Earning an online counseling PhD typically means earning a doctoral degree in psychology. Though the PhD is most common, the Psy.D is its equivalent and is now becoming a preferred degree for those most interested in psychology from a clinical practice perspective. No matter what degree is considered, the choice of online counseling program is exceptionally important and may determine the graduate's ability to work in the profession after the degree is earned.
Online schools come in two forms, those that have accreditation and those that do not. An online counseling PhD program that carries accreditation may be harder to find because of some of the requirements necessary to training. Most programs require students to complete a certain amount of practicum or research hours, and these are very hard to coordinate if students live far from the actual school. If programs skip this step, they are very likely to not be accredited, as they miss key areas of inquiry and training that prepare people to get their licenses. It’s therefore extremely important that students research accreditation of a school and verify that any online counseling PhD program is considered just as professional as those at bricks and mortar schools.
Anyone interested in pursuing counseling as a profession should also be aware of licensing requirements that exist after the PhD or Psy.D is earned. Most regional boards have lists of schools that meet their requirements in this respect. If students are unsure, they can always contact a licensing board and verify that a program is accepted as appropriate training for a license. Sometimes an online out of state or out of region school doesn’t meet in-state or in-region requirements.
Once students have verified that online counseling PhD programs are legitimate, they apply to them as they would to bricks and mortar schools. They will usually need a bachelor’s degree in psychology and they may need to take qualifying exams like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Most people need to have a strong grade point average and will require some letters of recommendation from former employers or professors.
After a student has been accepted to an online counseling PhD program, the work takes about four to seven years to complete. The student will need to take required courses and then will progress to more individualized studies. Most programs require a dissertation or research project, which is presented after studies have been completed, and is the basis upon which a PhD is awarded.
It should be noted that there are some online counseling PhD programs that are a hybrid of online and on campus programs. Though people will do most of their studies at home, they may have residency requirements, and need to visit a campus once a month or once every few months to participate in seminars, testing or training. When available, these may be a good alternative for those who can’t find a fully online program that meets all requirements for licensing or that is accredited.