schools, employment opportunities also exist at colleges and universities. Some graduates seek employment with public agencies or open a private practice. The list below includes five potential options:

  • Postsecondary Teacher

    Postsecondary educators should hold a Ph.D. to teach advanced coursework. Typical duties include building lesson plans, developing new courses, and grading assignments. College instructors often engage in scholarly research projects that lead to published journal articles or books.

    Average Annual Salary: $78,470

  • School Counselor

    School counselors prioritize student success both personally and academically. Duties include helping students develop prioritization and study skills. Depending on a school counselors’ target population, their responsibilities may include career development and helping students apply for financial aid.

    Average Annual Salary: $56,310

  • Career Counselor

    Career counselors typically provide services to postsecondary students. However, some secondary schools provide career development to senior-level students. Duties include teaching students how to find jobs, improving resumes, and conducting mock interviews.

    Average Annual Salary: $56,310

  • School Psychologist

    School psychologists assess and evaluate students for behavioral, social, and cognitive issues. These professionals work in K-12 schools. School psychologists interact with students, parents, administrators, and other care providers.

    Average Annual Salary: $60,557

  • Substance Abuse Counselor

    These counselors advise clients who struggle with addiction issues. Professionals with a Ph.D. in school counseling may choose to target children and adolescents. Duties include conducting evaluations, developing treatment goals, and teaching coping strategies.

    Average Annual Salary: $44,630

School Counseling Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes

Requirements for a Ph.D. in school counseling online vary. However, common GPA requirements range from 3.0-3.5. Accredited school counseling Ph.D. programs typically require official transcripts, a resume, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and an application. Other items may include an interview or a personal statement highlighting professional goals.

On average, a Ph.D. in school counseling online requires 60-100 credits. Applicants who previously earned a master’s degree can earn their degree in three years with full-time attendance. Distance learners should also note that this degree requires around 600 hours of field experience.

Common Courses

School counseling Ph.D. programs offer similar core coursework. However, programs may emphasize certain topics over others and offer different specialty coursework. Applicants should examine programs closely to identify the best Ph.D. in school counseling online for their needs. The list below includes potential courses schools may offer:


This course teaches theories and skills that support multicultural awareness. Learners examine the influences of their own values, biases, and cultural experiences. Course outcomes include demonstrating legal and ethical practices when analyzing case studies, knowledge of particular groups, and knowledge of economic influences that can impact self-esteem during counseling sessions.


Students in this course explore multiple factors that contribute to psychopathology. This course also provides an overview of foundational concepts and models to examine the roots of mental illness, including genetic, biological, and psychological foci. Other topics include key risk factor domains and diagnostic research. Outcomes include differentiating normal development from abnormal behavior in children and adolescents.


Advanced group counseling teaches emerging school counselors how to facilitate group counseling, co-lead, and integrate interactive processes. Learning outcomes include identifying ethical guidelines of group work, analyzing group dynamics, and developing strategies for group leadership. Students apply group counseling techniques to case study scenarios. Advanced group counseling may also discuss applications of ethics and law.


This course helps counselors identify undiagnosed and existing addictive behaviors in students. The course emphasizes diagnostic skills, assessment, treatment plan development, and strategies for providing best care practices to family members. Potential topics include the effects of medications, etiology of addiction, and intervention approaches.


This advanced course requires prior understanding of fundamental counseling knowledge and skills. Students learn how to develop intervention plans for students suffering from behavioral or emotional disorders through core counseling theories and techniques. Outcomes include understanding cultural, environmental, and developmental factors that impact children.

Other Requirements

Students earning a Ph.D. in school counseling online can complete most coursework without any in-person requirements. However, this elite, terminal degree also requires hands-on field work that allows learners to gain experience and demonstrate high-level knowledge of pertinent school counseling techniques. Requirements vary by institution. The list below includes three potential requirements:


An accredited Ph.D. in school counseling online requires field experiences. Students should anticipate extensive internships that emphasize skill development and applied practice of fundamental knowledge and theories. Interns receive direct mentorship by working under experienced supervisors who hold an active license.


The best school counseling Ph.D. programs may also require a doctoral practicum experience to satisfy state requirements for licensure. Since state requirements vary, practicum experiences also vary in length. Universities often provide placement assistance. However, some online students may need to arrange their own practicum.


A Ph.D. in school counseling online requires a dissertation. Dissertations summarize extensive research conducted by students throughout their program. This final step reflects the most important component of doctoral studies. This experience challenges learners to apply advanced knowledge and skills to develop original theories, information, or practices.

Skills and Competencies

A Ph.D. in school counseling online further develops students’ understanding of fundamental skills and competencies, while teaching advanced theories and techniques. School counseling Ph.D. graduates qualify for multiple roles, which may require the skills and competencies listed below:


Research skills allow school counselors to discover, gather, analyze, interpret, and evaluate information about a topic of study. This skill assists professionals in writing reports, identifying needs, and developing solutions.


School counseling Ph.D. graduates understand how to address difficult situations. This skill requires professionals to develop innovative solutions and identify potential alternatives. Problem solving requires active listening, team-building, dependability, and collaboration.

Critical Thinking

Earning a Ph.D. in school counseling online prepares students to analyze information objectively. Graduates use facts, data, and research to draw conclusions. This skill also helps professionals address complex problems.


Student advocacy requires school counselors to support and empower learners. Earning a Ph.D. in school counseling online teaches emerging professionals how to effectively advocate for the needs of students, care teams, families, and fellow practitioners.


School counselors must work with students to uncover undiagnosed issues and manage existing challenges. However, this role also requires collaborative efforts with students’ families, teachers, administrators, and members of care teams.


A school counseling Ph.D. is a prestigious degree enabling graduates to take on leadership and advisory roles. Students learn how to build teams and coach emerging or practicing professionals.

School Counseling Professional Organizations

Professionals who hold a Ph.D. in school counseling conduct ongoing research to uncover new theories and best practices. Both emerging and practicing professionals can benefit from professional organizations that offer memberships. Furthermore, these organizations provide access to an active community that discusses pertinent topics and current projects.

Networking often leads to collaborative opportunities for licensed professionals. Students may establish meaningful relationships that can grow into long-term mentorship opportunities. Emerging professionals should consult their own counselors or department administrators to discover local chapters of the most prominent organizations.

Professional organizations offer multiple resources for career advancement. However, members must choose to make the best of their membership. Benefits often include annual conferences, workshops, seminars, or continuing education coursework. Members can also apply to serve on committees or sign up for roles that support specific organizational initiatives.

American School Counselor Association

  • The ASCA prioritizes academic and developmental learning and success. The organization strives to support professionals in the field by providing cutting-edge resources, statistical data, annual conferences, and professional development.

Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling

  • The ACAC supports all counselors who work with children and adolescents. Organizational goals include raising professional standards, promoting advocacy, and advancing developmentally appropriate prevention and intervention.

Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development

  • The AMCD strives to foster professional growth and educational opportunities among counselors from diverse cultural backgrounds. AMCD membership provides leadership development, networking opportunities, workshops, mentorship, and a 25-state division network.

Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International

  • Established in1985, Chi Sigma Iota international honor society supports academic and professional excellence in counseling. Membership includes networking opportunities, mentorship options, leadership development, research opportunities, and fellowships.

National Association of College Admission Counseling

  • The NACAC supports higher education learners entering the field by connecting them with seasoned professionals. Members can participate in webinars, job fairs, collaborative networking events, and national conferences.

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