Are you a practicing counselor who is looking for the next step in your career? Earning your Ph.D. in Counseling can help you to better serve your clients, but it can also advance you for leadership and education positions as well. With your Ph.D., you'll be qualified for new and additional career opportunities and many of these carry a higher salary. With a Ph.D. degree, you can hold positions such as director of counseling, clinical program manager, and more. These 11 Best Online Ph.D. in Counseling programs can help you to explore your options and consider your next step in your career.
FINDING AN ONLINE Ph.D. IN COUNSELING
The Ph.D. in Counseling programs below are rigorous degrees designed to cover many different topics. Most of the programs include courses that focus on research, supervision, and more. You'll find that some of these programs are tailored for counselor education and supervision, preparing you for a leadership or program director role. Others focus solely on counseling or family counseling, so you will want to think about your career goals when choosing a program that's right for you. Most of these programs require students to hold a master's degree in counseling or a related field and some require you to be currently licensed and practicing as a counselor.
These Ph.D. programs are all available online, making them ideal for working professionals who need to balance their work schedules with their education. You'll find that some of the programs can be completed entirely remotely, while others require on-campus intensives. Some of the programs have just one intensive, while others require you to travel to campus yearly or even each semester. Most of the online coursework in these programs can be completed asynchronously, and some of the programs offer highly flexible scheduling in terms of when you complete courses and move onto the next. In many cases, you'll enter programs as part of a cohort, allowing you to build relationships with your peers and to have a natural source of support as you progress toward earning your degree.
RANKING THE 11 BEST ONLINE Ph.D. IN COUNSELING
While you're on your way to earning your Ph.D. or Doctorate within your field, the editors at Online PhD Programs are already practicing doctors of their craft: ranking the best online Ph.D. programs. To be featured on our annual rankings online doctorates must satisfy four coinciding requirements: accreditation, research and scholarship doctorate certification, NSF recognition, and institutional association with peer-reviewed academia.
Each degree is then ranked using information provided – primarily – through the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook. The data collected is scored through a series of weighted categories to represent seven crucial aspects of what makes an online doctorate valuable to future students. Online program quality and presence are joined by industry salaries, student reviews, degree exclusivity, costs, and completion rates to determine the best online doctorates available. For a comprehensive breakdown of how we categorize and source data, please visit our methodology page.
#1. OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
The Ph.D. in Counseling program at Oregon State University is offered as a hybrid program that features both face-to-face and online instruction. Students attend face-to-face classes twice each quarter over a short weekend. The face-to-face portion is conveniently located in the Portland metropolitan area, making for easy accessibility for out-of-state students. A collaborative cohort design offers students support and a professor guides each student as they progress through the program. This program prepares students to become advocates for change, but it is not a teacher or professional licensure program. The Ph.D. in Counseling program is CACREP-accredited.
Oregon State University has a rich 150-year history and today consists of two campuses, 11 colleges, and 15 experiment stations. Oregon State offers over 200 academic programs, many of which are available online through the Oregon State Ecampus. Online courses are developed by the same faculty who teach on-campus but their asynchronous delivery offers students the flexibility they need to work and tend to family obligations while pursuing an education. The U.S. News & World Report ranked OSU's online bachelor's programs as No. 3 in the nation in 2019. This makes the fifth straight year that the programs have been in the ranking's top 10. Additionally, OSU's online programs have been included in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans ranking from 2015 through 2019.
#2. REGENT UNIVERSITY
Regent University's Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies program is offered completely online making it ideal for working professionals or students who live too far away to commute to the university. The program includes courses that focus on research, statistics, psychometrics, and more. Students may choose elective courses that focus on their specific area of interest. The courses are delivered in 16-week sessions and program applicants must hold a regionally accredited master's degree in a mental health field. The courses are taught by faculty in Virginia Beach and beyond and reflect a Christian worldview. No GRE is required for admission and 86 percent of Regent University's graduate students receive financial aid.
Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent University was founded in 1978 with an initial class of just 77 students. Today, Regent has an enrollment of over 10,000 and employs more than 900 faculty throughout its seven schools and two colleges. The university offers 132 graduate and undergraduate programs both on-campus and online and is one of just 24 liberal arts "A" rated universities in the nation. Its 70-acre campus is just a few minutes from the Norfolk International Airport, and only 16 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. News & World Report included Regent in its 2019 ranking of the top national universities.
#3. UNIVERSITY OF THE CUMBERLANDS
The Doctorate of Educational Leadership in Counseling Education & Supervision is a fully accredited EdD degree that is offered online. This program aims to prepare students for careers in higher education instruction. Students learn advanced leadership skills that serve them well in a variety of positions, including as administrators for behavioral health agencies, or in private practice or clinical environments. During the three years of this program, students will develop advanced skills that can be applied to community settings, businesses, and higher education organizations. The program is designed so that students can complete all coursework and their dissertation even while continuing to work full-time.
Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands provides a variety of associates, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs. Many of the programs are offered both on-campus and online, making education accessible even to those students who can't travel to campus. The university has an enrollment of over 11,000 students, including 9,000 graduate students, and 26 percent of the students are first-generation college students. Ninety-nine percent of University of the Cumberlands' students receive financial aid, in fact, the school has awarded over $19 million in financial aid. An excellent 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio ensures plenty of individualized attention and over 80 percent of University of the Cumberlands faculty hold terminal degrees in their field.
#4. LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
Liberty University's Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Counselor Education and Supervision is a 60-credit-hour online program that takes approximately three or four years to complete. Program graduates will be prepared to hold leadership positions in clinical, higher education, and counseling settings. While most of the coursework is offered online, core courses and electives include a one-week on-campus intensive to help students develop relationships with their faculty mentors as well as with their peers. The program also includes a three-credit hour practicum, a nine-credit-hour internship, and a nine-credit-hour dissertation. Program applicants must have a master's degree in counseling or a related field from a regionally or nationally accredited institution. Applicants must also have a GPA of 3.25 or greater in all previous graduate coursework.
Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is an evangelical liberal arts university. Liberty has 16 colleges and schools, is home to over 100,000 students, and offers more than 550 different programs of study. Liberty is dedicated to making education accessible and offers over 250 programs online. Liberty University's online programs have ranked in the top five of over 2,100 online colleges and universities when evaluated on academic quality, affordability, and accessibility. In an effort to keep education affordable, Liberty University's tuition for doctoral degrees has not increased in three straight years. The Military Times included Liberty University in its 2019 ranking of the Best for Vets institutions.
#5. UNIVERSITY OF WEST GEORGIA
The Doctor of Education in Professional Counseling and Supervision (Ed.D.) program emphasizes program evaluation, clinical and administrative supervision, as well as advocacy and leadership. This program, offered by the University of West Georgia, culminates in a dissertation. Students enter the program in the summer as a cohort of 12 and take two courses per term over the course of two years. The courses are delivered online, allowing students to complete the entire program (except for an on-campus orientation at the beginning of their enrollment) remotely. Students who hold an Ed.S. in Counseling will follow an accelerated 39-credit track, while students who do not have an Ed.S. in Counseling will follow a 60-credit-hour track.
The University of West Georgia was founded in 1906 as a two-year institution, then later became a four-year institution in 1957. Today, GWU is the sixth largest Georgia university, consisting of six colleges and one school. The university is located in Carrollton, Georgia and offers 87 different programs of study. Students may also choose to participate in more than 150 student organizations. GWU holds a Doctoral Research University R3 from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The U.S. News & World Report included GWU in its 2018 ranking of the top colleges and universities in the nation and The Princeton Review recognized GWU as a Best Regional College for 2018.
#6. EASTERN UNIVERSITY
Eastern University's Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy is a 60-credit-hour program that is delivered online with residencies at Eastern University's St. Davids campus. During this program, students learn to create and deliver psychological and spiritual enrichment programs, and students develop advanced counseling skills that prepare them to meet the needs of people seeking mental health services. The program culminates in a dissertation in the field of marriage and family therapy. Program applicants must hold a master's degree such as a master's of counseling, a master of divinity, or a master's in a related field. It is preferred that program applicants have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or greater.
Located in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, Eastern University was founded in 1925. Today, Eastern University offers over 160 programs, including seminary programs, both in-person on campus as well as online. The online courses are designed with both convenience and flexibility. This Christian university focuses on integrating faith, reason, and justice in its teachings. The U.S. News & World Report included Eastern University in its 2019 Top Tier of North Regional Universities ranking, and Niche listed the university as one of the top 25 best value colleges in greater Philadelphia. Money Magazine also included Eastern University in its 2017-2018 ranking of the best colleges for return on investment.
#7. HAMPTON UNIVERSITY
Hampton University's Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (Ph.D.) is designed for licensed counselors, helping them to further develop clinical and supervisory skills. This 64-credit-hour program is offered online so that students across the country may enroll. Students may choose from concentrations in school counseling or community mental health counseling, and the coursework focuses on teaching, counseling, and supervision. Courses include the Ethics and Legal Aspects of Counseling, Quantitative Methods, Grant Writing, Research and Program Evaluation, and more. At the end of the program, students prepare a dissertation. This program is suitable for licensed counselors in clinical, academic, or research fields.
Located in Hampton, Virginia, Hampton University was founded in 1861 during the Civil War. The school, one of the top historically black universities in the world, began with a class designed to teach newly freed slaves. That class was taught underneath the Emancipation Oak, which later became the site for the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Since then, the university has grown to encompass 314 acres and 118 buildings. Hampton University offers associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, and its Fall 2018 enrollment was over 4,000 students. Through Hampton University Online remote learners can access a quality Hampton University education no matter where they live.
#8. CAPELLA UNIVERSITY
Capella University's Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (Ph.D.) prepares counselors for roles as leaders, educators, and researchers. Most of the coursework is offered online providing the flexibility that working professionals need. Additionally, students intend three residencies and two internships designed to build relationships and offer real-world experience. The program is designed to maximize students' success, plus built-in experiences ensure that students make steady progress toward completing their dissertation. Experienced and engaged faculty guide students through the program while developing their skills in areas such as counseling, teaching, research, leadership, and supervision. Students can choose from a variety of learning formats to ensure that their education suits their needs, schedules, and goals.
Capella University was established in 1993 and today this award-winning online university helps adult students and working professionals to meet their educational goals. With faculty who are credentialed, distinguished, and often scholar-practitioners, Capella University students receive guidance and quality instruction. Capella has over 38,000 current students who are, on average, 39 years old. Students may choose from 53 different degree programs and having two different online learning formats offer plenty of flexibility. During their education, students have a support team consisting of academic advisors and coaches, doctoral mentors, tutors, writing support, technical support, and more. Active-duty service members, veterans, and their spouses and dependents can all enjoy military benefits and assistance at Capella.
#9. WALDEN UNIVERSITY
Walden University's Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision is one of few such programs available online. During this program, students acquire advanced teaching, supervision, and counseling skills so that they may become leaders and educators in their field. Program graduates are qualified to hold positions in a variety of settings including hospitals, government agencies, higher education, and more. While much of the coursework is delivered online, students also attend an on-campus four-day residency. The program takes about three years to complete, and students must complete it within eight years. Students may transfer up to 45 credits from other institutions to this program.
Walden University was founded in 1970 with the goal of providing working adults with a way to further their education. With a current enrollment of over 57,000, all 50 states and over 150 countries are represented at Walden. Walden offers a variety of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees and certificates online in a flexible format that allows adults to simultaneously complete their education while still working full-time. With degrees in criminal justice, health sciences, education, public health, social work, and more, Walden transforms students into scholar-practitioners who have the knowledge and skill to enact social change. Walden also offers a number of university scholarships to help students finance the cost of their education.
#10. ADAMS STATE UNIVERSITY
Adams State University's Online Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision is designed to prepare students for careers in both academic and clinical settings. Program graduates will be qualified to hold roles as counselor educators, supervisors, researchers, and practitioners. While most of the coursework is delivered online this program does include four one-week summer residencies at the Alamosa, Colorado campus. Students progress through this 66-credit-hour program in cohorts, a format which allows them to develop supportive relationships with their peers. Program applicants must have a master's degree and be license-eligible. Alternatively, applicants may have a master's in counseling as well as one year of counseling experience and graduate coursework. Program applicants must have a 3.0 or higher GPA from their master's.
Located in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, Adams State University offers stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains. The university offers small class sizes so that students can engage with professors, who are all experts in their field. Adams State University's close-knit community encourages students to get involved and stay involved in campus life, whether it's joining an ASU Grizzlies' sports team or joining one of the university's many clubs and organizations. Students may also take advantage of a federal work-study program that helps them to both gain work experience and cover the costs of their education.
#11. GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY
Grand Canyon University's Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (Ph.D.) is a 62-credit-hour program designed to prepare students to serve as counselor supervisors. The program is offered as online eight-week classes and students may also opt to take evening classes at the GCU campus. Program graduates will have many different career opportunities to choose from and may opt to become advanced clinicians, school counselors, directors of school guidance departments, and more. Additionally, program graduates can hold positions such as behavior support specialists, clinicians, counselors, and case managers. GCU admits students to graduate programs based on a number of criteria, including a minimum 2.8 GPA. Students may also be admitted with a graduate degree and qualifying GMAT or GRE test scores.
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, GCU is a premier private Christian university. GCU was founded in 1949 and has since undergone a significant expansion. Today, GCU offers affordable education to students both on-campus and online. Students who opt to pursue an online education will be taught by fully-trained faculty and will have access to valuable support services such as ebooks, forums, and calendar reminders. GCU is also home to 21 NCAA Division I teams, as well as intramural sports. The university features a military university team which is designed to help military students and their families through the enrollment process, as well as to help them with benefits.