Online Degrees in Christian Counseling

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Guidance Through Faith

Christian counseling combines principles of psychology with Christian tenets based on the Bible. Christian counselors help people with their relationships and personal issues, but do so by using psychological therapies that are also in line with Christ’s teachings. Online Christian counseling degree programs provide a flexible and convenient educational atmosphere where students can obtain a behavioral science foundation within a religious context. This guide will help prospective students find the right online Christian counseling degree.

Milestone Map for Christian Counselors

Those who choose to earn their degree in Christian counseling have many exciting possibilities ahead. The following is just one example of the educational and career path of a person with an online Christian counseling degree.

High School

Taught Sunday school class and took AP psychology

Bachelor’s Degree

Majored in social work and minored in religious studies

Entry-Level Job

Worked as a social worker at a hospital, helping victims of abuse

Master’s Degree

Obtained an online master’s degree in Christian counseling

Advancement

Began working as a Christian counselor at a faith-based clinic

New Research

Received grant for studying how religion can help families heal emotionally

Earning a Christian Counseling Degree Online

Getting a degree online provides convenience and flexibility for students who have other responsibilities, such as commitments to family and work. Online Christian counseling degree programs allow students to receive an education that is tailored to fit around their already busy personal and professional lives. Students can often take classes on their schedule, whether it’s after the kids have been put to bed or during their lunch break. Distance learning is also advantageous in that students don’t have to move to the school or commute to class several times a week, thus saving time and money.

None of this convenience compromises the quality of the education. Students should still have access to the same faculty and academic support services as their on-campus counterparts. Of course, online students will need to have certain resources and technologies in order to take classes online. A broadband connection, real-time conferencing software and Web-based learning tools are necessary but easily obtainable.

Depending on the school, students may be required to attend some elements in person. For most online Christian counseling degrees, a supervised practicum or internship is mandatory. Some schools may also require an on-campus intensive course or seminar where students will receive face-to-face instruction from their professors.

Levels of Online Christian Counseling Degrees

There are online degree programs in Christian counseling available at all levels of the educational experience. Which one is right for any one student depends strongly on her or his career goals and previous schooling. Here is what students can expect at each degree level:

  • Associate’s
    (2 years)
  • Bachelor’s
    (4 years)
  • Master’s
    (2-3 years)
  • Doctorate
    (2-4 years)
  • Certificate
    (About 1 year)

Earning an associate degree on its own is not sufficient to become a state-licensed Christian counselor. However, an associate degree does provide a great foundation for educational advancement to the bachelor’s degree. For those who are already ordained, full licensure may not be essential, but the extra instruction and training obtained during the associate degree pursuit is useful for anyone providing Christian or pastoral counseling.

To apply, prospective students usually need a high school diploma or GED. Once enrolled, they can get an associate degree in about two years by taking approximately 60 credits. About one-third to one-half of the credits may be in general education and elective courses such as writing and math. The remaining curriculum will be related to Christian counseling and religious-based instruction, with course titles such as Introduction to Christian Counseling, The Old Testament and Christian Education. Students may also complete a counseling Internship.

As with the associate degree, a bachelor’s degree won’t be enough for those who would like to become state-licensed Christian counselors. However, it can serve as the stepping stone to a master’s degree, which is usually the minimum educational credential for licensure as a secular counselor.

If a student doesn’t intend to seek state licensure but wants more instruction and training in counseling methods and theories, a bachelor’s degree is a fantastic option, as it will cover the same general topics as the associate degree in Christian counseling while going into more depth. Because of this, the bachelor’s degree takes about twice as long as the associate degree, consisting of about 120 to 130 credits and taking four years to complete.

To enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, students usually need a high school diploma or GED. Some programs require an associate degree for entry.

If licensure and/or private practice is the goal, a master’s degree is required by all states. Most programs last between two and three years and consist of about 40 to 60 credits.

There are generally two types of Christian counseling master’s degree programs. The first are accredited and meet the academic requirements for licensure. These are typically 60 or so credits long and may take up to three years to complete. Additionally, almost all such programs require several hundred hours of supervised and documented clinical counseling experience. Upon graduation, students are prepared to become licensed counselors. A bachelor’s degree is usually required to be admitted into these programs.

The second type of master’s degree program in Christian counseling generally does not meet the academic requirements for state licensure. These programs often require fewer credits for graduation and do not have the supervised and documented internship/practicum requirement. However, some have a thesis requirement as part of the master’s degree curriculum.

For those interested in eventually becoming supervisors, researchers or professors, a doctorate degree is highly recommended. There are several types of doctorate degrees available. Some of the most common online doctorate degrees in Christian counseling are the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Christian Counseling (DCC), Doctor of Ministry (DMin) and Doctor of Theology (ThD). For those who would like to teach, a PhD or ThD is probably best. For those who would like to focus on the ministry but still be able to provide counseling services when needed, a DMin might make the most sense. And for those who want to focus primarily on Christian counseling, a DCC would probably be suitable.

In order to attend a doctorate program, most schools require a master’s degree in counseling, divinity or another religious or counseling field. Students can expect to take 40 to 60 credits and complete a dissertation or thesis; some schools also have a practicum requirement. The time it takes to complete the degree varies tremendously among programs, although two to four years is considered the norm. Coursework is dependent upon the type of doctoral degree one is seeking but may include classes such as Advanced Christian Counseling, Pastoral Counseling Methods, Communicating with God, Dealing with Addictions, and Research Methods.

Online certificates in Christian counseling can be found at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Certificate programs are generally designed for students who desire additional training and instruction in Christian counseling methods and skills, but do not need another degree or state licensure.

Unless the certificate is at the graduate level, there usually isn’t an underlying degree or educational requirement for enrollment. Graduate certificate programs, however, may require applicants to have an undergraduate degree or background in religious or counseling studies in order to be accepted.

Typical certificate program coursework consists of about 15 credits and includes classes such as Family Counseling, The Scripture and Counseling, and Spiritual Care. The curriculum provides a broad foundation of counseling methods within a Christian values framework.

Coursework for Online Christian Counseling Degrees

Classes students can expect to take vary depending on the school, the degree program and their preferences. However, some commonly found courses in any Christian counseling program understandably cover subjects relating to counseling and religious studies. More specifically, courses might include:

Biblical Marriage Counseling

Premarital and marital counseling techniques are examined in this class. Students will learn these principles and techniques using a biblical framework.

Christian Counseling

The typical problems and issues faced by those in need, as well as common methods to help them, are at the heart of this course, which teaches counseling theories congruent with the Bible.

Psychopharmacology

This class introduces the fundamental principles of how drugs affect the human brain and how to utilize these principles when prescribing drugs in a clinical setting.

Counseling Practicum

Students acquire several hundred hours of experience in providing counseling services to others. Practicums are supervised at approved clinical locations, as well as in classrooms.

Spiritual Growth

The class teaches students how to provide the Christian-based counseling process by combining emotional and mental help with biblical and Christian ideals.

How to Choose an Online
Christian Counseling Degree Program

There are numerous online Christian counseling degree programs, but they are not all created equal. When trying to decide, it really boils down to the end goal. If state licensure and/or private practice is the aim, the list of potential online schools is reduced dramatically. However, if the objective is to use counseling to help a congregation or community members, then choosing a school will probably come down to personal preference and price. Here are some points to consider:

  • Do you want to become a state licensed counselor? If so, many online programs will not meet requirements.
  • Can you afford the tuition and related school costs, especially if students are not eligible for federal financial aid? Does the school offer any of its own financial aid, tuition assistance or scholarships?
  • Is the school accredited? If so, is it accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)?
  • What is the religious philosophy of the Christian counseling program? Do their ideals align with yours? Some cover a broad swath of Christians, while others are aligned with a particular denomination.
  • What do admissions counselors and former students have to say about the learning experience?
  • How quickly can the degree or certificate be earned?

