Best Online Master’s in Christian Counseling Programs

Christian counseling is a specialized field that fuses traditional counseling techniques and strategies with an emphasis on religious beliefs and faith-based values. These professionals typically counsel individuals, families or groups in matters like marriage, childcare, addiction and issues related to personal faith. Christian counselors must exercise patience, empathy and a firm understanding of their clients’ religious values in order to effectively do their jobs.

An accredited online Christian counseling degree program at the master’s level prepares students to take the licensing exam in the state where they plan to practice.

Many of today’s students prepare for this career path by earning a Christian counseling degree online. An online Christian counseling degree at the master’s level will build on the foundational knowledge and skills students gain at the bachelor’s level while also introducing new approaches to faith-based client therapy. These online programs are usually ‘blended’, meaning that they incorporate both web-based assignments and on-site practicum sessions. Many Christian counseling master’s degree programs include specialization tracks, such as marital, family or school counseling.

Below, you’ll find our list of the country’s best online master’s in Christian counseling degree programs. Each program is ranked according to its academic strengths, learning goals, course offerings, positive student outcomes and virtual classroom experience for online learners. This comprehensive list is designed to assist your search for the online Christian counseling degree program that best meets your academic and financial needs.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1Loyola University Chicago 5/573.35%Chicago, IL

Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies

The Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) program at Loyola University Chicago focuses on developing four areas of students’ lives, including their ministerial competencies, spiritual lives, intellects, and character as human beings. While the degree doesn’t allow for counseling licensure, it does lead to a high rate of work placement for graduates. Integrating personal values into your professional work sets the Loyola University Chicago MAPS program apart from many online Christian counseling degree programs.

The MAPS program is offered entirely online or as a hybrid online/on-campus program with optional concentrations in church management, healthcare ministries, or religious education. All concentrations include a “contextual experience” course in which theory is applied in a real-world ministry setting. Distance learners can set up contextual experiences as part of their current work situations or at a local, national, or international sites recommended by the program. Students will also complete an “integration project,” which is typically a long-form written work that addresses the junction between the students’ coursework and personal ministerial experiences.

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2Maranatha Baptist University 3/544.5%Watertown, WI

Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling

The Maranatha Baptist University master’s in biblical counseling degree offers a strong foundation in contemporary and classical theology. Students in the biblical counseling program will focus the majority of their coursework on different aspects of theological and biblical learning, including studying the Old Testament and New Testament, as well as systematic and historical theology. Practical application is made to the work of biblical counseling once this theoretical base is secured. Addiction and crisis management counseling are two such practical applications for which this online Christian counseling degree will prepare you.

The Wisconsin-based university offers a portion of its courses online, while the rest can be taken in a traditional format. A summer format is also offered, with the opportunity to earn the degree over the course of two (educationally rigorous) summers.

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3Dallas Baptist University 4/554.6%Dallas, TX

Master of Arts in Christian Ministry

The Dallas Baptist University Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM) degree is a general curriculum theological degree made for people looking to work in churches and para-church ministries. The optional counseling ministry focus augments this broad curriculum with counseling courses focusing on addiction and compulsive behaviors, family counseling, and career and lifestyle development counseling. Students are prepared to work with those in crisis during coursework that includes conflict resolution and victim assistance using the National Organization of Victim Assistance (NOVA) curriculum. There is also a professional life coaching concentration for those whose career aspirations center on helping people reach their full potential.

As a fully online Christian counseling degree that can be earned in half the time of a traditional Master of Divinity degree, the MACM degree is ideal for those with jobs or busy schedules. A broad selection of dual degree programs are also offered, including a Master of Arts in children’s ministry or a master’s in business administration. These added degree options make finding or making a program that suits your personal career goals simple.

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4Indiana Wesleyan University 4/562.53%Marion, IN

Master of Arts in Counseling

An emphasis on clinical experience sets Indiana Wesleyan University’s online counseling degree program apart from others. Technology brings the clinic to students’ desktops through the aid of streaming and recorded presentations. Earning a degree requires a core of general counseling courses to be completed, as well as a specialization of the student’s choice. The university offers six specialties for its counseling degree, two of which (addictions counseling and student development counseling and administration) are available entirely online. A third option (school counseling) is available partially online and partially in person.

