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2023 Most Affordable Online Master's Degree in Christian Counseling

By the OnlineU team | Updated 12/2/2022
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Counseling programs offering Christ-centered support need practitioners educated in the teachings of the Bible to deliver guidance and care. An affordable, online master’s degree in Christian counseling can equip students with the skills necessary for work in ministry or social services. While these programs generally do not prepare students for licensure, they can build on skills gained in undergraduate Christian counseling degree programs for job growth and doctoral counseling degree preparation. We’ve also identified other affordable online master’s degree programs in counseling for those interested in a non-faith-based course of study and other affordable online Christian colleges offering a variety of degrees.

View our methodology for details about rankings or learn more about us.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Amberton University Garland (TX) $5,130
# 2 #2 Liberty University Lynchburg (VA) $5,500
# 3 #3 Veritas Baptist College Lawrenceburg (IN) $5,922
# 4 #4 Ohio Christian University Circleville (OH) $7,200
# 5 #5 Holy Apostles Cromwell (CT) $7,215
# 6 #6 God's Bible School and College Cincinnati (OH) $7,920
# 7 #7 Grace College and Theological Seminary Winona Lake (IN) $7,992
# 8 #8 Clarks Summit University Clarks Summit (PA) $8,850
# 9 #9 Regent University Online Virginia Beach (VA) $9,270
# 10 #10 Bob Jones University Greenville (SC) $9,440
#1
#1

Amberton University

Garland (TX)
Annual Tuition: $5,130
Annual Tuition: $5,130
Annual Tuition: $5,130

Amberton University (AU) is a private, nonprofit, nondenominational Christian institution offering an online Master of Science in Family Studies - Christian Counseling for those interested in providing faith-based services that emphasize family life. Graduating from this program requires completing 36 credit hours, which may take full-time students at least two years. It's important to note that AU has a 38% graduation rate, which is fairly low.

AU delivers instruction and coursework via Moodle. Christian counseling students enroll in online classes, such as Aging and End of Life Issues, Conflict Management and Resolution, and Family Life Ministry. The curriculum helps students develop advanced engagement skills to provide preventive, educational, and guidance services to families facing difficulties or crises. Graduates may provide counseling in social, religious, assisted living, and juvenile service environments.

  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 143
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 544
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#2
#2

Liberty University

Lynchburg (VA)
Annual Tuition: $5,500
Annual Tuition: $5,500
Annual Tuition: $5,500

Liberty University (LU) is a private, nonprofit, evangelical institution offering an online Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling - Christian Ministry Counseling. Students complete 30 credit hours to graduate, which may take two years if enrolled full time. Similar LU programs include an online Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and a Master of Arts in Worship Studies - Pastoral Counseling. Overall, LU has a 50% acceptance and a 34% graduation rate.

LU Online uses Canvas for instruction and coursework delivery. Online students in the Christian ministry counseling program may enroll in classes such as Communication in Christian Ministry, Foundations of Expository Teaching and Preaching, and Integration of Spirituality and Counseling. Alumni can apply a faith-based learning approach to their work in Christian ministries, military resiliency, addiction and recovery, or executive leadership positions.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Average SATs: 1040 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 34,092
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 36,337
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#3
#3

Veritas Baptist College

Lawrenceburg (IN)
Annual Tuition: $5,922
Annual Tuition: $5,922
Annual Tuition: $5,922

Veritas Baptist College (VBC) is a private, nonprofit, Baptist institution offering an online Master of Ministry in Biblical Counseling. This online graduate program requires 30 credit hours, which full-time students may complete in two years. VBC has a 68% acceptance rate and a 37% graduation rate.

VBC's online students receive instruction and engage with peers through the Canvas learning management system (LMS), where they enroll in Biblical counseling courses, such as Counseling Problems and Procedures; Premarital, Marital, and Family Counseling; and Principles of Biblical Counseling. Alumni work in environments providing ministry services, where they can apply their biblical knowledge and counseling skillset to help others navigate life's difficulties.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 59%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 191
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 34
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: TRACS
#4
#4

Ohio Christian University

Circleville (OH)
Annual Tuition: $7,200
Annual Tuition: $7,200
Annual Tuition: $7,200

Ohio Christian University is a private, nonprofit institution rooted in the Wesleyan-Arminian faith. It offers an online Master of Arts in Ministry - Pastoral Care and Counseling, which requires completing 36 credit hours. Online classes last five weeks and are self-paced. Full-time students may complete the program in two years or less. Ohio Christian accepts 100% of applicants and has a 29% graduation rate.