Christian Counseling Degree Accreditation

Accreditation of a Christian counseling program may or may not be important to a prospective student, depending on his or her end goals. For those who intend to rely on federal financial aid or obtain state licensure, programmatic accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program (CACREP) and institutional accreditation by a regional organization recognized by CHEA is imperative in many states. If, however, a simple expansion of Christian counseling knowledge is all that is desired, then accreditation may not be as important.

There are also three religious accreditors recognized by CHEA that accredit online Christian counseling degree programs:

There are also religious accreditors not recognized by CHEA or the U.S. Department of Education that accredit online Christian counseling programs. Students who attend these schools are ineligible for federal financial aid.

Steps to Enroll in a Master’s in Christian Counseling

Students need a master’s degree before they can obtain a state counseling license. While there is no set path students should take to get the master’s degree, the following chart provides one possible route. The steps can easily vary should a student decide to become ordained or spend an extended period of time on a mission trip, for example.

Time Before
Program Start Date
Step 1

Obtain a bachelor’s degree

4 years or more
Step 2

Build up experience working for a religious organization or counseling center

1 or more years
Step 3

Join a professional counseling organization to learn more about the profession

1 or more years
Step 4

Take the GRE, if needed

About 1 year

Step 5

Finish master’s program applications and submit before the deadline

6 to 9 months

Acceptance into an online Christian counseling program can be competitive. To improve their chances, applicants should consider taking the steps below:

  • Becoming a member of a Christian counseling organization
  • Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a field related to Christian counseling
  • Volunteering at their local church or other religious organization
  • Traveling overseas to conduct mission work
  • Gaining counseling-related experience working at a private counseling clinic

Careers & Salaries for Christian Counseling Grads

Graduates of a Christian counseling program are not confined to any one type of counseling. The below list provides an idea of what other jobs and careers might be possible.

Christian Counselor

Provides counseling services within a religious framework with the goal of improving the individual’s psychological and religious well-being as a whole.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Assists people suffering from substance abuse, addictions and their associated problems.

Mental Health Counselor

Helps individuals with mental health issues to identify problems and find ways to deal with them.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Aids spouses and family members as they deal with marital or familial discord.

School Counselor

Works with students to help them grow and reach their full academic and personal potential.

Career National Job Growth(2014-2024) National Median Annual Salary (May 2014) Minimum Education
Christian Counselor 10% $44,830 Bachelor’s or master’s degree, depending on purpose
Social Worker 12% $45,500 Bachelor’s degree
Mental Health Counselor 20% $40,850 Master’s degree
Marriage and Family Therapist 15% $48,040 Master’s degree
Psychologist 19% $70,700 Master’s degree, but doctorate strongly recommended

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Licensure and Certification for Christian Counselors

Many who obtain an online Christian counseling degree do not seek state licensure or certification. However, for those who have the professional goal of becoming state licensed, they must take care to attend the right online Christian counseling program so they meet certain requirements.

Since each state has its own licensing requirements, students should check with their respective state’s licensing organization. Students can find links to this information by visiting the American Counseling Association’s website.

Generally speaking, most states require at least a master’s degree from an accredited institution, supervised counseling experience, and passage of the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) and/or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

Besides secular licensure, there are opportunities for private, Christian licensure. One such possibility is offered by the National Christian Counselors Association (NCCA). The NCCA is a nonprofit organization that ensures Christian counselors, ministers, medical doctors and other professionals utilize methods that most effectively maintain Christian principles when counseling others.

Secular Online Counseling Programs

Christian counseling may not be for everyone. That doesn’t mean the opportunity to counsel, heal and help others is no longer available. There are similar online programs available for those who want to enter the counseling world.

Online Addiction Counseling Degree

Most commonly found at the master’s degree or graduate certificate level, an online addiction counseling program prepares students to become licensed and certified addiction counselors.

Online Mental Health Counseling Degree

Online mental health counseling programs are very popular at the master’s level, which is usually the minimum education required to become a mental health counselor. By going into this profession, counselors can diagnose and treat mental health disorders.

Online School Counseling Degree

School counselors help students succeed in school. To serve in this role, school counselors must receive special training and education covering working with younger learners.

Websites of Interest to Christian Counselors