Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Arts in Christian Studies (with a concentration in pastoral ministry) programs are available fully online or as a mix of distance education and on-campus classes. Graduate programs provide advanced knowledge in clinical counseling techniques, as well as Biblical and psychological theory.
Applicants may be required to have professional ministerial or pastoral experience, in addition to a bachelor's degree. These types of programs prepare enrollees to seek a professional counseling license, although they do not solely meet state licensure requirements; interested individuals should check their state's unique guidelines for becoming a licensed counselor.
Master's Degree in Pastoral Counseling
Master's degree programs in pastoral counseling provide enhanced theoretical and practical skills. Students leverage modern research and Biblical principles to address the pressing issues that people in need face including depression, grief and hopelessness.
Learning Environment and Requirements
Applicants typically must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Some institutions may require students to have professional ministerial or pastoral experience. Courses are viewed using online learning management systems, such as Blackboard. Students communicate with their professors and fellow students through discussion boards and chat rooms.
Master's degree candidates examine current issues in pastoral counseling. They gain advanced knowledge of the philosophies and theories that guide the practice of faith-based counseling to individuals in need.
Introduction to Pastoral Counseling
Lessons provide students with an overview of the knowledge and practice of pastoral counseling. Topics of study include facilitation skills, cognitive behavioral approaches and Biblical teachings.
Students examine the daily roles and responsibilities of a pastoral minister. They explore the current issues and challenges that ministers face and discuss best practices in ministerial leadership.
Counseling Small Groups
This class identifies the unique challenges counselors face when working with a small group. Major areas of study include the purpose and functions of groups, stages of group development and balancing Biblical principles with secular theories within a religious context.
Graduates are generally qualified for pastoral counseling positions in a variety of settings, including churches, hospitals and healthcare facilities, as well as rescue shelters. In November 2016, Salary.com reported that the median annual salary of a pastoral care director in a healthcare setting was $92,321.
Online master's degree programs that cover pastoral counseling train students to apply the principles of Christianity to individual and group therapy. Because they are offered entirely online, much of the coursework must be completed independently, but virtual classroom environments facilitate class discussions, so students can learn from each other as they prepare for careers in faith-based counseling.