Biblical Counseling Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a biblical counseling degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and PhD and potential careers.
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Study Biblical Counseling: Degrees at a Glance

Biblical counseling degree programs teach you how to interpret, apply and teach God's word as it is understood through the Bible to those seeking help solving marital, emotional or other kinds of problems. Coursework and clinical experience are key parts of both the master's and PhD degree programs. Both degree programs prepare you for counseling careers in private practice, within an organization like a school or correctional facility or as part of your church's ministry work, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that job opportunities are expected to be good. If you'd like to go into teaching or research though, you'll need a PhD and competition for jobs - especially academic positions that are eligible for tenure - might be strong.

Master's degree PhD
Who is this degree for? Individuals who wish to counsel from a biblical perspective or who wish to continue to earn a doctoral degree Students who want to work in academia or who wish to attain advanced scholarship
Common career paths (with approx. median salary)* - School and career counselors ($53,000)*
- Mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists ($40,000)*
- Any career you can attain with a master's degree, you can also qualify for with a doctoral degree
- Postsecondary teachers ($62,000)*
Time to completion- 90 semester hours
- 3 years or less
- 42 credit hours plus a dissertation
Common graduation requirements - Bible classes
- Counseling coursework
- Electives
- Major courses
- Comprehensive examination
- Internship
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Proven Christian faith and character
- Involvement in Christian service
- Master of Divinity or other master's degree in a comparable field
- Comprehensive theological knowledge
- Clinical experience
Online availability Hybrid programs available Not at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010 figures).

Master's Degree in Biblical Counseling

A master's degree is generally the minimum educational requirement needed to enter the field of counseling and therapy. With a degree in biblical counseling, you are qualified to counsel, instruct and advise from a biblical perspective, using the word of God as a guide to help people heal, recover and resolve problems. This degree program allows you to serve Christ within and outside of the ministry. Thesis and non-thesis options may be available. Your career preparation will continue post-master's degree though, since in addition to a graduate degree, counselors and therapists must be licensed by an appropriate issuing agency. Licensure typically requires you to complete a minimum of experience and pass an exam. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that school and career counselors could expect to see a 19% job increase from 2010 to 2020. Marriage and family therapists were predicted to see a 41% employment growth during the same period.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Biblical counseling allows you to teach through God without becoming ordained
  • Job growth is favorable through 2020*
  • You will be exposed to a new and better understanding of the Bible and God's teachings within the context of helping others

Cons

  • Employment may generally be limited to Christian establishments
  • You may be required to complete a counseling practicum in addition to your course load
  • Earning your license requires a significant post-degree investment in time and energy

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

You will be learning the spiritual side of Bible study in tandem with the technical side of counseling technique. An internship may be required. Typical coursework for this degree program includes:

  • Biblical foundations for counseling
  • Personal evangelism
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Old Testament Study
  • Ministering to families
  • Theological foundations for counseling
  • Reformational counseling

Online Degree Options

If you're interested in an online degree program, you can enroll in a hybrid program where you can combine some independent and distance learning classes with some limited on-campus sessions. Course requirements and classes are generally the same whether you study online or on-campus. As a distance learner, you might have an on-campus residency requirement limited to a few weeks at a time.

Stand Out with this Degree

Developing essential skills such as listening, compassion and organization through an internship as part of your degree program can ensure you're well-prepared for your required post-degree supervised clinical work. Learning office skills, which may include computer skills, is also vital, since, according to the BLS, your job duties may include having to complete or maintain certain paperwork for your own billing purposes or insurance company reimbursements.

PhD in Biblical Counseling

A doctoral degree program in biblical counseling aims to meld scriptural guidance with secular insights into human psychology to resolve emotional and spiritual problems. Before you apply, you'll typically need to have an undergraduate or graduate divinity or related degree. This is a research-oriented program where you might develop a mentoring relationship with a faculty member conducting research in a field that matches your interests. While the PhD degree prepares you for postsecondary teaching career in a college or university, a field that's expected to see average job growth between 2010 and 2010, according to the BLS, tenure-track jobs are expected to be harder to get. If you'd rather not work in academia, other career options include counseling (which requires a minimum of clinical experience and an exam to earn state licensure) or ministry.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A doctoral degree provides advanced training in Bible interpretation
  • You will be provided with the highest scholarship in biblical counseling
  • Employment in the fields of ministry, research or academia is possible
  • A PhD is generally required for postsecondary teaching jobs

Cons

  • A doctoral degree is not generally required to become a counselor or therapist
  • You must contribute original research to your field, as explained in your dissertation
  • Despite average job growth, tenure-track jobs in academia may be extremely competitive*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Classes may include biblical theological foundations, ecclesiology, methods in marriage and family counseling, methods in biblical counseling and applied theology. You might also need to have reading knowledge of a foreign language. Comprehensive examinations are required in order to advance in the program, in which you're are tested on your general knowledge of biblical counseling as well as specific areas of your choosing. An internship with an approved counselor and a dissertation are also typically necessary.

Online Degree Options

Online doctoral degree programs in biblical counseling aren't typically available. Counseling is a hands-on profession. The experience you gain from on-campus and residency programs is difficult to attain via an online degree program.

Stand Out with this Degree

An understanding of computer and video technology can put you ahead of the game as you study for this degree. Your school may offer online-only access to some of the journals you'll need to research for your dissertation topic. Some programs may require that you video record counseling sessions and submit them to your instructor as part of your clinical experience requirement.

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