Is a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology Worth it – (Pros VS. Cons)
Written By: Brooke Schmidt, RN, BSN
Do you have a bachelor's or master's degree in psychology or another related field? Are you interested in a career where you can counsel clients and help them deal with life's challenges? If so, a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is an excellent career to pursue. Maybe you thought of this career path but wondered, "Is a Ph.D. in counseling psychology worth it?”
In this article, I will share information with you about this specialized degree and offer you 25 reasons why a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it and also 7 reasons why it may not be the right degree for you to consider. When you finish reading, you can weigh the pros and cons and decide if this is the career path you want to follow.
WHAT IS A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE?
A Ph.D. in counseling psychology is a doctoral degree that prepares you to become a counseling psychologist or work in academia as a faculty member or researcher. It is also the highest degree you can achieve in psychology. The degree is comprised of research, clinical practice, and academic work that together provide you with the extensive amount of knowledge and experience necessary to be a Ph.D. degree holder.
HOW LONG DOES A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE TAKE?
Earning any Ph.D. degree can be a lengthy process requiring a long-term commitment. The time it takes to complete a Ph.D. in counseling psychology depends on whether you enter it with a bachelor's or master's degree.
For example, completing your degree at the University of North Dakota
will take you four to six years. At Lehigh University
, you can expect to earn your Ph.D. in counseling psychology in four to five years. The University of Akron
has an average length of completion between six and seven years for graduates of their Ph.D. program.
HOW MUCH DOES A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE COST?
In addition to the time commitment, a Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree can also be expensive. Programs can cost as little as $40,000 to more than $175,000. The cost of the programs is something you should consider carefully when researching potential schools.
At Columbia University- Teachers College
, the Ph.D. in counseling psychology program requires you to complete 90 credits. The per-credit tuition cost is $1,913, which makes the program’s tuition cost $172,170. You will also pay a mandatory college fee of $498 per semester.
The University at Albany
charges per-credit tuition based on whether you are a resident or non-resident student. In-state students pay $608.72 per credit, and out-of-state students pay $1,100.72. The program features an 81-credit hour curriculum, costing resident students $49,306.32 and out-of-state students $89,158.32.
also charges tuition based on a student’s residency status. The per credit fee is $577 or $1,731 for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively. This makes the 97-credit program’s tuition cost between $55,969 and $167,907. All students pay an $892 student service fee each semester in addition to the tuition.
WHAT ARE THE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS FOR A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE?
Admission criteria for Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs may vary from one program to the next. Therefore, it is necessary to verify the requirements of each school before applying. Standard admission requirements apply at most schools and include the following.
• Complete an online application
• Provide a copy of your resume
• A written letter of intent, statement of purpose, or other introductory letter explaining why you want to pursue this degree
• Official transcripts from your previous undergraduate and master’s programs
• Previous GPA of 3.0 or above
• 2-3 professional letters of recommendation
• GRE test score
• Academic writing sample
• Complete any required prerequisites before the start of the program
WHY IS A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY WORTH IT? – THE PROS
(The following are the 25 reasons why a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology is worth it in 2023.)
REASON #1: You will earn the highest degree possible in your field.
One of the top reasons a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it is that you will hold the highest possible degree in your field. This will earn you professional respect and allow you to be held in high esteem among your colleagues. Knowing you achieved the top tier of education will give you a sense of accomplishment.
REASON #2: You will have more career opportunities.
Earning a Ph.D. in counseling psychology paves the way for excellent career opportunities. You may choose from university, hospital, and private practice settings. Having a specialized Ph.D. makes you an excellent candidate for the jobs you want.
REASON #3: You can work in research.
A Ph.D. in counseling psychology creates opportunities to pursue research in psychology. This degree sets you apart from other candidates, as you will be prepared to perform research and analyze data at the doctoral level. Employers prefer Ph.D.-prepared candidates, as they can feel assured the work you do will meet high-quality standards. So, if you want to go into research, a Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree is worth it.
REASON #4: You can provide care for people with severe or complex psychological disorders, making a difference in their lives.
