Online Master's in Ministry

Students with a master's degree in ministry share their faith with others and lead worship. Unlike a master's in biblical studies or religion, a master's in ministry (M.Min.) prepares students for church leadership positions. The degree resembles a master's degree in divinity (M.Div.), and some schools refer to the degrees interchangeably. Graduates of both programs qualify for careers in ministry, however some denominations require a master's degree for ordination.

Graduates can pursue careers in social work, nonprofits, Christian education, and community outreach.

Ministers typically work in churches, but can also work in hospitals, healthcare facilities, or college campuses. Graduates can also pursue careers in social work, nonprofits, Christian education, and community outreach. Clergy members earn a mean annual salary of $50,800, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A master's degree in ministry prepares students to serve as ministers or enter ministry-related careers. In a bachelor's program, students cover the fundamentals of the Bible and theology. In a master's program, students explore more advanced courses in theology and spiritual studies. They also concentrate in a specific areas such as family and youth ministry, women's ministry, urban ministry, and counseling.

Students earning their master of ministry online enjoy many benefits. Online programs typically cost less than on-campus programs since students do not need to commute to campus. Online learners can also stay in their current job, allowing them to finance their online ministry degree.

In addition to cost savings, earning a ministry degree online allows students to stay rooted in their communities, remain active in their local churches, and fulfill personal obligations. Asynchronous courses allow students to complete coursework when it is most convenient. Online students receive the same rigorous, faith-based curriculum as their on-campus peers. Students pursuing their master of ministry online also enjoy access to a variety of faith resources such as spiritual support and counseling, live-streaming worship services, and online chat groups and forums.

How Long Does it Take to Earn Your Ministry Master's Degree Online?

Like many master's programs, a master's degree in ministry, including a master's degree in women's ministry, typically requires two years of full-time study. However, this length can vary depending on the number of incoming credits, accelerated program formats, asynchronous or synchronous courses, summer courses, and course load can influence how long it takes to graduate. Most online ministry degrees require between 30 and 39 credits.

A master's degree in ministry explores theology and religion from different contexts. Learners may take courses in religious history, biblical languages, and the Bible, learning how to interpret biblical texts from a historical and contemporary angle. They may also enroll in courses that focus on leadership, management, and cultural studies.

Example Courses

Church Leadership and Administration Students explore current models of ministry and, through a process of analysis and critique, develop their own church leadership philosophy and style.
Counseling in Ministry Students explore biblically inspired methods for counseling church members and methods that draw from psychology. They learn how to set boundaries and determine when to refer church members to outside help.
Old Testament Theology and New Testament Theology Students study the Old Testament and New Testament, applying methods of biblical theology, and examining and interpreting different sections.
Christian Tradition and Mission This course explores the historical development of Christianity. It examines different types of Christianity and contextualizes Christianity through historical and modern lenses.
Contemporary Theology Perspectives Students explore and discuss the contemporary theological issues facing modern worshippers. Such issues may include biblical interpretation and the doctrine of salvation.

Many master's in ministry programs offer specializations, allowing students to learn more about areas of particular interest. Some programs, such as a master's degree in women's ministry or master's in youth ministry, focus entirely on a specialized area. The list below examines some common specializations.

A Ph.D. in ministry or D.Min. (doctorate of ministry) both serve as terminal degrees in the field, but a Ph.D. in ministry focuses more on the academic and research side of ministry while a doctorate focuses on ministry's professional aspects. Although both degrees require several years of study, the cost of earning a doctoral degree in ministry can pay off in the long run. Graduates who hold a Ph.D. or D.Min. can pursue higher-paying careers and qualify for more positions.

Graduates who hold a master's degree in ministry typically work in a faith environment, conducting religious services or performing spiritual functions for community members. They become ministers, pastors, church administrators, religious teachers, church planters, or ministry professors. Some may pursue jobs outside the church in nonprofits or healthcare facilities. Although many entry-level jobs in religious work require a bachelor's degree, higher-paying ministry jobs and, in many cases, ordination require a master's degree.

Occupations and Salary for Online Master's in Ministry Graduates
Occupation Employment Minimum Degree Required Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
Clergy Bachelor's 48,850 $24.43 $50,000
Directors of Religious Activities and Education Bachelor's 21,430 $21.86 $45,470
Counselors Master's 27,150 $22.89 $47,600
Postsecondary Philosophy and Religion Teachers Master's 31,800 N/A $78,790
Source: BLS, May 2017

Ministers fall into two categories: licensed ministers and ordained ministers. While the distinction between the two depends on the denomination or church, a licensed minister typically performs lay clergy duties while ordained ministers perform sacramental duties including marriages, baptisms, and funerals.

A licensed minister typically performs lay clergy duties while ordained ministers perform sacramental duties including marriages, baptisms, and funerals.

The meaning of ordination differs depending on the individual, tradition, and denomination. Some traditions view ordination as a God-given sacrament while others view it as a professional distinction. Most denominations require ordained ministers to hold some type of formal academic training in religion, theology, or ministry. Most require a master's degree in ministry or a master's degree in divinity. Regardless of a person's denomination, ordination culminates in an ordination ceremony. Typically, pastors or other senior clergy members conduct the ceremony, after which a person can officially serve as an ordained minister.

Some ministry-related careers require a certification or license. Pastoral counselors must hold a state license or certification in order to practice. Some churches and schools also offer certifications for specialized areas of ministry, such as Christian education or youth ministry.

When choosing an online ministry degree, students should always check the school's accreditation status. Accreditation means that an outside accrediting agency reviewed the school's programs and determined they meet a certain quality level. The process ensures that students receive a fair education for their tuition and protects students against fraudulent or underperforming schools.

Institutional accrediting agencies fall into two categories: regional accrediting agencies and national accrediting agencies. Regional accrediting agencies are generally viewed as the more esteemed of the two. While most schools accept transfer credits from regionally accredited schools, not all schools recognize credits from a nationally accredited school. Most national accrediting agencies oversee trade, vocational, or career schools. The Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) accredits institutions that offer a Bible-focused education.

Specialized accreditation applies to a specific program or college within a larger institution. Seminary schools may boast accreditation form the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools. Students interested in learning more about accreditation for Christian colleges can visit this guide.

Students planning to earn their master's in ministry, especially those earning their master of ministry online, should look into joining a professional organization. These organizations offer professional development opportunities, networking platforms, conferences, events, and job boards. Some offer additional support through mentorships, scholarships, and professional trainings. A few even offer ordination services.

National Association of Christian Ministers

NACM unites interdenominational professional Christian ministers. Members enjoy professional development opportunities, ministry training, minister licensing, ordination services, and church charters.

Association for Women in Ministry Professions

AWMP serves women ministers, ministry students, and those earning their master's in women's ministry in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Members enjoy four speaker luncheons a year, networking opportunities, leadership resources, and the support and encouragement of other members.

Association of Youth Ministry Educators

AYME unites educators involved with youth ministry. Members further the field through contributions, critical engagement, and networking.

National Campus Ministry Association

NCMA advocates for ministers in higher education, supporting ministers of all denominations, races, genders, and sexual orientations. Members enjoy scholarships to the NCMA annual national conference, shared ministry, and regional ecumenical events.

Christian Community Development Association

Working alongside churches, individuals, and local organizations, CCDA transforms and revitalizes Christian communities suffering from poverty and injustice. Members receive training, networking opportunities, and access to an annual conference.

The Society of Professors in Christian Education

SPCE unites professionals who teach ministry to others at Christian schools, universities, seminaries, and divinity schools. Members enjoy access to print and digital resources, networking opportunities, and admission to the organization's annual conference.

