Bachelor’s in Christian Counseling Program Guide

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Compassionate, well-trained counselors are in high demand to help people manage their psychological, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual challenges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that marriage and family therapist positions will increase by 23% over the next decade -- must faster than the economy as a whole. Graduates with Christian counseling degrees can bring even more resources to their clients by addressing them as spiritual beings who need spiritual support along with sound psychological therapy. Church-based and private school contexts provide Christian counselors with the most freedom to implement biblical teachings into their treatments, but Christian counseling clinics are developing, as well, promoting faith-based solutions in a clinical setting.

Should I Get a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling?

A bachelor's degree in Christian counseling prepares graduates for a challenging and satisfying career in helping people cope with life's challenges and achieve their goals. Counseling licensure in most states requires applicants to hold at least a master's degree, but a bachelor's degree in Christian counseling still qualifies graduates for certain positions, while also providing the foundation for amaster's degree in the field.

This Christian counseling degree grounds students in the theories of psychology and counseling within a biblical framework. It goes beyond a typical counseling degree by training you to apply Bible-based counseling in addition to psychology-based counseling. Faculty and other advisers can familiarize you with career options and assist you in your job search. Some programs require a field experience component, as well, giving you practical exposure to counseling.

Whether you pursue your Christian counseling degree online or through an on-campus residential program, you'll find opportunities to network with faculty and fellow students. Recent high school graduates typically prefer the campus setting for the social benefits, plus the opportunities to live on-campus and establish their independence. Working professionals and parents may find that the flexibility of online learning best fits their lifestyles and preferences. Both delivery options afford students plenty of support and learning resources, and students learning on either platform enjoy equal access to placement services for internships and jobs.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling?

Most counseling jobs require at least a master's degree, especially those in clinical settings. Christian colleges therefore structure their bachelor's programs in biblical counseling as a precursor for graduate school. Still, graduates can find some counseling jobs with only a bachelor's degree, especially in churches and private school settings.

Clinical Counselor

Clinical counselors diagnose and treat mental disorders, learning disabilities, emotional disorders, and behavioral disorders. They work with patients to create plans to address their problem areas and lead productive lives. Full practice in a secular setting requires a graduate degree and state licensure. However, those with a bachelor's degree may find supervised, entry-level work in some settings.

Median Annual Salary: $75,090*

Pastoral Counselor

Most senior and many associate pastors devote considerable time to counseling their church members and others. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in Christian counseling may find employment in one of these capacities. Compensation for the pastoral counselor usually comes from the church salary since few churches charge for counseling services.

Median Annual Salary: $50,800*

Life Coach

Life coaches work with clients to determine their life and/or career visions. They help clients identify specific challenges and opportunities, creating plans to help them face their challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and move toward successful completion of their goals. Functioning primarily as consultants, life coaches do not contend with state licensure for counselors. That opens this field to those with only a bachelor's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $46,122*

Marriage and Family Therapist

Counselors in this rapidly growing field address behavioral, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges faced by clients in family contexts. These counselors may treat people individually, but their treatment recognizes the role of the family and incorporates the family unit into resolving problems. Full practice in this field requires at least a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $48,790*

School Counselor

School counselors work with children of all school ages to help them develop the social, behavioral, and academic skills they need for success in school and beyond. They help older students prepare for college and career pursuits beyond high school. Most states require a graduate degree plus certification from the state board of education, but those with a counseling bachelor's degree may find opportunities in private schools.

Median Annual Salary: $55,410*

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale

How to Choose a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling Program

Make sure to select the school and Christian counseling program that best fits your convictions, preferences, and career goals. If you intend to apply your counseling work in the church or mission field through a particular denomination, you may want to focus your selection on those colleges formally associated with, or favored by, your denomination. If you have decided on a specific counseling field, select a college with a specialization in that field.

Also select the program format that best accommodates your current life priorities. For example, do you want to remain where you currently live and work at your current job, or would you prefer to pursue your degree through a residential program on-campus? Are you willing to devote four or more years to pursuit of your Christian counseling degree, or do you need to complete it earlier? Your answers to these questions help determine whether you should choose an online program or a residential one. Online programs allow you to remain where you live, and are usually flexible enough to allow students to continue working as they attend school. Furthermore, some online programs offer accelerated classes, which allows you to complete your degree in less than four years.

Cost is important as well, and fortunately, most high-tuition schools also offer significant financial aid options.

Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Christian Counseling Programs

Make sure sure to select a properly accredited Christian counseling program, to ensure you receive an education that meets widely accepted standards within the field. Graduate schools and employers usually prefer applicants who earned their degrees from schools with regional and program-specific accreditation, particularly regional accreditation from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

You should also make sure your counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Graduates from programs with this accreditation tend to perform better on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification than those from non-accredited programs.

Bachelor's in Christian Counseling Program Admissions

Colleges and universities carefully structure their admissions procedures to help them select students who demonstrate a good fit for their school along with a strong likelihood for success at the college level. Schools usually accept admissions applications up to a year in advance of the student's prospective enrollment date. Maximize your chances of acceptance by starting your application process during the summer before your senior year. Select between five and eight colleges that interest you, and make time to assemble application materials and complete and submit application forms. Check the College Board for some more general advice to help in your application planning and process.


