A degree in school counseling prepares you to address adolescents’ academic and emotional needs. School counselors assist in several aspects of their students’ lives. A student taking full advantage of their school counselor should be able to gain advisement for class scheduling, college prospects, social pressures at school and at home, health education, and other types of factors that play a role in academic success. The program is designed for those who wish to embark on a career in school counseling with the research and advanced courses required of a doctoral program.
Why a Ph.D.?
A master’s degree and requisite certification will suffice for most counseling positions within the elementary and secondary school system, but a doctoral degree allows for more career potential. Having a doctorate in school counseling enables you to teach at a higher education setting, expanding to private clinics, mental health centers, and universities as needed. Those currently working as school counselors via their master’s degree may be subject to promotion or raise as a result of their enhanced skills. Doctoral students place more emphasis on independent research, which makes them better qualified as a whole.
Getting Into a Ph.D. Program
Doctoral programs may be more competitive than lower-level programs, as most schools accept a small amount of students each year. While prerequisites vary depending on the school, most will require:
- A bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field
- Desired GRE scores
- Transcripts from all previously attended institutions
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of intent
Inside a School Counseling Ph.D. Program
A doctoral degree in school counseling can be achieved in as little as three years and as many as six, depending on whether the student has completed a master’s degree beforehand. Nearly all programs include a research component, internship, and a dissertation. While the first few years focus on foundational courses such as statistical methods, counseling theory, and personality assessment, subsequent years delve into topics such as behavioral therapy for children, diversity issues in mental health, and seminars on adolescent supervision. Most programs require the student to declare an area of expertise that coincides with their research and eventual dissertation.
Technology has continued to make learning more accessible for students who can’t attend traditional schools. As an online PhD student, courses are formatted somewhat differently to accommodate remote learning. Courses may be delivered in the form of web videos on YouTube or podcasts downloadable from iTunes. Students may even be able to access their coursework from their mobile phone using the appropriate app.
What’s Next for School Counseling PhD Holders?
A doctorate in school counseling lends itself to a career as a guidance counselor in an academic setting. However, there are plenty of other options that degree holders may consider. While a school counseling degree focuses primarily on counseling for the adolescent population, you may be eligible for hire at universities, private clinics, and other mental health facilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, school and career counselors earned an annual median salary of $53,380 in May 2010.
Additional licensure may be required to counsel in public schools. Some doctoral programs include licensure in tandem with a degree program. However, students should investigate whether or not additional certification is needed before applying for positions.