Ohio Christian uses Brightspace as its secure distance learning delivery platform. Students in the Pastoral Care and Counseling program enroll in courses such as Pastoral Intervention in Crisis, Spiritual Issues in Pastoral Counseling, and Ethical and Legal Issues in Pastoral Counseling. Graduation also requires completing a capstone project. The program curriculum helps students identify others' crises and appropriately intervene through ministry practices.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,264
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 246
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#5
#5

Holy Apostles

Cromwell (CT)
Annual Tuition: $7,215
Annual Tuition: $7,215
Annual Tuition: $7,215

Holy Apostles College and Seminary is a private, nonprofit, Catholic institution that offers an online Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies - Pastoral Counseling. Graduation requires completing 36 credit hours, which takes full-time students approximately two years. A similar degree path is taking the online Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies - Marriage and Family Studies. Holy Apostles has a 100% acceptance rate, and 55% of students graduate.

Remote students at Holy Apostles access instruction and coursework on Populi. Courses within the Pastoral Counseling curriculum include Pastoral Issues Concerning Human Sexuality, Spiritual Diagnosis and Accompaniment, and Morals and Psychology. The program curriculum studied in these courses helps students enrich their careers in life coaching and licensed mental health counseling. Students must also complete three supervised field ministry experiences to graduate.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 50%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 156
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 344
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
#6
#6
Annual Tuition: $7,920
Annual Tuition: $7,920
Annual Tuition: $7,920

God's Bible School and College (GBS) is a nonprofit, Wesleyan-Arminian, private institution offering an online Master of Arts in Ministry - Counseling. Students must complete 36 credit hours, which takes approximately two years of full-time enrollment. GBS has an 81% acceptance rate and a 43% graduation rate.

GBS uses Buzz to administer virtual instruction and coursework, which encourages students to participate synchronously in live lectures and class discussions. Students in the counseling program enroll in courses such as Counseling for Behavior and Emotional Distress, Integration of Christian Faith and Counseling Theory, and Counseling for Relationship Distress. Once they graduate, alums may work as pastoral counselors and chaplains or continue their higher education to earn a Master of Divinity or PhD.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 147
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 16
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $7,992
Annual Tuition: $7,992
Annual Tuition: $7,992

Grace College and Theological Seminary is a private, nonprofit institution affiliated with the Brethren Church, and it offers an online Master of Arts in Ministry Studies - Counseling. Full-time students can complete this 36 credit-hour-program in two years by attending back-to-back eight-week courses each semester. Grace has a 75% acceptance and a 72% graduation rate.

Grace uses Canvas as its LMS, so online students can access instruction and assignments asynchronously, or at their own pace. Students in the online religious counseling program take classes such as Biblical Psychology, Legal and Ethical Issues in Pastoral Counseling, and Counseling Methods and Techniques to help develop an advanced skillset rooted in faith. Graduates may become outreach coordinators, pastors, or camp directors to provide ministry services.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 106
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 188
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#8
#8

Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit (PA)
Annual Tuition: $8,850
Annual Tuition: $8,850
Annual Tuition: $8,850

Clarks Summit University (CSU) is a private, nonprofit, Baptist institution offering an online Master of Arts in Counseling. This counseling program requires 30 credit hours to graduate, which may take full-time students two years. Students may also be interested in CSU's online Master of Science in Counseling as another option in the same field. Overall, CSU has a 62% acceptance and a 51% graduation rate.

CSU's online counseling students participate in class via the Schoology learning management system. Courses they often enroll in include Abnormal Behavior, Psychology of Grief and Bereavement, and Evaluation and Consultation of Mental and Mood Disorders. Notably, the course curriculum is Christ-centered so that students can prepare for professional roles in ministry services providing help to others.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 238
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 235
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
#9
#9

Regent University Online

Virginia Beach (VA)
Annual Tuition: $9,270
Annual Tuition: $9,270
Annual Tuition: $9,270

Regent University Online is a Christian-based, private, nonprofit institution offering an online Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling. Full-time students can complete the 30-credit program in two years. Alternatively, Regent's online Master of Arts in Human Services - Biblical Counseling may interest students who desire a slightly different path in the same field. Currently, Regent has a 50% acceptance rate and a 30% graduation rate.

Regent uses Blackboard, a popular LMS, so that students can participate in classes remotely. Some examples of these courses within the pastoral counseling curriculum include Community and Crisis Counseling, Helping Skills and Techniques, and Multicultural Awareness and Individual Diversity. Additionally, students must complete a capstone project and field experience to graduate. Then, alums may find work in church counseling centers, family service centers, and Christian schools.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,146
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,092
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#10
#10

Bob Jones University

Greenville (SC)
Annual Tuition: $9,440
Annual Tuition: $9,440
Annual Tuition: $9,440

Bob Jones University (BJU) is a private, Evangelical Christian, nonprofit institution offering an online Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling. Students with an undergraduate degree in biblical counseling may receive advanced standing status, enabling them to complete as few as 33 credit hours in two years if attending full time. Other students are required to complete at least 41 credit hours. BJU also offers another online graduate degree option: a Master of Divinity - Biblical Counseling. While BJU has a 100% acceptance rate, the graduation rate is 63%.