Students pursuing their master's in ministry online can apply for a variety of scholarships, including the ones listed below. Students can also visit this guide to learn more about financial aid for Christian colleges.

Scholarships for Online Master's in Ministry Students

Journey Toward Ordained Ministry Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: The United Methodist Church awards this scholarship to an undergraduate or graduate student pursuing ordained ministry who identifies as a racial or ethnic minority and holds at least two years of membership with UMC. Applicants must meet a minimum GPA requirement. View Scholarship

John Q. Schisler Scholarship $1,000-2,000

Who Can Apply: The United Methodist Church awards graduate students who plan to pursue a career in ministry in Christian education and who boast a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must hold at least three years of UMC membership. View Scholarship

James Leon and Myrtice Marie K. Peed Award Varies

Who Can Apply: The United Methodist Church awards this scholarship to members of the South Georgia Annual Conference. The award recognizes undergraduate or seminary students who plan to pursue ministry with UMC. Upon graduation, recipients must serve in the South Georgia Annual Conference for at least five years. View Scholarship

Herbert W. and Corinne Chilstrom Scholarship Up to $1,000

Who Can Apply: Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America awards female students who hold membership at an Evangelical Lutheran Church and plan to pursue ordained ministry. The scholarship may especially benefit students earning their master's degree in women's ministry. View Scholarship

Roy H. Pollack Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: The Unitarian Universalist Association awards second- or third-year master's of divinity students who plan to pursue ministry. Preference goes to students of color who exhibit financial need and strong academic ability. View Scholarship

Reverend Beverly E. Bond Memorial Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Students who belong to the United Methodist Church in Louisana can apply. Applicants should attend an accredited UMC-approved school and plan to pursue a career in ministry, Christian education, or mission work. View Scholarship

Diamonds in the Rough Ministry International Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Female high school students who live in Texas and hold a record of academic, extracurricular, and community service achievement may apply. View Scholarship

Richard S. Smith Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The United Methodist Church awards this scholarship to graduating high school seniors who plan to pursue a church-related career. Applicants must hold at least one year of UMC membership and maintain a 2.5 GPA. View Scholarship

Lydia Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship awards female students who feel called to ordination within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The scholarship renews for two years with a possible third-year option. View Scholarship

The Mary. E. Bivins Religious Scholarship Program $3,500/semester

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a bachelor's or master's program that prepares them to preach Christianity may apply. Preference goes to students who plan to become a pastor. View Scholarship

Free Ministry Apps and Tools

  • Life.Church Students can access pastor training tools and resources including a library of how-to and leadership videos and unlimited access to sermons, worship songs, and children's lessons. They can also access a network where pastors can chat and share ideas.
  • Planning Center This tool offers an assortment of church management software to help with visitor and volunteer sign-ins, registration management, service and event planning, and church facilities management.
  • YouVersion Two Bible apps, one for adults and one for kids, bring people the Bible on-the-go, through text and audio, and in more than 50 languages.
  • The Church App This app allows church leaders to develop a unique app for their church. The app allows members to register for events, receive notifications, and donate through their mobile device.
  • Logos This app provides Bible content and facilitates deeper Bible study. Users can access Bible study resources and commentaries and share their ideas with others.
  • Basecamp This platform allows organizations to communicate, plan, and store their collective information.

Networking

  • Christian Business Network CBN connects Christian professionals from across the country. Members enjoy benefits such as promotional business services, networking platforms, and collaboration.
  • American Pastors Network APN connects like-minded pastors who wish to strengthen the profession. It boasts chapters in several states and allows members to create new chapters in their area.
  • 4Word This organization connects Christian women professionals. It offers local chapters in more than 20 states, providing a sense of community and support through small gatherings and larger events. It hosts book studies, speakers, and themed conversations.
  • Christian Educators Association International CEAI supports and connects Christian K-12 educators. Members enjoy an online magazine, professional liability insurance, online mentorships, and discounts.
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