The specialized training, including coursework and clinical practicums, will prepare you to become a care provider for individuals experiencing complex or severe psychological disorders. Your knowledge and skills can be instrumental in improving patient outcomes.
REASON #5: You can earn a generous income.
One of the biggest reasons why a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it is the potential for earning an excellent income. Graduates of Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs earn an average of $84,000 yearly!
REASON #6: You will earn the credentials that make you eligible for leadership positions.
Ph.D. degree holders are recognized for their academic study and expertise, which often leads to leadership roles. With a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, you could lead committees or organizations or become a department chair at a college or university. Through one of these roles, you can influence decisions and have a wide-reaching impact on others.
REASON #7: You can directly influence patient outcomes.
A Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it if you strive to create and implement ways to improve psychological care and how it is delivered. Through your research, academic contributions, and clinical practice, you can directly influence patient outcomes. No matter which career track you choose, with this degree, you can make a positive impact on others.
REASON #8: You can care for people across their lifespan.
A Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it if you want to work with people of all ages and not be focused on only one part of the lifespan. While you can choose to work with a specific population, you will have the knowledge and training to care for people of all ages.
REASON #9: You can open your own practice.
With a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, you can choose to open your own psychology practice. You can provide consultation services or simply offer counseling services. You can specialize your practice to offer individual, couples, family, or addiction counseling. You can even offer services to adolescents or children if that is your passion.
REASON #10: You can become an author and write a book.
Ph.D. degree holders often share their knowledge and experiences by becoming published authors. Having credentials will improve your credibility and authority with the readers. Psychology professionals desiring to become published authors believe this is one of the top reasons why a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it.
REASON #11: You can pursue a career path involving public or motivational speaking.
Motivational speakers often hold doctorate degrees and use their knowledge to inspire and motivate others. Your counseling psychology Ph.D. will allow you to speak about many topics, including human behavior, mental health, overcoming barriers, and more. The credibility a Ph.D. in counseling psychology brings could make you a sought-after speaker.
REASON #12: You can develop specialty mental coaching programs.
As a doctorate-level psychologist, you will have the knowledge and skills needed to design programs and courses that deliver mental coaching services. Mental coaching is commonly used by athletes to help improve their performance. Mental coaching programs can also be targeted at people who suffer from substance abuse or addiction to help them recover and prevent relapse.
REASON #13: You may be able to get your school paid for.
A Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it if you want to earn a graduate psychology degree without spending all your hard-earned money. Many Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs offer students work-study and research assistant roles which can help reduce educational debt. Not only can you save a substantial amount of money, but you will also gain practical experience that can help you land a job after graduation.
REASON #14: You can help meet the growing demand for mental health care services.
Now more than ever, society is becoming more aware of the importance of mental wellness. Issues like the COVID-19 pandemic have caused an increase in mental illness and psychological crises, making the demand for mental health care providers greater. You can help meet this demand by using your degree to teach psychology students, contribute to research, or work directly with patients.
REASON #15: You will gain a deeper understanding of human behavior.
If you want to dive into the complex world of human behavior and what drives people to make the decisions they do, then a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it. Ph.D. programs provide the highest level of knowledge you can obtain and teach you the skills you will need to understand human behavior.
REASON #16: You can work one-on-one with patients.
Another one of the top reasons why a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it is you may choose to work one-on-one with patients. While you have the option to work in many areas of psychology, a Ph.D. in counseling psychology allows you the opportunity to provide services to individuals on a one-on-one basis. Patients looking for high-quality or specialized care will seek you out for counseling services.
REASON #17: You can complete a dissertation that distinguishes you from others in your field.
As a part of your Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree program, you will complete a dissertation before graduating. Your dissertation can be a culmination of your educational experience and research. Dissertations require a great deal of work. Your dissertation is something you can provide as a work sample and an example of your ability to research and write at a doctoral level. It can set you apart from other graduates competing in the same field if you receive awards or special recognition for your work.
REASON #18: You can pursue a tenure track in academia.
