Pastoral counselors are trained in both
psychology and theology and thus can provide psychological as well as
spiritual guidance to patients and families in health care settings. They
perform a variety of tasks including conducting religious masses,
delivering religious rites and ordinances, and providing counseling and
companionship to patients and family members. They also work with hospital
staff to provide ethical and spiritual direction and instruction on
religious practices and beliefs. Pastoral counselors differ from other
mental health professionals in three distinct ways: (1) they are trained
in two disciplines, psychology and theology; (2) the educational
requirements are different, usually requiring a Master of Divinity degree
plus other academic work; (3) they are not doctors, and therefore cannot
prescribe medicine. They do, however, work closely with other medical
professionals as part of a team to insure that all of the physical and
emotional needs of the patient are being met. Pastoral counselors must
also remain aware of counselor-client confidentiality, even though state
laws concerning this vary greatly. Individuals interested in pastoral
counseling should have a solid academic background, enjoy helping a wide
variety of people, and have a deep understanding of theology and
counselors are usually employed by hospitals, nursing homes,
rehabilitation facilities, independent living centers, psychiatric
facilities, correctional institutions, and residential care facilities.
They usually make less money than other mental health professionals due to
the not-for-profit orientation of this field.
High School Preparation:
Students interested in pastoral
counseling should take high school courses in biology, geometry, algebra,
English, health occupations/medical professions education, literature,
psychology, sociology, computer skills, religion/theology, humanities,
social studies, and speech.
interested in pastoral counseling must have a high school diploma or the
equivalent. Students must obtain a bachelors degree and then enroll in a
3-year program to acquire a Master of Divinity degree from a seminary.
They may also be required to have the endorsement of a minister, priest,
or rabbi in a recognized religious community, three years as a practicing
member of the clergy, or a certain amount of pastoral counseling hours.
interested in pastoral counseling should contact schools for information
on admission and course of study.
For educational institutions in
offering this course of study click here.
Employment opportunities for pastoral
counselors should be excellent. Almost every hospital, nursing home, and
correctional facility has these mental health professionals on staff to
help people with spiritual guidance. Patients, families, and staff will
continue to utilize pastoral counselors to help them with psychological
and religious issues. Due to the relatively small size of the profession,
very few job opportunities will open up as a result of people retiring or
leaving the profession for other reasons. Anyone interested in psychology
and spirituality should consider pastoral counseling as a career path.
Average Annual Salary
$35,800 - $72,500
American Association of Pastoral
9504A Lee Highway
Fairfax, Virginia 22031
Phone: (703) 385-6967
Fax: (703) 352-7725
The Association for Clinical Pastoral
1549 Clairmont Road, Suite 103
Phone: (404) 320-1472
Fax: (404) 320-0849
Association of Professional Chaplains
1701 E. Woodfield Rd., Suite 311
Schaumburg, IL 60173
Phone: (847) 240-1014
Fax: (847) 240-1015