More possible specialties mean more chances to get an education relevant to your ideal career path. All specialties focus on integrating Christian faith and evidence-based psychology into the practice of counseling. The online Christian counseling program at IWU also prepares students for the licensure process for students who wish to practice in their own states. Additionally, the student development counseling and administration program can be completed as a post-master’s degree certificate for those who already have a master’s degree but whose clinical or academic experience doesn’t meet the standards for licensure in their specific state.

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5Northwest Nazarene University 4/551.83%Nampa, ID

Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry

The online pastoral ministry program at Northwest Nazarene University focuses on theological and scriptural education to inform practical pastoral work in a variety of ministry settings. This is not a program for those seeking state licensure to practice counseling, but rather a program for those who wish to counsel in ministerial contexts. Many who complete the program go on to receive ordination by The Church of the Nazarene, the university’s denomination, but this is not a requirement of the program. In addition to studying key principles of Christian counseling such as spiritual formation and pastoral leadership, students will work with a pastoral mentor throughout their studies to learn about missiology (the study of missions) and the global, cross-cultural context of Christian spirituality.

This online Christian counseling degree can be remotely completed in 28 months with no residential requirement, making it possible to keep your current job and living situation. Accordingly, approximately 10 percent of current online students at NNU live outside the United States. The program concludes with supervised ministry experience and special attention is given to counseling, a feature which helps students learn to apply their education in a staff-supported environment. Discounts are available for Nazarene clergy.

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6Amridge University 2/522.22%Montgomery, AL

Master of Divinity in Professional Counseling

The main focus of the Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Professional Counseling at Amridge University is to prepare students for professional counseling licensure in their home state. The program can be completed in approximately three years in the online format, but requires practicum and clinical experience that must be arranged by the student in their home state. This online Christian counseling degree will also prepare students with the academic skills and credentials necessary to enter a PhD in professional counseling program if that is their final goal.

An MDiv degree (as opposed to a Master of Arts or Master of Sciences counseling degrees) also provides a complementary education in scripture, liturgy, and theology. Courses in hermeneutics, spiritual leadership, and homiletics help set the groundwork for ministerial career paths. At the end of the program, students must complete a comprehensive exam which synthesizes their theological studies with counseling education.

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7Luther Rice University & Seminary 2/5N/ALithonia, GA

Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling

For students who wish to step into a counselor role in a church, as a chaplain, or as a pastor, the Luther Rice University & Seminary Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling (MABC) offers a Christ-centered non-licensure track counseling education. Combining theological seminary courses with counseling education, this program is designed specifically for those who wish to work in church and ministerial environments. Of the 12 courses required for graduation, eight are based in counseling while the remaining four center on theology and Bible study. A practicum is also required to promote hands-on experience with course material.

Students who have already started a master’s degree elsewhere can transfer in up to six credits to go towards the 36 credits necessary for degree completion. The counseling education is based on the biblical counseling process model, a five-step process designed to “take a person from defeat to victory,” according to MABC Program Coordinator Dr. Ron Cobb. Classes can be taken entirely online, or on-campus at the Luther Rice campus in Atlanta, Georgia.

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8Colorado Christian University 4/542.26%Lakewood, CO

Master of Arts in Counseling

Every aspect of the Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) program at Colorado Christian University is designed around a Christian framework, but professional excellence is an equally important goal. The program is geared towards students who wish to become licensed professional counselors.

Taken in seven week blocks of distance learning courses, this online Christian counseling degree can be completed in approximately two and a half years. Graduates of the program in 2015 passed the National Counselor Exam or NCE (the national exam for counseling licensure used in many states) at a rate 15% higher than national average. Unlike many online programs, courses for the MAC are offered in cohort format, meaning students work with a group of peers towards a common goal. According to the site supervisors of the locations where program students received clinical training, 77% of MAC students were more prepared for the clinical environment than other students and 92% had a “higher level of character” than their peers. The student-to-faculty ratio for the program is 6:1, and the program staff have a combined 150+ years of clinical experience.