Most schools require a minimum high school GPA of 2.5 for full admission. More competitive schools may require a 2.8 or higher. Many schools provide a one-semester provisional or conditional acceptance for those with lower GPAs.

Admission Materials

You should begin your application process as early as possible, identifying potential colleges up to a year in advance of the time you want to enroll. The Common Application (Common App) allows you to complete one application for any of 800 member institutions. Check the Common App directory to make sure that the school(s) you want to attend are in their member list. Apply separately to other schools. You will need to supply an official copy of your high school transcript to each college you would like to attend. The transcript through your junior year usually suffices for the initial admissions process. After you graduate, your school counselor may send your final transcript to your colleges of choice. Check with your high school office and the college admissions office to confirm these procedures. Each college sets its own requirements for recommendation letters. More selective colleges usually require three letters from people who know you well, but are not related to you. Check the specific requirements for each college that interests you. Each college publishes its own ACT and SAT score requirements for admission. Sometimes, they only publish the average scores for incoming freshmen. Most colleges require an ACT score of 20 or an SAT score of 1020 on the new exam for full admission. Check with each school, though. Christian colleges tend to be more lenient with these requirements. College application fees vary widely between undergraduate programs. A few are free, while some may charge up to $100 for each applicant. Most colleges charge between $25 and $50.

What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling Program?

Christian colleges vary significantly in the number and types of counseling concentrations offered, ranging from one to as many as nine, depending on the size of the college. The bigger colleges offer concentrations to serve current and emerging specialties within the general counseling field. While most counseling jobs require a master's degree, a bachelor's degree in Christian counseling still provides a foundation in one or more fields of the profession.

Concentrations Offered for a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Counseling
Concentration Description Careers
Clinical Counseling This concentration covers foundational issues in psychology including human development, personal interactions, and behavioral patterns. Students must complete some clinical counseling coursework which may be at the graduate level and transfer accordingly to a master's program. Graduates can find entry-level work as a counselor at a residential children's facility or as interns in other clinical settings. However, independent clinical practice requires a graduate degree in counseling, along with state licensure.
Marriage and Family Counseling Given the family's foundational role in both personal and societal strength, marriage and family counseling focuses on the family as the primary context for the analysis and treatment of individual and interpersonal challenges. Graduates can find some opportunities at the entry level in churches and Christian counseling centers. However, independent practice in most settings requires a master's degree and state licensure.
Christian or Pastoral Counseling Counselors may apply biblical principles in all counseling fields, but Christian and pastoral counseling particularly stress diagnosing and treating clients' problems with a spiritual, faith-based perspective. This specialty prepares students to serve as counselors in churches as pastors, as associate staff members, or as missionaries.
Life Coaching The life coaching specialization equips students to provide clients with guidance, empowerment, and accountability, helping them gain confidence, direction, and support to be more successful in their life pursuits. Graduates can serve as life coaches in a number of contexts. Life coaches function as personal consultants.
School Counseling Coursework in this specialization prepares students to serve in public or private schools, addressing the needs of students in grades K-12. Emphases include behavioral and skill counseling to equip K-12 students to build a constructive culture. Instruction also addresses the dynamics of college preparation and career counseling. Graduates can serve as guidance counselors in some private schools. All states require state licensure to serve as counselors in public schools, which usually requires a master's degree in counseling or psychology.

Courses in a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling Program

While many Christian counseling programs offer courses with the same title, each program structures its courses to reflect the college's individual theological and philosophical priorities. Review the course descriptions for each potential school and apply to those whose courses fit you best. Most Christian counseling programs offer classes like the following:

Developmental Psychology

Students survey the normal psychological development stages people experience through their lives. The course addresses the psychological, emotional, and cognitive components of each growth stage. You'll also study moral, social, and spiritual experiences and challenges from a biblical perspective.

Abnormal Psychology

This course introduces students to the most common mental disorders, including their diagnoses, treatments, and prevention strategies. Most Christian colleges address this topic with a special emphasis on the biblical and spiritual implications of each disorder. This perspective recognizes that in some cases, disorders may arise from spiritual causes.

Introduction to Christian Counseling

This course surveys the major schools of thought in the counseling field and covers basic principles, techniques, and applications of counseling and psychotherapy. Students study these subjects and how they relate to biblical theology and the nature of people as spiritual beings.

Marriage and Family Counseling

This course emphasizes the role of the family as the most fundamental social unit shaping people's psychological, emotional, spiritual, and even physical health. Topics include biblical counseling perspectives on premarital and marital relationship dynamics, parenting, and the special needs of children and adolescents in the family context.

Counseling Methods

Students learn very practical information and skills used in counseling. Building on sound counseling theory from a biblical perspective, the course reviews important skills in interviewing and communication, cultivating a safe and trusting environment, guiding counseling sessions, and developing goals and plans to address specific problems.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling?

