Top 25 Most Affordable Advanced Degrees in Pastoral Care and Counseling

Best Counseling Degrees - Pastoral Care and CounselingBy Kirsten Hughes
April 2015

Pastoral Counseling is a field of counseling that integrates psychotherapy and theology. Practitioners are often trained ministers, rabbis, priests, and other individuals with a strong commitment to their faith. This profession combines traditional religious training and world views with behavioral health training and principals. Clients are drawn to pastoral counselors knowing that they are trained in issues of spirituality and faith and will incorporate this central aspect of clients’ lives when supporting them through challenging life events and stages.

Pastoral counselors work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to offer spiritual support and guidance. Pastoral counselors work in a variety of settings including churches, mental health counseling centers, substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, shelters, and private practice. Pastoral counselors work with diverse populations in a broad range of settings while consistently considering and holding a commitment to the clients spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Depending on graduate coursework and state licensure requirements Pastoral counselors may have the option of pursuing licensure. However, many pastoral counselors are not required to be licensed to work in certain settings such as congregations and choose instead to obtain recognition from professional organizations. For more information see the following article: What Level of Education Does a Pastoral Counselor Need?

This list was created by looking at regionally accredited schools that offer graduate degrees in the pastoral counseling field. Schools that had programing with a counseling track concentration and a pastoral/biblical focus were then sorted by affordability, ranking from high to low. When looking at the schools that met our initial criteria (118 schools) the tuition ranged from $4,590 – $40,200. Our list covers the 25 most affordable of these schools ranging in cost from $4,590 – $10,674. We encourage you to examine the richness and variety of the many excellent offerings represented here throughout the list. If you are interested, you can read more about the data and methodology used to develop this ranking.

#25 California Baptist University

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Master of Arts in Counseling Ministry

Riverside, CA

California Baptist University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling Ministry that prepares graduates to provide Christian counseling in a congregational setting. This program integrates a theological perspective with the behavioral sciences in the context of church based counseling. This program is guided by the philosophy that congregation is a holistic community. Graduates will be prepared to work in a wide range of religious settings across all faiths. Classes are designed to accommodate working adults, and they are typically held in the late afternoon/evenings.

  • Graduate Tuition: $10,674
  • Student Population: 7,144
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1

Courses Include

Congregational and Professional Counseling Applications, Theology as a Behavioral Science, Law & Ethics for Church Based Counselors, Human Development through the Biblical Life Cycle, Congregation as a Healing Community, A Theology of Helping People, Survey of Church Based Counseling Programs, Pathology, Abnormality & Sin, Readings in Christian Behavioral Sciences.

#24 Virginia Commonwealth University

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Master of Science in Patient Counseling

Richmond, VA

The School of Allied Health Professions at Virginia Commonwealth University offers a Master of Science in Patient Counseling. This program is for pastoral care professionals and other healthcare providers wanting to gain clinical expertise in the spiritual care of patients and families. Multiple curriculum structures are available to meet the goals of students pursuing this degree.

  • Graduate Tuition: $10,341
  • Student Population: 30,974
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1

Courses Include

Basic Patient Counseling, Clinical Ethics, Research Basics for Hospital Chaplains, Pastoral Care Management, Theory of Group Leadership.

#23 Oral Roberts University College of Theology and Ministry

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Master of Divinity Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy Concentration

Master of Arts in Christian Counseling

Doctor of Ministry Pastoral Care and Counseling Concentration

Tulsa, OK

Liberty University offers a handful of Pastoral Counseling degrees. The Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling provides students a strong foundation in biblical counseling principles and skills. Graduates can work as non-professional counselors or if desired work towards professional licensure after completing further licensure requirements. This 36 credit hour program can be completed online with two on campus intensives. The Master of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling provides an overview of the integration of psychology and theology while preparing students for the practical application of counseling. The Master of Arts in Religion in Pastoral Counseling, online program, provides skills for Godly advisement. The Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling is also available online. Students will learn to address the mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges of their clients.

  • Graduate Tuition: $10,260
  • Student Population: 3,414
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1

Areas of Study

Premarital and Marital Counseling, Crisis Counseling, Grief Counseling, Spirituality in Counseling, Systematic Theology, Biblical Principles of Counseling, Best Practices, Pastoral Leadership.

#22 Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

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Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy (Dual Degree)

Louisville, KY

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary offers seven dual degree concentrations including the Master of Divinity and Marriage and Family Therapy. These degree components help students integrate biblical study, theology, faith and spirituality in theological work. Students focus on their Christian commitment in professional life and work. Graduates are committed to serving their churches and communities while bringing spiritual expertise to their chosen profession. This degree is for those interested in serving as pastors and with the expertise and training of family counselors. Dual degrees of Marriage and Family Therapy and Religion as well as Marriage and Family and Spirituality are also available.

  • Graduate Tuition: $10,260
  • Student Population: 199
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: NA

Educational Components

Biblical Studies, Theology, History, Ethics, and Religion, Practical Theology.

#21 Southwestern Assemblies of God University

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Master of Divinity concentration in Counseling

Master of Science in Human Services Counseling (Non-Clinical)

Waxahachie, Tx

Southwestern Assemblies of God University offers two related counseling degrees. The Master of Divinity students choose from among six concentrations including Counseling. The Master of Science in Human Services Counseling (Non-Clinical) degree provides counseling skills to individuals and ministry professional seeking advanced training for work in agencies, institutions and church related settings. These degrees are offered on campus and online.

  • Graduate Tuition: $10,080
  • Student Population: 2,012
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1

Courses Include

Bible Electives, Marriage and Family Counseling, Crisis Intervention, Religion in Contemporary World Society, Pastoral Care, Preaching with Purpose, Issues in Contemporary Theology, Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy, Crisis Intervention.

#20 Northwest Nazarene University

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Master of Science in Counseling (Clinical Counseling, Marriage and Family, or School Counseling) with emphasis in Counseling in a Faith Environment

Nampa, ID

Affiliated with The Church of the Nazarene, Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) offers a Master of Science in Counseling. This degree has three fields of study to choose from Clinical Counseling, Marriage and Family, or School Counseling. Additionally six areas of emphasis are available to specialize in including Counseling in a Faith Environment. This emphasis areas presents Christian faith from a Wesleyan perspective. Students will focus on counseling in Christian settings with a biblical perspective. Students do not have to be Christian to attend NNU.

  • Graduate Tuition: $9,920
  • Student Population: 2,246
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1

Courses Include

The Profession of Counseling, Multicultural Counseling and Professional Issues, Family Counseling Theories, Addictions Counseling, Measurement and Assessment, Clinical Intervention and Prevention.

#19 Hampton University

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Master of Arts in Counseling – Community Mental Health Counseling: Pastoral Counseling

Hampton, VA

The Department of Psychology in the School of Education and Human Development at Hampton University offers a Master of Arts Degree in Community Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Pastoral Counseling. A unique feature of this program is that during the clinical experiences, students who commit to working with children, adolescents and transitional age-youth are eligible for a $10,000 stipend. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) supports this grant. The Pastoral Counseling concentration, with a non-denominational focus, provides professional counseling skills to spiritual leaders.

  • Graduate Tuition: $9,774
  • Student Population: 4,622
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 10:1

Courses Include

Assessment and Appraisal in Counseling, Life Span Development, Group Process in Counseling, Treating the Substance Abuser, Identity, Ethics and Legal Aspects of Counseling, Community Mental Health and Welfare Services, Integrative Issues in Spiritual Counseling, Statistics, Diagnosis and Treatment, Pastoral Community Mental Health Internship, Crisis Intervention and Grief Counseling, Abnormal Psychology and Psychopathology.

#18 Biola University Talbot School of Theology

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Master of Divinity

La Miranda, CA

Talbot School of Theology at Biola University a Non-denominational School was founded in 1952. The Master of Divinity offers several areas of specialization including Pastoral Care and Counseling. This program instils the knowledge of the Word of God with skills to communicate the Gospel effectively. The goals of the program include leading people into worldwide ministry. Two biblical languages are required: Greek and Hebrew. A thesis course sequence is an option of this degree. The program can be completed in 3-5 years.

  • Graduate Tuition: $9,684
  • Student Population: 6,301
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1

Courses Include

Hermeneutics / Bible Study Methods, Survey of Genesis-Malachi, Theology I-Revelation & Nature of God, Reformation, Modern Theology, Advanced Pastoral Care and Counseling, Church & Society, Marital Counseling, Counseling Troubled Families.

#17 Columbia International University Seminary & School of Ministry

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Master of Divinity

Columbia, SC

Columbia International University is a multi-denominational Christian Institution. The Master of Divinity in Ministry Care has the option to focus on Pastoral Care. This degree supports students in assessing the emotional and spiritual needs of clients using biblical resources and counseling skills. Graduates can serve in a church, para-church, or cross-cultural ministry setting.

  • Graduate Tuition: $9,540
  • Student Population: 1,154
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1

Courses Include

Theological Methods and Issues, The Mission of God, Ministry of Counseling, Integration of Theology and Psychology, Pastoral Care Techniques, Counseling Grief and Loss, Addictions Counseling, Psychopathology for Ministry Contests, Brief and Solution-Focused Counseling.

#16 Liberty University

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Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling

Master of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling

Master of Arts in Religion in Pastoral Counseling

Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling

Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University offers a handful of Pastoral Counseling degrees. The Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling provides students a strong foundation in biblical counseling principles and skills. Graduates can work as non-professional counselors or if desired work towards professional licensure after completing further licensure requirements. This 36 credit hour program can be completed online with two on campus intensives. The Master of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling provides an overview of the integration of psychology and theology while preparing students for the practical application of counseling. The Master of Arts in Religion in Pastoral Counseling, online program, provides skills for Godly advisement. The Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling is also available online. Students will learn to address the mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges of their clients.

  • Graduate Tuition: $9,360
  • Student Population: 77,338
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1

Areas of Study

Premarital and Marital Counseling, Crisis Counseling, Grief Counseling, Spirituality in Counseling, Systematic Theology, Biblical Principles of Counseling, Best Practices, Pastoral Leadership.

#15 Husson University

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Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling

Bangor, ME

Husson University offers a Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling in cooperation with the Bangor Theological Seminary. Graduates of the program are prepared to become pastoral counselors with the option of applying for state licensure. This program is offered full-time and part-time in the late afternoons, evenings, weekends, summer and through distance learning in order to accommodate the needs of students.

  • Graduate Tuition: $8,586
  • Student Population: 3,049
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1

Courses Include

Human Growth and Development, Research and Program Evaluation, Social and Cultural Diversity, Group Process, Career Development and Counseling, Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment Planning with children and Adolescents, Pastoral Theology and Psychology, Grief and Bereavement Counseling, Clinical Pastoral Education.

#14 Phoenix Seminary

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Master of Divinity in Counseling and Family

Advanced Placement Master of Divinity in Counseling and Family

Phoenix, AZ

The primary degree program at Phoenix Seminary is the Master of Divinity. This degree will prepare graduates for professional, vocational ministry in church and parachurch settings with professions ranging from pastoral counseling to youth ministry. Students will study the Scripture and theological issues. The Counseling and Family concentration prepares students to counsel couples and families according to biblical principles. Students interested in pursuing state licensure should pursue the Master of Arts in Counseling at Phoenix Seminary. An Advanced Placement Master of Divinity in Counseling and Family is also available. This accelerated program is designed for exceptional candidates providing them the benefit of leveraging their undergraduate coursework to significantly reduce the cost and time required to complete the degree.

  • Graduate Tuition: $8,460
  • Student Population: 187
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: NA

Courses Include

Learning New Testament Greek, Reading New Testament Greek, Learning Old Testament Hebrew, Reading Old Testament Hebrew, Survey of the Pentateuch, Survey of the Prophets, Survey of the General Epistles and Revelation, Living in God’s Presence: Knowing our Triune God, Biblical Sexuality, Humanity, Angels, and the Person and Work of Christ, Counseling Issues and Strategies.

#13 Criswell College

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Master of Arts in Counseling

Dallas, TX

Criswell College offers a Master of Arts in Counseling to prepare graduates to counsel individuals, couples, and families from a Christian worldview. An emphasis is placed on developing research-based skills and counseling theories and in supporting students in developing their Christian faith. Graduates are prepared to work in numerous settings from Christian counseling ministries to mental health organizations. This degree is offered in Licensure and Non-Licensure tracks. The Non-Licensure is also available online.

  • Graduate Tuition: $7,470
  • Student Population: 323
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1

Courses Include

Hermeneutics, Personal Evangelism, Dynamics of Marriage and Family, Counseling Theories, Appraisal & Assessment Techniques, Addiction Counseling, Conflict Management, Psychopharmacology & Mental Illness, Applied Ministry Project.

#12 Lincoln Christian University

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Master of Divinity – Pastoral Care and Counseling specialization

Lincoln, IL

Lincoln Christian University offers a Master of Divinity with a specialization in Pastoral Care and Counseling. This program supports students in exploring a counseling ministry to individuals, couples, and families. In approaching challenges students learn to use counseling skills while taking into consideration the context of the individuals life including the role of culture and developmental stage. A focus is placed on learning a theological basis for pastoral care and the counseling process. Courses are delivered through a variety of format options to support students in arranging their school schedules to fit their personal lives.

  • Graduate Tuition: $7,182
  • Student Population: 997
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1

Course Delivery Formats

Weekly, Block, 8-week Block, Intensive Weeks, Online.

#11 Ohio Christian University

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Master of Arts in Ministry – Pastoral Care and Counseling concentration

Circleville, OH

Ohio Christian University offers a Master of Arts in Ministry with a concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling. This program prepares students to serve in the church and society. All graduates of this program will have a firm understanding of the Bible, theology, and the church. Students will learn to assess and intervene in order to support individuals moving through challenging times.

  • Graduate Tuition: $7,125
  • Student Population: 3,711
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1

Courses Include

Ministry Essentials, Pastoral Care Giver, Worship in the Church, History of Christian Thought, Theology of John Wesley, Ethical and Legal Issues in Pastoral Counseling.

#10 Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity

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Master of Divinity – Pastoral Care and Counseling concentration

Master of Divinity / Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling (Dual Degree)

Doctor of Ministry in Christian Ministries – Pastoral Care and Counseling concentration

Boiling Springs, NC

Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity is Baptist in origin and prepares graduates for Christian ministries. The School of Divinity offers the Master of Divinity, as a basic professional degree, with six areas of concentration including Pastoral Care and Counseling. Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity also offers five dual-degree combinations including the Master of Divinity/Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling. The Doctor of Ministry in Christian Ministries degree offers a concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling.

  • Graduate Tuition: $7,038
  • Student Population: 4,656
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1

Courses Include

Pastoral Theology, Pastoral Care of Families, Crisis Intervention, Grief, Loss, Death & Dying, Interpersonal Relationships, Biblical Studies, Spiritual Formation, Ministry, Counseling Theories, Advanced Psychopathology, Multicultural Counseling, Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Counseling.

#9 Moody Bible Institute

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Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Master of Divinity

Chicago, IL

Moody Bible Institute has Seminary/Graduate schools located in Chicago and Michigan. Moody Bible Institute focuses around the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. In biblical and theological studies students learn to communicate the Scriptures. The Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology supports students in integrating psychology with a biblical perspective for counseling purposes in order to support individuals meet life challenges. Master of Divinity educates students in a biblical understanding with the ability to articulate traditional evangelical beliefs. Future ministry careers include senior, associate, or assistant pastor, youth pastor, pastoral counselor, and chaplain.

  • Graduate Tuition: $6,930
  • Student Population: 3,709
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1

Institute Values

The authority of the Word of God, the centrality of the Church, the worth and dignity of the individual, the priority of servanthood, the practice of integrity, the responsibility of stewardship.

#8 Holy Apostles College and Seminary

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Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies – Pastoral Counseling Concentration

Cromwell, CT

Holy Apostles College and Seminary offers a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies with a Pastoral Counseling Concentration. Graduates of this program will meet outcomes including; represent Catholic doctrine in pastoral settings, collaborate with others in ministry, demonstrate competence in specialization, and communicate effectively in the work of evangelization and ministry.

  • Graduate Tuition: $6,300
  • Student Population: 385
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 4:1

Courses Include

Church in America, Mission and Evangelization, Pastoral Issues Concerning Human Sexuality, Catholic Social Teachings, Methods in Counseling, Clinical Pastoral Education, Theology of Social Media, Spiritual Direction: Skills and Practice.

#7 Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary

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Biblical Counseling

Kansas City, MO

Calvary Bible College is a nondenominational institution integrating a biblical worldview. The Biblical Counseling Program at Calvary builds a Christian counseling model by looking at human growth and development through biblical principles. Calvary strives to develop community through connection with students and faculty and Christian ministry in the community.

  • Graduate Tuition: $6,120
  • Student Population: 328
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 8:1

Courses Include

Bible Study / Hermeneutics, Romans, Genesis, Evangelism/Spiritual Life, Oral Communication, Developing a Biblical Worldview, Counseling Youth, Marriage and Family Counseling, Crisis Counseling, Ethics, Human Growth & Development.

#6 Ashland University

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Master of Arts in Counseling

Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling & Care

Master of Divinity

Ashland, OH

Ashland Theological Seminary prepares men and women for ministry in the church and around the world through a Christ-centered theological education. Ashland Theological Seminary offers several degrees but three are highlighted here that support graduates in pursuing careers in the field of pastoral counseling. The core values of the Ashland Theological Seminary center around scripture, spiritual formation, community, and academic excellence. Depending on the degree chosen graduates go on to pursue careers in a wide variety of professional vocations in secular and non-secular settings.

  • Graduate Tuition: $5,688
  • Student Population: 5,979
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1

Curriculum Focus

Develop competence in hermeneutics, biblical studies, history and theology, as well as ministry areas such as preaching, teaching, leadership, worship, pastoral care, counseling, spiritual formation, missions, and evangelism.

#5 Baptist Bible College & Graduate School

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Master of Arts – Biblical Counseling

Master of Divinity

Springfield, MO

Baptist Bible College offers a Christ-centered curriculum with a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling (60 credits) and a Master of Divinity (96 credits). The Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling prepares graduates for the primary or supporting responsibility of ministry in churches, chaplaincy, elementary, high school, colleges or secular settings. The Master of Divinity prepares men for pastoral ministry, teaching at the college level, and continued education.

  • Graduate Tuition: $5,310
  • Student Population: 367
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1

Courses Include

Biblical Theology, Old Testament, New Testament, Practical Theology, Intercultural Studies, Counseling Theory/Theology, Counseling Skills, Counseling Practicum, Biblical Studies, Biblical Counseling.

#4 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Master of Arts – Biblical Counseling

Master of Divinity – Biblical Counseling

Wake Forrest, NC

The Masters Programs at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary include a Master of Arts and a Master of Divinity. The Graduate Programs prepare graduates to become pastors, leaders, missionaries and other Christian workers. The Biblical Counseling concentration guides students to see the Scriptures as a way to understand people emotionally and spiritually.

  • Graduate Tuition: $4,950
  • Student Population: 2,604
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 23:1

Core Competencies

Spiritual Formation, Biblical Exposition, Theological Integration, Ministry Preparation, Critical Thinking and Communication.

#3 Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Master of Divinity – Counseling Concentration

Doctor of Ministry – Care and Counseling

Kansas City, MO

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary states the purpose of “biblically educating God-called men and women to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ”. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers numerous Masters and Doctoral degrees including four different counseling degrees, a standard Masters and a standard Doctoral in addition to the Master of Divinity with a concentration in Counseling and the Doctor of Ministry with a concentration in Care and Counseling. Different forms of study are available from online classes to field practicums to residential.

  • Graduate Tuition: $4,730
  • Student Population: 1,132
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1

Faculty Highlights

The faculty bring experience as pastors, missionaries, and denominational leaders with degrees from schools such as the University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh, and Cambridge to Southern Seminary, Southwestern Seminary, Southeastern Seminary, New Orleans Seminary, Golden Gate Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Hebrew Union College.

#2 Maranatha Baptist University

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Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling

Master of Divinity – Specialization in Biblical Counseling

Watertown, WI

Maranatha Baptist University Seminary Programs are committed to a fundamental Baptist Position. The Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling (34 semester hours) prepares graduates to provide Biblical Counsel. Also available is a Master of Divinity (96 semester hours) with a specialization in several areas including Biblical Counseling. The Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling is available in traditional and summer formats. Students can earn a degree in just two summers with online courses and module courses offered in June each year.

  • Graduate Tuition: $4,720
  • Student Population: 1,035
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1

Courses Include

Old Testament, New Testament, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Biblical Counseling

#1 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

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Master of Divinity – Specialization in Counseling, Licensure Track

Master of Divinity – Specialization in Counseling, Non-Licensure Track

New Orleans, LA

The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) Counseling program offers four different counseling degrees. Two of the degrees are Master of Divinity degrees with specializations in counseling (one licensure and one non-licensure track). Students will receive training and supervision in evidence based counseling methods to become prepared for licensure as professional counselors. A strong value is placed on supporting people in finding biblical solutions and healing from God. The Counseling and Community Ministries Center provides an opportunity for counseling students to complete their supervised practicum while providing support to the local community.

  • Graduate Tuition: $4,490
  • Student Population: 2,638
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1

Program Highlights

The NOBTS faculty are members of numerous professional organizations and train professionals in the field of Christian counseling. Students and faculty are engaged in counseling ministry with a mission focus training counselors and pastors locally and around the world.

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