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Distance Education Doctoral Degrees in Pastoral Counseling

Research online pastoral counseling courses and programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

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Essential Information

Several schools offer online doctoral degree programs in pastoral counseling, designed for Christian leaders who want to better meet their congregation's needs. These programs can be completed mainly through online courses that the students can access as their schedules allow. There may be brief residency requirements on campus, and some programs require a practicum so students can obtain real world experience in pastoral counseling. Some schools may also offer these doctoral programs in a hybrid format.

These programs are open to students who hold master's degrees. The programs generally do not meet the standards for licensing as a counselor in any state. Graduates may be eligible for certification from the National Christian Counseling Association (NCCA), however.

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Doctoral Degree in Pastoral Counseling

Online doctoral degree programs in pastoral counseling are intended to provide students with extensive training in religious counseling. Such programs are typically designed for leaders in the religious community to expand upon the knowledge and capabilities he or she may already possess.

Program Information and Requirements

Students interested in pursuing an online doctoral degree in pastoral counseling must hold a master's degree. Extensive research of concepts in spirituality, theology and faith are studied and incorporated with methods in counseling and psychology in order to increase proficiency and professional growth necessary for pastoral counseling. Students enrolled in an online program typically have a faculty advisor with whom he or she works to develop a plan for completing the program and the students' dissertation.

In an online format, coursework can be completed at the students' discretion, which tends to be ideal for someone who is already working in the field of pastoral counseling. Online libraries, articles, links to necessary websites and research assistance are typically available to students enrolled in online programs.

Common Coursework

Coursework for online doctoral degree programs in pastoral counseling tends to focus on methods in counseling, with an emphasis on religious and spiritual issues. Courses cover various types of counseling, including conflict resolution, addictions counseling and marriage counseling. Students discuss ethical issues and learn to incorporate spiritual and religious concepts into their work. They also develop their research skills and must research and complete a dissertation in order to graduate.

Pastoral Counseling

Students study religion theology, counseling and psychology and how they relate to each other in the context of pastoral counseling. This course covers legal and ethical standards for those working in the field.

Research Methods

This course offers an overview of quantitative, qualitative and mixed-method research techniques. Students will learn research methods in multiple disciplines, such as education and behavioral sciences.

Spiritual and Religious Issues in Counseling

This course focuses on the relationships of individuals and families to God and spirituality. Students will learn concepts, theories and techniques necessary to work with a diverse array of ideas and needs.


Career Information

Graduates holding a doctoral degree in pastoral counseling will often become a pastoral counselor. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't publish job outlook or salary information for pastoral counselors, but it does have info for the closely related mental health counseling occupation. As of 2015, mental health counselors earned a median salary of $41,880, and the number of jobs in the field was expected to increase 20% between 2014 and 2024.

Online doctorate programs in pastoral counseling are designed for Christian leaders to develop their skills in counseling, as well as their knowledge and experience with spiritual and religious issues in counseling. Students may need to participate in in-person practicums for experience, and graduates of these programs may qualify for certification from the National Christian Counseling Association (NCCA).

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