Ranking 20 Best Graduate Programs in Counseling Psychology

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By Kristen Fescoe
Published November, 2015

While psychology remains one of the top majors at many colleges and universities, each year fewer students pursue graduate training in this major. This is largely due to a sweeping shift in the way mental health services are being delivered throughout the United States. In the past, mental health services were traditionally provided by a doctoral level Psychologist or a Psychiatrist with a medical degree. With changes to healthcare, managed care and insurance coverage, these positions have changes to graduate level positions (and in some cases bachelor’s degree holders), with many of these positions reserved for those who have earned a graduate degree in the field of counseling or counseling psychology. A graduate degree in counseling is a specialized professional degree where students learn both in the classroom, as well as in the field to become professional counselors. Some of the available degree options include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling Psychology
  • Master of Education in Counseling Psychology
  • Master of Science (MS) in Counseling
  • Master of Science (MS) in Counseling Psychology

The curriculum for these various programs cover the major areas of counseling and mental health services so these professionals can effectively treat both mental illness as well as individual struggling with personal difficulties.

Ranking Methodology

This ranking list was formulated to outline the very best graduate level programs in counseling psychology in the United States according to a combination of several ranking factors. Also noted are additional achievements, awards and benefits of each program.

The system controlling how points are awarded is as follows.

Accreditation

In order to be included in this ranking list an appropriate ranking body must regionally accredit each college or university. Those schools that have received additional accreditation are given an edge over schools without the stamp of accreditation.

Points:
Each Accreditation: 1 Point

Degree Options

Those schools that offer both a master’s and doctoral level degree offer more flexibility for students to earn their degree. This added flexibility earn schools additional points.

Points:
Master’s and Doctoral Level Degree Options: 1 Point

College Ranking

The next consideration was whether or not a school has been granted acknowledgement by a national ranking body. The major source of such national notoriety comes from the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Best Counseling Psychology programs and Study.com’s listing of the Top 10 Counseling Psychology Degree Programs in the United States. Also evaluated was the US News and World Report ranking of the best graduate programs in psychology in the United States.

Points:
Social Psychology Network Ranking
Top 5 / Top 10 / Top 25
3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point

Study.com Counseling Psychology Ranking
Top 3 / Top 5 / Top 10
3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point

US News and World Report Best Graduate Psychology Program Ranking
Top 50 / Top 100 / Top 150
3 Points/ 2 Points/ 1 Point

Annual Cost of Attendance

Finally, the overall annual cost of attendance was entered into the weighting process. Preference was given to those schools with the lowest average graduate student tuition and fee rates per academic year. For the purposes of awarding points, the rates included in the point tabulation were in state annual tuition and fees (out of state rates are listed). Tuition and fees data was provided by the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator Tool.

Points:
Average Annual Cost of Graduate Attendance
< $10,000 / $10,001 – $13,000/ $13,001 – $15,000
3 Points/ 2 Points/ 1 Point

Grading Process

Once the points have been tallied the schools are arranged into groups by the amount of points they have earned. In the cases of ties, preference was given to those schools with the best tuition rates. The main purpose of this list is to highlight the top graduate programs in counseling in the United States. Specializations, awards and achievements earned by the school or department have also been noted.

Ranking Top 20 Graduate Degree Programs in Counseling

#20 – Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, Illinois

Southern Illinois University Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 5

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology offered at Southern Illinois University is considered a traditional “Boulder-model program” that uses a balanced emphasis that includes half science and half practice. The program offers interested graduate students a balanced training experience with the chief goal of the development “of the student as both a scientifically sophisticated researcher and an interpersonally skilled counselor”. Upon graduation, students are qualified to provide high quality services, to critically evaluate services, to develop new intervention approaches, and to contribute to the field of counseling psychology by way of research, teaching, and training. The careful integration offers students an academic experience where they develop as a student both interpersonally as well as scientifically. Typical students applying to this program are bachelor’s degree holders with a desire to earn their Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology, however there are instances of master’s degree holders being admitted into the program (however these students are generally required to repeat a substantial amount of coursework). Students are exposed to a variety experiential learning opportunities. Course work and additional experiences (such as statistics and research design, thesis and dissertation) are involved in the students’ development of scholarly competencies. Additional experiences built into the curriculum (such as practica, group facilitation, supervision, advanced treatment planning) are more directly involved in the students’ development as practitioners. All students are required to complete a training assignment each semester of their four years of residence. Training assignments are designed to supplement formal course work by requiring twenty hours of work per week in professional activities such as counseling, teaching, research, and administrative work. Underlying the entire training program is a “spirit of critical inquiry which is the hallmark of the psychologist”.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $13,128 in state / $27,312 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#15 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#153 Best National University
#83 Top Public School
#141 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#19 – University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign – Champaign, Illinois

