Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education (PhD)

Note: As of June 2020, no additional students will be admitted to the PhD in Counselor Education program. 

About the program

The primary aim of the PhD in Counselor Education is to educate and prepare doctoral students to serve as college and university-level school counseling educators who can effectively teach and supervise graduate-level students and conduct publishable research and other scholarly work.

Some graduates may seek positions as supervisors/directors of counseling services. Opportunities for co-authoring professional publications are available.

The program’s key emphases are multicultural approaches to school counseling; collaboration with families; implementation and evaluation of comprehensive school counseling programs; and the intersection of counseling and spirituality.

As such, this doctoral program emphasizes both cutting-edge counselor education theory and research. Best practice and supervisory skills are included as well. The program follows a low-residency model, with courses being offered online during the regular academic year with an on-campus component in summer. 

Leadership colloquium and comprehensive exams

After approximately one year, or 24 credits of coursework, you may register for EDU 7990 Leadership Colloquium. This requires you to write a scholarly paper and present that paper in a formal setting to the educational community.

Graduate faculty of the School of Education conduct an evaluation of the scholarship and colloquium. You must take the Leadership Colloquium before taking the comprehensive exams.

Upon completion of all courses, you must pass two written comprehensive examinations. These examinations will cover the foundations and research components of the core course requirements. Successful completion of the comprehensive examinations advances you to doctoral candidacy.

The dissertation

The doctoral dissertation is the culminating experience in the PhD in Counselor Education degree. It is a scholarly inquiry into an area of professional and intellectual interest, and it is a highly individualized experience.

Working with faculty throughout the coursework and with a dissertation advisor, you will develop a research question and proposal. Using the expertise and knowledge developed in the research courses and under the direction of a faculty dissertation advisor and committee, you will conduct the research and produce a quality report of the findings. As a final demonstration of scholarly competence, you will conduct an oral presentation and defense of the research.

While it is expected that the dissertation will follow standard accepted research methodologies and format, the topic of the research may vary depending on professional goals, area of specialization, and the expertise of the faculty.

Grade point average

A minimum 3.2 overall GPA is required for graduation.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the items listed in the application procedure section below, admission decisions are based on the following:

  • Master’s degree in school counseling, mental health counseling, counseling psychology, marriage and family therapy, or a related counseling discipline. Preferable: ESA (School Counseling) certification.
  • Experience (two years is preferable) in school-related counseling and educational service.
  • Personal interview with two graduate-level counselor education faculty members.

Application requirements

Submit the following items to Graduate Admissions:

  • Online application and $50 application processing fee.
  • Official transcripts documenting excellent undergraduate and graduate GPAs from an accredited institution where an academic degree was conferred. Include post-master’s degree graduate coursework.
  • Personal statement (no more than 500 words)  expressing your professional plans, goals, and focus of study, as well as a rationale for pursuing a PhD in Counselor Education.
  • GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores taken within five years of application.
    • On the former GRE exam, preferred minimum combined score of 1200
    • On the revised GRE exam, preferred minimum scores of Verbal Reasoning: 153 and Quantitative Reasoning: 152
  • Four recent letters of recommendation, including two academic and two professional recommendations.
  • Writing sample that demonstrates graduate-level writing skills.
  • Résumé.

Following the submission of all of these items, your file will be reviewed by the core graduate faculty. You will be contacted regarding the status of your application, and to schedule an interview, within approximately two weeks.

All correspondence regarding the interview process will be carried out by email using the address you provide in the application. Please set your email filters accordingly.

Enrollment policy

  • Students must be continuously enrolled in required SPU courses to earn this doctoral degree, or until officially withdrawing from the program. Exceptions to continuous enrollment must be approved by the program director.
  • Students may be granted a leave of absence for up to four quarters by the program director. Once the leave of absence has expired, the student will either enroll in graduate coursework or be dropped from the program.
  • University academic policy requires continuous enrollment to remain admitted in a graduate program. After four quarters of non-enrollment, students will be placed in “inactive status” and will need to reapply for admission.
  • If a student decides to no longer pursue a doctoral degree, the student may officially withdraw from the program and SPU by notifying the program director and the associate director of graduate programs.

    Degree completion

    You must complete all requirements for the doctoral degree within five years from the quarter the first post-admission course was taken. Students who need more than five years to complete the degree must file a time-extension petition with the director of doctoral studies.


Admissions materials should be directed to Graduate Admissions. If you have questions about graduate education or certification programs:


School of Education Graduate Programs