Typically, a 120-129-semester credit bachelor's degree in Christian counseling takes about four years for full-time students to complete. If you've already completed an associate degree or another bachelor's degree, you may able to transfer some of your credits, reducing the time you'll need to earn your counseling degree. Some programs also transfer relevant work or ministry experience to college credit. Most programs allow you to pursue the degree on a part-time basis and some let you accelerate your pace by increasing your course load. Certain online programs even allow students to pursue the degree through accelerated five- to eight-week courses, enabling them to complete their biblical counseling degree in as few as two years.

How Much Is a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling?

Most Christian counseling programs require you to earn 120 to 129 credits, which takes four years of full-time study to complete. Still, tuition and other expenses for Christian counseling programs varies widely between schools, with tuition alone ranging from $15,000-$45,000 per year. Plan to spend an additional $800 per year for books, plus $200-$1,000 per year for student fees. Some programs let students pursue their degrees on an accelerated schedule, but this doesn't typically reduce tuition.

Program delivery options also impact degree costs. On-campus programs may also require you to pay for room and board, unless you commute. Even so, campus-based programs often follow a rigid structure, which may require you to cut back on work. Online degree programs usually preclude the need for additional room and board costs, and are flexible enough to let you work while attending classes. However, this approach may take more time to complete, meaning you may pay more in fees to earn your degree.

Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Christian Counseling Prepares For

If you plan to seek certification in the Christian counseling field, prepare to earn a graduate degree first, since both private and state credentialing organizations require at least a master's degree. State licensure may allow you to bill insurance companies for your services, but such privileges may come with religious freedom restrictions.

Certified Christian Counselor

Administered by the American Institute of Health Care Professionals, the certified Christian counselor endorsement provides recognition and support for Christian counselors in both church and clinical contexts. The institute offers online courses for both initial certification and recertification. The institute's website also includes general information resources for counseling practice.

Licensed Christian Counselor

As a private organization, the U.S. Agency for Christian Counseling Credentials and Accreditations establishes minimum qualifications and educational requirements for eight levels of certification, including licensed Christian counselor. A master's degree is required for this and most of their counseling credentials, including certified Christian counselor.

Licensed Christian Clinical Counselor

The U.S. Agency for Christian Counseling Credentials and Accreditations offers this certification for those who intend to lead and manage their own clinical practice. This certification requires a doctorate in Christian psychology or counseling, plus at least two years of post-graduate counseling experience in a clinical setting.

Licensed Christian Marriage and Family Counselor

The U.S. Agency for Christian Counseling Credentials requires a master's degree and at least 800 hours of supervised experience prior to granting this certification. The recognition accords the counselor maximum freedom to practice biblical counseling in a clinical or church-based context.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Each state offers its own certification and licensure for marriage and family therapists. This license would provide broader appeal to a secular clientele, but may restrict your freedom to counsel from a biblical perspective and pray with clients. State licensure requires a graduate degree from an accredited institution, plus one to two years of supervised clinical practice.

Resources for Christian Counseling Students

Journal of Biblical Counseling

As the publishing arm of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, the Journal of Biblical Counseling serves to integrate biblical principles with counseling and counseling with the church. Published three times each year, the journal is available in print and online.

The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship Resources

The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship provides this helpful resource index for counselors. The audio files are accessible by individual topic or by series.

Christian Counseling Today Magazine

Published by the American Association of Christian Counselors, this quarterly magazine, available only to association members, covers current issues in ways that are "academically sound, psychologically accurate, and biblically solid."

Psychological Bulletin

This widely cited journal, published monthly by the American Psychological Association, publishes peer-reviewed articles regarding current developments in the field of psychology. The American Psychological Association also publishes two other professional journals.

Psychology Today

Likely the most popular publication in the field of psychology, this magazine appeals widely to both counseling practitioners and general audiences. The website offers plenty of information, along with a therapist locator for those seeking psychological help.

Professional Organizations in Christian Counseling

Building on the training imparted through a Christian counseling degree, joining one or more professional associations can provide you with training, networking opportunities, and certification resources to sharpen your effectiveness in Christian counseling. Pay special attention to which organizations fit your specific counseling interests and needs. Consider joining an association with a large annual conference for mor networking and job opportunities.

The American Association of Christian Counselors serves the entire "community of care," including clinical, pastoral, and lay counselors, with educational and professional development resources. This includes the association's Light University (not accredited), plus networking opportunities at the National Christian Counseling Conference. The National Christian Counselors Association provides counselors with training, certification, and licensure. It distributes a newsletter, online training materials, and exams, and hosts a national conference. The organization promotes the use of the Arno Profile System, developed by the association founders. The National Association of Christian Counselors trains and certifies Christian counselors. The association primarily focuses on equipping pastors and other Christians for effective, church-based counseling. It also sponsors seminars and a five-day counseling center facilitator training. The International Association of Christian Counseling Professionals provides online resources and courses in association with Vision International University (not accredited), along with a quarterly journal to equip pastors and counselors. The Association of Biblical Counselors encourages and equips all believers to counsel the Bible. It provides books, videos, and audio resources. The association extends its training and networking through an annual conference.
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