University of Illinois Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 6

The College of Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology and Co-terminal Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The Graduate Counseling Psychology (CPP) degree program supported by the College of Education and Illinois has been accredited by the American Psychological Association since 1985. The program is rooted in the scientist-practitioner orientation that aligns closely with the practice of counseling psychology. In this model research and practice are seen as both interdependent and complementary to one another. The research portion of the field is considered to be a central and vital element of the program. Those students with a strong interest in psychological research, pursuing academic appointments, and combining research and practice are given priority in admissions decisions. The core faculty enlists students to engage in research relevant to assessing and understanding behavior, with an effort to apply “systematic, culturally sensitive, research-based approaches to issues related to vocational psychology, racial attitudes and beliefs, and cultural competence”. Students in this program have a unique opportunity to work with affiliated faculty and other faculty within the University of Illinois system. This program offers extensive training and experiences in quantitative research methodology, and opportunities are available for additional training in qualitative and mixed methods research.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $17,745 in state / $30,419 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#11 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#41 Best National University
#11 Top Public School
#7 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#18 – Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado

Colorado State University Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 6

The College of Natural Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The doctoral level program in Counseling Psychology at Colorado State University is another strong program grounded in the scientist-practitioner model of training. In keeping with this model, the overall goal of the program is “to produce students who are capable of advancing psychology as a science and who are proficient in the use of a variety of counseling and clinical techniques”. In order to meet this goal, students must demonstrate excellence in three rudimentary areas of practice and study:

Psychological Theory – One of the most fundamental aspects of being a counseling psychologist is possessing a comprehensive understanding of the theoretical basis of psychology. The breadth of knowledge in general psychology is acquired through completion of the core curriculum which typically includes topics such as human learning and memory, animal learning, personality, social psychology, measurement, history of psychology, physiological psychology, developmental psychology, neuropsychology, and statistics. The core curriculum also provides a conceptual framework of research, scholarship, and the developmental of skills in assessment and intervention.

Research – The second element that students are expected to become familiar with is the understanding and good use of research in the field. To meet this goal, students must complete courses in both basic and advanced statistical and methodological concepts. Research involvement is required at the doctoral level and is strongly encouraged throughout the program. Students are encouraged to join faculty in ongoing research endeavors that pair well with their specific interests.

Assessment and Intervention – Doctoral candidates being their training during the first year of the program and continues over the course of four to five years, culminating in a year long internship placement. To prepare for this placement students must complete important course work in personality theory, developmental theory, testing, psychopathology, and counseling/psychotherapy theory to provide the foundation for a conceptual understanding of problems, life circumstances, and intervention strategies. Students are also expected to develop and pursue an area of specialization. For example, a student might choose a child specialty and include courses in child assessment, child interventions, and school consultation.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $10,925 in state / $24,097 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#20 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#127 Best National University
#61 Top Public School
#101 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#17 – University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, Minnesota

University of Minnesota Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 7

The College of Liberal Arts

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology degree program at the College of Liberal Arts offers students a comprehensive foundation in the science of psychology that includes a strong empirical-research viewpoint of counseling psychology. The program implements a strong emphasis on:

  • Social psychological approaches to issues which are considered relevant to the practice of counseling (such as stressful life events, interpersonal relationships)
  • Multicultural issues related to mental health and counseling
  • Vocational psychology and work adjustment

