Best Doctorate in Student Affairs and College Counseling Programs

Check out our guide to learn more about the best doctoral programs in student affairs and college counseling.

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by Staff Writers

Published on July 26, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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A doctoral program in student affairs and college counseling can prepare graduates for careers supervising other counselors and performing research in the field. Each program in this broad field is unique. Some programs include a focus on counseling psychology, while others delve deeper into higher education and student affairs, preparing graduates for careers as academic deans and provosts.

Career prospects are enticing for doctorate-holders in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2021, postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual wage of $96,910, more than double the median annual wage for all occupations.

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Ready to start your journey?

True program costs for doctoral programs in student affairs and college counseling vary, as each program includes a different focus. Going to graduate school and choosing to pay the related costs is a major decision. This guide to the best doctorate in student affairs and college counseling programs can help you can decide whether or not there's a program that fits your needs and goals.

Best Accredited Doctorate in Student Affairs and College Counseling Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Brigham Young University-Provo

School Information
Location Provo, Utah
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 78%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
Latter-Day Saint | $467
Non-Latter-Day Saint | $934

Credits to Graduate
128

Program Information
Program Accreditation | American Psychological Association

Based in Provo, Utah, BYU offers a Ph.D. program in counseling psychology that provides all students with at least a partial scholarship during their first four years of enrollment. Over the course of the program, students complete a practicum through BYU's Counseling and Psychological Services and a year-long internship at an American Psychological Association-approved placement site. 

Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation and need a minimum undergraduate GPA of at least 3.4. 

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The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

School Information
Location Knoxville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $639
Out of State | $1,650

Credits to Graduate
74

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Based in Eastern Tennessee, UT Knoxville offers a Ph.D. program in counselor education that prepares practicing counselors to advance into supervisory, professorial, and research roles in the field. The 74-credit curriculum includes a significant research component, as well as a dissertation. Notable courses include a practicum, an internship, a residency component, advanced multicultural counseling, and advanced theory and practice of counseling. 

The program gives preference to applicants with a minimum GPA of 3.5 on previous graduate coursework and strong GRE scores. 

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University of Iowa

School Information
Location Iowa City, Iowa
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $349
Out of State | $349

Credits to Graduate
90-93

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Based in Iowa City, UI offers a Ph.D. program in educational policy and leadership with a focus in higher education and student affairs. The program awards quarter-time and half-time assistantships, and all students who receive them also receive full tuition scholarships. Notable core courses in the program's curriculum include finance in higher education, history of higher education, diversity and equity in higher education, and college students. 

Prospective students must submit a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. 

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Popular Online Student Affairs and College Counseling Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Doctorate in Student Affairs and College Counseling ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We identified 3 schools that qualify for our ranking, listed in alphabetical order. The programs in our list are based on the following criteria.

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Student Affairs and College Counseling Programs

Is a doctorate in student affairs and college counseling worth it?

The value of any degree is subjective and depends on your individual goals and circumstances. Nevertheless, for many students, a doctorate in student affairs and college counseling is ultimately worth it.

For students who aspire to supervise counselors, perform research in the counseling field, or work as an academic dean or provost, a doctoral degree in student affairs and counseling is a necessary step. Most of these positions require terminal degrees, and you can learn the skills you need to be successful in the field during these programs.

What can I do with a doctorate in student affairs and college counseling?

What you can do professionally after earning a doctorate in student affairs and college counseling depends on the specific program you graduate from. For example, after graduating from BYU's Ph.D. program in counseling psychology, you can perform research in the counseling field or supervise other counselors. After graduating from UI's Ph.D. program in higher education and student affairs, you can pursue academic dean and provost roles at colleges and universities.

Since doctoral degrees are terminal degrees, you can usually pursue some sort of managerial, supervisory, academic, or research role after you graduate.

How long does it take to get a doctorate in student affairs and college counseling?

Since each program is unique in terms of focus and requirements, completion times for doctoral programs in student affairs and college counseling can vary widely. However, in most cases, you can expect to earn your degree in 4-7 years.

The element that most heavily impacts completion times in doctoral programs is the dissertation. Some students can spend multiple years on their dissertation since they must perform a significant amount of research and writing. Research each program's dissertation requirements to determine the most accurate completion time estimates.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in student affairs and college counseling?

Individual salary potential varies widely and depends on several factors, including location, employer, industry, and experience. According to the BLS, as of May 2021, postsecondary education administrators earned a median annual wage of $96,910.

The BLS also found that as of May 2021, postsecondary teachers made a median annual salary of $79,640, while clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earned a median annual wage of $78,200. In most cases, doctorate-holders in student affairs and college counseling can likely expect to earn wages just short of six figures with some experience.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a doctorate in student affairs and college counseling?

The highest-paying job for graduates with doctoral degrees in student affairs and college counseling is likely postsecondary education administrator. According to the BLS, as of May 2021, these professionals made a median annual salary of $96,910. The top 10% of earners made more than $190,770 annually.

Keep in mind that salary potential varies based on several fluid factors, and no single degree, not even a terminal degree, can guarantee you a specific job or salary.

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