Doctor of Human Services: Counseling Degree Overview

Oct 16, 2019

Doctoral programs in human services offer students an advanced education in counseling. While enrolled, students learn about counseling specializations in other related departments.

Essential Information

Students gain clinical training through internships and/or practicum experiences. These programs allow for some flexibility through research opportunities and independent studies, but students are typically required to develop and write a dissertation. It typically takes 2-3 years of full-time study to complete a doctoral program in counseling. These programs generally prepare graduates for licensing as counselors, although requirements vary from state to state.

Ph.D. in Human Services

Most doctoral programs request that applicants have a master's degree in counseling or a related field from an accredited program. Programs may also require applicants to have a certain GRE score and GPA. Professional accomplishment and work experience are other factors that may be considered.

Doctoral students may be allowed to choose elective courses for their own independent studies in addition to required coursework. Students may also have the opportunity to intern and gain work experience while working towards their PhD. Specific coursework may include:

  • Educational research
  • Multicultural development and learning
  • Theoretical counseling foundations
  • Multiple aspects of rehabilitation
  • Cognitive development
  • Foundations of counseling

Job Outlook and Salary Information

Individuals with a doctorate of human services in counseling are qualified to work in a number of fields and services, including school and career counseling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that educational, guidance, career and vocational counselors were expected to see a job increase of 8% from 2018-2028 ( In May 2018, the BLS reported that the mean annual salary for these professionals was $56,310.

Certification and Licensure Information

Licensing requirements vary by state and by type of counseling. The BLS states that counselors who run a private practice are required to be licensed, a process that includes passing an exam and amassing a certain number of supervised practice hours. In order to remain certified, counselors must meet continuing education standards. Additionally, voluntary certifications are available. In some states, the National Certified Counselor credential, which is offered through the National Board for Certified Counselors, exempts an individual from having to obtain a license (

Prospective students with a master's degree in a counseling-related field are eligible to apply to a counseling Ph.D. program. These programs will provide students with the opportunities to pursue intensive research in specific areas pertaining to the counseling profession.

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