The program recognizes and works to describe the constantly evolving demographics in modern society, the increasing globalization of the world in which we live, and the need for both pertinent research and mental health services to address these societal and global shifts. The program is carefully designed to be respectful and understanding of the value of cultural and individual diversity in society including, “diversity related to age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, national origin, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, and social economic status”. The faculty and staff maintain a commitment to encouraging equity and diversity in the enrollment, retention, training, and professional development of counseling psychology faculty and students with the goal of preparing faculty, students, and future graduates to address the multicultural concerns of people around the world.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $16,853 in state / $25,075 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#8 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#69 Best National University
#25 Top Public School
#9 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#16 – University of Texas – Austin, Texas

University of Texas Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 7

The College of Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The University of Texas at Austin College of Education is home to one of the longest continuously APA accredited Counseling Psychology programs in the United States. The “scientist-practitioner” based training program prepares doctoral level psychologists for “work with both specific and general problems of human behavior in the context of a range of social processes and systems”. The faculty strives to train students for groundbreaking professional and intellectual careers within the fields of social science, human service, or social and community endeavors. The goal is to instill a commitment to diversity and range of settings, theoretical perspectives, and research opportunities. Counseling Psychology students are expected to acquire competencies in the following four goals, laid out by the Department of Counseling Psychology:

  • Develop counseling psychologists who are sophisticated researchers and scholars, able to critically integrate research literature and to design and conduct methodologically rigorous empirical studies
  • Develop counseling psychologists who are well prepared to enter applied practice
  • Develop counseling psychologists who are socially responsible and ethical
  • Develop culturally competent counseling psychologists who are aware of their own attitudes, values, beliefs, and biases, and how they may impact their professional activities

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $10,878 in state / $20,698 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#26 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#52 Best National University
#16 Top Public School
#14 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#15 – Iowa State University – Ames, Iowa

Iowa State University Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 7

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State offers a doctor of philosophy degree in counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychology Program upholds an historic commitment to a scientist-practitioner model that provides dual emphases “to the acquisition of scientific knowledge and research skills, along with the development of professional competencies in counseling, assessment, and supervision”. This commitment to balancing science and practice is seen throughout the integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum that includes student research, classroom instruction, and applied activities starting in their first semester and continuously throughout the program. The specialization in counseling psychology also focuses on a broad generalist training to allow for flexibility in the development of programs of study, enabling students to tailor their courses, practica, teaching and scholarship to their specific interests and aspirations. In keeping with the counseling psychology identity, the program emphasizes science and practice activities that increase strengths, aide in personal development, fosters durable coping skills, and increases awareness of cultural and individual differences from an expands the multicultural perspective that is consistent with the ethical guidelines provided by the American Psychological Association. These values are foundational to the innovative training model and are infused throughout all aspects of the training program. All of the course work, seminars and practicum experiences are designed to increase awareness, tolerance and respect for personal and individual differences and to endorse compassion to the influence of culture, religion, gender, and sexual orientation on persons and their behavior. Among the many unique strengths of this program are:

  • Opportunities for active research mentoring
  • Acquisition of teaching competencies
  • Exposure to diverse practica experiences
  • Many experiential opportunities are available to gather the skills and experiences required for a career as a scientifically based practitioner in an applied setting or as a scholar in an academic or other research setting

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $9,027 in state / $21,841 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#29 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#108 Best National University
#52 Top Public School
#78 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#14 – University of Akron – Akron, Ohio

University of Akron Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 7

The Department of Psychology – The School of Counseling

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology and Dual Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The University of Akron offers a collaborative degree program in Counseling Psychology, supported by both the Department of Psychology and the School of Counseling. This program was initiated in 1983 and maintains accreditation by the American Psychological Association. The program is unique in that it employs an “apprenticeship model” to provide students with a solid generalist background in Counseling Psychology to allow the academic experience to suit a diverse range of needs and career goals. Because the program is collaborative by nature, the breadth and the depth portions of the two supporting departments offers motivated students opportunities to develop various specialty interests. Students have a choice of entry points based on whether the currently posses an undergraduate or master’s degree.

The Department of Psychology offers a 5-year Master of Arts/Doctor of Philosophy (MA/PhD) program in Counseling Psychology program, which is geared toward students who currently possess a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Students who possess their master’s degree in counseling, guidance and counseling, psychology, school psychology, or a related field may choose to enter through the School of Counseling at the College of Education. This is a 4-year program the leads to the Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology.

