Counseling Psychology Ph.D. and MA Degree

Graduate School Planning and Information


What do counseling psychologist do?

Counseling psychology as a psychological specialty facilitates personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns. Through the integration of theory, research, and practice, and with a sensitivity to multicultural issues, this specialty encompasses a broad range of practices that help people improve their well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises, and increase their ability to live more highly functioning lives. Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders.

What is the difference between counseling and clinical psychology?

Traditionally, the main difference between counseling and clinical psychology is their perspective and training. Counseling psychologists focus more on the psychologically healthy individual where clinical focuses on individuals with serious mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia). Counseling psychology has grown out of vocational psychology and has a strong educational component. CP programs are also typically housed in a school of education (though not all of them are). Clinical programs are more medically orientated in nature focusing on treatment of disease, in this case mental illness.

Counseling psychologists are considered to be the generalists, they are trained in a wide variety of basic therapeutic skills. Clinical psychologists are typically focused in one or a few areas (e.g. depression, substance abuse). Counseling psychologists can and do specialize, but their training is focused on a general repertoire of skills. Counseling and clinical psychologists can generally treat the same kind of patients and the overlap between the two fields continues to grow.

What do counseling psychologists do?

Counseling Psychologists do so many things it is hard to give a synopsis. Generally speaking, a counseling psychologist can consult with a variety of agencies (e.g. schools, government, private organizations), teach at the college level (undergrad and graduate levels), do research, therapy (e.g. group, individual, family), hold academic administrative positions (e.g. dean of a college), etc.

Counseling psychologists study and work in a variety of settings. Some areas that counseling psychologists work in and study are:
substance abuse
vocational psychology
child development
adolescent development
adult development/aging
health psychology (e.g. including long term care, AIDS, cancer, etc)
mental illness (e.g. anxiety disorders)
forensic psychology
sport psychology
aggression/anger control
anxiety disorders
interpersonal relationships
community psychology
counseling process/outcome
group processes
crisis intervention
developmental disabilities
eating disorders

Counseling psychologists can work in a variety of settings as well. Many of them include: college counseling centers, private practice, hospitals, private organizations, and government.

What is the difference between MA and PhD programs? Which should I choose?

The major differences between MA and PhD programs is the length of time, clinical experiences, and research. The first thing you need to do is to decide which one is best for you. You can start the process by really thinking about what you want to do with your degree. The breakdown is something like this:

MA in Counseling: You will have quite a number of job opportunities as masters level counselors are cheaper than doctoral level counselors. With an MA in counseling you can work in a variety of settings are are usually supervised by a PhD level psychologists.

An MA in counseling generally takes 2-3 years to complete depending on the program and whether you do it full or part time (some programs require full time, others accept part time students). So it takes considerably less time to complete than an PhD and you are minimally involved in research. A negative though, is that each state has its own requirements for licensing so if you get licensed in one state, you may have to return to school to be eligible for licensure in another. Most programs also do not offer funding for masters students as they do for doctoral students.

PhD in Counseling Psychology: These take about 5 years to complete. Generally you take 4 years for classes, research, and clinical practica, then complete an internship in the 5th year. You also complete a dissertation in the 4th year before going on internship. PhD programs generally require more clinical experience and involvement in research than masters level programs.
As a doctoral level psychologists from an accredited program can typically sit for licensure in any state. A negative here is that, although you are is generally not much money (programs I know of vary from $6000 to $8000 a year) and it can be difficult to live on for that length of time. However, after you earn you PhD you have the highest degree possible in your field and are eligible for a wide variety of jobs.

Which one you choose is very much a personal issue. You need to look at what you want to do with your career and your life and see which options fits in best with your plans. If you need assistance, seek out a career counselor at your college counseling center.

What do I need for admission into graduate programs?

*since my experience is only with PhD programs, that is what I will focus on in answering this question. PhD programs typically require more than MA programs, so if you meet the criteria below, you should be ok for an MA program if that's where you are heading. *

Each graduate program varies with what its admission criteria are. Generally you will need:

   GRE Scores (yep, need to take this test)

   Letters of recommendation (the number can vary from 3-5)

   Good grades (an overall GPA of at least a 3.0 is the absolute minimum)

   Volunteer or paid experience in a clinical setting (even working as a classroom aide for special ed kids fits this requirement)

   Also, some PhD programs will require you to have an MA in counseling or a related field in order to e admitted into the doctoral program (and you can still expect 3-4 years of school before internship even if you enter with an MA in counseling). You should check with the programs your interested in to see if they require an MA first.

   Experience in a research setting (can be done as an undergrad, usually as an independent study class where you work with a professor or his/her grad students on research)

   You want around a 600 or higher on the math and verbal GRE to really have a good shot. Again, schools vary considerably, so you need to contact the schools your interested in to find out specifically what you will need.

   GPA: schools may ask for your overall GPA and your last two years GPA, or even your major GPA. If your GPA wasn't great in the first 2 years of undergrad, but it improved in the last two years...don't worry. Many programs will look more at the last 2 years as they figure you have matured since entering college. Obviously, the higher GPA you have the better shape you are in. Many applicants to PhD programs have at least a 3.5 GPA, so while I said a 3.0 was the bare have a good chance you want around a 3.5 or higher.

