Doctor of Education: Pastoral Community Counseling Degree Overview

Oct 15, 2019

Essential Information

Doctoral programs in pastoral community counseling are generally aimed at students who've completed the graduate-level training necessary to become priests or ministers and would like to provide counseling services, conduct research in the field or train aspiring pastoral counselors. These terminal degree options are offered as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.). In these programs, coursework combines studies in theology and social sciences. Prior to graduation, students are required to participate in clinical practicums and submit a dissertation.

For admission, applicants must hold a Master of Divinity from an accredited university or theological seminary, have completed prerequisite coursework in pastoral education and provide proof of ministry experience. In some cases, a counseling master's degree may be accepted in lieu of a Master of Divinity.

Doctor of Education in Pastoral Community Counseling

The curriculum of these programs includes a wide-range of both religion and psychology courses covering theology, church history, religious research methods, counseling theories and addictions counseling. Other common course topics are:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Personality theory
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Counselor supervision
  • Pastoral leadership

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Students who complete a doctorate in pastoral counseling may continue work as clergy members. They may also find employment as philosophy and religion teachers at the postsecondary level. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the mean annual salaries for clergy and postsecondary teachers were $53,290 and $82,420, respectively, as of May 2018 ( From 2018 to 2028, job growth for these professionals was expected to be 6% and 11%, respectively.

Licensing Information

The American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) states that pastoral counselors can work as licensed marriage and family therapists, certified pastoral counselors or licensed professional counselors ( To qualify for these credentials, applicants will usually need a master's degree in counseling or a related area, two years of work experience and passing scores on a written exam approved by the state in which the counselor wishes to practice, according to the BLS.

Experienced clergy members who want to provide counseling services can earn one of several doctoral degrees in the field of pastoral community counseling. These programs also train students for academic careers conducting research and teaching other prospective pastoral counselors.

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