For centuries, pastors and ministers have been assisting believers to get through tough times with pastoral counseling. This special form of counseling provides a strong framework for the various training resources and clergy roles in therapeutics settings.
Religious leaders, such as rabbis, priests, imams, pastors and ministers, receive rigorous mental health and psychological training that assist them to offer therapy to members of their church or religious organization who have personal problems.
Pastoral counseling is different from other areas of psychotherapy and counseling. Pastoral counselors support the fundamental religious beliefs of their religious organization, so therapy with a pastoral counselor is a combination of faith, life and psychological and behavioral science.
Pastoral counselors help their members through many personal crises, such as death, divorce, chronic or terminal illness, and marriage problems. They also work with them on substance abuse issues, mental health disorders, and also choosing a good career.
Religious professionals who earn a pastoral counseling degree can work in many types of jobs in the religious sector, and also earn a competitive salary. Below are some of the most frequent jobs available for pastoral counselors.
Minister or Pastor
The most obvious choice with a pastoral counseling degree is to be a lead minister or pastor in your church. Many professionals who earn this degree may indeed work for their church, but others may decide to go in a different direction.
Another option is to be a minister or pastor in a hospital, relief agency or homeless shelter. You may be able to help people in developing nations to overcome health and hunger problems.
For those who are interested in a higher salary, the highest pay for ministers and pastors typically will be found at megachurches, where the salary can be $100,000 or more for experienced pastors. However, the median wage according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BL is closer to $44,000 per year.
If you are transitioning straight from college to ministry, your salary may be lower, around $32,000 per year. Keep in mind that ministers and pastors often have free or subsidized housing provided.
Pastoral counseling stresses the need to help other people, so many professionals may decide to enter social work to help people in the community outside the church to live a better life. Some may choose to work at homeless shelters or the Salvation Army to organize various food drives and to help people deal with poverty issues. Others may opt to work for local and state agencies.
If you choose to work in social work, you will need to earn your license and certification in the field, so you may need to also have a social work bachelor’s degree.
The outlook for jobs in social work is quite good, with 12% increase in jobs by 2024. The median salary for social workers at the entry level is approximately $30,000 per year. But after gaining several years of experience, you may be able to earn $45,000 per year.
Salaries in social work are highest for those with a MSW master’s degree and who work either as clinical or healthcare social workers.
Private, religious schools and other religious organizations need not just good teachers to be successful. They also require highly skilled executive directors and administrators to ensure that the organization is run in a smooth fashion.
This is very rewarding but challenging job, as administrators must work both with religious leaders and parents of those who are attending the school. Having a background in pastoral counseling or theology is very helpful in these roles, as is a public administration background.
Directors of smaller private schools may earn $40,000 or $45,000 per year; larger schools may have executive directors earning more than $100,000 per year.
Mental Health Counselor
Another very common and rewarding career path in pastoral counseling is to become a mental health counselor, or marriage and family therapist. These licensed mental health professionals assist their clients with various personal problems and emotional and mental disorders.
As a counselor with a pastoral background, you can work as a mental health counselor and therapist who approaches these challenges from a religious perspective. Many people want to talk about their personal issues with a professional who is coming at the treatment program from a position of religious faith.
The median salary in this field is solid, at $49,500 per year. Note that you need to be licensed to work in this field, and most likely will need to have a master’s degree in counseling; some schools may offer a master’s in counseling program with a focus on pastoral care.
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
Another occupation in strong demand for people with a pastoral counseling background is substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor. More people today are being sent to treatment for their drug addiction issues, instead of being sentenced to years in prison. These professionals offer treatment and support to assist clients to recover from serious addiction problems.
You may work with these clients either in groups or one on one. Some clients may want to work with a substance abuse counselor who has rigorous religious training, so your skills should be in strong demand.
You will teach your addiction clients how to deal with the problems and stresses of life without turning to things that are harmful, such as drugs and alcohol. You also will help your clients to improve their personal and professional relationships so that they can reestablish a normal life.
Some professionals in this field may work with clients who must receive treatment for their addiction problems, such as from a court order. Others may work with certain populations of addicted individuals, such as teenagers, veterans or the elderly.
The job outlook in this field is excellent, with a 22% increase in demand by 2024, which is much faster than average. Pay is also excellent with a median of $42,000 per year.
Career and School Counselor
Some pastoral counseling professionals may want to work with adults and students in career and school counseling, so that they can be put in a position to succeed in life by getting a good job and education.
School counselors help students to better develop their academic and social skills so they can succeed in school. Pastoral counselors often work in this area in private religious schools.
Career counselors help adults make good career decisions, as they help them to develop new skills or to select a certain career and educational field.
This field is growing quickly, with 8% more jobs coming by 2024. Salaries are a healthy median of $54,500 per year.
There are a variety of social service-related jobs that you can obtain with a pastoral counseling background. Not only can you earn a solid living: You also can feel the satisfaction of using your religious faith in your work to assist other people to reach their maximum potential.
- Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-2
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm
- School and Career Counselors. (2015. Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm