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The top schools for doctoral degrees in counseling psychology

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    Why get a doctorate in counseling psychology?

    A doctorate in counseling psychology is the must-have degree for students interested in contributing knowledge to their field. As researchers and academics, counseling psychologists set themselves apart by developing new concepts, therapeutic models and techniques to assess and treat patients. While those with a Ph.D. in this field may also work in traditional therapeutic settings as licensed psychologists, their careers usually have a research emphasis.

    This terminal degree is perfect for those looking to deepen their existing therapy practice or move into the world of academia or research. A doctoral degree in counseling psychology places professionals in a unique position to both study and empower the populations they work with.

    In clinical practice, a doctorate can provide access to a broader scope of treatment practices. Though some positions will accept a master of counseling psychology, a doctorate is preferred by employers.

    This popular degree is offered nationwide by many top universities. Generally, it can be completed in between 90 and 130 credits over the span of 4 to 8 years. It is important to note that a Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) in counseling psychology is not the same as a Psy.D. (doctor of psychology) in counseling psychology. A Psy.D. focuses on the practice of psychology in a therapeutic setting while Ph.D. programs focus on theory and research. This best of list focuses on Ph.D. programs.

    Top schools for a doctoral degree in counseling psychology

    • New York University

      New York University New York City, New York
      New York University

      New York University Steinhardt is a private university that offers students many opportunities to develop their skills including mentorships, study abroad opportunities and local internships. The counseling psychology mentorship program pairs students with a primary mentor and a secondary mentor assistant at the Center for Counseling and Community Wellbeing. The center is where counseling students receive most of their training, and is an evidence-based assessment and treatment service for the local community. 
      This elite university accepts only the top 15% of applicants and has a 98.03% graduation rate. On top of standard application requirements, students need to attend and complete an interview. The doctoral program does not accept transfer credits, although transfer students may opt for course exemptions for some courses completed at another university.

      New York University offers competitive funding packages for full-time Ph.D. students, along with NYU’s IES-PIRT program, which provides a 4-year stipend and an Education Sciences Certificate upon graduation. Students are required to complete a year-long internship and a dissertation to graduate.

      Program nameProgram name  Doctor of philosophy in counseling psychology  
      Name of school (dept.)Name of school (dept)  Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development 
      AccreditationAmerican Psychological Association (APA)
      LocationNew York City, New York
      CostCost  $1,942 per credit hour
      Finance office  
      Program format Full-time, in person
      Course length 69-72 credit hours 
      Read more
    • Boston University

      Boston University Boston, Massachusetts
      Boston University

      Boston University offers a Ph.D. program in counseling psychology with 2 possible tracks: child and adolescent development mental health or sport and performance psychology. Students further customize their education by focusing on either applied human development or counseling psychology. Students apply evidence-based practices in the field of applied human development to their research on children, adolescents and young adults’ cultural and emotional needs. 
      The Ph.D. program offers many internships and externships for their students, starting with clinical practicum training in the second year of the program. Fourth-year students can continue their practicum as an extern, followed by a final pre-doctoral internship. Students choose from various local organizations for their practicum, including the Franciscan Hospital for Children and the Wentworth Institute of Technology Center for Wellness and Disability Services.
      Boston University has a 19% acceptance rate. A master’s degree is usually the minimum requirement to enter this program, but in rare cases, exceptional students with considerable experience in the field are admitted with only a bachelor’s degree. When transferring, graduate students can bring 16 external or 20 internal credits into the doctoral program. An impressive 90% of students who enter this program graduate. 
      A plethora of aid options are available for full-time and part-time students, including scholarships, fellowships, private loans and teaching assistant opportunities.

      Program namePh.D. in counseling psychology and applied human development 
      Name of school (dept.)Wheelock College of Education and Human Development
      AccreditationAmerican Psychological Association (APA)
      LocationBoston, Massachusets 
      Cost$60,000 per semester
      Finance office
      Program formatFull-time, hybrid or on-campus 
      Program length 97 credit hours 
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    • University of Wisconsin

      University of Wisconsin Madison, Wisconsin
      University of Wisconsin

      The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Ph.D. in counseling psychology is an eclectic, research-driven program. The department prides itself on multicultural literacy, social justice and ethical conduct. Students work at training clinics to provide low-cost multilingual services to the local community with a focus on diverse and disabled communities.

