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.

Best Online Degrees in Christian Counseling: 2017

Several colleges around the country offer Christian counseling programs in an online format, allowing students to pursue their goals of becoming a faith-based counselor without having a strict academic schedule. Christian counseling programs emphasize a combination of psychological practice and applying Christian tenets to best help advise members of the Christian community. There are several schools out there offering these online programs, so we’ve looked at data for each school regarding price, success rate, and student/teach ratio, and we’ve compiled a list of the best programs. Look below to find the best online Christian counseling programs for 2017.

RankUniversity Name Score Net Price Financial aid percent Online Programs Aavailable Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateUniversity Information Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services
1Lee University Score99.75
Net Price
Financial aid %71%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate49%

There are several counseling degrees available through Lee University at the graduate level, including holistic child development, school counseling, marriage and family therapy, and marriage and family studies. All programs result in a master of science degree. Like all academic pursuits at Lee, the graduate programs prepare students for "responsible Christian living in a complex world." The university, which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, boasts more than 100 on-campus clubs and a small student-teacher ratio. The university is affiliated with the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
2Oral Roberts University Score98.48
Net Price
Financial aid %100%
#Online programs3
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate51%

Students who pursue the bachelor of science degree in Christian caregiving and counseling at Oral Roberts University will be qualified for careers as teachers, chaplains, researchers, pastors, missionaries and counselors. Students can complete the program on campus, or online through distance learning technology. The school boasts high freshman retention rates and low student-teacher ratios. The university, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, is home to students from a variety of Christian denominations. There are a large variety of clubs and organizations, and hundreds of students participate in mission trips abroad.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
3Hampton University Score95.81
Net Price
Financial aid %47%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate59%

Hampton University offers a master of arts degree program in mental health counseling with a concentration in pastoral counseling. The non-denominational program, which is accredited by the the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, prepares graduate students for spiritual leadership roles in local parishes and neighborhoods in the community. All counseling programs offered by Hampton University, however, are grounded in spiritual introspection as well as the spiritual health of the communities the graduates will eventually serve. The program is delivered through the university's School of Education and Human Development.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
4Harding University Score95.40
Net Price
Financial aid %91%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate61%

The master of science in marriage and family therapy follows a cohort framework and prepares students for careers in systemic professional environments. Coursework includes heavy subject matter such as sexual abuse, substance abuse and family violence. The full-time program, which includes all supervisory and clinical hours, begins in August once a year. Since study and case partners remain the same throughout, the program provides a heightened level of intimacy. Students will work beyond the classroom with real-life clients, and they will leave the program prepared academically to pursue licensure. The program is offered by the College of Bible and Religion.

Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
5Messenger College Score95.08
Net Price
Financial aid %36%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate73%

Undergraduate counseling students can earn a bachelor of arts degree designed specifically for candidates who plan to continue on to graduate-level education. Like all degrees at Messenger College, participants can complete the program online. Students will graduate prepared to accept ministry-related positions and to offer pastoral care at local churches. The program does not, however, lead to licensure or certification. Students are provided with tools like the Populi portal and the Atheneo platform for distance learners. They'll have access to campus ministries, student activities and student services. There is also campus recreation and student leadership.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
6Johnson University Score94.81
Net Price
Financial aid %87%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate62%

A special adult evening pastoral care and counseling degree program is available at Johnson University. Students will also receive coursework in Bible and theology, which is a second major. Upon graduation, students will be prepared to offer Bible-based counseling in the ministry for both families and individuals. They will also leave the program with a bachelor of arts degree that is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Campus facilities include fitness centers, a dining hall and grill, a counseling center, computer labs and a recording studio.

Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
7Southwestern Assemblies of God University Score94.73
Net Price
Financial aid %73%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate38%

Distance learners can pursue a counseling degree from Southwestern Assemblies of God University completely online, yet they will have access to the same on-campus resources as their peers who learn face to face. Graduates will be awarded a bachelor of arts degree that is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Students will leave the program prepared to administer Christian counseling in the fields of addiction, marriage and psychological health. Coursework is delivered and real-world strategies are taught by faculty with decades of industry-relevant experience.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
8World Mission University Score93.78
Net Price
Financial aid %50%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate17%

The bachelor of arts degree at World Mission University is designed specifically for students who plan to administer counseling as part of a ministry. The 126-hour program takes four years to complete and is developed on top of theology, general education and Bible requirements. Students will leave the program qualified to continue on to graduate education or immediately enter the ministry. For students who complete the program by submitting a three-credit thesis, an academic advisor will be assigned based on the thesis subject. Students are required to pass a Bible exam and are expected to display a Christian character.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
9Shasta Bible College and Graduate School Score93.75
Net Price
Financial aid %63%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate56%

Graduates of the Shasta Bible College master of arts degree program in biblical counseling will be qualified to begin work providing Christian guidance to both families and individuals. Students will learn how to work with individuals facing a range of issues, challenges or problems in Christian living. There is also a master of divinity option with a specialization in biblical counseling and Christian family. The program is suitable for students currently working as family or biblical counselors, those who seek to enter service, as well as for pastors striving to improve upon their current skills.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
10Apex School of Theology Score93.46
Net Price
Financial aid %23%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate100%

Graduate students can pursue a master of arts degree in Christian counseling at Apex School of Theology. Those who graduate will be prepared to serve both the church community and the general public. Both the graduate and undergraduate schools are among the only freestanding, private theological education institutions that enable distance learners to complete their programs online. The school is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, and all students are eligible to take part in the Student Government Association. Students also benefit from chapel service, a library and research facilities.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
11Dallas Baptist University Score92.73
Net Price
Financial aid %86%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate54%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
12Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary Score92.11
Net Price
Financial aid %N/A
#Online programs4
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad RateN/A
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
13The College at Southeastern Score91.48
Net Price
Financial aid %44%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad RateN/A
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
14Ohio Christian University Score90.99
Net Price
Financial aid %53%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate36%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
15Arlington Baptist College Score89.90
Net Price
Financial aid %19%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate42%
Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
16Faith Evangelical College & Seminary Score88.67
Net Price
Financial aid %13%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad RateN/A
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
17Nazarene Bible College Score88.51
Net Price
Financial aid %N/A
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad RateN/A
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
18John Wesley University Score86.73
Net Price
Financial aid %N/A
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate18%
Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less

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