Online Bachelor's in Christian Counseling

Students who envision a future doing human service work in a Christian ministry context can start by earning a bachelor's degree in Christian counseling. Christian counseling differs from secular counseling in that it incorporates the spiritual dimension of human development, relational restoration, and emotional growth. Some Christian colleges offer degrees in psychology, with courses taught by Christian professors. Others provide a specific major in biblical counseling or offer counseling as a concentration for ministry majors. Christian counselors who focus on the practice of counseling may work in schools, government agencies, private practices, hospitals, or nonprofit organizations. Those who focus on the ministry component of Christian counseling often serve in churches or on the staff of parachurch ministries.

Christian counselors who focus on the practice of counseling may work in schools, government agencies, private practices, hospitals, or nonprofit organizations.

Christian counselors help people struggling with issues of many kinds. Their work can result in more harmonious families, fewer divorces, better workplaces, and more focused students. Christian counselors also enter a field in which they can earn a median salary of $43,840 per year. Counselors enjoy a robust job outlook; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the social services field, which includes religious counselors, will grow by 14% between 2016 and 2026, which is double the national average for all occupations.

To access most of these positions, Christian counselors need to hold certification, which requires at least a bachelor's degree. Many certifications and counseling licenses require a master's degree in Christian counseling or a related field. Securing a bachelor's degree in Christian counseling provides students with the academic foundations needed to pursue graduate education.

Choosing to pursue a Christian counseling degree online can help students expand their knowledge and skills in the human service professions through a flexible and affordable program. Pursuing an internet-based degree allows students to complete their coursework from the comfort of their own homes. Since most schools offer their online coursework asynchronously, learners can continue to fulfill work, family, and ministry obligations while going to school. Moreover, online degrees often cost less than their on-campus equivalents. While tuition costs remain similar, distance education students do not pay for on-campus housing, cafeteria meals, long commutes, or other campus fees.

As ministry-oriented professionals, many Christian counseling students seek programs that integrate faith-based learning with the discipline of psychology. Many colleges allow online students to access spiritual support and counseling, participate in online student forums, and livestream chapel services and other religious events. An online degree in Christian counseling often includes a clinical practicum or internship component that online students can complete at approved sites near their homes.

How Long Does it Take to Earn Your Christian Counseling Bachelor’s Degree Online?

Like most bachelor's degrees, online Christian counseling degree programs typically require between 120 and 130 credit hours. Most courses are worth three credits, meaning students will complete 40-50 courses in a program. It typically takes four years of full-time study to complete a Christian counseling degree online.

Earning a Christian counseling degree online involves taking an array of general education courses, Bible and theology classes, coursework in counseling and psychology, and a selection of electives. Some courses overlap biblical and theological studies with the principles of counseling and psychology for cross-disciplinary learning. Students often complete several credits of experiential learning as well.

Example Courses

Crisis Counseling Designed to orient the student to counseling in grief, trauma, and disaster situations, this course introduces students to counseling techniques for all ages, animal-assisted therapy, school counseling techniques, and more.
Healthy Family Dynamics In this course, online Christian counseling students look at the relationships, roles, and responsibilities of the individual members of the family and of the family unit as a whole.
Introduction to Counseling Students explore the foundations of the counseling profession. The course covers counseling's history, basic vocabulary, and the specific traits and skills associated with mental health professions.
Human Development This course looks at how humans grow and change from conception through old age. Learners study the intellectual, biological, emotional, and social components of human growth and development.
Biblical Counseling Students examine the use of scripture in counseling along with the framework and primary methodologies of biblical counseling. This course also encourages students to enrich their understanding of scripture as it pertains to their own personal development.

Students pursuing a Christian counseling degree online can choose to concentrate their coursework in a particular area. Students usually select their specializations based on the career paths they wish to follow and the settings in which they plan to serve. For instance, learners who plan to practice direct patient care may choose preclinical studies, while those seeking a theological understanding of counseling may opt for a biblical counseling degree online. Below are some common specialization options for Christian counseling students.

Preparing for a career in Christian counseling can mean earning a master's degree or a doctorate in the field. A graduate-level Christian counseling degree can lead to expanded job opportunities and is especially important for those pursuing careers in clinical counseling settings, which often require both a license and a master's degree. By earning a master's degree in Christian counseling or a related field, students can engage in research, set up a private practice, or pursue jobs in mental health or academic settings. For all of these reasons, counselors often decide to pursue a master's degree, and clients or employers may expect applicants to hold one, even for entry-level positions. The National Board for Certified Counselors requires a master's degree for licensure, and the International Association of Christian Counseling Professionals awards levels of certification dependent in part upon the academic degrees held by the counselors.

Earning an online degree in Christian counseling can foster a career in private practice, school counseling, social work, addiction counseling, or even working with legal offenders. Those with extraverted personalities may enjoy the social dynamic of leading a community service organization while those who prefer a one-on-one environment can engage in direct client service. Almost all counselors work in offices, enjoy people, and have a strong desire to help others. They also need at least a bachelor's degree to get started in their profession.

Counselors who practice in Christian environments and those who work in the secular world must hold a license to practice in their state of employment, but counseling requirements vary by state. Some states require the national counselor examination for licensure and certification (NCE), while others require the national clinical mental health counseling examination (NCMHCE), and some require both. The NCE assesses skills, knowledge, and abilities through a 200-item, multiple-choice examination. Most counselors take this exam as part of earning state licensure. The NCMHCE exam simulates 10 mental health counseling cases and is a prerequisite for those who wish to pursue the certified clinical mental health counselor national specialty certification. The registration fee for either exam currently stands at $275. Students can prepare using the test preparation guides available on the organizations' websites.

Christian counselors may need to earn other credentials depending on the counseling track they choose or the setting in which they work. For example, some states may require school counselors to hold a teaching license as well as a professional counselor's license. Those who earned a biblical counseling degree online may want to seek private certification as a biblical or Christian counselor. The American Institute of Health Care Professionals offers a spiritual Christian counseling certificate for counselors, nurses, pastors, and others who qualify. Students who pursued counseling as an emphasis while attending a seminary often seek careers as pastoral counselors. Prospective students can learn more about board certification and licensure and specialty certification requirements in their state at the National Board for Certified Counselors website. Earning an accredited online Christian counseling degree can open up many options for certification.

Students seeking a bachelor's degree in Christian counseling need to ensure that their chosen school has the right accreditation to support their future plans. Financial aid packages, state licensure, and credibility in the profession all depend on holding a degree from a properly accredited school. In the U.S., accreditation is a voluntary process that demonstrates a school's commitment to excellence and growth. Accreditation agencies receive approval to operate from the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Regional accreditation is the gold standard of excellence in the field, but national and specialized agencies also play important roles.

Some Christian colleges choose to hold regional, national, and specialized accreditation to bolster each component of their institution

National accreditation agencies typically accredit entire schools. These agencies include the Association for Biblical Higher Education, which accredits Bible colleges, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, which approves Christian colleges generally. At the graduate level, schools of religion can receive accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools. Specialized accreditation agencies approve specific programs. In the field of counseling, the relevant specialized agency is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Some Christian colleges choose to hold regional, national, and specialized accreditation to bolster each component of their institution. Biblical counselors seeking work in a clinical setting after graduation may need to look for programs accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.

While earning a christian counseling degree, many Christian counselors advance their careers by joining a professional organization. Both the secular and the faith-based counseling communities host these professional associations, and counselors may choose to join more than one. Counseling students and new counselors can take advantage of continuing education programs, board certification, conferences, events, and job boards through these organizations. Some associations also offer a peer-reviewed referral network, which can benefit counselors in private practice.

American Association of Christian Counselors

AACC assists the entire community of care, including professionals and laypersons, through newsletters, magazines, advocacy initiatives, professional development, and events.

American Counseling Association

ACA, the world's largest association of professional counselors, is a professional and educational organization offering continuing education opportunities, publications, and conferences.

Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation

CCEF offers a school of biblical counseling, an annual conference, a variety of resources for professionals and laypeople, and direct counseling services. It also provides regional events and conference speakers.

National Christian Counseling Association

Established in 1981, the NCCA conducts research and provides educational programming for Christian counselors based on a therapeutic procedure developed by its founder through an extensive seven-year research project.

National Board for Certified Counselors

NBCC provides credentials for practicing counselors. A professional can become board certified through this organization, and members can take advantage of several ancillary benefits.

Association of Biblical Counselors

Professionally licensed counselors, pastors, and others committed to biblical counseling can take advantage of a tiered certification system and an array of resources that ABC provides..

Public and private funds can help students partially or fully fund a christian counseling degree online or on campus. Some scholarships are specifically for Christian students, others are for counseling-related majors, and some specifically fund members of a particular denomination. Financial aid for Christian colleges can be complex to understand, but students can find funding through various donors.

Online Bachelor's in Ministry Scholarships

Champions for Christ Foundation Varies

Who Can Apply: Founded by a member of City View Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, this foundation provides scholarships for students going into full-time Christian service, including ministry as Christian counselors. View Scholarship

Bethesda Lutheran Student Scholastic and Service Scholarships $3,000

Who Can Apply: Each year, Bethesda offers scholarships for five Lutheran undergraduate students and five Lutheran seminary students who plan to work with people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. View Scholarship

Young Christian Leaders Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: Residents of Connecticut, New York, or New Jersey who are high school seniors and active in a local church may apply. The committee requires a pastoral reference and a GPA of 3.0 or better, and gives preference to candidates with financial need. View Scholarship

Udall Undergraduate Foundation $7,000

Who Can Apply: Native American sophomores and juniors committed to working with Native American populations can apply for one of about 50 awards. Counseling applicants can apply under the healthcare section of the scholarship. View Scholarship

Student Opportunity Scholarship $3,000

Who Can Apply: Members of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. who enroll in an accredited U.S. college or university, hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher, have completed one year of college, and can demonstrate financial need can apply for these awards. View Scholarship

Future Counselors of America Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: Graduate and undergraduate psychology majors who plan on a career in counseling can submit a 900-word essay on the psychology of online dating to receive consideration for this award funded by DatingAdvice.com. View Scholarship

National Pathfinder Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: The National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) offers this scholarship for women who are undergraduate sophomores, juniors, or seniors, or master's-level students. Applicants must send their completed application to their NFRW state president, who then chooses one application to send in to the national organization. View Scholarship

The National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholarship Program $20,000

Who Can Apply: Students with demonstrated exceptional financial need who plan to pursue careers in health, including behavioral health. They must be full-time students with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.3 or higher or be in the top 5% of their class to qualify for this scholarship. View Scholarship

JDRF Outreach $1,000

Who Can Apply: Incoming freshmen with Type 1 diabetes who are majoring in psychology or social work can apply for this scholarship. The committee considers academic merit, activism in the diabetes community, and extracurricular activities. View Scholarship

Antiochian Women's Educational Grant $500

Who Can Apply: Women who are 26 years of age or older and members in good standing of an Antiochian Eastern Orthodox parish must demonstrate commitment to parish ministry and financial need to apply. View Scholarship
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