Regardless of which path is chosen, there is a strong emphasis placed on a scientist-practitioner model of training. In addition to the basic fundamental areas of psychology, students are expected to gather competencies in the areas of theory, research, and practice of Counseling Psychology. Academic preparation includes theories of psychotherapy, supervision, diversity issues in counseling psychology, vocational psychology, testing theory and practice, research and statistics, and professional issues. Active research participation and publication in scientific journals are greatly encouraged throughout the department. Graduates of this program typically seek out academic teaching, research, and training positions, as well as positions in counseling centers and other mental health agencies.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $8,966 in state / $14,364 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#18 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#158 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#13 – New York University – New York, New York

New York University Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 8

The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at NYU offers a doctoral degree program in the exciting field of counseling psychology. The program focuses on developing students’ comprehension and utilization of modern theories and practices in counseling psychology. Courses such as abnormal psychology, mental health counseling, theories of personality and women and mental health are some of the research-intensive courses that comprise this program. The PhD program in Counseling Psychology was first registered with the New York State Department of Education for the professional preparation of psychologists in 1971. Since the programs inception, graduates of the program have been considered fully qualified psychologists with specialized training in counseling and eligible for licensure by the state. The goals of the program, as stated by the department, is to:

  • Produce graduates who are knowledgeable regarding current clinical theory
  • Produce graduates who understand adaptive and maladaptive human functioning across the lifespan
  • Produce graduates who are prepared to function as multi-faceted and multi-skilled professionals in a wide range of roles as counseling psychologists
  • Produce graduates whose professional identity is that of a counseling psychologist and who are able acquire additional knowledge appropriate to this specialty
  • Produce graduates who have attained awareness, knowledge, skills, and attitudes to work effectively with, and conduct research, about the lives of individuals from diverse backgrounds, particularly in urban settings
  • Produce graduates who have developed a high level of ethical sensitivity and behavior in their professional roles as researchers and practitioners
  • Produce graduates who are knowledgeable about the research process and the creation of new knowledge

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $39,648
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#2 on Top 10 on the Study.com Top Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#32 Best National University
#30 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#12 – University of California – Santa Barbara, California

University of California Santa Barbara Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 8

The Gevirtz School – The Graduate School of Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The Graduate School of Education at the Gevirtz School supports the Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology Degree program with the goal of preparing graduates to be qualified for positions in academia and research. A secondary goal is to prepare psychological service providers who will both provide direct service to their clients while also exerting influence over the field of professional psychology through teaching, research, and leadership. There are three substantive areas of counseling, clinical, and school psychology that traditionally reflect service areas and employment settings for graduate of this program. These include:

  • Counseling Psychologists traditionally focus on life-adjustment problems and career development and work primarily in university counseling centers, Veterans Administration hospitals, and community agencies.
  • Clinical Psychologists traditionally focus on the evaluation and treatment of clients with acute or chronic mental disorders and have worked in mental health centers, mental hospitals, and psychiatric units of general hospitals.
  • School Psychologists traditionally focus on the evaluation, prevention, and treatment of students related to developmental challenges and have worked primarily in Pre-12 public and private schools.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $13,115 in state / $28,217 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#7 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#37 Best National University
#8 Top Public School
#40 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

#11 – Virginia Commonwealth University – Richmond, Virginia

Virginia Commonwealth University Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 8

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology and Co-Terminal Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The specialty area of Counseling Psychology is offered as a specialization within the healthcare psychology program. The training model used in this program is a Scientist-Practitioner-Leader program. What underlies the entire program is scientific psychology where students train to become scientists, leaders, and professionals for employment within the community and the profession of counseling psychology. “Excellence, innovation, and forward thinking” characterize the esteemed faculty as well as graduate students throughout the program. The counseling program has the vision of acquiring a national reputation for leadership among counseling psychology programs in the area of counseling health psychology. The program is working hard to move the field of counseling psychology toward innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to science and service provision, while preserving the field’s core . The program endorses a motto that is consistent with VCU itself, “Innovation is our Tradition.”
The department has outlined that in order to graduate from this program, graduate students must show excellence in:

  • The integration of research, practice, and leadership
  • Basic and applied research
  • Contemporary modes of providing doctoral-level service
  • Leadership in science and in the profession
  • Cultural competence in research, practice and leadership

While there is no terminal master’s degree offered at the counseling department, some students opt to secure their Master of Science in Counseling Psychology as a part of their doctoral training program.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $12,399 in state / $23,232 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#10 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#156 Best National University
#84 Top Public School
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#10 – Arizona State University – Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona State University Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 8

The College of Letters and Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology and Master of Counseling

Program Website

Students pursuing their counseling psychology degree at the College of Letters and Sciences have two options available. The first is the 60-semester-hour Master of Counseling (MC) program, which prepares students to become professional counselors. There is a strong emphasis on training practitioners who will be culturally competent to work with diverse clientele in a variety of community settings in Arizona and other states. Graduates are license-eligible in the state of Arizona.

The second option available to students is the doctoral program in counseling psychology. This program closely adheres to the scientist-practitioner training model in preparing graduates for employment in academic or direct service-delivery settings. While faculty interests are diverse, there is a common focus on empirical data as the basis for professional practice. The program faculty has endorsed the Multicultural Counseling Competencies of the American Counseling Association and the Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists and Guidelines for Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients of the American Psychological Association. Worth noting is that the counseling psychology program was a recipient of the 2006 Suinn Minority Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association for its commitment to ethnic minority issues in psychology.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $11,303 in state / $26,733 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#9 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#9 – University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia

University of Georgia Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 8

The College of Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The College of Education at Georgia offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology program that allows students to explore human and behavioral psychology across the lifespan while learning to facilitate individual and systemic change, multiculturalism, and social justice. This program uses the scientist-practitioner model in order to combine science and practice through course work, clinical training, assessment, service, and research. The program is fully accredited by the American Psychological Association, and upon graduation students are license-eligible as a psychologist in all states. The curriculum is designed to help students develop advanced competency in both research and applied practice. Graduates have gone on to pursue careers as health service psychologists in teaching, research, or direct health services. The program emphasizes a “strengths-based approach” to understanding human and social experiences that can help prevent and potentially solve the biopsychosocial problems of individuals, couples, families, groups, and organizations. Coursework focuses on the core discipline of psychology and the applied discipline of counseling psychology. The PhD program includes:

  • Supervised clinical training in psychotherapy
  • Training in psychological assessment
  • Training in the biopsychosocial framework
  • Both a publishable paper project and a dissertation
  • A full-year internship

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $10,334 in state / $25,634 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#25 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#61 Best National University
#21 Top Public School
#52 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#8 – University of North Texas – Denton, Texas

University of North Texas Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 8

The College of Arts and Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Texas confers a doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology. This program works to develop well-rounded professional psychologists by offering them a robust training program in an inclusive and student-oriented community. In order to do so, the department offers the following opportunities to students:

  • Build competencies in numerous areas, including self-awareness, psychological assessment and multicultural counseling
  • Cultivate a deep understanding of scientific methodology
  • Gain experience in the profession
  • The PhD degree prepares you for work as an independent professional in a research, academic or applied setting

Students are trained to become professional psychologists in the broad context of the scientist-practitioner model. This training occurs through course work, practica and research, as well as through many informal learning opportunities that occur while working closely with faculty members and peers. The model focuses on applying the scientific principles of psychology and the perspectives, values and emphases of counseling psychology to:

  • Help individuals identify and resolve difficulties in life or promote growth to enhance their sense of self, relationships, work satisfaction, performance or general well-being
  • Effectively serve as psychotherapeutic agents for persons with severe problems in personal adjustment, distressing psychological symptoms or mental illness
  • Increase understanding and appreciation of individual and cultural diversity and their fundamental relevance to psychology
  • Provide instruction in the scientific and practice activities in counseling psychology and the symbiotic relationship between them
  • Train counseling psychologists as scientists with the expertise that allows them to make contributions to the scientific community and think as scientist-practitioners no matter their career paths