 Grad programs are highly competitive so DONT GIVE UP if you don't make it into a program on your first try. Often times, the programs get 100 or more applications for only a few spots and its very difficult to choose which applicant to accept.

How do I find a graduate program?

You can look at the grad program links on this site, search the web for a specific program, or use any number of books that list grad schools.

What should I consider when looking for a grad program?

You will need to consider a number of factors: Distance from home/family, living expenses of the area compared to stipend, if they have anyone there that is doing the type of research/clinical work you want to do, is there social support among the grad students and faculty, is the atmosphere friendly and supportive or cold and distant (and which one you prefer), health insurance, how many practica you have, course requirements, research requirements, will the program allow you to fulfill your goals, etc.

The most important factor is if there is a match between your personality and goals and the personality and goals of the program you wish to enter. Faculty also look for this when they interview you.


What is the difference between a PhD and a PsyD program?

A PhD program is a research based program based on the scientist practitioner model. PsyD programs are sometimes referred to as practioner-scientist model. So what does this mean? Well...PhD programs typically require much more involvement in research than PsyD programs. In a PsyD program you may only work on one project, that being your dissertation.

How do I find out about internships?

Internships are generally one full year and are full-time (40 hours) placements. The APA has a site that lists APA-Approved internship sites and there is also a website called APPIC which gives you information on the matching process and allows you to search for programs meeting certain criteria (e.g. specialties). Links to both sites are listed below. Generally you should have passed your qualifying exam and have your dissertation approved (meaning your committee has ok 'd it and its underway) before going on internship.


Recommended Methods Classes:

Complete Psy 301 (Intro. Research Methods) and Psy 410 (Lab in Exp. Psychology), but

Student may decide to take only Psy 410, if he/she has a strong academic record and

preparations in statistics classes.

Recommended Breadth Classes:

*Psy 350 (Abnormal psych) *Psy331, 332,333 (Developmental Classes) *Psy 380 (Cognitive)

*Psy361(Neuropsych) *Psy340 (Social Psy)

Recommended Elective Classes:

*Psy 499[Research Lab( 2 Semesters)] *Psy452 (Intro to Coun. & Therapy)

*Psy 497[Research Lab(1 or 2 Semesters)] *Psy 370 (testing & Measur.)

Psy 495 [Community Psy (1 or 2 Semesters)]

Other Recommendations:

*Students should consider getting involved in appropriate field experience: volunteering in a mental health institution or in a school with students with learning disabilities. This may be in a volunteer or in a paid basis.

*Show strong preparation in statistical and methodology classes, i.e. As and Bs in statistics, Testing and Measurement, and Experimental Psychology.

*Students need a GPA of approximately 3.5 overall or in all coursework, and a GRE score of around 1200 in verbal and Quantitative combined to be competitive for this graduate program. More prestigious programs require higher scores and masters programs somewhat lower. Lower GREs can sometimes be offset with other accomplishments, e.g. high grades and research productivity.

*Students interested in pursuing a Ph.D should get involved in research programs such as McNair Scholars Program, Career Opportunity in Research(COR), and The Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC). These programs help:

Enhance students graduate school profile

Provide students with mentors in their chosen disciplines

Give information about universities, scholarships, and fellowships

Supply scholars with money stipend to conduct research

Give them the opportunity to publish research

Present their findings at research and professional conferences

MARC Program


Phone: (619) 594-7195

Room Number: GMCS 321C


McNair Scholars Prog.


Phone: (619) 594-1473

Room Number: GMCS 322D


COR Program

Address: 6505 Alvarado RD. Suite 110

Phone: (619) 594-6915







Counseling Psychology graduate school programs in the U.S

* University of California, Santa Barbara *University of Miami *Ohio State Univ.

Graduate studies: graduate programs: Counseling Psychology Program: Counseling Psychology:

programs/programs.php eps/EPSPrograms/CounselEPS/Doctoral



* University of Southern California *Arizona State University *New York University

Counseling Psychology Ph.D program: Ph.D in Counseling Psych.: Counseling Programs:

/programs/cpy1.htm /appsych/counseling_prgms.htm





*Stanford University  *Iowa State University *New Mexico State Univ

Counseling Psychology: Program in Counseling Psychology: Counseling and Educational Psy:

programs/pse_cont.html#counseling ccptp/model.htm /Catalog/dept/cep.htm


*Colorado State University *Purdue University *Washington State Univ.

CSU Counseling Psychology: Ph.D in Counseling Psych: Counseling Psychology:

Psychology/counseling/ psychology/main.html /elcp/copsych.html


* University of Florida *University of Notre Dame *Texas A &M Univ.

Graduate program: Counseling Psy: Counseling Psychology:

/index.htm CPSY/PhDCPSY.html


*Florida State University *Boston College *University of Oregon

Psychological Services: Counseling Psychology: Department of Psy: http://counpsych.uoregon

academics/grad/doctoral/coun_psych.html .edu/degreereq.htm