How to Become a Christian Counselor

If you want to use your Christian faith as a counselor, consider becoming a Christian counselor. Learn the education, license, and certification requirements.
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  • Most Christian counselors need a master’s degree and license to practice.
  • Christian counselors help their clients live according to Biblical teachings.
  • Christian counselors need Biblical faith and knowledge, interpersonal skills, and compassion.

If you’re a Christian who wants to incorporate your belief in the Bible into your career as a counselor, consider becoming a Christian counselor.

You do not have to meet any specific requirements to offer Biblical advice or guidance to your community. However, if you want to treat mental health conditions, provide psychotherapy, and become a licensed counselor who practices faith-based counseling, those goals require a few more steps.

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Six Steps for Becoming a Christian Counselor

Becoming a licensed Christian counselor takes about eight years, between the two degrees and supervised experience you’ll complete. If you’re a licensed counselor who wants to incorporate your Christian faith into your practice or a Christian who wants to become a licensed counselor, find out more about the steps for how to become a licensed Christian counselor.

  1. 1

    Earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Counseling or a Related Field

    Most licensed counselors need at least a bachelor’s and master’s degree in counseling or a related field. These degrees must be from an accredited program.

    Some Christian colleges may offer psychology, counseling, or social work programs. These degrees require about six years of full-time study combined. They often include supervised field experience and courses on human behavior and development, analysis and assessment, research, and counseling strategies.

  2. 2

    Consider How You’ll Incorporate Your Faith into Your Career

    A crucial how to become a Christian counselor is having strong faith and Biblical knowledge. You’ll also need to decide how much and in what ways you’ll incorporate faith into your counseling.

    If you’re a Christian counselor for a church or religious organization, you may rely solely on the Bible to help people view their lives and challenges through a Biblical lens. If you're a licensed therapist or psychologist, instead you may infuse your clinical practice with Biblical counseling.

  3. 3

    Consider Your Licensing and Certification Options

    You can choose from licenses in counseling, clinical psychology, social work, or marriage and family therapy. If you’re already a licensed counselor or therapist, find out what Christian counseling certificates you can earn. Learn more about your licensing and certification options to choose which license and certification is best for you.

  4. 4

    Complete Supervised Fieldwork Experience

    Depending on your license and state, some psychology and social work licenses require post-degree paid supervised fieldwork experience. If you have to complete supervised experience, you’ll usually need to complete at least two years. The number of hours and the requirements for who can supervise and what skills you must learn vary by state and license.

  5. 5

    Obtain Licensure

    Most states require you to become licensed before you provide counseling and psychotherapy services. The steps to becoming licensed in your state vary based on your state’s requirements and whether you become a psychologist or a social worker. Generally, you’ll need an advanced degree in your field, post-graduate supervised experience, a passing score on a licensing exam, and a clean background check.

  6. 6

    Consider Becoming a Certified Christian Counselor

    A certification in Christian counseling shows your skills and knowledge in that area. You’ll need extensive knowledge of what the Bible says about topics such as anger, marriage, forgiveness, and addiction. You’ll complete a course or Christian counseling certificate program, a mentorship with a Christian counselor, and a certification exam.

What Are the Licensure Requirements for Christian Counselors?

Christian counseling roles may not require a counseling or social work license, but getting your state license will expand your career opportunities and could increase your salary potential.

Becoming licensed shows your knowledge and skills in human behavior and development, counseling, intervention planning, and professional ethics.

Learn more about the professional licenses that may be right for your career in Christian counseling.

Licensed Professional Counselor

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Licensed Master Social Worker

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Becoming a Christian Counselor Without Licensure

It is important to remember that providing spiritual guidance or counseling as sanctioned by a religious organization is not equivalent to working as a mental health professional according to state regulations. You need a graduate degree and licensure to become a mental health professional.

However, you may be able to become a Christian counselor informally without a license or counseling degree. Some faith-based organizations may allow you to practice without a license if you have a master’s degree.

Pastors, elders, and other church leaders may be able to practice counseling by earning a seminary degree and becoming ordained. Some seminaries even offer counseling-specific training programs.

You may also get certified or complete a certificate program from organizations such as the:

These certifications are available for ministers who want to become better pastoral counselors; counselors and therapists who want to incorporate Biblical counseling into their practice; and other church members who want to informally counsel community and church members.

What Do Christian Counselors Do?

Christian counselors counsel their clients using Biblical principles and ideas, such as the sanctity of life and marriage. They:

  • Listen and reflect on their client's needs and concerns
  • Build and maintain good relationships with their clients
  • Pray for and with the people they counsel
  • Help their clients live their lives according to what the Bible says
  • Teach their clients to find solutions to their problems in the Bible

They usually work for religious organizations and religiously affiliated schools, universities, hospitals, and some skilled nursing facilities. They work with church members and church and denomination leadership, such as pastors, deacons, and bishops.

Key Skills for Christian Counselors

  • Compassion
  • Active listening
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Biblical faith and knowledge
  • Conflict resolution

How Much Can I Make as a Christian Counselor?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not explicitly collect salary data for Christian counselors. Some similar careers include clergy, directors of religious activities and education, and marriage and family therapists.

Based on these similar careers, the average annual salaries for Christian counselors could be between $60,000 to $63,000, according to BLS data from May 2022.

You may make more as a licensed counselor than you would if you earn only a certification. The lowest-paid career similar to Christian counseling is clergy, who make over $3,000 less per year than the highest-paid career licensed marriage and family therapists.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Christian Counselor

What is the difference between a Christian counselor and a therapist?

The main differences between therapists and Christian counselors are their education and practice approaches. Therapists usually have at least a master's degree and a state license to practice, but a Christian counselor may not need either. Some Christian counselors may use the term "counselor" informally without being a licensed mental health professional. Christian counselors also base their guidance on Biblical teaching rather than psychotherapy practice.

Where do Christian counselors work?

Most Christian counselors work in religious organizations, such as churches. You may also find work as a Christian counselor in elementary and secondary schools, universities, skilled nursing facilities, and hospitals, especially when these organizations hold a faith-based mission.

Can I become a Christian counselor without a degree?

You may become a Christian counselor without a degree if your state or employer does not require you to hold a psychology or social work license to provide Christian counseling services. In those cases, you can complete a short education program or a reading list and pass a certification exam.

What is the best degree to become a Christian counselor?

You can choose between a social work degree, a psychology degree, or a specialized psychology degree, like counseling psychology, to become a Christian counselor. Consider your interests and career goals to choose which is right for you.

Page last reviewed August 13, 2023 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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