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Courses Required for a Doctorate in School Counseling & Psychology

by Teresa J. Siskin

Doctoral degrees in counseling psychology, typically involving at least five to six years of full-time study following the completion of a master’s degree in the field, prepare you to work as a counseling psychologist in a variety of clinical settings, including schools and universities. Knowing the mandatory courses and additional degree completion stipulations can help you stay on track for a desired career in school counseling and psychology.

Prerequisite Courses

Doctoral counseling psychology programs mandate you complete an introductory course series in the field to prepare you for advanced study and research. These courses, on topics such as lifespan human development, assessment strategies for counselors, or counseling theories and practice typically must be completed within your first year and can be waived if you enter the doctoral program already having completed a master’s degree in counseling.

Counseling Psychology Core Courses

Concentration or major area courses develop your understanding of counseling psychology methods and approaches. Counseling psychology course requirements include areas such as psychological appraisal, cultural diversity and mental health or professional issues in counseling psychology. Added to these are courses that establish knowledge in the general field of psychology, on topics like cognitive neuroscience, social psychology or pediatric psychopathology. Some programs also request a course in urban educational psychology to prepare for future work within an urban school.

Research Courses

Also required are courses that expose you to the field’s research methods and prepare you to meet the demands of on-the-job practica and internships later on in your studies. These courses commence with introductory topics, such as general linear methods, and progress into advanced research-based course work, involving subjects like measurement and psychometric theory, multilevel modeling or qualitative research methods.

Additional Requirements

You will also need to participate in pre-doctoral supervised practica and internships within clinical settings prior to degree completion. The practica can be spread over several years of your doctoral coursework and give you initial hands-on exposure to working as a counseling psychologist. Your internships are either one year full-time appointments or part-time positions spread across two years in clinical locations approved by the American Psychological Association and can be initiated only after you have successfully passed your qualifying exams and defended your dissertation proposal. Completing your internship and your dissertation, which should present an original research contribution to the field, will be the capstone to your degree. Additional requirements are necessary if you wish to become licensed. These requirements vary by state, and while many states mandate licensing to be a practicing school psychologist, some states do exempt those working in a postsecondary setting from having to gain licensure.

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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