Master’s in Ministry Career Guide
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
|CONCENTRATION||DESCRIPTION||POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR|
|Leadership in Ministry||Enables 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 Ministry||Equips students for a career focused on supporting the spiritual needs of other.||Pastoral counselor, Christian counselor, chaplain|
|Church Development||Strategic 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 Studies||Students 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
Some courses you may encounter for this degree include:
|Strategic Ministry||Developing wide view observations and related strategies.|
|Pastoral Counseling||Working with parishioners to guide Christ-centered outcomes.|
|Theological Research||Delves deeper into theological constructs.|
|Spiritual Formation||Understanding and enabling church members spiritually.|
|Evangelism||Bringing the word of God through sermons and outreach.|
|New Testament Studies||In-depth examination into the works and letters of the NT.|
|Old Testament Studies||Immersing 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
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.
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.
A master’s in ministry best correlates to jobs under the clergy
umbrella, as well as director roles within churches or religious
Salary levels for members of the clergy can also depend on the type of organization in which they work.
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 TITLE||JOB DESCRIPTION||MEDIAN SALARY||PROJECTED GROWTH RATE|
|Clergy||Members 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 year||8%|
|Hospital Chaplain||A 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 year||8%|
|Pastoral Counselor||Reporters 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 year||8%|
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.
|Financial Aid for Graduate Students|
|Knowing Your Options|
|Financial Aid Options for Theology Degrees|
|Christian Education Scholarships|
Deadline: March 15
Eligibility: Graduate students who are Disciples of Christ and demonstrate financial need.
Eligibility: United Methodist students pursuing degrees in ministry who have at least a 2.5 GPA.