Is a Christian Counseling Degree Right for You?
If you are a Christian, and you feel compassion for the people around you who are suffering through difficult circumstances, then you may want to pursue an online bachelor’s degree in Christian counseling. People who pursue this degree have a heartfelt belief that providing mental health care from a Christian perspective more effectively treats the whole person — mind, body, and spirit. This degree is a good fit for people who hold that encouraging a client’s faith and trust in Christ to carry them through crises, major life events, and everyday problems is the most important step along the path to mental health and wholeness.
Advice for Earning Your Christian Counseling Degree Online
The best online degrees in Christian counseling will require an internship, field work or practicum experiences, or volunteer experiences in counseling, where you can learn to work directly with clients on a wide range of issues, from marital problems, to loss of a loved one, to stress and anxiety. Since this component of the course work cannot be delivered online, prospective students should talk to the program coordinator to determine whether or not they can fulfill these obligations near their current location.
Working students will need to determine in advance how they will balance their field work with their job. In addition, students who plan to become licensed counselors must commit themselves to keeping a high GPA and seeking out undergraduate research opportunities, as these will increase one’s chances of getting into graduate school. Those who don’t want to go to grad school should spend additional time choosing a minor that will aid them in their future job search.
Students who enroll in Christian counseling bachelor’s degree programs will take a combination of psychology and theology classes. Courses commonly include counseling theory, biblical principles of counseling, general and abnormal psychology, surveys of the Old and New Testaments, and human development. Many programs also include a final project and internships as part of the curriculum. Other courses you may come across include:
- Christian Counseling for Marriage & Family
- Christian Counseling for Children & Adolescents
- Psychology of Personality
- Developmental Psychology
- Issues & Professional Ethics in Christian Counseling
Common Career Paths
Typically, graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in Christian counseling establish careers within the field of counseling, although some may choose to work within the field of ministry. Other possible career options include social work, human services, and postsecondary teaching. Some specific career options are outlined below; keep in mind that salaries will vary depending on your experience, the size and type of your employer, and the region of the country you live in.
- Expected Growth: N/A
- Average Annual Salary: $48,490
Clergy include pastors and ministers of all stripes, including senior and assistant pastors; youth, children’s, and college pastors; pastors of women’s and men’s ministries; and pastoral care staff, among others. Aside from providing spiritual guidance to their congregation, clergy also provide Christian counsel to individuals, couples, and families who come to them asking for help with their struggles. While a bachelor’s degree is not always required for such positions, the background in counseling, theology, and biblical studies provided in an online Christian counseling degree will be useful in preparing someone for this path. The above salary figure was drawn from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor
- Expected Growth: 27%
- Average Annual Salary: $41,030
Substance abuse counselors help people overcome addictions to alcohol or illegal drugs, while behavioral disorder counselors might help people who suffer from a wide range of issues, such as eating disorders, or gambling addiction. They might work exclusively with people who have been court ordered to receive counseling in these areas, or with certain types of people, like veterans or teens.
Educational qualifications for these types of counselors vary by state and the type of counseling you provide, with some positions requiring you to obtain a master’s degree and state license, while others will require only a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree, the BLS explained. The above job growth projection and salary figure were provided by the BLS.
Mental Health Counselor
- Expected Growth: 36%
- Average Annual Salary: $42,590
Mental health counselors help individuals, families, and groups address the life circumstances that are causing them stress, anxiety, grief, or difficulties in their work or relationships. They develop individualized strategies aimed at helping their clients overcome, or cope with, difficult life events. To become licensed as a mental health counselor, you must go beyond a bachelor’s degree and obtain a master’s degree in counseling, in addition to obtaining 2,000-4,000 hours of clinical experience and completing a state-issued exam, the BLS explained. The above job outlook and salary statistics were provided by the BLS.
Marriage and Family Therapist
- Expected Growth: 41%
- Average Annual Salary: $48,710
Marriage and family therapists treat mental health issues in individuals, couples, and their children from a family-centered perspective. These therapists address a wide range of issues, from marital problems, to parent-child relationships, to helping families adjust to changing family dynamics after a divorce, remarriage, or adoption. As with mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists must also be licensed in their state, a process which requires a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, two years of supervised clinical experience, and passing a state exam, the BLS explained. The job outlook and salary statistics provided above were gathered from the BLS.
Social and Community Service Manager
- Expected Growth: 27%
- Average Annual Salary: $63,290
Social and community service managers coordinate programs that benefit people in need. They research and gather data from the community to determine how to reach target audiences and then implement educational and social events. They also develop budgets and allocate funds. Work experience, plus a bachelor’s degree in a field like social work, human services, public administration, urban studies, or a related field, is typical for such positions, the BLS explains, so students with bachelor’s degrees in Christian counseling might consider minoring in one of these subjects to increase their chances of obtaining a position in the field. The above employment growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.