If your career goals include becoming a tenured professor, a Ph.D. in counseling psychology can help you achieve your goals of working in higher-level academia.
REASON #19: A Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology offers a positive job outlook.
One of the biggest reasons why a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it is the job outlook is positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
, psychologist jobs are expected to grow by 6% between 2021-2031. Knowing you will have a job in a growing field is always helpful.
REASON #20: You can work to bring better services to underserved communities.
Many parts of the world lack access to basic health services, not to mention scarce access to quality mental health services. By choosing to practice in rural or underserved communities near where you live or around the world, you can help bring better services to underserved populations.
REASON #21: You can provide crisis intervention services.
With a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, you can fulfill a critical role on a crisis intervention team. By helping individuals during a crisis, you can help reduce the risk of harm your clients may inflict on themselves or others. Your highly specialized skills can increase the chance that someone is safely removed from a situation and receives the care they need to recover.
REASON #22: You want the title of Doctor.
A Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree is worth it if you want to hold the title of doctor but not obtain your M.D. or complete medical school. Being a Ph.D. or Doctor of Philosophy is a prestigious title.
REASON #23: You enjoy the college experience.
If you love attending school and enjoy the college experience, earning your Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology is worth it. Since you will spend an additional four to six years earning your degree, it will allow you extra time on a college campus. You can extend your time on campus even further by becoming a faculty member.
REASON #24: You can work with veterans or other military service members.
Due to the nature of their work and the stress placed on them throughout their service, veterans and other military service members need high-quality mental health care. If you are passionate about working with this specialized group of people, earning your Ph.D. in counseling psychology is definitely worth it!
REASON #25: You want to improve how mental health services are delivered.
If you have ever been frustrated by how mental health services are delivered within facilities or to specific populations, this degree is an excellent option. One of the biggest reasons why a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it is that you can use your degree to create and implement policies. These policies can change and improve how mental and behavioral health services are provided to patients in need.
WHY A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY MAY NOT BE WORTH IT FOR YOU? – THE CONS
(Now that we have discussed the 25 reasons why a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology is worth it, I want to share a few reasons why you could feel a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology is not worth it.)
REASON #1: Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs can be expensive.
If you do not receive financial aid or participate in a work-study or paid internship, you may feel the cost of a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is not worth it. You must consider the cost of tuition, fees, books, and other related expenses.
REASON #2: Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs take a serious time commitment.
Earning your Ph.D. in counseling psychology can take four to six years or longer to complete. If you need to work or have other commitments outside of school, you may not have time to devote to the program.
REASON #3: Admission to Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs is competitive.
If you are worried about the quality of your application or struggled during your bachelor's or master's degree, a Ph.D. in counseling psychology may not be the right choice for you. Due to the limited number of students accepted each year, the program can be competitive.
REASON #4: You do not like research.
As a student in a Ph.D. in counseling psychology program, you will actively participate in research with university faculty and/or preceptors. Many schools require a certain number of hours focused on research. If research is something you do not like or are not interested in, then a Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree is not worth it.
REASON #5: The job market for Ph.D. in counseling psychology graduates is competitive.
Just like you might face competition getting into your program, you could face competition again when applying for some jobs. There are usually a limited number of spots for professors and even fewer spots for achieving tenure. If you have one specific job in mind after earning your degree, it may not be worth it to pursue this Ph.D.
REASON #6: You have poor writing skills and no desire to improve.
From research papers to a lengthy dissertation, you will spend a lot of time writing in a Ph.D. in counseling psychology program. If this is not something you enjoy or you have poor writing skills, choosing a degree with fewer written requirements may be a better fit.
REASON #7: The job you get could be emotionally taxing.
Working as a psychologist, either directly with patients or in research, can expose you to a lot of emotional turmoil. People experiencing mental health dysregulation can be upset and difficult to work with. Pouring over data and reading patient records or testimonials can also be taxing and create an emotional burden.
WHAT ARE THE 3 MAIN REASONS BEHIND THE DEMAND FOR PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE HOLDERS?
There is a steady demand for Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree holders in various settings and positions. The following are three of the main reasons for the demand.
