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Graduate Degree Programs in Counseling Psychology Overview

Majors Overview December 31, 2015

This article talks about graduate degree programs in counseling psychology and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Information on Counseling Psychology Degree Programs

Enrollees in master’s and doctoral degree programs in counseling psychology are prepared for careers as individual, community, and family counselors. Hands-on clinical studies in psychology and research in counseling methods are combined to train graduates for professional certification or state licensure.

Master’s level students learn about assessing and treating patients. They learn about addiction and group counseling techniques while training for private practice. The focus of doctoral students is on research, and, in addition to a dissertation, practicum and internship requirements are completed by students. Most states’ licensure norms for those wishing to work as a clinical psychologist include a doctoral degree as the primary academic requirement for licensure. Continuing education opportunities are available through the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Master of Science (M.S.) Programs in Counseling Psychology

A counselor might treat individuals suffering from psychological disorders; alternatively, therapeutic services may be provided to people who have suffered trauma or abuse. Counselors also treat families experiencing conflict or married couples on the verge of divorce. Students learn about the ethical behavior of a professional counselor and how to meet the emotional needs of communities and individuals. A strong background in human development is available through studies in psychology; students learn about evaluating and treating patients from studies in counseling. This research-intensive program strongly emphasizes social justice, advocacy, and community health. Evaluation by students of their belief systems and better awareness of their weaknesses and strengths are expectations.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. They must also submit a statement of purpose essay, a resume, three references, and Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores. Additionally, applicants must have completed a minimum of 18 hours of behavioral science undergraduate coursework.


Coursework covers statistical analysis, research methods, and counseling theories. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Group counseling
•Developmental psychology
•Addiction counseling

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2012, 103,590 individuals in the United States were employed as counseling, clinical and school psychologists (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, these professionals are expected to see a 22% job growth. In 2014, these workers brought in an average annual wage of $74,030 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates who seek continuing education can opt for professional certification in numerous areas, such as school counselor certification that a state licensing agency issues. A doctorate is a requirement for most careers in psychology; consequently, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program in Counseling Psychology can be pursued. State licensure as a board certified psychologist is only available to holders of at least a Ph.D.

Ph.D. Programs in Counseling Psychology

Enrollees can specialize in an area of focus such as women’s issues, social justice, human development, family counseling, or health psychology. A research mentor guides student research by helping students to zero in on an area of focus and providing academic support. Quantitative and qualitative research are expected to be performed by students in order to showcase that they can apply research findings in assessing and treating patients and in advancing psychology as a scientific area of study. An internship, a dissertation, and a counseling psychology practicum are completed by Ph.D. candidates.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree and, in some instances, a master’s degree in a related field of study from an accredited school, apart from an outstanding academic record. Additional criteria include the submission of a resume, a scholarly writing sample, GRE scores, and a statement of purpose.


Coursework in this research-oriented program requires students to spend considerable time crafting their research portfolio and dissertation. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Trauma studies
•Behavioral science
•Family therapy
•Developmental psychology

Career Choices

Counseling psychologists can seek careers in various settings, such as community health organizations, private practice, and state and local government agencies. They may also choose from possible job positions such as:

•Substance abuse counselor
•Mental health counselor
•Marriage and family counselor
•School psychologist

Continuing Education Choices

State licensure eligibility norms for a board certified psychologist include a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) holds an exam that must be passed to obtain state licensure; certification in 13 different specialties is available through ABPP. Given the continual expansion in the field of psychology owing to scientific research, annual conferences and continuing education opportunities are available for professional growth by the American Psychological Association (APA).

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