Spiritual Counseling Career Info and Education Requirements

Sep 24, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a spiritual counselor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and previous experience to find out if this is the career for you.

Spiritual counselors are counselors associated typically with an organized religion, but with a master's degree to qualify them as counselors. They offer guidance to people needing support, and help to explain how the religion relates to personal issues or challenges. Spiritual counselors bring together spiritual, psychological and theological fields.

Essential Information

Spiritual counselors help clients, patients and students by providing support and guidance. They are often ordained clergy affiliated with an organized religion. Counselors meet with people in need to offer comfort and support and to help them gain a better understanding of ministry as it relates to their issues. A master's degree is required to become a licensed counselor. Many employers value the continued study of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in potential spiritual counselors.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements A unit of Clinical Pastoral Education
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% (for clergy)
Median Salary (2018)* $48,990 (for clergy)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Spiritual Counselors

Spiritual counselors provide spiritual, mental and emotional care to a variety of individuals. These types of counselors deliver care based on spiritual, psychological and theological principles. Potential career options include counseling in schools, hospitals, hospices, rehabilitation centers and substance abuse communities.

Spiritual counselors are typically clergy members with an in-depth spiritual knowledge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for clergy was expected to increase by 6% between 2018 and 2028. The median annual wages for clergy members were $48,990in May 2018.

Education Requirements

Education and training requirements to become a counselor vary by state, but many states require a master's degree in divinity, counseling or a similar field followed by state licensing. Degree programs are available through departments of psychology, education, pastoral studies or human services in traditional colleges or universities. Prospective counselors may also enroll in programs at theology or seminary schools. To gain admittance into a graduate counseling program, a bachelor's degree from an accredited school is required and the completion of certain liberal arts and science classes may also be needed.

Master's degree programs typically cover topics in theology, counseling and the Bible. Graduate students may have the option to concentrate in mental health, rehabilitation, school counseling or spiritual direction. Many employers seek applicants who have taken a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), which is specialized education for those who would like to work in pastoral care or spiritual counseling. This training is available at many non-denominational teaching hospitals and is offered by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc., a U.S. Department of Education accredited organization.


Counselors participating in CPE further develop interpersonal and inter-professional relationships as they reflect on specific human situations. Prospective candidates should have a sincere desire to help others, as well as strong communication and listening skills, patience and empathy. Spiritual counselors must also prepare themselves to handle stress from helping others cope with their problems.

Continuing Education and Certification

Counselors may also choose to become certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NBCC designates a general practice credential of National Certified Counselor, which in some states may exempt the applicant from taking a state certification exam. Online programs are also available to those wishing to continue education or attain a certification.

Aspiring spiritual counselors may seek a degree in psychology, counseling or theology. These clergy members have special emotional and spiritual knowledge, which they bring together when they guide and counsel people. They may be required by their state to hold licensure.

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