1. Increased need for school psychologists:
Elementary and secondary schools often employ psychologists to ensure the mental health needs of students are met. As more children are diagnosed with mental health disorders, the demand for professional counseling psychologists, like graduates of Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs, will continue to grow.
2. The impacts of the pandemic and other global issues:
In recent years, the number of people diagnosed with mental health conditions has increased. This increase has been attributed to the pandemic and other pressing global issues such as war, poverty, and other human rights concerns. To meet the increased demand of patients with these new diagnoses, we need more qualified counseling psychology Ph.D. degree holders.
3. Employers are offering free or reduced-price mental health services:
More employees are accessing their mental health benefits and seeking services. This increase is partially related to large companies that now cover or subsidize the cost of counseling or psychology services. As a result, the demand for psychologists who can oversee and run these employer-funded programs is increasing.
WHAT IS THE STARTING SALARY FOR NEW PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE HOLDERS?
The starting salary for new Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree holders is $39,630 per year. This pay is equal to $19.05 per hour, $762 per week, or $3,300 per month.
WHAT IS THE AVERAGE SALARY FOR EXPERIENCED PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE HOLDERS?
The average salary for Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree holders is $84,000 per year. This pay is equivalent to $40.38 per hour, $1,615 per week, or $7,000 per month.
IS THE COST OF A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE WORTH THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)?
Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs can be expensive, especially if you do not have financial aid. As you contemplate whether to pursue this degree, comparing the cost of the degree to your earning potential can help you decide if the cost is worth it. Some of the most expensive Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs cost around $175,000. The average income for graduates is $84,000 per year. If you compare the salary to the cost, you can clearly see a positive return on your investment within just a few years.
Additionally, many professionals with this degree have jobs with excellent benefits, which makes the compensation package worth more than just the annual salary. With these factors in mind, it is safe to say the cost of a Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree is worth the return on your investment.
WHAT ARE THE 3 BEST JOBS YOU CAN GET WITH A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE?
There are unlimited opportunities for great jobs when you earn a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. The following are three of the best jobs you can get with the degree.
1. Substance Abuse Counselor:
Substance abuse counselors provide counseling and support to individuals experiencing alcohol or drug dependency. This role involves educating clients about the effects of drug and alcohol use and ways to identify and avoid triggers that could cause relapse. Additionally, substance abuse counselors educate families and loved ones about ways to help individuals in the recovery process.
2. School Counselor:
As a school counselor, you may work to design and implement counseling programs aimed at improving student outcomes. In this role, you will advocate for students, collaborating with teachers and staff to promote education equity and access to educational opportunities.
3. Psychology Professor:
If you enjoy teaching others and want to impact the psychology profession, a job as a psychology professor could be an excellent option. Psychology professors prepare and deliver course content to psychology students, preparing them for careers in psychology and related fields. As a psychology professor, you will initiate and moderate classroom discussions, evaluate student progress, and stimulate student engagement.
BONUS! 3 TIPS TO MAKE MORE MONEY WITH A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE?
After spending a long time in school and possibly a lot of money on your degree, here are three ways to maximize your Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree and make more money:
1. Develop and sell self-help material:
As a counselling psychologist, you can use your research and academic writing skills to develop and sell self-help books, e-books, or prerecorded videos. This can be a great way to make more money while still working at your full-time job.
2. Offer telehealth services:
Offering telehealth services allows you to see and treat more patients than in a traditional office setting. It can also help people who live too far from a psychology clinic access services. Either way, seeing more patients equals making more money.
3. Move to a higher-paying state:
The amount of money you make can depend on the state where you live and work. If you want the same job, but simply want to make more money, you could consider moving to an area with higher earning potential.
