Top 15 Most Affordable Online Graduate Degrees in Pastoral Care and Counseling 2016

Best Counseling Degrees - Online Counseling Degrees
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By BCD Staff
February 2016

The online graduate degrees in pastoral care and counseling listed here can prepare graduates to serve as counselors and/or to offer pastoral care in churches and other ministry settings. Some programs in this list will prepare graduates to seek state licensure as marriage and family therapists or as licensed professional counselors in their home states (as always students should consult their home state licensing board for additional information if interested in licensure). Other programs on this list will prepare graduates to serve as non-licensed counselors offering guidance on a variety of issues (such as marital or religious) in a number of contexts (from church counselor to prison chaplain to youth and family pastor). All of the programs listed here are available online, making them accessible to individuals that want to maintain their work and family commitments while also advancing their education and career. We believe this list will help you find the program to match your personal interests and professional career goals.

For information on how these programs were selected for the ranking, see the methodology statement at the end of the article.

#15 Argosy University-Phoenix Online Division

Phoenix, AZ

Doctor of Education in Pastoral Community Counseling

Argosy University offers an online Doctor of Education in Pastoral Community Counseling. This degree is designed to prepare graduates to be leaders in their religious communities. Graduates can pursue careers as pastors, counselors, school counselors, family counselors, group therapy counselors, and guidance counselors. This program uses a modified cohort format and is set up to be flexible for working professionals. Students in this program will have the opportunities to build community through their online studies with peers and faculty.

  • Regional Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Graduate Tuition: $19,467

Courses Include:

Introduction to research methods; survey techniques; applied research; marriage and family therapy; professional development in pastoral community counseling; contemporary ethical issues in pastoral counseling; family mediation and conflict resolution; non-western helping and healing; counseling in community settings; multicultural issues in counseling; addictions counseling; and foundations of leadership.

#14 Dallas Baptist University

Dallas, TX

Master of Arts in Christian Ministry with Counseling Ministry Concentration

The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry with a concentration in Counseling Ministry is offered at Dallas Baptist University. This degree is designed for students interested in church staff positions, para-church Christian ministries, and non-profit organizations. The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry is a generalized curriculum with various concentrations available that allow graduates to pursue careers in a variety of fields in Christian ministry. The Counseling Ministry concentration offers a number of courses to prepare graduates to have the skills and techniques central to the field of counseling. Distance education students will have the opportunity to engage with peers and instructors multiple times a week through the online format to promote collaboration. However, courses are asynchronous so students will not be required to log in at specific times.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $14,130.00

Courses Include:

Foundations of Christian ministry; spiritual formation and worship; Christian history and heritage; counseling theories and techniques; introduction to Christian counseling; faith formation in life stages; career counseling and lifestyle development; addictive and compulsive disorders; marriage and family counseling; and theological perspectives in Christian counseling.

#13 Mid-America Christian University

Oklahoma City, OK

Master of Science — Counseling, Pastoral and Spiritual Direction

Mid-America Christian University offers a Master of Science in Counseling, Pastoral and Spiritual Direction as well as a handful of other counseling degrees. This degree requires the completion of 33-39 credit hours, and is designed for individuals in the field of ministry who wish to develop and strengthen their skills in pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. Students in this program will learn the theories and skills of counseling from a Christian faith-based perspective. Graduates of this program will be well prepared professionals ready to serve people in the church and other ministry settings.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Graduate Tuition: $13,560.00

Courses Include:

Psychopathology; advanced principles and techniques of pastoral counseling; theories and principles of counseling and psychotherapy; spiritual direction and spiritual formation; individual psychotherapy techniques; psychology of interpersonal communication and relationships; marriage and family systems treatment; marital and family treatment techniques; prayer, spirituality, and ministry; ethics and professional studies; and pastoral counseling and spiritual direction practicum/internship.

#12 Amridge University

Montgomery, AL

Master of Divinity in Marriage and Family Therapy

Master of Divinity in Professional Counseling

Doctor of Ministry in Marriage and Family Therapy (I & II)

Amridge University offers many different online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, several of which are in ministry, divinity, or biblical studies. Here we have chosen to highlight a handful of their counseling degrees in those fields: the Master of Divinity in Marriage and Family Therapy; the Master of Divinity in Professional Counseling; and the Doctor of Ministry in Marriage and Family Therapy (I & II). These degrees prepare graduates for various areas of practical ministry through the study of the biblical text and theology. Additionally, in providing students with a strong foundation in theory, research, and practice, graduates will be prepared to pursue licensure in Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT) or Professional Counseling (LPC) in their home states.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Religious Accreditation: Association of Theological Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $12,600.00

Courses Include:

Spiritual leadership; ethics and professional identity; theories of counseling and psychotherapy; theories of marriage and family therapy; social and multicultural diversity; counseling for abusive relationships; systemic treatment of substance related disorders; basic counseling techniques/helping relationships; human sexual development; group counseling; and lifestyle and career development.

#11 Harding University

Searcy, AR

Master of Ministry

Harding University offers a 36 credit hour Master of Ministry. This program is focused on preparing individuals to serve as ministers in the church. Because serving a congregation often involves counseling members of the church, a summer course and practicum experience focuses on training students in people helping. This course and practicum experience looks at human development and how to best support people in a variety of contexts. Students will learn to prepare couples for marriage as well as how to strengthen marriage and family relationships. Additionally, issues such as divorce, grief and loss, addiction, and dependency issues are explored. Graduates will be prepared to offer counsel in the church setting and know how and when a referral for outside counsel might be more appropriate.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Graduate Tuition: $12,096.00

Courses Include:

Research and resources for advanced bible study; theological foundations of ministry; ethics in ministry; Christian ministry in contemporary culture; Christian communication; people helping, people helping practicum; conflict management; conflict management practicum; family ministry; and women's ministries.

#10 Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Waxahachie, TX

Master of Divinity with a Concentration in Counseling

All online students at Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) have access to the University's on-campus support, resources and facilities. SAGU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, master's, and doctorate degrees, and as a result their degrees are recognized across the country. This 72 credit hour program offers a variety of courses to prepare graduates to counsel diverse populations. Students in this program can prepare for a variety of callings by selecting a concentration in one of six areas including counseling. A thesis option is also available and designed for students that plan to pursue a Ph.D. after completing their Masters.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Religious Accreditation: Association for Biblical Higher Education
  • Graduate Tuition: $10,080.00

Courses Include:

Marriage and family counseling; crisis intervention; religion in contemporary world society; ministering within cultural diversity; pastoral care; and research literature and technology.

#9 Northwest Nazarene University

Nampa, ID

Course of Study Online

Northwest Nazarene University offers what they call a Course of Study Online. In this program Northwest Nazarene University offers course modules to support clergy development to prepare graduates for effective ministry. All courses are offered over 12 weeks sessions and are facilitated by a pastor/teacher who holds at least a Master's degree to support students in reaching their individual goals in the field of ministry. This program is open to anyone interested in an education in Christian studies but is designed for those pursuing ordination in the Church of the Nazarene. This program is perhaps less specific to counseling than some of the other programs listed here, but still covers the topic with the goal of introducing students to the fundamentals of pastoral counseling in their course called Shepherding God's People.

  • Regional Accreditation: None
  • Graduate Tuition: $9,920.00

Course modules include:

Shepherding God's people, supervised ministry experience, communicating Christ cross-culturally, leading the people of God.

#8 Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling

Liberty University offers a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling. The programs website clearly outlines their online 36 credit hour program offerings and requirements. Students at Liberty University will develop a strong foundation in counseling covering areas including psychology, theology, gerontology, and healthy sexuality. Graduates of this program will be prepared to offer counsel based on biblical principles to diverse clients. Graduates will find careers as non-licensed counselors within the church. Graduates of this program may choose to pursue professional licensure with the completion of some post graduation courses and requirements which vary by state.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Religious Accreditation: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $9,360.00

Courses Include:

Introduction to pastoral counseling; multicultural issues in pastoral counseling; spiritual formation in pastoral counseling; crisis intervention in pastoral counseling; marriage and family counseling; theories and techniques in pastoral counseling; survey of theology; integration of psychology and theology; theology and spirituality in counseling; healthy sexuality; gerontology and counseling; and counseling women.

#7 Saint Joseph's College of Maine

Standish, ME

Master of Arts In Theology: Pastoral Theology Specialization

Saint Joseph's College of Maine offers a Master of Arts in Theology with a Pastoral Theology Specialization. This degree focuses on providing students with a strong theological foundation based in Catholic doctrine. Saint Joseph's College Master of Arts in Theology offers different specializations, one of which is the pastoral theology specialization. This specialization is designed for individuals interested in serving people in a variety of settings and contexts such as parishes, hospitals, retreat and spiritual centers, and social service agencies. Graduates with this degree may choose to provide services in the church or community such as counseling related to marital, financial, relational, or religious problems.

  • Regional Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Graduate Tuition: $8,246.00

Courses Include:

Foundations of moral theology; youth ministry and family faith formation; foundations of Catholic spirituality; pastoral counseling: theory and practice; ministry with the aging, sick, and dying; ministry in the multicultural church of America; and spiritual direction.

#6 Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary

Charlotte, NC

Master of Divinity Concentration in Pastoral Counseling

Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary offers a Master of Divinity with a concentration in Pastoral Counseling. Students in this 96 credit hour program will engage with classmates and faculty through online discussion boards, blog postings, online videos, and more. Courses are offered in eight week blocks, with two sessions of online classes offered each semester.

  • Religious Accreditation: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $7,800.00

Courses Include:

Introduction to pastoral care; spiritual formation and growth; pastoral counseling; Christian ethics; premarital and marital counseling; advanced issues of counseling; grief and loss counseling; theological foundations of Biblical counseling; clinical foundations to biblical counseling; and addictions.

#5 Ohio Christian University

Circleville, OH

Master of Arts in Ministry: Pastoral Care and Counseling Concentration

Ohio Christian University offers a Master of Arts in Ministry with a Pastoral Care and Counseling Concentration. This graduate degree is designed to prepare individuals for careers in the field of pastoral care and counseling. This degree is not designed to prepare graduates for professional licensure as counselors, but rather for those that are called to a counseling ministry. Students in this program will learn counseling assessment and intervention techniques, crisis intervention skills, how spiritual issues impact individuals, and ethical standards for counseling professionals.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Religious Accreditation: Association for Biblical Higher Education
  • Graduate Tuition: $7,125.00

Concentration Courses Include:

Methods of pastoral counseling; spiritual issues in pastoral counseling; ethical and legal issues in pastoral counseling; and pastoral intervention in crisis.

#4 Shasta Bible College and Graduate School

Redding, CA

Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling and Master of Divinity: Biblical Counseling and Christian Family

Shasta Bible College and Graduate School offers two counseling focused distance education programs: the Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling; and the Master of Divinity in Biblical Counseling and Christian Family. Online courses are offered at the same time as on campus courses and run throughout the year in 15 week semesters offered in the fall, spring, and summer. Students in this program have access to the online classroom at any time of day or night that works for them. Students will have the ability to download audio and visual lectures and access the school's online library.

  • Religious Accreditation: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $5,400.00

Courses Include:

The Biblical counselor and family life educator; courtship, marriage, and the family; theology of biblical counseling; marital and family counseling; counseling children, adolescents, and their families; addictions; premarital preparation and counseling; principles of Biblical counseling; life-cycle issues; foundations of interpersonal relations and conflict resolution; and crisis management.

#3 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

New Orleans, LA

Master of Divinity

All degree programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary provide students with a foundation in seven competencies as well as numerous areas of focus to support students in pursuing their individual interests and goals in Christian service. The Master of Divinity offers a broad range of specializations including one in counseling. This 84 credit hour online degree prepares graduates to serve in a number of ways including pastoral ministry, youth ministry, and chaplaincy. Students can complete this degree fully online or may choose to combine with on campus courses or workshops.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Religious Accreditation: Association of Theological Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $4,590.00

The Seven Competencies Covered in all Degree Programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary are:

Biblical exposition; Christian theological heritage; disciple making; interpersonal skills; servant leadership; spiritual and character formation; and worship leadership.

#2 Luther Rice University & Seminary

Lithonia, GA

Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling

The Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling at Luther Rice University and Seminary prepares graduates for careers as counselors in local churches and other ministry settings. This 36 credit hour graduate degree program is designed to prepare a graduate for a career as a non-licensed counselor in a variety of roles such as church counselor, lay counselor, jail or prison chaplain, youth and family pastor, or christian counselor. While this program requires a practicum that can be completed in a variety of settings, it is available 100% online or through on campus classes in Atlanta.

  • Religious Accreditation: Association for Biblical Higher Education
  • Religious Accreditation: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $4,266.00

Courses Include:

Introduction to the Old Testament; introduction to psychology and counseling theories; foundations of Biblical counseling; spiritual formation, marriage and family counseling; issues, ethics, and legal concerns for counselors; crisis counseling and pastoral care; and methodology for Biblical counseling.

#1 Apex School of Theology

Durham, NC

Master of Arts in Christian Counseling

The Distance Education Program at the Apex School of Theology offers a handful of degrees, including a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling Degree and a Master of Divinity Degree, for students interested in accessing an affordable, faith-based Christian centered curriculum from an accredited institution. The Master of Arts in Christian Counseling program offers two tracks with varying emphasis covering issues related to the family, children, and groups. The program will consider life experience to gain acceptance to the program for applicants that do not meet admissions requirements.

  • Religious Accreditation: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $4,200.00

Courses Include:

Foundations in theology; introduction to pastoral counseling; advanced developmental psychology; family systems therapy; cross cultural counseling; introduction to professional and ethical counseling; crisis and conflict management in the church; group dynamics counseling; and marriage and family counseling.

Related Resources:

The 25 Most Affordable Advanced Degrees in Pastoral Care and Counseling
The Top 10 Most Affordable Online Bachelors Degrees in Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Methodology for the Top 10 Most Affordable Online Graduate Degrees in Pastoral Care and Counseling

To develop the ranking of Top 15 Most Affordable Online Graduate Degrees in Pastoral Care and Counseling, we used information gathered from the Institute of Education Sciences' College Navigator to evaluate colleges and universities offering programing in Clinical Pastoral, Pastoral Counseling, and Pastoral Studies. Next, we selected schools offering this course of study through distance education. For this list we chose to look at schools offering graduate degrees. Finally, we sorted the schools by graduate student tuition (2014-2015), and we present the top 15 schools in our ranking.

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