BJU uses Canvas as its LMS so students can participate in this counseling program online. Students participate in classes such as Counseling Children and Adolescents, Advanced Counseling Issues, and Marriage and Family Counseling. Additionally, students must complete two practicums. Alumni are eligible to work in addiction ministry services, social work, and as part of pastoral staff.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 150
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 106
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Online Master's in Christian Counseling Program Overview

A master's degree in Christian counseling is designed for students who want to provide mental health and behavioral support from a faith-based perspective. Enrollees learn the principles of psychology, Christian ethics, social sciences, and theology so they can adopt church-approved approaches when treating patients for relationship, behavioral, sexual, and substance-related challenges. Interested students can earn an affordable online Christian counseling degree, allowing them to complete their coursework at flexible times while keeping costs down.

If you're applying to a master’s program in Christian counseling, you'll need to detail your academic and work history. Most graduate-level programs require the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree transcripts from your undergraduate institution, showing a minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0
  • A personal reflective essay or answers to a series of essay questions about your faith and professional goals
  • Letters of recommendation from professors or experienced mentors
  • A resume of relevant experience

Since a Christian counselor engages in ministry, you may need to profess faith in a particular denomination during your application process. Most institutions granting these degrees are affiliated with a specific branch of Christianity. Additionally, your institution may ask that you pledge commitment to your chosen school's code of conduct.

Since a Christian counselor engages in ministry, you may need to profess faith in a particular denomination during your application process.

The length of an online Christian counseling master's degree can vary based on whether it leads to professional counseling licensure. Most non-licensure programs last 36 credit hours and take about two years of full-time study to complete, whereas licensure options take up to 60 credits and can last four years. Christian counseling degree programs that lead to licensure require 2,000-4,000 clinical counseling hours in a supervised professional setting, depending on the state. Some non-licensure programs also require supervised hours, though this is uncommon and hours vary by program.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Christian Counselor?

Since Christian counseling is unregulated, there are no absolute degree requirements to work in the field. Some employers may hire a Christian counselor who only has an undergraduate degree, whereas others require a master's degree. Similarly, some employers may prefer to hire an applicant whose degree program required supervised clinical hours, and others may be satisfied that a degree included a research practicum course.

Christian Counseling Licensure

Because Christian counseling is rooted in religion, there are no state-mandated guidelines for practicing in the field and scarce regulation. Earning the licensed professional counselor (LPC) credential requires a graduate degree from an accredited institution, at least 3,000 supervised clinical hours, and a passing score on the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or state equivalent. Only a few master's and doctoral programs in Christian counseling are designed to lead to licensure as LPCs.

Because Christian counseling is rooted in religion, there are no state-mandated guidelines for practicing in the field and scarce regulation.

Notably, even graduates of non-licensure Christian counseling programs may obtain a license as a pastoral or Christian therapist — as opposed to an LPC — through the National Association of Christian Counselors (NACC). If you want NACC certification, you'll need to pay a nominal fee, provide proof of a master’s or doctoral degree, and complete the NACC Board Certified Christian Counselor Program. This alternate form of licensure is not regulated by any state body. Although NACC licensure cannot bestow the title of LPC, graduates of the program can call themselves a "Christian counselor" or some variation.


Common Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling Courses

A master's in Christian counseling is intended for individuals who have faith in Christianity and want to help others improve their mental health. Courses in the field intertwine these themes by teaching biblical knowledge and religious practice alongside counseling techniques and insights from psychological research. Below are some courses that are often included in an online master's program in Christian counseling.

  • Aging and End-of-Life Issues: Many older adults and their families need counseling support as they experience late-life changes and begin to contemplate the end of life. This course teaches students to address these issues from the viewpoint of Christian ministry. Topics include government policies relating to aging and end of life, the secular human services industry, and a cross-cultural comparison of these experiences.
  • Crisis Counseling: In this course, students learn Christian-based methods for counseling clients in crisis, ranging from divorce to the sudden loss of a loved one. Students also learn the crisis intervention process as well as biblical principles applicable to crisis situations. Faculty may also emphasize the spiritual questions that patients commonly have in reaction to life crises and trauma.
  • Human Sexuality: At a Christian school, a course on human sexuality examines sexual relationships from a biblical perspective. Coursework also explores how culture, family and peers, psychology, and biology influence individuals’ sexuality. Students learn how to use a biblical lens in order to view a broad range of questions surrounding sexual identity and behavior.
  • Marital Counseling: Students in this course learn to counsel couples at all relationship stages. The coursework typically covers common issues from a Bible-centered perspective: finances, parenthood, family dynamics, communication, and conflict resolution. Professors train students to work through these issues with their clients.
  • Principles of Christian Counseling: This course explores the professional values and clinical procedures used to counsel patients through the lens of biblical studies. Students learn effective methods for assessing patients, gathering information, and counseling. The coursework often covers appropriate Christian approaches for dealing with some of the most common challenges, such as grief, anxiety, depression, and conflict.

Online Master's in Christian Counseling Careers

Christian counseling graduates can pursue various career paths. Counselors earn median yearly wages of $50,800, but data on unlicensed Christian counselors remains insufficient. Therefore, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is used when possible, the salary and job growth information remains uncertain for most careers listed below.

Chaplain: Ordained ministers may work as chaplains to provide biblical counseling in select non-parochial spaces. Certain prisons, businesses, and sports associations allow chaplains to meet with people interested in counseling. The military also employs chaplains from a variety of faiths, but they're required to be uniformed service members with an officer's commission. Chaplains are members of the clergy, who earn median annual wages of $51,940.

Church Counselor: Lay counselors may find employment at churches, where they conduct individual, group, or family counseling sessions with community members. They work closely with administrative staff to schedule appointments and advise ministers on the congregation’s needs.

Life Coach: Life coaches help clients develop plans for improving aspects of their lives that they find dissatisfying. As a self-employed life coach, an alumnus with training in behavioral science can develop a roster of clients or work in a rehabilitation/residential care organization with a Christian worldview. Businesses often hire life coaches to provide services for executives or recently terminated employees. Interested professionals can pursue further training and certification through the International Coaching Federation.

Non-Profit Organization Counselor: Employees of religious-affiliated non-profit organizations can apply their mental health counseling skills in a variety of human services fields, such as disaster relief, Christian ministry, or mission work. Disaster-relief counselors often work abroad, helping people affected by disasters to process their trauma. Some domestic non-profits also offer faith-based counseling to their communities, including outreach to local high schools or colleges.

Substance Abuse and Addictions Counselor (unlicensed): Addiction counselors help clients confront and overcome dependency on chemical substances, harmful sexual behavior, and/or eating disorders. Christian counselors provide a Christian perspective on these issues as they encourage healthy lifestyle changes. They could work in a private practice, church-affiliated counseling center, or non-profit. Graduates from a licensure program may be able to pursue certification as an addiction counselor in their state, though this is rare for Christian counselor programs. Interested applicants can find licensure information for their state by contacting their regional center of the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network.


Accreditation

When choosing a master's degree program, prospective students should only consider schools that are accredited. Colleges can be nationally or regionally accredited, which means that an independent organization has certified that the school meets specified quality standards for curricula, faculty, and student support. Of these two designations, regional accreditation is the more prestigious. Importantly, regionally accredited schools will usually only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools. Either type of accreditation allows online students to receive federal financial aid.

Some individual degree programs are accredited by an independent body affiliated with a particular industry. However, there is no recognized authority granting program accreditation for Christian counseling master's degrees. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) accredits master's degrees in several types of counseling, but Christian counseling isn't among these.


Funding an Online Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling

Many financial aid sources help mitigate educational costs for those who want to pursue an online Christian counseling degree at the lowest possible cost. For counseling and behavioral health students, a diverse array of scholarships, fellowships, and grants are available from federal, state, school, and private sources. These types of aid are beneficial because students do not have to repay them, which could lower their student debt in the long run.

On the other hand, student loans are available from a variety of sources, but they require repayment with interest. Federal loans are generally preferred because they typically have lower interest rates and better repayment terms.

Students who plan to enroll in an online program at an accredited school can apply for most types of financial aid by completing the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) form. The federal government and all higher education institutions use the information provided on the FAFSA to decide a student’s eligibility for financial aid and the amount. Most colleges use this form for the same purpose and notify students about any financial assistance offers after enrollment.

Students who plan to enroll in an online program at an accredited school can apply for most types of financial aid by completing the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) form.

In addition to government aid, Christian counseling students can apply for funding specific to their field. Many individual churches and larger church organizations, such as the Episcopal Church and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, provide educational assistance for church members. Schools may also offer institutional grants or scholarships to enrolled students, while generous alumni sometimes endow scholarships for those attending their alma mater.


Is an Online Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling Worth It?

A master's degree is a substantial investment without a guaranteed payoff — no matter what subject you study. Every individual should weigh the advantages and costs according to their circumstances and goals. However, an online master's degree in Christian counseling may be worthwhile for those who want to help others in faith communities and have the means to pursue an advanced degree. Here are some benefits and drawbacks to consider:

Potential Benefits

Potential Drawbacks

  • Most online master's degrees in this discipline are non-licensure programs. Therefore, some graduates would need to earn a different master's degree if they later want to become an LPC.
  • Mental health counselors are prone to compassion fatigue and professional burnout from helping people in crisis day after day.

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