SO, IS A PH.D. IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY WORTH YOUR TIME AND MONEY – MY FINAL THOUGHTS
If you are considering earning a doctoral degree as a counseling psychologist, it is natural to wonder, “Is a Ph.D. in counseling psychology worth your time and money?” The truth is, only you can decide if this degree is worth the time and money you will spend. If this career path interests you, the 25 reasons why a Ph.D. in counseling psychology is worth it and also 7 reasons why it may not be the right degree for you featured in this article are something worth considering to help you decide. Remember, there is no limit to what you can do with a career in psychology. So, if you feel this is the right path for you to accomplish your goals and dreams, go for it!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED
1. What Is The Best Age To Pursue A Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree?
There is no perfect age to pursue a Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree. Most students begin these programs in their mid-20s to early 30s. However, if you do not fall within that age range, don’t let that hold you back!
2. How Hard Is It To Get Into A Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Program?
It can be challenging to get into this specialized Ph.D. program. The number of students who can be admitted is limited to the number of available and qualified faculty members. Some programs admit as few as five students per year.
3. Do I Need Work Experience To Get Into A Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Program?
While most of these programs do not specify that you need work experience, it is a competitive program, and any relevant work experience may help you gain admission.
4. What Is The Minimum GPA To Get Into A Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Program?
Most schools require applicants to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 to get into a Ph.D. in counseling psychology program.
5. Are Online Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Programs Worth It?
If you need flexibility in scheduling or do not live near a college campus that offers this degree, an online program could be an excellent option. Remember, most Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs require a practicum and research hours that will need to be completed in person.
6. Are Scholarships And Grants Available For Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Programs?
Yes, there are many grants and scholarship opportunities for Ph.D. in counseling psychology students.
7. Is It Hard To Complete A Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree?
Ph.D. programs are notorious for being difficult and taking a long time to complete. You will want to make sure you are up for the rigorous course schedule and effort it will take to earn your degree.
8. Can Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Students Have A Life?
Completing a Ph.D. can be time-consuming, but you can still have a life! Plan your academic and personal time carefully, and make sure you set aside time for self-care.
9. Can I Work Part-Time And Successfully Complete The Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Program?
Yes, you can work part-time and successfully complete a Ph.D. in counseling psychology program.
10. Can I Work Full-Time And Successfully Complete The Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Program?
Working full-time while in a Ph.D. in counseling psychology program is possible but may not be recommended. You will have a rigorous courseload and clinical practicum that require a lot of time. Be sure to consider your options for part-time enrollment if working full-time is necessary.
11. Do Students Fail In Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Programs?
Some students do fail in Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs.
12. Will I Ever Regret Getting A Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree?
Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree holders report a high job and career satisfaction rate. However, whether you will regret earning the degree is something only you can decide.
13. How Much Does A Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Graduate Make Per Hour?
Graduates of Ph.D. in counseling psychology programs typically make $40.38 per hour.
14. How Much Does A Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Graduate Make Per Year?
The average annual salary for Ph.D. in counseling psychology degree holders is $84,000.
15. Will Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Graduates Be Paid Less In The Future?
The field of health care and especially mental health, is growing quickly, creating a demand for qualified mental professionals. Because of this, it is more likely that you can expect to be paid more in the future instead of less.
16. Are All Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Graduates Successful In Their Careers?
There is a chance that Ph.D. in counseling psychology graduates could be unsuccessful in their careers. However, do not base your likelihood of success on someone else’s performance and success. If you want this career bad enough and work hard, you can succeed!
17. Are Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Graduates Happy With Their Jobs?
According to the American Psychological Association
, doctorate-level psychologists report they are satisfied with their jobs more often than non-doctorate psychologists.
18. Can Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Holders Become Rich?
Ph.D. degree holders typically make more money and can reach the top of their pay scale over their careers. Depending on what career you choose, some people might say your salary could make you rich.
19. What Are Some Of The Best Ph.D. In Counseling Psychology Degree Alternatives?
Alternative degree options for a Ph.D. in counseling psychology include a master’s in social work or a Ph.D. in psychology
with no specialty.
Brooke Schmidt, RN, BSN
Brooke Schmidt is a registered nurse with 10 years of clinical experience. She is currently living in Oregon and enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest with her family. Brooke graduated from The University of Portland with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. During her time in school, Brooke developed a passion for geriatrics and chose a specialized practicum to gain further experience with this population.