Pastoral counselors are trained in both psychology and theology to provide psychological as well as spiritual guidance to patients and families in health care settings. They perform a variety of tasks with their main responsibility being to counsel patients and family members. They also work with hospital staff to provide ethical and spiritual direction and instruction on religious practices and beliefs.
Steps Toward an MA in Pastoral Counseling
To become a pastoral counselor, requirements vary significantly by state. Successful students typically complete the following steps:
- Earn proper undergraduate degree (requirements vary by state). Common undergraduate degrees include Bachelor of Science programs in education, psychology, or human services or Bachelor of Arts program in theology.
- Earn proper graduate degree (requirements vary by state) from an accredited institution like Capella, Kaplan, Liberty, or Walden University. Typically includes completing a MA in Religion with a focus in pastoral counseling.
- Obtain proper licensure. Licensure requirements differ greatly by state, occupational specialty, and work setting.
- Consider certification options. Some counselors elect to be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors, which grants a general practice credential of National Certified Counselor. While voluntary and distinct from state licensing, in some states, those who pass the national exam are exempt from taking a State certification exam.
After you’ve completed the necessary education, it would be wise to look into membership with the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC). Membership with the AAPC is beneficial for those who wish to “increase their professional capacity to provide spiritually informed and integrated care.” Membership will also help those looking to continue their education, increase networking opportunities, and even provide specialized in-service training in pastoral counseling.
My Degree and What It’s Good For
A pastoral counseling degree will allow you to provide advice and support in a religious context, and to help people with crises of faith as well as general issues. A pastoral counselor’s job requires them to:
- Deliver religious rites and ordinances.
- Provide personal and vocational counseling.
- Offer spiritual support and guidance.
- Arrange for medical care, vocational training, job placement and other outside services.
According to the AAPC, “pastoral counseling accounts for three million hours of treatment annually in institutional and community-based settings.” Visit our salary guide to learn more about your earning potential as a Pastoral Counselor.
Online MA in Pastoral Counseling Degree Programs
- Grand Canyon University: MS – Christian Counseling
- Liberty University: MAR – Pastoral Counseling
- Liberty University: MDiv – Pastoral Counseling
Closely Related Programs
The following degrees are closely related to a master’s degree program in pastoral counseling, often allowing you to pursue a career in this field or others: