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For individuals holding a master’s degree in counseling or a related field and aspiring to elevate their careers, pursuing an online doctorate in school counseling represents a flexible and accessible pathway to achieving those goals. These advanced programs are designed to prepare students for high-level roles within the educational system, potentially positioning them among their field’s top 10% earners, with annual salaries exceeding $98,530.

Completing such a degree typically takes three to five years, depending on the student’s pace and program structure. The average cost of these programs was $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year but will vary depending on the institution. By choosing this path, you’ll be investing in your professional development and in a future where you’re prepared to impact educational communities and the students within them significantly.

How to Choose an Online Doctorate in School Counseling Program

Choose your area of study

As a prospective doctoral student in counseling, choosing an area of study is a pivotal first step — it’ll help narrow down your interests and focus on programs that align with your career goals.

Also called specializations or concentrations, these opportunities will vary depending on the institution you attend. Potential specializations include trauma and crisis intervention, suited for those interested in supporting students through challenging times; college and career readiness, ideal for counselors wanting to guide students in post-secondary planning; and multicultural counseling, perfect for individuals focused on promoting diversity and inclusivity in educational settings.

Research schools and programs

After identifying a specialization, you can begin researching schools and programs, bearing in mind that not all institutions may offer your specific focus but may provide relevant coursework. To further guide your research, consider the following questions:

  • What is the program’s accreditation status?
  • How does the curriculum support my career goals?
  • What opportunities for practical experience are available?
  • Are there faculty members with expertise in my area of interest?

Information on programs and specializations can be found by speaking with admissions counselors, exploring program websites, and attending virtual open houses.

Prepare for tests and applications

To best prepare for doctoral applications and the GRE, you’ll want to focus on writing a compelling personal statement and achieving competitive test scores.

The personal statement is your opportunity to highlight your passion, experience, and goals in school counseling, making a solid case for your candidacy. Consider enrolling in a test prep program for the GRE, which can provide strategies and practice to improve your scores.

Additionally, ensure your application includes all required elements — academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and any program-specific requirements. Thorough preparation and attention to each component will strengthen your application, illustrating your readiness for doctoral-level study.

Select your program

Once acceptance letters arrive, selecting a program can be simplified by revisiting critical factors from your initial research, which may vary by student.

Consider the program’s alignment with your specialization, faculty credentials, and opportunities for practical experience. Don’t forget to evaluate practical aspects such as the total cost of attendance and available financial aid opportunities.

Ultimately, reflecting on what matters most to you in these areas can guide you toward making an informed decision that best supports your academic and career goals.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

To finance your degree without accruing significant debt, prioritize financial aid opportunities that don’t require repayment. Start with scholarships and grants, awarded based on merit or need and don’t need to be repaid. For any remaining financial gaps, consider federal loans, which typically offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private loans. Additionally, explore assistantships and fellowships offered by your institution; these provide financial support and valuable work experience.

Best 50 Accredited Online Doctorate in School Counseling Programs

Best Online Doctorate in School Counseling Programs Badge

Liberty University

University of West Georgia

University of the Cumberlands

Oregon State University

Adams State University

Hampton University

Regent University

Shippensburg University

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

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How we rank schools

This list examines doctorate programs in school counseling. These programs typically award a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in counselor education and supervision. They may also award a Ph.D. in school psychology, counseling psychology, or professional counseling. We focused specifically on programs that are offered online. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) provides this prestigious accreditation for high-quality counseling programs. CACREP certification is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This list also includes programs that offer accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). This certification lets employers know that the program you participated in is of high value.

What Can You Expect From an Online Doctorate in School Counseling Program?

An online doctorate in school counseling offers a transformative experience for ambitious professionals aiming to reach the top of their field. This rigorous program, spanning three to five years, is designed to equip students with advanced knowledge in counseling practices, leadership, advocacy, and program development tailored to educational settings. Participants study complex topics such as ethical considerations, diversity and inclusion, intervention strategies, and data-driven decision-making to support student success.

A hallmark of doctoral education is the dissertation, a substantive research project that demands students to investigate and contribute new knowledge to school counseling. Some programs may include residencies or internships, providing hands-on experiences in diverse educational environments.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online doctorate in school counseling program

  • Advanced Counseling Theories and Techniques: A common doctoral degree requirement, this course thoroughly examines contemporary counseling theories and their application in educational settings. Students learn to integrate counseling models into practice, tailoring interventions to meet diverse student needs and promoting positive outcomes.
  • Multicultural Counseling in Schools: Focusing on the importance of cultural competence in school counseling, this course explores strategies for effectively working with students from diverse backgrounds. Topics include understanding cultural influences on student behavior, developing culturally responsive interventions, and fostering an inclusive school environment.
  • Leadership and Advocacy in School Counseling: Students learn to navigate the role of school counselors as leaders and advocates within educational systems. The course covers strategies for leading school-wide initiatives, advocating for student needs, and collaborating with stakeholders to create supportive learning environments.
  • Ethical and Legal Issues in School Counseling: Students explore the ethical and legal frameworks guiding the practice of school counseling. This course covers professional ethics, legal responsibilities, and decision-making processes critical to protecting student welfare and ensuring equitable access to counseling services.

Online Doctorate in School Counseling Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online doctorate in school counseling degree program?

To apply for these programs, you must submit a comprehensive application, including a personal statement, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a master’s degree in counseling or a related field.

The personal statement and GRE scores are critical components that reflect your commitment and potential. For the personal statement, focus on articulating your enthusiasm for school counseling, your professional goals, and how the program aligns with your career aspirations. To excel on your GRE, consider enrolling in a test prep program — potentially boosting your scores.

Before submitting your application, it’s crucial to consult with an admissions counselor to understand the program specifics and tailor your applications accordingly.

How much does an online doctorate in school counseling degree cost?

For the 2020-2021 academic year, the average tuition for graduate programs was $19,749. However, online programs may offer financial benefits over in-person options, such as reduced fees for campus facilities and commuting costs. Additional expenses typically include textbooks, virtual learning fees, and any required residencies or internships, which might incur travel and accommodation expenses. It’s essential to factor in these costs when planning your budget, although the flexibility and potential savings on commuting and housing can make online programs a financially attractive option.

How long does it take to earn an online doctorate in school counseling degree?

Earning this degree typically takes three to five years, depending on the program structure, whether you’re attending full-time or part-time, and the dissertation completion time. It’s important to note that these online programs are designed to accommodate working professionals, offering flexibility in scheduling and pacing — which may mean that they may take longer to complete. Some programs may have a set sequence of courses and a timeline for dissertation work, while others provide more autonomy to tailor the duration based on individual progress and commitments.

It’s also essential to consider the program’s total number of required credits when calculating completion time, as this figure can vary by institution. Generally speaking, the more credits required, the longer it will take to complete.

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