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9Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary 2/518.75%Charlotte, NC

Master of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling

A career in chaplaincy often requires a Master of Divinity (MDiv degree, such as the Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary’s MDiv in pastoral counseling. Structured around pastoral studies and theological learning, this is a non-licensure track degree program. This type of degree is best used in ministry and faith-based environments such as the missions field, but it will not allow you to work as a professional counselor in a private counseling practice or in a government agency. Students will participate in research, practicum, internship, and a thesis during their coursework.

As part of the theological education, students are also expected to obtain proficiency in biblical languages. Distance learning courses are conducted in eight week blocks that occur twice per academic semester. This type of fast-track learning allows students to take more courses per semester than they would normally be allowed to take. However, if you are interested in distance learning as opposed to taking classes on the Charlotte, North Carolina campus, be sure to review the list of states which allow for distance learning courses from this institution.

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Most employers require Christian counselors to hold a master’s degree in their field. Additionally, each state requires full licensure for all mental health counselors (both faith-based and secular). Graduates who complete an accredited online Christian counseling degree program at the master’s level will be fully prepared to take the licensing exam in the state where they plan to practice. However, in most states, a state-licensed counselor is “not permitted to promote their religious beliefs” or the individual will be in violation of the state’s code of ethics. For this reason, those who wish to serve their community with faith-based counseling can be certified through the National Christian Counselors Association (NCAA), which provides certification compliant with state laws. Earning a Christian counseling degree online can prepare graduates for the certification process.

Christian counseling degree-holders who begin their career as mental health counselors stand to earn a median annual salary of $40,580, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Professionals who work in outpatient care centers or specialize in individual and family services are among the country’s top earners in this sector.

Christian Marriage and Family Counseling

Role: Manage conflicts and disputes within the family using a combination of traditional counseling and scripture-based techniques.
Training Requirements: Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling; State License; NCAA Certification (optional)
Median Annual Salary: $49,597

Christian School Counseling

Role: Use a faith-based approach to help students identify personal and educational goals, as well as overcome family and social conflicts.
Training Requirements: Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling; State License; NCAA Certification (optional); at least 2 years of teaching experience (requirement varies by state)
Median Annual Salary: $46,866

Christian Career Counseling

Role: Provide guidance and support to individuals who are interested in changing careers or improving their current skill set.
Training Requirements: Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling; State License; NCAA Certification (optional)
Median Annual Salary: $39,118

Christian Substance Abuse Counseling

Role: Provide scripture-inspired support for clients living with an addiction and introduce strategies for overcoming addictive behaviors.
Training Requirements: Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling; NCAA Certification (optional); NCAA Certification (optional); State License; CDAAC or CCAPP Certification from the Association of Christian Alcohol & Drug Counselors Institute
Median Annual Salary: $35,534

Christian Mental Health Counseling

Role: Offer faith-based counseling and support to clients with chronic mental health issues, as well as their spouses, children or other family members.
Training Requirements: Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling; State License; NCAA Certification (optional); CDAAC or CCAPP Certification from the Association of Christian Alcohol & Drug Counselors Institute (optional)
Median Annual Salary: $41,573

A master’s degree and state licensure represent the final two steps toward establishing a long, successful career in the field of faith-based counseling. Whether you are a young professional drawn to this rewarding faith-based field or a bachelor’s degree-holder looking to boost your credentials, an online master’s in Christian counseling offers a convenient, flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar education.

Christian Counseling Organizations

National Christian Counselors Association: The NCCA is a certifying and licensing organization that also hosts a national conference each year. This organization offers online training courses and a comprehensive directory of counselors.

ACTheals: This ecumenical Christian organization for healthcare professionals is dedicated to patients and clients dealing with physical, mental health, and spiritual struggles. Most members identify with the Roman Catholic Church but the organization welcomes all Christians.

American Association of Christian Counselors: With 50,000 members, the AACC is one of the largest Christian counseling organizations in the country. This group provides resources for licensed professionals, as well as membership benefits like a magazine subscription and a quarterly audio CD featuring interviews with experts.

Association of Biblical Counselors: The ABC serves Christian counseling professionals with resources, training events, and a certification process through its Center for Professional Soul Care (CPSC) initiative. This organization also hosts an annual conference.

International Association of Christian Counseling Professionals: The IACCP is a professional association for Christians in any type of care-oriented profession, including psychology, behavioral health, and social work. This organization offers membership benefits and continuing education opportunities.