What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Ministry Program?

Master’s in ministry programs help prepare students to go into full-time ministry work upon graduation. This degree helps students obtain a strong foundation in Biblical and doctrinal topics. An online master’s in ministry program enables students to enter into studies that may not be available locally or that their work or other obligations prevent. For prospective students who already work in ministry, online classes provide tools and knowledge to incorporate with current objectives while defining a path toward future roles. Many master’s in ministry programs allow students to specialize in a topic area relevant to their future career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Ministry

CONCENTRATIONDESCRIPTIONPOSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Leadership in MinistryEnables students to not only become well-versed in Biblical and Christian topics but also prepares them to leadership roles after graduation.Minister, senior pastor, Christian organization director
Pastoral MinistryEquips students for a career focused on supporting the spiritual needs of other.Pastoral counselor, Christian counselor, chaplain
Church DevelopmentStrategic planning classes within this specialization enable future graduates to assess church effectiveness and then build plans for development opportunities.Senior pastor, church program director, missionary
Intercultural StudiesStudents learn about their own religious cultural background as well as providing opportunities to study diverse cultures, including other religions.Instructor, outreach minister, missionary

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Ministry

The path to obtaining a master’s in ministry can differ depending on the institution conferring the degree. Divergent curriculum emphases are due to varied doctrinal practices among Christian denominations. Many universities that grant master’s in ministry degrees are affiliated with a specific church. Additionally, nondenominational schools design curriculum meant to educate students with diverse religious backgrounds. Before selecting the program you wish to pursue, research its background to determine whether it meets your needs and the needs of the faith tradition in which you want to minister. Also, even though these organizations offer an online master’s in ministry, they may still require some in-person attendance, like intensive classes, prior to graduation.

Some courses you may encounter for this degree include:

COURSESDESCRIPTION
Strategic MinistryDeveloping wide view observations and related strategies.
Pastoral CounselingWorking with parishioners to guide Christ-centered outcomes.
Theological ResearchDelves deeper into theological constructs.
Spiritual FormationUnderstanding and enabling church members spiritually.
EvangelismBringing the word of God through sermons and outreach.
New Testament StudiesIn-depth examination into the works and letters of the NT.
Old Testament StudiesImmersing in the Hebrew Bible and its many lessons.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Ministry?

The length of time required to earn a master’s in ministry is as varied as the degree’s emphasis and specializations. In general, most master’s in ministry programs range between 36 and 48 credit hours. Universities offering these degrees typically allow up to five years to finish all studies. For students who take classes full-time each semester, the degree can be earned in as little as 1.5 years. Some universities offer the online master’s in ministry as a lock-step program that dictates what students study each semester. Other schools allow students to schedule classes in an order they find most beneficial. And a few colleges offer asynchronous classes for students who want to control their own pace.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Ministry Prepares For

The licenses and certifications offered to students who complete a master’s in ministry typically depend on the denomination in which they will serve. Prior to beginning a master’s program, students can work with church, district, regional or national leadership within that denomination to understand the requirements they must meet in order to be certified or licensed. In some cases, the path toward certification and licensing can run parallel to the master’s classes being taken. An exception to church-based credentials is for students interested in pastoral counseling. For that concentration, additional counseling or psychology studies can be pursued for the student to become a state-licensed counselor.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Ministry Degrees

Schools who offer online master’s in ministry classes can obtain accreditation from several different organizations. This accreditation is important to review as it shows that the program has been evaluated from an outside perspective and found compliant with strict educational standards. Accreditations are available from regional organizations as well as ministry-based organizations. As you consider the schools where you might apply, some of the accrediting organizations you might encounter include the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Studies, the Higher Learning Commission and the Association of Biblical Higher Education. Schools may also have earned regional accreditation or accreditation from a specific denomination.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Ministry Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Most denominations require their certified clergy to have completed a master’s level program. Although the master’s in divinity is considered the standard for pastors, some denominations will grant ordination for other master’s programs, like those centered on ministry. Additionally, other leading roles within a church or Christian organization also require advanced learning. Those roles may include chaplains, directors of Christian education, pastoral counseling and senior administrators. Students who have earned a bachelor’s in ministry are best prepared to take on smaller chunks of responsibility, like leading youth programs, performing outreach functions and teaching classes through churches or church-run schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps church-related roles into three categories: clergy, program directors and “all others.” Overall growth estimates for those three categories mimic the country’s average growth rate. The BLS doesn’t break out different roles by education level, but the distinction made in the three job types correlates to educational achievements.

Expected Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ three defined categories of religious work do not specifically define jobs that require a master’s versus a bachelor’s, but the difference in median salary levels can define which roles require advanced education. An online master’s in ministry opens vastly different doors for ministerial work than can be reached with a bachelor’s degree.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

A master’s in ministry best correlates to jobs under the clergy umbrella, as well as director roles within churches or religious organizations.

Salary levels for members of the clergy can also depend on the type of organization in which they work.

Annual Mean Wages for Various Ministry Organizations

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Individuals who earn a master’s in ministry degree can pursue a number of different career opportunities within their church or through outside organizations. The specialty you choose during your studies can match you to specific types of jobs.

JOB TITLEJOB DESCRIPTIONMEDIAN SALARYPROJECTED GROWTH RATE
ClergyMembers of the clergy serve at the will of either individual churches or within a structured denominational assignment system. Ministers of smaller organizations can take on all the typical duties of ministry, including preaching, teaching and counseling. Larger churches or organizations may split those duties between multiple members of the clergy.$50,800 per year8%
Hospital ChaplainA chaplain may be hired or assigned to care for the spiritual needs of others within hospital, educational, organizational or military workplaces. That assignment can partner chaplains with individuals experiencing difficult and trying times or with those who are facing death or psychologically tough outcomes.$55,507 per year8%
Pastoral CounselorReporters and journalists work for newspapers, magazines, television stations and websites to deliver news, opinions and stories of interest to readers and viewers.$50,800 per year8%

Professional Organizations

Graduates with a master’s in ministry can choose from a wide array of professional organizations. Many denominations have their own organizations for clergy to join. Additionally, many groups for ministry professionals are available to join and take advantage of networking and continuing education opportunities. Here are just a few of the organizations you can join, which range from being open to all clergy to concentrating on specializations in religious work.

Academy of Parish Clergy: The Academy of Parish Clergy enables ministers and church workers to share experience and wisdom with one another while also providing learning opportunities and networking events.

Association of Professional Chaplains: The APC has been serving the needs of professional chaplains since 1942 with a mission to serve those who serve others.

Association for Presbyterian Church Educators: This group is specific to the Presbyterian denomination, but similar professional groups of church educators can be found in other religious traditions as well.

Visit the New Media Project at Christian Theological Seminary for an extensive list of organizations you may be eligible to join.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Ministry

Online master’s degrees may be more affordable than their in-person counterparts but advanced degrees still come with a hefty price tag. As you begin reviewing your schooling options, fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn about federal grants and scholarships you may be eligible for. In addition, your church or denomination may have additional financial resources you can tap into. Finally, check out both public and private organizations that offer scholarships and grants. Remember that loans have to be repaid, but scholarships and grants do not.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Disciples Home Missions Scholarships

Award: Varies

Deadline: March 15

Eligibility: Graduate students who are Disciples of Christ and demonstrate financial need.

UMC Ministry as Career Scholarships

Award: Varies

Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: United Methodist students pursuing degrees in ministry who have at least a 2.5 GPA.