Nursing Education
Nursing Education Opportunities in Mississippi - 2006  <more..>
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Pastoral Counselor


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 spirituality.

Work Environment:

Pastoral 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.

College Requirements:

Individuals interested in pastoral counseling must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Students must obtain a bachelor’s 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.

Students interested in pastoral counseling should contact schools for information on admission and course of study.

For educational institutions in Mississippi
offering this course of study click here.

Career Outlook:

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



Salary Range

$35,800 - $72,500


Professional Organizations:


American Association of Pastoral Counselors

9504A Lee Highway

Fairfax, Virginia 22031

Phone: (703) 385-6967

Fax: (703) 352-7725


The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.

1549 Clairmont Road, Suite 103

Decatur, GA 


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


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