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Religious Counseling Education and Training Program Summaries

Students interested in giving religious advice as a career can enroll in a degree program in Christian or Biblical counseling, allowing them to work in churches, youth ministries and other religious settings. Further credentials might be required to employment in this field.

Essential Information

Students in bachelor's degree programs learn to apply biblical and theological principles to various types of counseling work through religious organizations. Courses cover topics including family, trauma and substance abuse counseling. A high school diploma is the only prerequisite for bachelor's degree program students.

Master's degree programs also teach students how to integrate Christian beliefs into counseling. Courses cover the dynamics of relationships, mental illness and psychotherapy. Academic research methodologies are taught, and students must complete clinical practicums in order to qualify for licensing. To gain entry to this program, students need a bachelor's degree in a related field, while Ph.D. students need to have a master's degree in a related field. In a doctoral program, students learn to use research with the goal of improving Christian counseling methods. They must complete a ministry experience as part of their studies, along with a final research project.


Bachelor of Science in Christian Counseling

Christian counselors work with individuals, families and married couples in church organizations. Christian counseling degree programs teach fundamental biblical and theological theories and principles, and train students to apply these principles to Christian counseling services. The curriculum includes the study of scripture and theology, as well as psychological disorders that are commonly encountered by Christian counselors, including substance abuse and depression. Students learn to counsel individuals through compassion and use biblical teachings to minister spiritual health and healing. Christian counseling bachelor's degree programs are non-clinical and do not result in a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential. There are no educational prerequisites to this degree program.

Students take general education, biblical and Christian counseling courses, with an emphasis on ethical and moral counseling practices. Counseling courses that are common to this degree program include:

  • Addiction
  • Marriage and family
  • Adolescents
  • Trauma
  • Diversity

Master of Arts in Christian Counseling

Some master's degree programs in Christian counseling prepare students for the licensed professional counselor (LPC) credential with study of Christian principles, counseling theories and the practice of providing both spiritual and clinical support to individuals and families in a secular setting. Students perform academic research and attend seminars that teach Christian and theological principles of counseling and methods for integrating Christian beliefs and individual mental health. Students in a LPC-eligible program complete both an on- and off-campus counseling practicum toward the end of the program.

Students learn Christian and theological counseling principles through traditional coursework and graduate seminars. Typical courses in this degree program include:

  • Counseling ethics
  • Addiction counseling
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Diagnosis
  • Mental illness

Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Counseling

A doctoral degree program in biblical counseling prepares students to advance biblical research and design and improve methods for the delivery of Christian counseling services. Doctoral students complete academic research in counseling and ministry, attend biblical seminars in marriage and family counseling and complete a ministry experience. Students might also take comprehensive examinations and complete a doctoral capstone project as part of their degree requirements. Some doctoral programs in biblical counseling qualify graduates for certification by the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors.

Students are required to hold a master's degree in ministry or related area of study from an accredited institution. Other admission requirements include satisfactory scores on the Graduate Records Examination, one year of professional experience and an essay outlining the student's academic and professional goals.

Doctoral students learn to be effective Christian leaders through traditional classroom coursework, research studies and a biblical counseling practicum. Courses in this degree program include:

  • Biblical counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Applied Christian research
  • Psychopathology
  • Theology

Popular Career Options

Graduates are qualified to work as Christian counselors in churches, parachurch organizations and other ministry settings. Popular career choices for graduates include:

  • Youth counselor
  • Marriage counselor
  • Crisis counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor

Graduates go on to careers in religious settings, from churches to institutes of higher education. Popular career options for graduates include:

  • Seminary professor
  • Biblical counselor
  • Minister

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mental health counselors held approximately 128,200 jobs in the United States in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that jobs for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are projected to grow by 19% during the years between 2014 and 2024. The annual median salary for a mental health counselor in 2014 was $41,880, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of a bachelor's program can obtain a licensed Christian counselor credential through the National Christian Counselors Association. The American Association of Christian Counselors offers continuing education courses and annual conferences for career development. Graduates can also pursue seminary graduate studies in Christian counseling.

Doctoral graduates can pursue certification as Christian counselors from the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC), an organization that promotes counseling from a Christian worldview. Certification from NANC requires satisfactory scores on theological and counseling exams and 50 hours of NANC-supervised training as a biblical counselor.

At all levels of study, degree programs in religious counselling give students the tools and knowledge to provide effective support within the framework of religious belief.


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