Christian Counseling Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Accredited certificates, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in Christian counseling are available through Christian colleges and theological seminaries. These programs cover theological perspectives, counseling techniques and approaches.

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Essential Information

In general, Christian counseling programs are designed to enhance the counseling skills and biblical knowledge of aspiring religious professionals, such as pastors and missionaries.They are also offered to non-professionals for personal enrichment. In addition to counseling coursework, bachelor's and master's programs may include internships. Some master's programs are available online and can prepare students for licensed professional counseling or marriage and family therapist credentials. A number of voluntary certifications are available to graduates of certificate and bachelor's degree programs.

For admission into a bachelor's degree program, a high school diploma and an agreement with theological beliefs is necessary. In some cases, ACT or SAT scores are expected. A bachelor's degree, 3.0 GPA and references are required for a 2-year master's. Certificate programs normally last 1-2 semesters.


Certificate in Christian Counseling

Different certificates have different prerequisites. Some programs require the equivalent of a semester of college-level courses, including English composition. Others expect a full bachelor's or master's degree. Program requirements range from 4-5 courses to 14 courses. Coursework may address the following:

  • Biblical basis for Christian counseling
  • Christian perspectives on group counseling
  • Developmental psychology
  • Major personality theories
  • Pharmaceutical interventions for psychopathology
  • Systems approach to family counseling

Bachelor's Degree in Christian Counseling

Bachelor's degree programs stress biblical instruction and teach Christian morals and ethics along with skills needed to effectively counsel people. Courses in bachelor's-level Christian counseling programs often include approximately as many hours in Bible and theology courses as in counseling courses. Sometimes students are required to partake in a certain number of counseling sessions themselves; they often receive some credit hours for this. Students may also have to complete a research project and an internship. Specific topics might include:

  • Applying Christian counseling to specific disorders
  • Biblical crisis counseling
  • Christian counseling and cultural diversity
  • Counseling with biblical principles for grief, loss and trauma
  • Promoting spiritual growth through Christian counseling
  • Research and trends in current counseling concerns

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Master's Degree in Christian Counseling

Master's degrees in Christian counseling may be designed to prepare students to become licensed professional counselors (LPCs) or marriage and family therapists (MFTs). However, some programs state that designated additional courses are necessary to complete that preparation, as well as additional internship hours. Online students generally arrange their own internships, with college approval. Coursework may address the following subjects:

  • Addiction intervention and prevention
  • Biblical processes in marital therapy
  • Human personality from a theological standpoint
  • Secular psychology and Christian theology
  • Techniques of selected counseling theories
  • Theory and practice of supervision

Popular Career Options

Because many of the certificate programs are for folks already in a profession or Christian ministry, the certificate is just intended to enhance that ministry. Job titles may include:

  • Pastor
  • Lay counselor
  • Church officer or elder
  • Missionary

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

In discussing the job outlook for counselors, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't specifically refer to Christian or other religious counseling. However, mental health counselors along with marriage and family therapists are expected to have a job increase of 19% for the years 2014 through 2024. The BLS reported that mental health counselors earned $41,880 as a median annual wage in 2015.

Continuing Education Information

There are no requirements or standards for continuing education for a Christian counselor. However, two of the associations that offer certifications also offer continuing education. These are the National Christian Counselors Association (NCCA) and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).

Those with a bachelor's degree in Christian counseling may choose to pursue a master's degree. The master's may be in Christian counseling, theology or secular counseling.

To earn a counseling license, graduates of a master's degree program in Christian counseling may have to complete additional clinical experience hours and pass a state exam, though these requirements depend on a candidate's counseling specialty (such as MFT or another area). The continuing education needed for license renewal also varies from state to state. Most likely, many of the continuing education courses will need to be taken from secular sources.

There are three primary professional associations for Christian counseling, two of which (the NCCA and the AACC) offer certifications and continuing education as mentioned above. The third association is the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). All of these associations are sources of continuing education, formal or informal, as well as opportunities for interaction with other Christian counselors.

Certificate and degree programs in Christian counseling prepare students for the field, as they take a wide range of courses in subjects like substance abuse, family therapy, human personality, biblical principles and cultural diversity. Most programs include direct experience opportunities and research projects.

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