How to Choose a Pastoral Counseling Degree

This article contains information about how to choose a pastoral counseling degree. You will learn about what is in a quality pastoral counseling degree, and we also will provide a recommendation for a good online program.

What Is a Pastoral Counseling Degree?

A pastoral counseling degree integrates psychotherapy and Christian theology. People who earn a pastoral counseling degree are usually ministers or priests who want to help people with their psychological issues from a religious perspective. This is a profession that combines standard religious training and world views with training in psychotherapy and behavioral health.

This is generally a master’s degree program that will include psychology and counseling courses, in addition to religious and theological classes. Students in these programs should find a complete understanding of pastoral counseling that is incorporated with the best of psychological theory and modern theology.

Your coursework will generally give you a good grasp of biblical counseling principles and strategies so that you can meet the needs of your clients or church members. Some in this field decide to earn their master’s in pastoral counseling so that they can work as military chaplains.

Some pastoral degree programs will offer various concentrations, such as

  • Human development and personality
  • Interpersonal dynamics
  • Military counseling
  • Leadership
  • Additions and recovery
  • Life coaching
  • Marriage, family and community dynamics
  • Cultural systems
  • Research methods

Why Earn a Pastoral Counseling Degree?

Professionals who want to earn a pastoral counseling degree are interested in providing psychological help to others from a religious perspective. Some may wish to work in a church as a minister or clergy and to serve as a pastoral counselor. Those who want to work in this field feel a very strong calling to do so, and there always will be a need for those of faith to obtain counseling from a religious viewpoint.

There are many parts of the southern US that are rapidly growing, such as many parts of Texas, that have strong religious leanings historically. These areas have a large number of churches and their growing memberships will always require more pastoral counselors to help them work through their problems from a perspective of faith.

Another option that others choose is to work in the field of psychology and provide counseling services from a religious viewpoint. The field of psychology is growing very rapidly in the United States today. The employment increase in the general psychology field will be 19% by 2024. This is much faster than in other occupations.

Also, the employment of counseling, clinical and school psychologists will increase by 20% by 2024. There will be more need for advanced psychological services in hospitals, schools, mental health centers and social service centers. There will also be more need for counselors who have a biblical perspective in their counseling.

Some pastoral counselors may want to work in private schools and become a school psychologist. There are many private religious schools in America that will need pastoral counselors to help students work through their mental health and behavioral problems.

Professionals who work in various areas of counseling can earn a good living. Median pay in the psychology field is $75,000 per year. If you work in a church, you will earn a lower salary, possibly in the lower end in the area of $40,000 or $50,000 per year.

Online Degree Options

Those who feel a calling to work in pastoral counseling may consider the Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty University. This two year degree will prepare you to be a pastoral leaders that is involved in non professional counseling of your church members and many others in various ministry settings. Some graduates also perform pastoral services in rescue missions, domestic violence and homeless shelters.

Your coursework will provide you with an excellent understanding of the fundamentals of counseling according to biblical principles so that you can help your church members with their problems. It can serve as a good background for professionals who want to become a professional counselor, but it does not meet licensure requirements by itself.

One of the major advantages of the Liberty program is that you can choose from many concentrations. Being able to focus on such concentrated areas can be of great benefit to help you to move your career forward. Below is more information about the most common concentrations.

  • Addictions and Recovery: Teaches you how to treat drug addictions and also the oversight of the recovery process from a biblical perspective. Your courses will cover how to diagnose and treat substance and sexual addictions, the major biological aspects that cause these addictions, and how to treat them.
  • Marriage and Family: This speciality will provide you with the skills and knowledge that are important for counseling families and individuals in many church settings. Your courses will cover family, premarital and marital counseling. You will be equipped to provide a Christian perspective and a strong commitment to biblical values to your marriage and family clients.
  • Parent and Child/Adolescent: Exposes you to essential biblical counseling principles and strategies to help children and parents in various church settings. Courses cover childhood problems, crisis intervention, and multi generational influence.
  • Crisis Response and Trauma: Gives you the skills and expertise to meet the complex needs of organizations, groups and individuals who are dealing with a disaster, trauma or some other crisis. You will be able to provide counseling to people with post traumatic stress disorder, natural disasters and even terrorism. You will have a very good understanding of the biblical elements that are important to establish effective strategies in trauma and crisis counseling.

Note: If you want to become a licensed counselor or psychologist in your state, this program will not meet licensure requirements alone. Please check with your state psychology board to determine what additional requirements you must meet to become a licensed counselor or psychologist.


As you are considering which university and program to attend, it is recommended that you consider the matter of accreditation. It is important to verify that the university has been regionally accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies that are recognized by the Department of Education. These are:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Northwest Accreditation Commission
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges

This regional accreditation tells you that the university has met high educational quality standards. It also will tell your possible employers that you have earned a degree of value.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


Earning a pastoral counseling degree is an effective way to earn a good living and to help others handle their problems and challenges of life from a religious perspective.