Masters in Pastoral Counseling

If you have recently completed a bachelor’s degree in pastoral counseling, you may be wondering where to go from there. In the professional field, a master’s degree in pastoral counseling offers the perfect opportunity to continue integrating faith and counseling.

The article will walk you through the program overview, admission requirements, practicums, and internship opportunities that can help you achieve your career goals if you’re considering a master’s in pastoral counseling. Let’s take a look at pastoral counseling and what’s ahead with a master’s.

What is pastoral counseling?

With pastoral counseling, people facing emotional, psychological, and spiritual challenges can get unique and holistic support and guidance. In pastoral counseling, psychological insights and therapeutic techniques are seamlessly integrated with the wisdom of religious and theological principles, which is rooted in a rich tradition of religious and spiritual understanding. 

Using this synthesis, pastoral counselors can foster healing and growth across the multifaceted dimensions of human existence.

What is a Master of Pastoral Studies?

You can get a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling if you have a Bachelor’s in counseling or something similar. It takes a unique and comprehensive approach to counseling, combining biblical teachings with psychological principles to give you a fuller picture. 

A master’s degree in pastoral counseling will give graduates the knowledge and skills to work in churches or non-licensure agencies, using family therapy and community outreach to help people.

Bachelor of Pastoral Counseling VS. Masters in Pastoral Counseling

Those who are interested in integrating their faith into their counseling practice are encouraged to enroll in the Bachelor of Pastoral Counseling degree (BPC) or the Master of Pastoral Counseling degree (MPC) program. It is the level of education and depth of the curriculum that make the main difference between the two programs.

It usually takes around four years for a BPC program to complete, and it includes courses in pastoral care, counseling techniques, and biblical studies in addition to covering the basics of pastoral counseling. For those students who wish to pursue a career in ministry or who wish to become lay counselors, this program would be an ideal choice.

Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that a master’s in counseling program requires two years of graduate study beyond obtaining a bachelor’s degree. As well as the in-depth curriculum, the program aims to teach students how to integrate psychological, theological, and spiritual principles into counseling. Students will learn how to become licensed professional counselors or pastoral counselors as part of the program.

Despite the fact that a BPC program provides a solid foundation for pastoral counseling, an MPC program provides more advanced skills and knowledge for those seeking a career in pastoral counseling. In the end, the choice between these two programs will depend on the career goals and level of education an individual wishes to pursue.

Admission requirements for Masters in Pastoral Counseling

You must meet specific admissions requirements in order to be accepted as an applicant for a Master’s degree program in Pastoral Counseling. 

Academic qualifications

While there is no specific undergraduate major required to be considered for entry into the Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling program, it may be beneficial for candidates to have a background in theology, psychology, counseling, or a related field in addition to a Bachelor’s degree. 

A minimum grade point average of 3.0 should be obtained by the applicant, and official transcripts from their undergraduate institution may be requested as part of the application process.

Work experience

As you prepare to apply for a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling, your prior experience in counseling, ministry, social work, or any other related field can be helpful in gaining admission to the school.

Having practical knowledge and skills can help the applicant gain access to career opportunities that can further enhance their capabilities. This experience can also demonstrate the applicant’s dedication and enthusiasm for the field, thus making them a strong candidate for a particular program.


Two to three letters of recommendation are generally required for applicants to a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling program in order to be admitted. The purpose of these letters is to provide insight into the applicant’s academic abilities, work experience, personal character, as well as their potential for success in the program, all of which play an essential role in the admissions process.

You should write your letters of recommendation by individuals who have a detailed understanding of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, a person’s recommendation would come from a former professor, supervisor, mentor, or colleague who has worked closely with the applicant and can attest to their ability to succeed in a rigorous academic setting.

Personal statement

In order to be considered for the M.P.C. program, applicants must prepare a personal statement. It constitutes the key to unlocking the door of the program. It is the opportunity for applicants to showcase their drive, aspirations, and vision for the future of the field of pastoral counseling.

As is often the case when applying to graduate programs, it’s not just about presenting a well-organized and structured statement; it’s also about expressing a deep passion for helping others through counseling and demonstrating how the Master’s in Pastoral Counseling program will help them achieve their goals.


In order to qualify for a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling program, applicants may be required to undergo an interview as part of the application process. A program can conduct this interview in person or over the phone in order to assess the candidate’s compatibility with the program and his or her potential to succeed in it. 

Additionally, the interview serves as a chance for the applicant to ask any questions they may have about the program and gain a better understanding of what to expect as a result of the interview.

Obtaining a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling is a challenging task, but meeting these requirements is an important step. It is important that prospective students carefully review the admission requirements of each program that they are considering, so that they can make themselves appear to be strong candidates for the program in which they are applying.

Overview of Masters in Pastoral Counseling Courses 

This profession can be a great fit if you want to help others through difficult times through a master’s degree program in pastoral counseling. We’ll look at the courses and curriculum for a master’s in pastoral counseling, including core and elective courses, practicum requirements, and internship requirements.

Core Courses

Programs like the Masters in Pastoral Counseling include core courses like this: 

  • Theories and Techniques of Counseling
  • Theological Foundations for Counseling
  • Psychopathology and Diagnosis
  • Human Development and Growth
  • Research Methods in Counseling

Elective Courses

Students, in addition to taking core courses in the program, also have the opportunity to take electives. For example, electives may include the following:

  • Multicultural Counseling
  • Addiction and Recovery Counseling
  • Family Therapy
  • Crisis Counseling
  • Spirituality and Counseling

Practicum and Internship

Students pursuing a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling have the chance to get practical experience through practicum and internships. For students to be able to apply their theoretical knowledge in the real world, they need practical experiences. It is through such experiences that students can interact with clients, receive guidance and feedback from licensed professionals, and apply learned skills to real-life situations.

Hospitals, clinics, and faith-based organizations offer practicum and internship opportunities. Students may provide counseling, participate in group therapy sessions, and assist with other related tasks during their practicum and internship. Hands-on experiences are an essential part of the program, allowing students to sharpen their counseling skills and competencies, as well as preparing them for professional licensure.

Best Masters in Pastoral Counseling Degree Online

Below is a selection of esteemed online Master’s in Pastoral Counseling programs that you might want to explore:

Embark on a learning adventure with the Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling program, where you’ll explore a total of 36 credit hours. On average, most students finish this educational journey in just 1.5 years – that’s pretty quick! The whole program happens online, and each course lasts for 8 weeks, making it easy to fit into your schedule. The next starting date is on August 21, 2023, so mark your calendar. 

And guess what? You can bring in up to half of the degree’s total credits from previous studies – that’s a big help! Plus, don’t worry about the quality – Liberty University is accredited by SACSCOC, which is like a stamp of approval for good education.

The pastoral counseling degree program spans three years and encompasses 60 credit hours. Students have the flexibility to choose between full-time and part-time study, with those opting for part-time typically completing the coursework over four to five years. The program is meticulously designed to align with the licensure standards of Illinois and adapt to the evolving trend of cross-state licensure portability.

Classes are conveniently scheduled on weekday evenings at Loyola’s Water Tower Campus, strategically situated in the heart of Chicago with easy access to the Red Line. Moreover, students can opt for in-person, online, or blended course delivery, allowing for a tailored and flexible learning experience.

The M.A. in Pastoral Counseling (non-licensure track) is designed to fortify your ministry vocation by equipping you with effective counseling techniques. Whether you are a pastor, a leader in a nonprofit organization, or seeking to augment your role in a different field, this program provides you with biblically grounded counseling tools to support individuals navigating decisions and crises. 

Delivered through online channels, this counseling master’s degree, comprising 30 total credit hours, draws upon insights from Christian psychology, mental health counseling, and clinical pastoral education. The upcoming session begins on October 23, 2023.

Experience the transformative power of Oral Roberts University’s Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling, a fully online program that empowers you to actively engage with the forefront of the Spirit-empowered movement. Upon graduation, you will possess a wealth of practical knowledge firmly rooted in Scripture, coupled with hands-on skills applicable to pastoral counseling ministry. 

Beyond this, their dedication to nurturing your complete being—mind, body, and spirit—truly sets you apart, providing a practical online ministry degree tailored for individuals who sense a divine call to serve in church, para-church, or ministry training realms. This program is meticulously crafted for those who have been distanced from academia for a minimum of two years and seek an accessible avenue to delve into the realms of bible study, theology, spirituality, and ministry, encompassing both pastoral and communal perspectives.

The Pastoral Counseling degree program is distinct in that it does not lead to state licensure. Instead, its focus on ministry enhances the readiness of individuals engaged in ministry to effectively guide others through trauma, pain, and spiritual struggles. Geared toward aiding individuals or families, this Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling equips you to establish deeper connections with those you serve. The growing imperative for the Church to contribute to holistic development underscores the significance of Crown’s commitment to preparing students in a pragmatic manner that holds the potential to impact the Kingdom positively.

Students in the Master of Arts in Pastoral Care and Counseling program at Freed-Hardeman University get a well-rounded education that emphasizes theoretical research as well as practical application. It’s designed to meet students’ academic and spiritual needs, giving them the skills and knowledge they need to help people with mental and emotional challenges.

With a focus on both theoretical research and practical application, this program is a great fit for those seeking to integrate their faith with their desire to help others. To successfully complete the program and earn the degree, students must fulfill 48 credit hours of coursework.

Why opt for studying Pastoral Counseling at Crown?

  • Acquire valuable insights in psychology and counseling rooted in an evangelical framework.
  • Develop theoretical knowledge that informs practical ministry skills.
  • Choose Crown, a pioneer among online Christian colleges.

For students who want to learn how to offer counseling within a church setting, Holy Apostles College & Seminary offers an online MA in Pastoral Studies with a concentration in Pastoral Counseling. Providing spiritual and emotional support to individuals in need within a religious context, this Catholic college offers a comprehensive education that blends theoretical and practical coursework.

There’s an extra 18 credits required for the Pastoral Counseling concentration, and students also have to take two co-requisite courses in order to graduate. Those who take this concentration will learn about the complexities of pastoral counseling, as well as the various issues people face within a religious context.

Masters in Counseling-Marital, Couples and Family Counseling/Therapy

In order to earn a Master of Science in Counseling online from Mid-America Christian University, you need to have a focus on Marital, Couples, and Family Counseling/Therapy. It is intended to provide students with hands-on experience in both secular and religious settings so that they can be successful in a wide range of counseling roles.

Marriage and family therapy is practiced in this program from a biblical perspective and emphasizes traditional Christian values. Students will be equipped with the necessary skills to provide compassionate and ethical counseling in a variety of secular and church-based settings when they graduate from the program.

Masters in Mental Health Counseling-Christian Counseling

You might be a good fit for the online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an Emphasis in Christian Counseling program at Grand Canyon University if you love counseling and want to make a difference in people’s lives.

74 credits will be required to complete the program, and students will learn how to integrate their faith into their counseling practice, as well as psychological principles and best practices. If you graduate from the program, you can get licensed as a clinical counselor, and you’ll meet the NCC’s, CCMHC’s, and Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners’ requirements. 

You need 36 credits to get a master’s in family studies with a specializing in Christian counseling from Amberton University. To equip graduates with a comprehensive set of skills for crisis management, family enrichment, and family life education, this interdisciplinary program combines Christian Counseling, Counseling, and Human Behavior and Development.

The program gives students the skills they need to interact with other social systems in a variety of organizations, which can lead to jobs in social service agencies, religious institutions, parent education programs, juvenile services, foster care, daycare centers, retirement homes, and assisted living facilities. With a Christ-centered approach, graduates of this program can make a positive impact on families and communities, equipped with the skills to serve others.

Besides preparing students to excel in their chosen career path, Ohio Christian University aims to deepen their relationship with God. The university offers an online MA in Ministry with a concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling, which requires completion of 24 credit hours for the MA degree and another 12 credit hours for the concentration. 

Graduating from this program will not lead to licensure, but graduates will be equipped with a strong foundation in pastoral care and counseling, enabling them to serve their communities and make a meaningful contribution to society.

What can you do with a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling?

You can pursue a career in counseling, ministry, and related fields after earning a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling degree. Here are some examples of career paths:

  • Pastoral Counselor:
    In a faith-based setting, pastoral counselors offer counseling services to individuals, couples, and families, using their expertise in counseling and theology to help clients overcome emotional, spiritual, and psychological obstacles.
  • Chaplain:
    Chaplains support people spiritually and emotionally, especially in hospitals, correctional facilities, and the military. They offer counseling services, lead religious services, and offer comfort in times of need.
  • Mental Health Counselor:
    Individuals with mental health issues like substance abuse, anxiety, and depression can get counseling from a mental health counselor. Private practices, hospitals, and clinics are all places where mental health counselors work.
  • Spiritual Director:
    As a spiritual guide, a spiritual director helps people explore and strengthen their connection with the divine and boost their spiritual understanding. They help clients find their calling and set up routines that make them better spiritual people.

A lot of job opportunities exist for graduates of pastoral counseling programs in the near future, since the job market is expected to grow. It’s especially attractive for people who’re passionate about helping others, have good communication skills, and are able to seamlessly integrate their faith and spirituality into their work.

Work Settings

Those who graduate from a Masters in Pastoral Counseling program can work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Faith-based organizations:
    Oftentimes, graduates work for churches, synagogues, or other faith-based organizations.
  • Hospitals and clinics:
    Chaplains and pastoral counselors are often on hand to offer spiritual and emotional support to patients and their families in hospitals and clinics.
  • Private practice:
    Having a private practice is another option for graduates, so they can help people out in their community. Additionally, this career path gives professionals the opportunity to incorporate their faith and spiritual beliefs into their practice while building their own business and serving their communities more personally.

Master of Pastoral Counseling Salary

It depends on your position and work environment what salary expectations you have for people with a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for mental health counselors in May 2020 was $50,090, while for clergy it was $52,590. However, the specific salary expectations for pastoral counselors and chaplains can vary based on factors such as the size and location of the organization where they are employed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between counseling and pastoral counseling?

Though counseling and pastoral counseling share some similarities, their underlying frameworks and focal points differ greatly. In general, counseling refers to the process of helping individuals cope with psychological, emotional, and behavioral difficulties.

Pastoral counseling, on the other hand, integrates psychological insight into spiritual and religious aspects of an individual’s life. Besides focusing on psychological well-being, it also explores one’s faith, values, and relationship with the divine. As part of the therapeutic process, pastoral counselors integrate spiritual teachings, scriptures, and rituals. Pastoral counseling combines emotional health with spiritual fulfillment in a distinctively holistic manner.

  1. What is the difference between pastoral care and pastoral counseling?

Pastoral counseling and pastoral care are two interconnected yet distinct aspects of spiritual guidance and support. In pastoral care, emotional, spiritual, and practical assistance is provided to individuals within a religious or faith community. Compassion is acting as a listening partner, offering comfort during life transitions, crises, and moments of need. Among the activities of pastoral care are visiting the sick, providing companionship, and guiding individuals spiritually.

Alternatively, pastoral counseling integrates therapeutic techniques with spiritual insights to provide specialized and structured support. Pastoral counseling goes beyond general emotional and spiritual support, addressing psychological challenges and facilitating personal growth. With both religious training and psychological expertise, pastoral counselors provide focused therapeutic interactions aimed at guiding individuals through emotional healing.

The purpose of pastoral care is to provide emotional and spiritual support within religious communities, while pastoral counseling combines psychological principles with spiritual perspectives to address specific challenges. Despite their similarities, pastoral care and pastoral counseling serve very different purposes in nurturing people’s spiritual and emotional well-being.

  1. What’s the job outlook of master’s in pastoral counseling graduates?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 25% job growth for mental health counselors and 3% growth for clergy from 2019 to 2029 for graduates of a Masters in Pastoral Counseling program. 

With an increasing demand for mental health services and spiritual care, graduates in these fields are expected to have more opportunities in the coming years.