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $7,165 in state / $13,281 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#6 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#141 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#7 – University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida

University of Florida Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 9

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida offers a doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology. This program is just one of the five innovative training programs offered at the Department of Psychology. Counseling psychology is a general psychological practice and health service provider specialty in professional psychology that focuses on:

  • Personal and interpersonal functioning of individuals across the life span
  • Emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns
  • Typical or normal personality and the experiences that contribute to and limit its development
  • Amelioration of situations and conditions that lead to atypical or disordered development

Counseling psychologists are trained as scientists, scholars and practitioners, and are qualified to work in a wide range of occupational settings. Upon graduation from this program, students will have a better societally based understanding of:

  • Career development and vocational behavior
  • Individual differences (including racial, cultural, gender, lifestyle, and economic diversity)
  • Psychological measurement and principles of psychological/diagnostic and environmental assessment
  • Social and organizational psychology
  • Human life span development
  • Consultation and supervision
  • Personality and psychopathology
  • Learning (cognitive, behavioral)
  • Research and evaluation methodology
  • Individual and group interventions (counseling/psychotherapy)

Students will also learn to be efficient human service providers they are skilled in the skilled application of fundamental principles derivative from social, differential, developmental and vocational psychology. Counseling psychology are trained to:

  • Provide assessment and diagnosis services in individual, family, group, systems, and organizational settings
  • Develop effective interventions to remedy problems that occur in individual, family, group, systems, and organizational settings
  • Help clients experiencing physical, social, emotional, vocational, educational, developmental, and organizational disorders to improve their well being, alleviate their distress and maladjustment, and resolve their crises
  • Professional preparation for the specialty of Counseling Psychology occurs at the doctoral and postdoctoral level

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $12,682 in state / $29,247 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#17 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
Top 10 on the Study.com Top Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#47 Best National University
#14 Top Public School
#40 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#6 – State University of New York – University at Albany – Albany, New York

SUNY Albany University Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 9

The School of Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology and Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Program Website

The Division of Counseling Psychology is located in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at the School of Education. Students seeking training in the exciting area of counseling psychology have two graduate level degree programs to choose from. First is the Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. This program has recently been accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC), making SUNY Albany the first program in the country to receive this prestigious accreditation. The 60-credit program has been approved by the New York State Office of Professions and leads to a license in Mental health Counseling. The strong curriculum fulfills all requirements for becoming a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York. In addition to the traditional academic curriculum, students learn to further develop their clinical skills working with a wide variety of clientele. Clinical practice sites include the full range of mental health services and agencies. The focus of this training program is to provide top-notch supervision, diversity training, and the monitoring of in-session behaviors in order to further professional development. Students in this program will participate in practicum and internship experiences. Those students who are at the undergraduate level can benefit from the Bachelor’s/Master’s program in mental health counseling for University at Albany undergraduates who are psychology majors.

The second graduate level degree program in counseling psychology is the doctor of philosophy in Counseling Psychology. This program provides an interdisciplinary scientist-practitioner training model, combining scientific discipline and counseling psychology as an area of professional specialization. The program involves full-time study with a minimum of 76 credits in courses, seminars, practica, internship training, and dissertation. The required curriculum encompasses four basic areas:

  • A professional core in counseling psychology (including theory, research and practice in areas of intervention, assessment, and career development)
  • Supervised practica
  • Research design, measurement, and statistics
  • Core psychology coursework

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $11,611 in state / $21,431 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#4 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#129 Best National University
#62 Top Public School
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC)
The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSACSC)

#5 – University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska

University of Nebraska Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 9

The College of Education and Human Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska is another nationally recognized school offering multiple degree programs in the study of counseling psychology. The first program offering, the Master of Arts in counseling psychology has two additional tracks or areas of specialization available to student, including:

  1. Community counseling
  2. School counseling

Students are admitted to one of these tracks when they are accepted into the program. The community counseling track requires an average of 2 ½ years to complete, depending on the number of courses students elect to complete per semester. The school counseling track is designed to be completed in 2 years with most classes offered during summer sessions, as most school counseling students are full time teachers and attend the program only part-time. School counseling students are admitted as a cohort group.

The second option is the PhD in Counseling Psychology. The UNL Counseling Psychology program emphasizes the scientist-practitioner model of training. Students learn from a carefully designed curriculum in fundamental areas of psychological and behavioral science to provide students with foundational concepts they will need for the effective practice of psychology and the ability to conduct psychological research. The required core courses provide students with a foundation in the discipline of psychology and meet a variety of accreditation and credentialing standards. Students are introduced to psychological investigation through integrated course sequences in statistics, measurement, and research methods that are mandatory for completion of a doctoral dissertation. Students are also required to participate in doctoral research seminars, where they receive mentoring in the collaborative settings that research groups offer. The doctoral seminar affords students the opportunity to become actively involved with research other than their own dissertation research. All doctoral students are expected to attend the program full time and they are strongly encouraged to complete their course requirements during the first three years in the program, complete their dissertation and apply for internships during the fourth year, and spend their fifth year on internship. Doctoral students must minimally complete full-time residence on campus for three years with a fourth at a pre-doctoral internship site.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $8,350 in state / $21,085 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#16 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#103 Best National University
#47 Top Public School
#78 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#4 – University of Maryland – College Park, Maryland

University of Maryland Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 10

The Department of Psychology – The Department of Counseling, higher Education and Special Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The Counseling Psychology degree program at the University of Maryland is a collaborative program jointly supported in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education and the Department of Psychology. This program is one of the oldest in the country and has been continuously accredited by the American Psychological Association since 1953. Through independent evaluations over the past three decades, the university has maintained a spot among the top ranked counseling psychology programs in the United States. The faculty represents a broad range of research interests, including psychotherapy process and outcome research, multicultural psychology, vocational psychology, and interpersonal relationships. The program is designed to train students for academic, research, and practice careers at the doctoral level. The program is grounded in the scientist-practitioner model, which highlights the strength of a balanced approach to training in research, practice, and their integration. In order to support this model, the department works to foster a positive environment that trains students in generalist psychology as a behavioral science, while also enabling students to become efficient in conducting research and providing counseling. Students receive rigorous training through a variety of educational methods, including:

  • General psychology courses
  • Small counseling psychology seminars
  • Research
  • Applied counseling experiences with intensive personalized supervision

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $12,326 in state / $24,854 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#2 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#57 Best National University
#19 Top Public School
#40 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSACSC)

#3 – University of Kansas – Lawrence, Kansas

University of Kansas Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 11

The School of Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology and Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

MS Program Website
PhD Program Website

The University of Kansas School of Education is home to two nationally recognized graduate programs in counseling psychology. The first is the 60-credit hour Master of Science in Counseling Psychology degree program. This program prepares students aspirant for careers as professional counselors or counseling-related fields or those individuals hoping to proceed to the doctoral level. The curriculum provides a broad and general introduction to Counseling Psychology theory, research and clinical practice. Some of the strengths of the master’s level program include:

  • A required practicum in a counseling setting, generally in NE Kansas or the Kansas City metro area
  • The ability to seek licensure in most states throughout the United States (however additional coursework may be required)
  • The program is typically completed in two years but may be completed on a part-time basis

The second option for those students seeking a graduate education in counseling psychology is the doctoral level program offered by the School of Education. Founded in 1955, the doctoral level counseling psychology program prepares generalists who are ready to engage in an assortment of activities ranging from clinical treatment to academic research. This variety and balance is reflective of a “scientist-practitioner” model. The curriculum prepares clinicians who will be capable of applying the most efficient and current theory and research to their clinical practice, and academicians who are grounded in the realisms of clinical practice. While the goal is to prepare students to assess and treat the full range of disorders that psychologists address, the additional emphasis as counseling psychologists is upon personal, social, and career development of the whole person, and upon enhancing the environments in which people learn and work. Students learn to critically evaluate traditional approaches, to evaluate, design, and conduct research, and gain clinical experience working with people of diverse cultural backgrounds and worldviews. The program, which includes an internship placement in professional psychology, is intended for full-time students, and generally is completed in five to six years.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $9,614 in state / $21,287 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#24 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#115 Best National University
#55 Top Public School
#40 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#2 – University of Iowa – Iowa, City, Iowa

