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Pastoral Studies and Counseling


Programs in pastoral studies and counseling prepare ministers and other individuals or counseling professionals to guide and comfort people.

Programs in pastoral studies and counseling include topics such as:


In pastoral studies and counseling programs, students may be able to specialize in:


A few two-year schools offer associate degree programs in pastoral studies and counseling. An associate degree usually takes two years to complete. After earning an associate degree students can transfer to a college or university for further study.

Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in pastoral studies and counseling. A bachelor's degree usually takes about four years of full-time study.

Several universities offer graduate degrees in pastoral studies and counseling. A master's degree typically requires two years of study beyond a bachelor's degree. Doctoral (PhD) degree programs usually require two or more years of study beyond the master's degree.

See schools that offer this program.

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Program Admission

You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.

A letter of recommendation from your clergyperson can be very helpful. A record of community service through religious and social-action groups is also a plus.

Below is a list of high school courses that will help prepare you for this program of study:

Graduate Admissions

Admission to seminary and to graduate programs is competitive. You need a bachelor's degree, good grades, and good test scores. If your undergraduate major is not related to religion, you should complete courses in Biblical studies, theology, and philosophy. Courses in psychology are also valuable. You need to have a track record of religious and social service. Some graduate programs require you to have some years of ministerial work experience.

Additional requirements at some schools include:

Typical Course Work

Program Courses

The bachelor's degree program typically includes courses in the following subjects:

Graduate Program Courses

The master's degree program typically includes courses in the following subjects:

Graduate programs that lead to a doctoral degree typically include:

Preparation for pastoral counseling often includes supervised work in settings such as these:

In addition, nearly all clinical pastoral counseling programs require students to complete a practicum. This means that you gain direct experience with actual patients. Often you "shadow" a professional counselor while she runs therapy sessions with patients. When you have accumulated a certain number of hours of observation, you can begin counseling patients yourself. Students are supervised at all times by professors and licensed counselors.

Typically you must complete a year of course work and an exam before you begin your practicum. Practicums usually begin in the fall.

Things to Know

To be recognized as a practitioner in this field, it helps to be certified by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. The AAPC offers several levels of recognition.

Some clinical pastoral counseling programs are offered part time, with day and evening classes.

Counselors can be Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or another faith.

Some states require pastoral counselors to be certified or have a license.

You don't have to be a pastor or minister to enroll in clinical pastoral care programs.


King-Snohomish Area

Seattle University

Tacoma Area

Faith International University & Seminary

Western Reformed Seminary