Salary and Career Information for Pastoral Counselors

Sep 21, 2019

Working as a pastoral counselor requires significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

A career in pastoral counseling requires a master's degree in counseling and a state license. Pastoral counselors help individuals dealing with mental health problems by combining theology and psychotherapy, and are typically employed by churches, counseling centers, hospitals and community programs.

Essential Information

Pastoral counselors combine theology and psychotherapy to help individuals cope with mental health problems as well as providing relationship and career advice. Counselors may serve as a specialized resource for churches, communities and hospitals. Depending on state requirements, they can be licensed as pastoral counselors or as marriage and family therapists. A pastoral counselor, like other types of mental health therapists, must hold a master's or doctoral degree in their field of study.

Required Education Master's or doctoral degree in counseling
Other Requirements State licensing is required for therapists and counselors in all states; voluntary certification as a pastoral counselor available through the American Association of Pastoral Counselors
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 22% for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors;
22% for marriage and family therapists
Median Salary (2018)* $44,630 for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors;
$50,090 for marriage and family therapists

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary Information for Pastoral Counselors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned a median salary of $44,630 per year in May, 2018. Many pastoral counselors are licensed marriage and family therapists (MFTs). The BLS reports that the median salary for marriage and family therapists was $50,090 in 2018.

The BLS also stated that marriage and family therapist jobs are expected to rise 22% between 2018 and 2028, which is significantly higher than average; substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors can expect to see a 22% increase in employment during that time.

Career Information for Pastoral Counselors

Pastoral counselors provide a blend of psychological therapy and spiritual advice. They work for counseling centers, churches, community programs and hospitals. Counselors may simultaneously be employed as ministers. They provide faith-based marriage advice and help patients who are coping with grief, depression and substance abuse.

Education Requirements

Pastoral counselors must obtain a master's degree or a doctorate in counseling. Graduate degree programs in pastoral counseling feature interdisciplinary coursework that incorporates theology and psychology. Courses may include:

  • Cultural awareness
  • Job counseling
  • Incorporating faith in treatments
  • Bible study and ministry
  • Diagnosis of disorders
  • Substance abuse and intervention
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Psychopathology

License Requirements

According to the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), only six states offered a pastoral counselor license in 2010. In other states, pastoral counselors must meet the license requirements for MFTs or other professional mental health counselors. State education, experience and licensure exam requirements vary.


The AAPC offers a voluntary certification program. Candidates are required to have a graduate degree in theology, biblical studies or pastoral counseling. They also must be endorsed by a religious organization and provide documentation of field hours serving their local faith-based community. Candidates for the AAPC certification exam must have three years experience in ministry and 375 hours of counseling, of which 125 are supervised hours.

Pastoral counselors must be licensed and possess a master's or doctoral degree in counseling. They use theology and psychotherapy to provide faith-based counseling designed to help individuals with mental health problems address issues in their lives.

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