      UW-Madison hosts the Center for Educational Opportunity, which academically supports socially diverse and disabled students. The Advancing Health Equity and Diversity pilot award can offer up to $10,000 in grants to researching scholars. Students can also work in the People Program, which supports pre-college, low-income youth.

      Program namePh.D. in counseling psychology
      Name of school (dept.)University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education
      AccreditationAmerican Psychological Association (APA)
      LocationMadison, Wisconsin 
      Cost$26,000 per semester in-state, $27,000 out of state.
      Financial office
      Program format Full-time, on-campus
      Program length 75 credit hours 
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    • Indiana University

      Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana
      Indiana University

      Indiana University’s counseling psychology Ph.D. program is centered on multicultural research. Students work alongside professors and mentors in local counseling centers and healthcare facilities providing services in areas like sexual assault prevention and sports psychology. Students also have opportunities to publish and present their research alongside professors at local conferences. A year-long internship and accompanying intern class are required for all students to graduate.
      The acceptance rate at Bloomington is 78%, with 76% of students graduating on time in 6 years. Though a master’s degree from a psychology-based field is preferred, students from all majors and degree levels are considered for acceptance. Bloomington admits students through a faculty mentoring approach, accepting students who align with research conducted by mentoring professors. 
      Students transferring into the university must attend a minimum of 2 full-time semesters on campus and Ph.D. students can transfer up to 30 hours. Some master’s degree credits can count to your Ph.D. with approval from the advisory committee. Ph.D. students can choose from a variety of fellowships as well as department-specific funding opportunities.

      Program nameProgram name  Ph.D. in counseling psychology 
      Name of school (dept.)Bloomington School of Education
      AccreditationAmerican Psychological Association (APA)
      LocationBloomington, Indiana 
      Cost$26,000 per-semester in-state, $53,000 out-of-state, $500 per online credit
      Financial office
      Program format Full-time, hybrid or on-campus
      Program length 98-104 credit hours 
      Read more
    • Loyola University

      Loyola University Chicago, Illinois
      Loyola University

      Loyola University’s School of Education offers the only Ph.D. for counseling psychology in the Chicago area. They focus on social justice and equality in their course foundations, emphasizing how social injustices affect human functioning. Students train locally in the city at counseling centers, community centers and hospitals. To graduate, students develop a new area of research expertise to focus on with faculty and defend it in a written and oral dissertation. Students are also required to complete 2,000 hours of pre-doctoral internship work.

      Applicants must have a master’s degree in psychology or a related field, alongside a graduate GPA of 3.5 and an interview. GRE scores are usually required for admission. Loyola University accepts 67% of students with a graduation rate of 75% after 6 years. Transfer students can apply credits to a maximum of half the program’s required semester hours. Approved courses earned towards a master’s degree can be applied to your doctoral program.

      Loyola offers federal loans, assistantships, multiple fellowships and scholarships for its full-time students. They also offer a customized payment plan. 

      Program namePh.D. in counseling psychology
      Name of school (dept.)Loyola University School of Education
      AccreditationAmerican Psychological Associaiton (APA)
      LocationChicago, Illinois
      Cost $1000 per credit
      Finance office
      Program formatFull-time, in-person
      Program length 69 credits, 2,000-hour internship  
      Read more
    • Western Michigan University

      Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, Michigan
      Western Michigan University

      Western Michigan University’s counseling psychology Ph.D. program focuses on aiding diverse communities and includes specialized training for licensure in and out of state. With faculty help, students can customize their degree through elective courses and adjunct experiences, like assisting faculty research or group clinical supervision. 
      Doctoral degree students train and research at Western Michigan University’s Centers for Counseling and Psychological Services. Students can choose between the Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids locations to practice and fulfill a 2,000-hour pre-doctoral internship. The centers offer counseling services like family therapy and psychological assessments. 
      Western Michigan University has an acceptance rate of 80%, with 54% of students graduating on time. Their transfer program has no credit limit as long as 30 credits are completed on campus, not including dissertation hours. To be accepted into the counseling psychology Ph.D. program, students must submit their GRE score and have completed a master’s degree in a relevant field.

      Financial aid is offered in federal loans, grants and work-study programs for full-time students. Students may also participate in paid assistantships or fellowships within their department to pay for their education.

      Program nameProgram name  Counseling psychology-doctoral program 
      Name of school (dept.)Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology
      AccreditationAmerican Psychological Association (APA)
      LocationKalamazoo, Michigan  
      Cost $700 per credit in-state, $1,000 per credit out of state, $700 per online credit
      Finance office
      Program format Full-time, hybrid or in-person 
      Program length 5-6 years 
      Read more
    • Auburn University

      Auburn University Auburn, Alabama
      Auburn University

      Auburn University’s Ph.D. in counseling psychology emphasizes training for students in culture and equity. This focus is reflected in the unique training settings on offer, as students can choose to complete their advanced practicum in correctional facilities, prisons and VA hospitals in addition to more traditional settings. These unique placement opportunities usually require relocation outside of Auburn. Auburn supports students who want to become teachers via graduate teaching assistantships and a teaching practicum. 
      A reported 82% of all who apply to Auburn University are accepted and 79% graduate on time. Transfer students have no limits on transferable courses to the doctoral program, as long as 18 credits are completed on-campus within 7 years.

      Auburn offers loans, grants, and federal work-study and is compatible with the Veterans Resource Center financial aid program. Almost all students who apply for a teaching assistantship are paired with a faculty member in their department. 

      Program nameCounseling psychology Ph.D.
      Name of school (dept.)Auburn University College of Education 
      Accreditation American Psychological Association (APA)
      LocationAuburn, Alabama 
      Cost $6,000 per semester in-state, $16,000 out-of-state
      Finance office
      Program format Full-time, in-person
      Program length 105 credit hours  
      Read more
    • Iowa University

      Iowa University Ames, Iowa
      Iowa University

      Iowa University’s Ph.D. in counseling psychology is designed to produce psychologists who will promote and contribute to the field as researchers and practitioners. Students complete their practicum in Iowa City clinics, university counseling centers and the VA hospital. Faculty teach and train their students in specialties like vocational psychology, and identifying and developing talent in twice-exceptional youth at the local Telepsychology Training Clinic.
      Iowa University accepts 82% of all applicants and 71.8% of students graduate on time. Applicants need a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and a graduate GPA of 3.5 or higher when applying for the program. GRE scores are required for admissions. Transfer students are required to take at least 39 local credits at the University of Iowa and courses older than 10 years require verification.

      Iowa University offers many scholarship and grant opportunities for students in need.  Assistantships can be earned within the department with faculty approval.

      Program namePh.D. counseling psychology
      Name of school (dept.)College of Education 
      AccreditationAmerican Psychological Association (APA)
      Location Ames, Iowa 
      Cost $28,000 per semester in-state, $50,000 out-of-state
      Finance office
      Program format Full-time, in-person
      Program length 103 credit hours with 15 dissertation hours 
      Read more
    • Cleveland State University

      Cleveland State University Cleveland, Ohio
      Cleveland State University

      Cleveland State University’s Ph.D. in counseling psychology aims to equip students with skills in assessment, intervention, research and supervision while working with diverse communities. The program is flexible, offering half-semester internships for part-time students. Full-time students gain hands-on training first through a practicum and later in a pre-doctoral internship. Supervised by faculty, students work in university counseling centers and private clinics. The program prepares students for their EPPP licensure.
      Cleveland State University accepts 94% of applicants and 56% of students graduate on time. A master’s degree in counseling or related field is required to apply, with research and professional experience preferred. GRE scores are required and applicants need a minimum GPA of 3.5. Transfer students can apply up to 16 credit hours from an outside university. Transfer credits are only accepted from a master’s degree or higher and need faculty approval for acceptance.

      Cleveland State offers assistantships and internships to help graduate students pay for school.  Veterans who apply are eligible for additional benefits through the Ohio National Guard Scholarship and GI Bill. Most students who apply for an assistantship are paired with a faculty member in their first year of study.

      Program nameCounseling psychology
      Name of school (dept.)Cleveland State University College of Education and Human Services
      AccreditationAmerican Psychological Associaiton (APA)
      LocationCleveland, Ohio 
      Cost $600 per credit
      Finance office
      Program format Full-time, in-person
      Program length 5-6 years 
      Read more

    Financial aid

    The most popular choice for financial support is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Federal student aid also comes in Federal Pell Grants, TEACH Grants and the Federal Work-Study program. For more information on your university’s financial assistance options, contact their financial aid department directly.


    There are many career options open to those with a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. Below are some of the most popular positions: