Online Graduate Programs in Counseling Psychology

Online graduate programs in counseling psychology are diverse and unique and students may need to consider the differences before choosing a program. Here we discuss some degree options and what sets them apart.

Several online graduate programs in the field of counseling psychology and counseling are available to prepare students for counseling careers. Although these programs are online, it is fairly common for them to require hands-on experiences and/or residencies. Compare and contrast the requirements for a few different online degree programs.

Types of Online Graduate Degree Programs in Counseling Psychology

Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Depending on the program, Master of Science (MS) in Counseling Psychology degree programs may require anywhere around 33 to 62 credits and be completed in 1 to 2 years. Some of these programs may offer self-paced courses that are completely online and/or courses in hybrid formats that require interactions online. Some of these programs may also be designed to prepare students for licensure as a therapist or counselor, while others are designed as continuing education programs for students who are already licensed or wish to pursue licensure at a later date. Students in these programs may be required to complete a comprehensive exam and/or practicum experience and some programs may provide electives and additional courses for students to focus their studies in a particular area or pursue additional concentration, like an optional Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) concentration, but typically students will take core courses in areas like counseling theory and techniques, statistics, ethics and more.

Master of Arts in Counseling

Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling programs are available with online coursework, but these programs may require short, on-campus residencies and usually include hands-on learning through practicum and/or internship experiences. These programs are also available in flexible full- or part-time formats, may total close to 60 credits and may take 2.5 years or more to complete. Graduates of these programs may be prepared to take the National Counselor Exam and some programs may offer additional specializations, like a child and adolescent specialization, and/or a faith-based perspective if taken from a private institution. Courses for these programs may discuss topics in research, psychopathology, group counseling, assessment and marriage and family counseling.

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling and Psychological Studies

Students can pursue online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counseling and Psychological Studies with an emphasis in research or online PhD in Counseling programs. These programs typically do not prepare students for professional accreditation, but further advance students in areas of counselor education, advanced practice, counselor supervision, research or psychological science. Credit hours for these programs vary greatly, some programs may offer a faith-based perspective and some programs may require short, on-campus residencies. Some of these programs may require a capstone course, a dissertation and/or multiple hours of field experience and course topics may include supervision, research, statistics, assessment/evaluation and advanced theory.

Common Entrance Requirements

Most online graduate programs in counseling psychology require applicants to have a minimum GPA between a 2.5 and 3.5, but other education requirements vary with most master's programs requiring a bachelor's degree and doctoral programs requiring a master's degree specifically in counseling, psychology or a related field. Most doctoral programs also require students to have a specific amount of work and/or volunteer experience and some programs may require students to have completed a clinical internship. These graduate programs also usually require a variety of ID, licensure and/or criminal background check requirements due to the nature of the field. Applicants to these programs are likely to need to submit their official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement/essays and a resume. Some programs may also ask for writing samples and/or require an interview process.

Students can pursue master's or doctoral degree programs in the field of counseling psychology online, but some of these programs may include brief, on-campus requirements. Some of these programs prepare students for professional licensure, while others do not.


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