Community Counseling Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a community counseling degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and PhD and potential careers.
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Community Counseling Master's and PhDs at a Glance

A graduate degree in community counseling seeks to train both scholars and practitioners. You will develop skills in understanding and evaluating counseling literature and how best to apply that to your clients. With a graduate degree in community counseling you will be equipped to work at mental health centers, rehabilitation offices, addiction treatment clinics, and family service organizations. With a PhD in this field you will be prepared to teach counselors in academia, lead counselors in a professional environment, and research and publish in your chosen specialty. For either the master's degree or the PhD, it is important to make sure that your school of choice is accredited and that upon graduation you will be accredited within the state that you would like to practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, community counselors most often work in either elementary or secondary schools or in the offices of other health practitioners. The mean annual wage for community counselors is $73,000.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in working as counselors at community counseling centers, schools, or private practices People who want to work in academia as professors or researchers, or in community counseling centers as lead counselors
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - School and Career Counselors ($57,000)*
- Rehabilitation Counselors ($37,000)*
- University Professor ($75,000)*
- Clinical Psychologist ($73,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 3-5 years full-time after the master's
Common Graduation Requirements - 48-60 hours of Counseling Courses
- A year-long counseling internship
- Thesis
- Comprehensive exams
- Practicum
Most (or all) of the master's degree requirements, plus:
- 100 hours of Counseling Courses
- Practicum
- Dissertation
- Internship
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in any field Bachelor's or master's degree in any field
Online Availability Only some classes None at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Community Counseling

A Master's in Community Counseling will prepare you to work in either public or private human service agencies and in private counseling practices. You will be prepared to assess and diagnose clients in a professional setting. You will complete anywhere between 48-60 credit hours, a practicum, and an internship. Depending upon the program, you might have a thesis, a final project, or a comprehensive exam. Community counselors often work in difficult communities and are seen as a first contact with struggling individuals. After you graduate, you will be eligible for pursuing a PhD in a related field.

Pros and Cons


  • You will be prepared for work in community health centers
  • You will be a fully licensed and accredited counselor
  • You will be prepared to work effectively with both individuals and groups
  • You will affect positive change within the communities you are working


  • You will most likely work in difficult communities and situations
  • You will find that tuition is typically expensive
  • You might have a difficult time finding a job as the market for community counselors is often flooded

Common Courses and Requirements

Course requirements for the master's degree are usually comprised of 48-60 credit hours, which are taken over the course of two to three years. You must fulfill both a practicum and an internship requirement. Depending upon the program, you might have a thesis, a final project, or a comprehensive exam.

Examples of courses you might take at the master's degree level:

  • Counseling Skills
  • Professional Issues
  • Theories of Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Human Development

Online Options

There are few online options for community counseling degrees. Some courses might be available dependent upon the program.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

When starting a Master's in Community Counseling it is best to think ahead as to what sort of client you would like work with upon graduation. You will expedite your success in the field if you have located and acquired an internship with a demographic in which you are interested in working.

For example, if you want to work in a multicultural context, then look for a community counseling center at which you can intern that is in a diverse area.

PhD in Community Counseling

The natural continuation of a Master's in Community Counseling is a PhD in Counseling Psychology. There are few programs that have a PhD in Community Counseling proper, though you can find programs with a community emphasis.

PhDs in Community Counseling prepare you to be a leader among counselors. You will lead other practitioners in community counseling centers or teach hopeful counselors at the university level.

To get accepted into PhD programs it is often required that you hold a master's degree from an accredited master's program. You will have to complete 70-98 credits dependent upon your master's program. If you come into your PhD program with a master's degree then you can complete your PhD, normally, within three years. In order to complete your degree, you will also have to complete both a comprehensive exam and a dissertation.

Pros and Cons


  • You will be prepared to both research and teach at the university level
  • You will have more experience as both a practitioner and theorist
  • You will be prepared to participate in programs of assessment
  • You will be prepared to be a leader within your chosen field


  • PhD programs are extremely long and rigorous
  • You may not find work right away in your area of specialization
  • It might be difficult to secure work as a professor without some practical experience

Common Courses and Requirements

Most PhD programs require that you have finished your master's degree; however, some programs have a joint masters and PhD program. These programs are typically five-seven years in length. If you have finished your master's degree before applying to a PhD program, then you can typically finish in three years. You will take anywhere from 70-98 credits in counseling topics in which you are interested. You will also have to complete a practicum, an internship, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. At the PhD level you are required to defend your dissertation.

Examples of courses you might take at the PhD level:

  • Cultural and Diversity Issues
  • Educational Administration
  • Fundamentals of Statistics
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Advanced Counseling Theory and Methods

Online Options

Online PhD programs are very unusual. Any programs that you encounter online may not be accredited, so research any options you encounter carefully.

Stand Out with this Degree

Always make sure to plan ahead with your PhD. You need to know the specific area of practice or research in which you would like to specialize. Make sure to take classes that align with your chosen area of specialization. Likewise, find both a practicum and an internship in a specialization that you find interesting.

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