An online ministry degree prepares students to become religious leaders and teach God’s doctrines to others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clergy members make an average annual salary of $49,450 and are employed by churches, religious or nonprofit organizations, and hospitals. Ministers and other religious leaders will be in demand as long as organized religion flourishes. Careers in ministry require public speaking skills, leadership skills, and a genuine enthusiasm for religious teaching. If you are passionate about your faith and want to become a spiritual leader, you may want to consider a master of ministry online degree.
What are the Best Online Master's in Ministry Programs?
Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion Marion, IN
ADMISSIONS RATE 95%
GRADUATION RATE 60%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 45%
RETENTION RATE 82%
DEFAULT RATE 7%
IWU offers a variety of online programs in ministry that are ideal for ministers who work full-time. The school offers a 36-credit children, youth, and family ministry master's degree that teaches students the most effective methods of transformational care for young people and family members. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. The program includes two mandatory visits to the Wesley Seminary on the school's main campus, which allows students to meet with their professors and peers. One of these visits occurs at the beginning of the program, while the other occurs halfway through the program. The curriculum includes six praxis courses and three classes that emphasize spiritual awakening. Students are required to work at their local church or chaplaincy program for at least ten hours a week.
Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
ADMISSIONS RATE 42%
GRADUATION RATE 58%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 17%
RETENTION RATE 72%
DEFAULT RATE 8%
DBU offers an online ministry degree that emphasizes qualitative research. In this program, students participate in formal research projects, interviewing children, parents, and others who understand how children develop and learning how best to introduce Christ into their lives. This 36-credit program is split into three parts: 18 credits of core courses, nine credits of program-specific classes, and nine credits in a student's chosen concentration. Students can specialize in ministering to children with special needs or choose a general concentration. Students must complete courses in Old and New Testaments and upper-level classes religion and theology before they can enter the program. Courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency.
Huntington University Huntington, IN
ADMISSIONS RATE 84%
GRADUATION RATE 66%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 11%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 4%
Huntington offers a master of ministry online that emphasizes youth ministry principles, adolescent development, and intergenerational ministry. The 32-credit master's in global youth ministry is a two-year program that provides students with an international perspective and teaches them how to foster Christian relationships and spiritual development within multicultural populations. Huntington delivers its coursework in seven-week sessions, with each class available every other year. Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 throughout the program to graduate. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have completed at least six credits in biblical studies and three credits in theology to be considered.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX
ADMISSIONS RATE 28%
GRADUATION RATE 41%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 38%
RETENTION RATE 74%
DEFAULT RATE 13%
SAGU is a leader in web-based Christian education that offers a variety of ministry degrees online, including a master’s in children and family ministry. This 36-credit curriculum explores issues in childhood life, marriage and relationships, parenting, spiritual formation, and cultural diversity. Students must also have completed coursework in Pentecostal doctrine, theology, and hermeneutics to earn their degree. Courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Online learners pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. However, new students can benefit from a 15% tuition discount that is renewable across their time at SAGU. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university with a minimum GPA of 2.5 to be considered.
Judson University Elgin, IL
ADMISSIONS RATE 71%
GRADUATION RATE 52%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 3%
RETENTION RATE 73%
DEFAULT RATE 5%
Judson offers a master of ministry online as an accelerated hybrid program. Students can complete most coursework over the web, but also have the opportunity to participate in several face-to-face sessions, including two classes taught on location in Israel. This 18-month curriculum integrates foundational studies in the bible with practical, intrapersonal ministry. The curriculum includes courses on topics such as biblical history, contextual ministry, and spiritual formation. Graduates are prepared to pursue career in ministry as youth and family pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in Christian ministries or a related field, with a minimum GPA of 2.5 to be considered. Judson also requires a variety of prerequisite courses.
Faulkner University Montgomery, AL
ADMISSIONS RATE 57%
GRADUATION RATE 21%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 20%
RETENTION RATE 57%
DEFAULT RATE 14%
Faulkner offers a master of arts in Christian counseling and family ministry as an interdisciplinary program. This 36-credit program is delivered through the school's Kearley Graduate School of Theology and includes five family studies classes, as well as seven counseling courses. The program is perfect for working professionals who want to minister and counsel, but who don't require licensure. The curriculum includes courses on family dynamics, individual development, group counseling, and substance abuse. Students must also complete a three-credit experiential ministry class. Courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university to be considered.
How to Choose an Online Master's in Ministry Program
Online ministry programs differ primarily in their theology teachings, which often depend on the religious affiliations of the college or university. However, other factors should be taken into consideration as well, including the length of the program, courses offered, tuition cost, and program accreditation.
In general, a master of ministry online requires 36 credit hours of coursework and can be be completed in a year. Common courses include New Testament theology, evangelism, outreach ministries, and marriage counseling. Some programs may require a capstone project or in-person components such as a preaching practicum. It is also important to make sure the program you choose is either regionally or nationally accredited and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Careers for Graduates of Master's in Ministry Programs
Graduates with an online ministry degree can hold religious leadership positions in churches, nonprofit organizations, schools, hospitals, and the military. For those who wish to work within the traditional religious spaces of churches, there are plenty of positions to choose from, including youth pastor, music minister, and chaplain. But there are ministry jobs in other sectors as well, including becoming a minister at a private Catholic high school or a professor of ministry studies at a postsecondary educational institution.
The following chart features a description of five jobs in the ministry field and their respective median annual salaries.
A pastor is responsible for leading a congregation, typically in a church, in prayer and other worship services. They may also preside over weddings or funerals.
Median Salary: $47,239
A minister preaches the teachings of religious doctrines and provides spiritual guidance. This involves regular public speaking, occasional counseling, and engaging in discussions of faith-based topics.
Median Salary: $49,679
Hospital chaplains provide religious leadership and guidance to hospital patients and their families. This may include grief counseling for family members.
Median Salary: $48,000
Director of Youth and College Ministries
A director of youth and college ministries is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the faith-based programs of a religiously affiliated college. This includes managing pastors and other staff, directing worship services, and devising strategies for student recruitment.
Median Salary: $41,498
A postsecondary ministry lecturer teaches students who aspire to be ministers about the theology of their specific denomination. They also teach the communication skills to become a religious leader.
Median Salary: $51,395
Job Outlook and Salary for Graduates of Ministry Master's Degrees
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ministry jobs are projected to grow by 8% from 2016 to 2026, a faster than average rate. While most ministry jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, a master’s of ministry online can open up new opportunities. For instance, colleges and universities require lecturers to have at least a master’s degree in their field. Depending on the particular position and industry you enter, obtaining a master’s degree can improve your salary.
|Employment, 2014||Projected Employment, 2024|
Salary Growth by Experience for Graduates of Ministry Master's Programs
As with most occupations, religious leaders earn a salary with experience. Some positions, like church ministers, see a rapid salary growth rate in the first five to ten years of employment, while other positions, like ministry directors, see a higher growth rate after twenty years in the field. It should also be noted that some positions, like a being a lecturer in ministry studies at a university, have a higher starting salary than others but a slower salary growth rate.
The following table compares the annual median salary of ministers, ministry directors, and postsecondary lecturers by years of experience in the field.
To determine the best online master's in ministry programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master's in ministry programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.