University if Iowa Best Graduate Counseling Psychology DegreePoints: 12

The College of Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Program Website

The College of Education at the University of Iowa provides two excellent degree options for students interested in a career in counseling psychology. First, the Masters of Arts program in counseling psychology provides students with training in the philosophies, research, scholarship, and principles that provide foundational insight into the practice counseling psychology. The training program is an academic program with a curriculum that is predominantly a presentation of theories and research (comprises 70 percent of the curriculum). Students also have the opportunity to participate in the in-depth investigation of case-studies, the development of case conceptualizations, and live demonstrations (comprises approximately 30 percent of the curriculum). Through rigorous study, students gather culturally appropriate and relevant psychological interventions, strategies, and remediation to work directly with people in order to effectively solve problems, respond to client situations, and plan for the future. Graduates of this program are qualified to apply for doctoral programs in professional psychology and counseling fields, such as clinical, counseling, or school psychology as well as counselor education, rehabilitation counseling, and school counseling.

The second degree option in this fiend, the Doctor of Philosophy in counseling psychology, was granted full accreditation by the American Psychological Association in 1983. The program’s goal is to “prepare counseling psychologists who will promote psychology as a science and contribute to the advancement of the profession”. The faculty throughout the department uses a scientist/practitioner model of training and expects students to become competent researchers and proficient practitioners. Graduates from this program find positions in a variety of settings, including higher education, counseling centers, clinics, private practice settings, and hospitals.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $9,687 in state / $26,569 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#5 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#82 Best National University
#34 Top Public School
#30 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#1 – University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri

Points: 14

The College of Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology, Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and Master of Education in Counseling Psychology

Program Website:

Topping the list of the best counseling psychology graduate degrees in the country is the three degree options offered at the University of Missouri’s College of Education. The faculty found throughout Missouri’s counseling psychology department have held 14 editorships at major counseling journals, 12 presidencies of national counseling organizations, and received 16 national service awards since 1948. The mission of the University of Missouri’s Counseling Psychology Program is to “educate highly skilled, culturally sensitive professionals who adhere to the scientist-practitioner model and can conduct socially and globally relevant research, as well as teach and practice effectively in diverse domestic and international educational, public, and private settings with individuals of all ages and circumstances”. The degree options available at the graduate level include:

Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Master of Education in Counseling Psychology

The counseling psychology program strives for distinction in the balance of practice, science and diversity. The training program is based in the scientist-practitioner training model, which enables student growth through professional identification. The department is strongly committed to multicultural and cross-cultural competence and social justice, which helps to maintain the strong values of mentoring and apprenticeship. It is expected that all students and faculty will work together to create a climate of safety and trust and to abide by the counseling psychology training program’s values statement. The counseling psychology degrees available at the College of Education are centered on education. In addition to the Master of Arts in counseling psychology, interested students can pursue a Master’s of Education in sports psychology, career psychology and school psychology. Doctoral students can also pursue a specialization in sports psychology.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $9,431 in state / $22,938 out of state
Social Psychology and Study.com Ranking:
#1 on the Social Psychology Network Ranking of Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
#1 on the Study.com Top Counseling Psychology Programs Ranking List
US News and World Report Ranking:
#103 Best National University
#47 Top Public School
#52 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

Opportunities for a Graduate Degree in Counseling

An increasing number of students are taking advantage of the many colleges and universities offering graduate level training in counseling and counseling psychology. By earning a counseling degree from a fully accredited institution, graduates can move directly into a career as a fully qualified professional counselor in a number of areas ranging from School Counseling to Marriage and Family Counseling. What this means is that in as few as two years motivated students can enter into a meaningful career helping those in need. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, a licensed practical counselor earns a median salary of $40,850 with the highest percentage of counselors earning upwards of $67,000 annually. Those with several years of experience can earn even more annually. Completion of a graduate degree in counseling can help students more toward a career in one of the most exciting and expanding mental health fields. A Graduate degree in this area qualifies you for a career in specialty fields like School Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling, Addictions Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling or Career Counseling.

About the Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, also in Philadelphia. After a few years in the field she accepted a teaching position at a local college where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.

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