Becoming a Christian Counselor: Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a career in Christian counseling? Get real job description, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a Christian counselor is right for you.
View available schools

A Career in Christian Counseling: Pros and Cons

Christian counselors are professional counselors who may provide counseling services inside or outside the church. Clergy members may also work as counselors, but they provide spiritual guidance rather than clinical services. Continue reading to get some pros and cons if you are considering a career as a Christian counselor.

Pros of Being a Christian Counselor
Excellent job prospects for clergy (6% increase in employment expected from 2014-2024)*
Clergy members may provide spiritual counseling without a state license**
Share your spiritual beliefs while helping others overcome difficult problems*
Self-employment is possible*

Cons of Being a Christian Counselor
Counselors outside of the clergy must hold a master's degree*
A state license is required*
Relatively low pay ($43,950 mean wage in 2014)*
Evening and weekend work may be required*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Multiple state regulations.

Career Information

Job Descriptions and Skills

A Christian counselor is a spiritual counselor who can recommend ways to face issues and handle emotions that come from marital and family issues, bad habits, poor decision making, depression, addiction and loss. The job duties you may perform as a Christian counselor will be dependent on whether you solely provide professional counseling services or work as a minister, pastor or other member of the clergy. In addition to conducting Sunday services and organizing activities at a church, members of the clergy also meet with members of their congregation and offer spiritual advice while helping them work through problems. Counselors who exclusively provide mental health counseling services utilize scientific research and psychological techniques to find appropriate treatment methods while being guided by the teachings of Christianity.

In order to provide effective Christian counseling, you must possess a high degree of compassion, demonstrate strong listening skills, control your emotions and exude confidence in your counseling knowledge and Christian beliefs.

Salary and Employment Outlook

In 2014, licensed professional mental health counselors earned a mean salary of around $43,990, while the mean wage for members of the clergy was estimated to be $43,950, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While jobs for members of the clergy were expected to increase 6% from 2014-2024, jobs for mental health counselors were expected to increase 20% during the same time period.

Requirements

Education Requirements

Education requirements for members of the clergy who perform counseling services will vary by religious institution and employer. Some employers prefer to hire ministers and pastors with a religious degree from a seminary or divinity school, while other churches may not require a degree. To be licensed and hired as a professional Christian counselor, you will need to earn a master's degree from an accredited counseling or family therapy program. Master's degree programs in Christian counseling will not only prepare you to take licensing examinations, but also provide studies in biblical and theological topics, in addition to psychology and counseling practices. You'll be required to complete supervised clinical training while enrolled in the program.

Licensure Requirements

To work as a mental health counselor, you'll be required to obtain a license from the state where you plan to work. Members of the clergy are usually exempt from these requirements. In addition to earning a master's degree, you'll need to complete several thousand hours of clinical work and pass a state exam. Clinical requirements can often be fulfilled through a master's degree program; however, requirements vary by state. You'll also need to take continuing education courses to keep the license current.

What Are Employers Looking for?

Churches who advertise postings for Christian counselors or spiritual counselors require varying degrees of education and experience. A master's degree in counseling is usually required, but some church positions may only require education from a school granting religious degrees. Read the following job postings, posted in May of 2012, to discover what actual employers are looking for.

  • A hospice in Kentucky is hiring a spiritual counselor with knowledge of current bereavement care and counseling theories. Candidates must hold a degree from a seminary or divinity school. A master's degree is preferred.
  • A church in Ohio is looking for a Christian counselor to provide counseling services to individuals seeking treatment for parental, marital and teen issues; grief; and addiction. Applicants need a state license, a master's degree and two or more years of related experience.
  • A counseling center in Indiana is searching for a pastoral counselor to treat clients from a spiritual perspective. State licensure is required, and unordained applicants are encouraged to apply.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Professional mental health counselors who desire to implement Christian theology into their treatment methods will need to strengthen their knowledge of the Bible and other religious texts. Taking religious education courses could be beneficial. Members of the clergy who want to gain a better understanding of psychological issues might gain some insight from enrolling in psychology and therapeutic technique classes.

By joining the American Association of Christian Counselors or a professional Christian counseling organization, you'll have the opportunity to network with other counselors, receive news and valuable information about developments in the field and locate resources to help you provide more effective care for your clients. You also have the option of pursuing a certificate in Christian counseling from a college or university. Courses generally focus on the use of scripture in therapy, basic counseling techniques and the study of human behavior. These programs usually require the completion of undergraduate prerequisites before admittance.

Other Fields to Consider

Social and Human Service Assistant

If you have a strong desire to help others but are intimidated by the education and licensing required to work as a professional counselor, you could consider becoming a social or human service assistant. You would assist individuals of varying needs by providing them with information about social programs, legal resources and health care. Social and human service assistants work alongside professional counselors and psychologists and help implement client care plans.

You may need a certificate or an associate degree in a behavioral or social science, human services or gerontology; however, a high school diploma might be sufficient for some positions. The BLS predicted a 28% increase in jobs this field from 2010-2020, and the mean pay was around $31,000 in 2011.

Psychologist

Although some job duties may be similar to those of counselors, psychologists can implement more complex treatment plans and often use scientific methods to diagnose mental health issues. To become a psychologist, you typically would need a doctorate in psychology and a state license.

The BLS reports that jobs for psychologists were expected to grow 22% from 2010-2020. In 2011, clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a mean salary of over $73,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
    Certificate
      • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Health Care Quality
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
      • Master: Psychology/Addictions
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • MS in Nursing
      • MS in Educational Psychology
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Psychology in Addictions
      • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health
      • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Addictions Couseling
      • B.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
      • B.S. Healthcare Administration
    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
    Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Pastoral Care and Counseling
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Clinical and Counseling Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Addiction Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling
      • M.A. in Human Services - Mental Health Admin
      • MA Counseling - Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling
  • Online Programs Available
    7. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • Master in Christian Counseling
      • Master in Christian Counseling of Substance Use & Addictive Disorders
      • MS in Professional Counseling
      • MS in Addiction Counseling
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Grief and Bereavement
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Prevention
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Mental Health and Wellness Emphasis in Community Health Administration
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Health Admin
      • MS Criminal Justice with Behavior Analysis Specialization

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
  • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • BS in Psychology in Addictions
  • Bachelor: Health Science

Which subject are you interested in?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • M.S. Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Bachelor of Science in Addictions Couseling
  • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Pastoral Care and Counseling

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Clinical and Counseling Psychology

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of the Rockies

  • MA Counseling
  • MA Counseling - Addiction Counseling
  • MA Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling

What is your highest level of education?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
  • Master in Christian Counseling
  • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
  • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Mental Health and Wellness Emphasis in Community Health Administration

What is your highest level of education?