Becoming a Christian Counselor
Training and Education
The education level required of counselors (including Christian counselors) can depend on what practice area he or she chooses, his or her employer’s requirements, and what state he or she resides in.
Overall, most counselors are required to hold a master’s degree related to their practice field, a specified number of hours spent working under supervision in a clinical setting, and to pass a licensure exam. In addition, once counselors are licensed, they are required to earn continuing education credits in their field. Keep in mind these requirements are for most counselors, but they can and do vary depending on your chosen area of practice.
In order to determine what the educational requirements are for your chosen Christian counseling career path, ask a professional who is already serving in that capacity, a college or university admissions specialist, or the human resources department of a potential employer.
In addition to these educational requirements, Christian counselors may be required to show evidence of receiving formal theological education through a Christian secondary school or college.
Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
In general, counselors will be expected to have a deep base of knowledge of counseling techniques related to their chosen fields. Counselors should also know when it is appropriate to refer a client to another mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Additionally, Christian counselors will be expected to have extensive knowledge of guiding Biblical principles.
Christian counselors must have a strong desire to help others, as well as the physical and emotional stamina needed to deal with others’ stress and trauma. Patients or clients need to be able to feel they can trust and confide in their counselors, so counselors should have the ability to inspire that trust through empathetic listening and conversations.
Counselors often work with people from very diverse backgrounds, and must be comfortable doing so. Christian counselors should also be comfortable using Biblical principles when working with clients, as well as helping clients develop a closer relationship with God.
Counselors are required to keep extensive and detailed records of their treatment sessions with clients, so counselors should also have very strong verbal and written communication skills. Strong organizational and time management skills help counselors manage a myriad of additional tasks such as completing paperwork, insurance forms (when necessary), and reports that may be required by the organization as well as the state government.
Christian Counselor Average Salary
Christian organizations may offer salaries that are higher, lower, or comparable to standard counselors’ salaries at other facilities. Salaries depend on the size of the organization and how it is funded. Salaries given in this section are to be used as guidelines only, since actual salaries will vary widely. All figures are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As of May of 2008, the average annual salaries of educational, vocational, and school counselors were $51,050. The middle 50 percent earned between $38,740 and $65,360. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,360, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,330. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned slightly less. Their average yearly salary was $37,030. The middle 50 percent earned between $29,410 and $47,290. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,240, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $59,460.
Average annual salaries of mental health counselors in May 2008 were also less than the previous practice areas, at $36,810. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,930 and $48,580. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,100. Marriage and family therapists received the highest average annual salary of all of these practice areas, at $44,590, and show the highest earning potential. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,840 and $56,320. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,830.
Potential Career Path
Christian counselors can choose from several career path options. For those working at large organizations, counselors can become supervisors or managers at their organizations. Counselors can also choose to advance their careers and the discipline itself by doing clinical research. By earning advanced degrees, such as a PhD, counselors can also open doors to many promotions. Lastly, Christian counselors may decide that opening a private practice will give them the flexibility, responsibility, and salary they are looking for.