Pastoral Counseling vs Clinical Counseling: Career ROI

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

Pastoral Counseling vs Clinical Counseling - featured image

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Having a passionate listener makes all the difference. Counselors listen to their patients’ worries, determine each person’s requirements, and create treatment plans.

Pastoral and Clinical Counseling have the same goals: promote healing, growth, and well-being. Both types of counseling seek to alleviate distress and help individuals live more fulfilling lives. To do all these, both careers hinge on the principles of Psychology and the sciences that pertain to human behavior.

While pastoral and Clinical Counseling shares some similarities in their goals, they also differ in their approaches and focus. One incorporates spiritual and religious elements, while the other follows evidence-based practices.

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A Quick Look At the Differences Between Pastoral Counseling and Clinical Counseling

Pastoral CounselingClinical Counseling
Average Salaries$44,254$72,203
Job Growth18 percent from 2022 to 203218 percent from 2022 to 2032
ApproachRooted in spirituality, religion, and theologyGrounded in evidence-based practices of clinical psychology
License/s RequiredTypically certified by organizations like the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC)Requires licensure as a clinical counselor or psychologist
Education RequiredCombination of bachelor’s and master’s in theology and psychology studiesBachelor’s degree in psychology followed by a master’s degree in Clinical Counseling/psychology

What is Pastoral Counseling?

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Pastoral Counseling prepares individuals to become uniquely qualified licensed mental health practitioners with extensive spirituality, religion, and theology studies. Pastoral counselors counselors/psychology professionals represent a valuable resource for those dealing with certain mental health issues.

Pastoral counselors typically treat clients connected to a specific faith, be it Christian, Native American, Jewish, or another. Pastoral counselors can question inflexible, defensive, or incorrect spiritual ideas that may be a factor in a patient’s psychological suffering and dysfunction since they have received training in both a religious tradition and the fundamentals of psychology and psychotherapy.

While some pastoral counselors focus on problems and are brief, others address long-standing tensions and the need for a commitment from the client to be in a long-term therapeutic relationship.

Pastoral Counseling: Education and Career Path

The requirements and licensing for a Pastoral Counseling career may vary from state to state. But in general, you need a college degree with a major in theology and psychology. Although there is a bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Counseling, pursuing a psychology major at the beginning is advised.

A bachelor’s degree in Psychology features the fundamental principles of human behavior, cognition, and emotion. Generally, you need to be acquainted with these topics to become an effective counselor.

Upon completing a bachelor’s degree, you must pursue a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling to explore clinical and biblical methods to understand and address human issues. On the other hand, you can also pursue a Master’s in Theology to deepen your understanding of religious teachings, scriptures, and theological concepts. 

Other requirements include:

Licensing varies for each state. Nevertheless, pastoral counselors must be certified by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) to work in medical settings, correctional facilities, mental health institutions, and private practices. 

As a pastoral counselor, you can also pursue other positions, such as:

Doctor of Pastoral Counseling programs further equip students with the credentials necessary to take on higher roles in churches and other places of faith and worship. DPCs also contribute to secular practice and pursue teaching professions. 

Pastoral Counseling ROI: Education Cost and Salaries

Pastoral Counseling programs are offered mainly through private colleges and universities, which are more expensive than public institutions. On average, tuition for a master’s degree in private institutions costs $28,017. This amount does not include additional expenses such as textbooks, housing, transportation, and fees.

According to Zippia, they earn an average of $44,254 annually, but they vary widely based on experience, location, and specific job responsibilities. Considering the time and money spent earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in private colleges, some may see a small ROI in this career path.

However, the inherent benefits of a job in Pastoral Counseling might surpass financial considerations for those committed to combining their love of helping others with their spiritual values. Moreover, Pastoral Counseling offers prospects for growth and promotion, even though the financial return may not always be as high as in some other professions.

Experienced pastoral counselors can oversee other counselors, assume leadership positions within their organizations, or even launch their counseling businesses or ministries. A related calling leaning toward music, for which pastors pursue the Doctor of Pastoral Music degree.

A career in Pastoral Counseling is for you if:

A career in Pastoral Counseling is not a great fit if:

What is Clinical Counseling?

What is Clinical Counseling - Image

Clinical counselors support a diverse range of clients dealing with emotional distress. They offer counseling services in person and online, utilizing therapeutic techniques to help clients heal from traumatic events, navigate addiction, or cope with the growing mental health crisis.

Clinical counselors treat various mental health issues, including anxiety, substance abuse, depression, and OCD, in individual, family, and group settings. They also support clients during the transition, studying interpersonal dynamics to help manage conflict and heal from trauma.

They can also advocate for positive environmental, social, and occupational changes for mental health, working with local and state officials to create policies and guide individuals through necessary changes. 

Clinical Counseling: Education and Career Path

Clinical Counseling is a specialized branch of Clinical Psychology. It trains individuals to become experts in providing help and necessary resources to various populations.

The bachelor’s degree will equip you with a foundational understanding of human behavior, cognition, and emotional processes. This coursework prepares you for licensure exams, which can only be obtained by completing a master’s degree. Other requirements required to qualify for state licensure include: 

Aspiring clinical counselors must complete a state-mandated exam administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC): the National Counselors Examination and the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination.

A master’s degree and license will help you apply for several job titles, including:

You can also pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor in Psychology (PsyD) if you want to pursue higher-level roles. A doctorate allows you to apply for advanced clinical practice, research, teaching, and supervision. 

Clinical Counseling ROI: Education Cost and Salaries

Depending on where you pursue your studies, a master’s degree can cost you anywhere from $12,596 to $29,931. However, unlike Pastoral Counseling, public colleges and universities offer Clinical Counseling degrees at a lower price. By pursuing a degree at public higher education institutions, you can potentially save thousands of dollars on tuition fees.  

The average annual salary of professionals in Clinical Counseling is $72,203. If you want to earn higher salaries, you must then pursue a Doctorate in Psychology and qualify for clinical and counseling psychology positions. 

Did you know that counseling is one of the top-paying careers in Psychology? According to BLS, clinical and counseling psychologists have an average annual salary of $102,740.

A career in Clinical Counseling is for you if:

A career in Clinical Counseling is Not A Great Fit if:

Pastoral Counseling vs Clinical Counseling - fact

Final Word

In conclusion, Pastoral Counseling provides a unique avenue for clients to integrate their faith into the therapeutic process, while Clinical Counseling employs empirically supported techniques to facilitate healing and resilience. Pastoral counselors are mainly assigned to churches and religious organizations, while clinical counselors can work in a broader context.

Whichever path you choose, you can succeed—if helping others through your expertise is your core objective!

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