Pathways for doctorates

Learning how to research provides skills in evaluating practice and services, extending knowledge, and extends writing and critical thinking skills. It can also lead to opportunities to become recognised as an expert in your research area, and enhance employment opportunities in higher education to work as a lecturer. To work in higher education, generally there is an expectation that one is studying for, or has completed, a doctorate. If a student or practitioner is considering this, they should consider available options. There are several pathways to undertake research training and projects. 

Counsellor qualifying training

Entry into the counselling profession typically involves taking a Bachelors or Masters degree in counselling. Both of these qualifications are typically practice focused, and while there will usually be an introduction to research, and in some courses, there may be a research project.  If the research project is substantial enough, and the student performs well in their grade, they may be eligible to apply to study a research doctorate. If it does not have a substantial research project, the student may need to take on additional studies post graduation. 

The following list shows accredited counselling courses that have a substantial research project that may* enable progression to a doctoral course.  If a course is not listed it does not mean it does not have a substantial research project. You might want to contact the course coordinator to check. It is not exhaustive and not in any specific order:

* Recognition will depend on what research supervisors and/or doctoral entry requirements will accept.  

What are options for gaining entry into a doctoral course?

To gain entry into a doctoral course, you will need to ensure you have completed a substantial research project in prior studies. It may be in a counselling related course, or may have been in a cognate field such as honours in psychology. 

If you have not had sufficient research training or completed a substantial research project, you can apply to entry into higher degree research courses in any university. These may be titled: Master of Research, Master of Philosophy, or other titles. These may be from one to two years in length, and in some of them, you may be able to apply part way through to roll over into a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).  

At Edith Cowan University there is a Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated) which does not require a candidate to have research experience or evidence of output.  This course is tailored for experienced practitioners with coursework background from nursing, teaching, counselling, and field alike.

At Cairnmiller, entry requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy are as follows: completed a four-year Bachelor degree with a minimum weighted average of 78%, or, b) completed a Master degree with a minimum weighted average of 78%, or c) a qualification and professional experience considered to be equivalent. If interested, contact Associate Professor Cathy Bettman for more information

How to I enrol in a doctoral degree?

Before enrolling in a doctoral degree, one needs to decide what type of degree to enrol in. There are two types of doctoral degrees. The most highly valued in academia is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).  This degree is generally almost entirely research. It does not matter which institution or country one does a PhD, the qualification itself is regarded equally well irrespective.  If you are looking to work in higher education, this is the preferred qualification. The second is a course work or professional doctorate. This may be a Doctor of Counselling or equivalent. This will usually have subjects and a placement similar to a Bachelors and Masters (but at a higher level), but also will have a fairly substantial doctoral level research project. Course work doctorates are preferred in Industry.  It is important to determine what type of doctorate will fit your own learning and career aspirations. 

The choice of doctorate will also have implications for entry into the course. Professional doctorates often follow similar entry pathways as course work Masters.  So long as you meet the requirements for entry, you can enter. Once in the course, when it comes to do time to do research, the institution will be responsible to organise a research supervisor and project for you to undertake. For a research doctorate, you will either need to develop a proposal and find your own research supervisors relevant to your research project's needs, and also willing to take you on; or you might apply into an existing project being advertised by a research supervisor. You will need to find a research supervisor willing to take you on before you can enrol.  

Once enrolled in a PhD course, there are two options. The first option is undertaking a traditional thesis.  This is typically a substantial document that reports on the research you undertook, and is the primary output of your doctoral studies.  The second is the thesis by publication. This is where the student will prepare a minimum of three papers for publication over the course of research, and then compile these into a thesis.