A Guide to Getting a Master’s in Christian Counseling

A Christian counseling degree can lead to a rewarding and spiritually fulfilling career. Learn what to expect from a master's in Christian counseling.
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Updated on July 18, 2024
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Christian counseling degree programs train counselors to help individuals cope with crises and promote healing within their communities. Christian counseling programs can also help clergy members improve their pastoral or ministerial skills or pursue secular counseling positions in schools, hospitals, and correctional facilities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for counselors will grow by 18% from 2022-2032, which is much faster than the average for all occupations nationwide. Discover how to become a Christian counselor below.

How to Become a Christian Counselor

While requirements vary by state, most Christian counselor jobs require a master's degree. Aspiring Christian counselors may complete a bachelor's degree in Christian counseling through a dedicated seminary or divinity school or major in a field like psychology or religious studies. Some undergraduate programs offer optional internships focused on building career skills.

A master's degree program in Christian counseling prepares students to pursue licensure in their state and can propel professionals into a higher salary bracket. To meet professional licensure eligibility requirements, Christian counseling degree programs must include hands-on experience through an internship or practicum.

Featured Online Counseling Programs

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

How to Choose the Right Christian Counseling Master's Program

Choosing the right Christian counseling degree requires careful consideration of the following preferences and your career goals. Always make sure you start by selecting an accredited program.

Accreditation

Your university should hold institutional accreditation through one of six regional accrediting agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Master-level Christian counseling degree programs also commonly receive programmatic accreditation through an entity such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Format

Many master's degree programs in Christian counseling offer a choice of in-person or online programs. Choosing the right format comes down to personal preference, as some students enjoy learning on campus while others prefer the flexibility of self-paced coursework online. Christian counseling students can typically pursue an internship or practicum regardless of format style.

Admission Requirements

Most master's degree programs in Christian counseling require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree for admission. While a background in a field such as ministry, Bible studies, theology, or psychology is beneficial, programs may not require a bachelor's in a specific major. Christian counseling programs often require candidates to proclaim a strong testimony of faith and agree in writing to the university's doctrinal statement and principles.

Licensure

Completing a master's in Christian counseling does not automatically qualify graduates for licensure as a Christian counselor; however, most programs prepare graduates to sit for their state's licensing exam if they plan to pursue proper counseling licensure or certification. Master's programs often include a clinical component, which may count toward the hours required to become eligible for state licensure.

Degree Outcomes

Graduates of a master's program in Christian counseling can pursue certification or licensure through a national exam. Many master's degree programs in Christian counseling prepare students to become church counselors or mental health counselors for children, teens, or married couples. Graduates may also go into church administration or addiction counseling jobs.

Christian Counseling Courses and Concentrations

A master's degree program in Christian counseling typically covers subjects like systematic theology, foundations of Christian psychology, and spiritual formation for therapists. Degrees also require core coursework in clinical psychopathology, assessment and testing, and crisis response.

Most Christian counseling degree programs also include an internship or practicum, which provides clinical experience and helps students meet licensure requirements in their state. Christian counseling may be a concentration of a general counseling degree or offer its own concentrations in addiction, marriage, or reconciliation counseling.

Where Can I Work as a Christian Counselor?

Most Christian counselors work in churches; however, these professionals also commonly serve a wide variety of clients in schools and colleges, hospitals, nursing facilities, and detention facilities. Christian counselors often seek out roles that align with their specializations.

For example, a Christian counselor specializing in substance use and addiction may be hired to provide faith-based care services at an addiction treatment facility. Others with specialized experience with children or young adults may consider working as a Christian counselor in an elementary school or university setting.

Christian counselors may also pursue private practice, provided they hold adequate credentials. Each state maintains its own minimum licensure requirements for independently operating counselors.

How Much Do Christian Counselors Make?

Substance use, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, including Christian counselors, earned a median annual wage of $53,710 as of May 2023, according to the BLS. Marriage and family therapists, which may include Christian counselors, earned a median annual wage of $58,510.

Whether it is preferred or required in your state, licensure typically commands a higher Christian counselor salary than certification. According to the BLS, non-specified religious workers, for example, who only need a bachelor's degree, earned an average annual wage of $45,050 in 2023. Salaries may fluctuate according to a candidate's location, education, and experience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Christian Counseling

Do I need a degree to be a Christian counselor?

Christian counselor jobs typically require a master's degree since this is the minimum education requirement for pursuing licensure in most states. Though rare, your state may not require you to hold a license to provide Christian counseling services. These states may accept a non-traditional certification program and exam in lieu of a degree.

While pastors offer spiritual guidance and leadership to their congregation, pastoral counselors are trained specifically to provide clinical care in the context of religious practice. Christian counselors possess unique expertise in fields like psychology, Biblical ethics, and counseling theory that is not commonly found in traditional ministerial roles.

Naturally, a Christian counselor must possess a strong sense of faith and adhere to Biblical ethics and principles in their own life. The best Christian counselors are also highly compassionate, patient, and forgiving, with excellent communication and listening skills.

Colleges and universities offer a variety of in-person and online Christian counseling degrees. Students can often satisfy the majority of their core coursework online and meet licensure requirements locally through an internship or practicum experience. Many online programs offer perks like self-paced study options and the same tuition rate for in- and out-of-state students.

Becoming a Christian counselor typically takes six years, assuming the student enrolls full time and completes a four-year bachelor's program followed by a two-year master's degree. While some schools offer accelerated programs, these options may not lead to licensure like a traditional master's degree program with an internship component.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed June 3, 2024.

BestColleges.com 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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