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Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

A master’s in ministry degree prepares students for several different careers in the Christian ministry. These include work as church ministers, chaplains, ministry directors, college or university professors, counselors, youth pastors, missionaries, religious writers, and more.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for clergy is $58,920. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average tuition for a graduate degree is $12,596 at public universities and $28,017 at private universities.

Students who study full-time can typically complete an online master’s in ministry degree program in two years, but accelerated programs are also available and may be completed sooner.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Ministry Program

Choose your area of study

This degree is typically offered as a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Divinity (MDiv). When choosing your area of study, you should already have an idea of what you’d like to do after graduation. Depending on whether you plan to become a church minister, chaplain, counselor, or something else, you’ll want to look for programs that allow you to customize your degree with courses and concentrations that will prepare you for your chosen career.

For example, some programs offer specializations in counseling, evangelism, family ministry, pastoral ministries, women’s leadership, or spiritual care. Also, universities often offer internships or field placements, where you can work with a senior pastor, worship leader, or nonprofit organization and gain experience in the overall functioning of a church or ministry.

Research schools and programs

You may want to attend a faith-based university, and the denomination might be important to you, so look for schools affiliated with your preferred church or denomination. Some universities are Christian but non-denominational. Others aren’t affiliated with any religion. If several universities meet your criteria, find out about the programs each offers. Take note of specific concentrations and internships related to your desired career. The following are some other factors you’ll want to consider:

  • The university you choose should be officially accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This not only affects the quality of education, but it can also impact what financial aid you’re eligible for, employment opportunities, and what other postsecondary programs you can enroll in. For example, the DOE-recognized Association for Biblical Higher Education accredits programs specifically related to ministry and the Bible. If you’ve chosen a faith-based school, it should be recognized by its particular church or religious organization.
  • Check to make sure the cost of the program is within the budget you’ve set. You may be able to eliminate some schools right away.
  • The school’s location may be a factor to consider. Some programs offer a hybrid option that allows students to take some classes on campus. This is a good way to meet instructors and fellow students. Proximity to the university also lets students participate in clubs and organizations, mentorship programs, special events, or other on-campus activities.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Students generally don’t need to pass an entrance exam for this degree. There are likely GPA requirements, which students will confirm by submitting a copy of their undergraduate transcripts. You may also need to submit letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

Some universities have rolling admissions, while others have a specific application deadline. Start dates can also vary; at some schools, online and on-campus programs begin simultaneously. Others offer several start dates throughout the year.

Since the application process varies by school and program, you should always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

When selecting a program, carefully weigh the features of each one. Decide on your priorities as well as where you’re willing to compromise and where you’re not. Make a list, in order of preference, of the schools that fit what you’re looking for. Submit applications for them all. You may be accepted to some programs but not others, so this will give you more options.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Are you only interested in 100% online programs, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a few in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

The university or other institutions may offer scholarships to the program. Also, check to see what financial aid is available via federal and state loans and grants. Be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some students take advantage of work-study programs offered through the university to help pay for their degrees. Beyond these possibilities, if your schedule allows, you can work part-time to help cover your costs. Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

Be sure to speak to financial aid counselors at the schools you’re interested in for the most accurate and specific information about program cost.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Ministry Programs

Best Online Master's in Ministry Degree Program

Columbia International University

Harding School of Theology

Mercer University

Northwest Nazarene University

Multnomah University

Liberty University

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary

Bethel University

Covenant Theological Seminary

Clarks Summit University

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Creighton University

Moody Bible Institute

Luther Rice College & Seminary

Hope International University

Ohio Christian University

Fresno Pacific University

Dallas Theological Seminary

North Park University

Cedarville University

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Dallas Baptist University

North Greenville University

United Theological Seminary

Veritas Baptist College

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Lancaster Bible College

Saint Joseph's College of Maine

Point Loma Nazarene University

Saint Leo University

Franciscan University of Steubenville

Wesley Biblical Seminary

Southern California Seminary

Payne Theological Seminary

Olivet Nazarene University

Fuller Theological Seminary

Simpson University

Grace Theological Seminary

Grace Christian University

Abilene Christian University

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How We Rank Schools

All of the schools featured in this guide have been approved by a DOE-recognized accrediting organization, such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education or the Association of Theological Schools.

These programs can be completed through online coursework. In instances where coursework is offered both online and on-campus, students may be able to take classes in-person or online, depending on their learning preferences and schedule.

Our team reviewed these programs based on their outcomes, reputation, flexibility, faculty, and price. Then, we calculated an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100 for each program. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

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

A master’s in ministry program combines theological and pastoral studies with counseling and administrative concepts. Christian theology and philosophy are included in the curriculum, but so are subjects such as mentoring, conflict resolution, team development, and pastoral caregiving skills.

The degree generally takes two years to complete, but there are many accelerated options for online students. Many programs can be completed entirely online, with no on-campus classes required.

When taking a degree program online, you’ll receive your course material via an online learning platform such as Canvas, Blackboard, or Moodle. Your account will give you access to the program syllabus, course material, assignments, and grades. This student portal also lets you communicate with other students and instructors using message boards and chat features. The learning format can be synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in ministry degree program

  • Biblical Interpretation. Students examine the various methods, principles, and approaches to interpreting the Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments are examined.
  • History of Christian Thought. This course discusses the evolution of Christian philosophy and theology. Students gain a solid understanding of how these developed and changed over the centuries and became the Christianity we know today.
  • Leadership in the Congregation. Ministers and pastors take on leadership roles in their churches, and this course prepares students for this weighty responsibility. They learn about leadership qualities — what they are, how to develop them, and how to implement them within Christian principles and church guidelines.
  • Family Ministry. Ministers often take on the role of counselor, and this course teaches students effective methods for conflict resolution within families. Students will study how to combine modern techniques with church teachings to help married couples and children cope with today’s challenges.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Ministry?

Career outlook

In addition to traditional pastoral roles, there are a variety of other career paths available to graduates with an online master’s in ministry. These roles may allow them to impact communities, provide spiritual guidance, and contribute to various aspects of religious and social life. Earning potential may vary based on factors such as location, experience, and specific responsibilities of the role. Here are some common career paths for individuals with advanced education in ministry:

  • Social or community service manager — Oversee operations and secure funding for programs that support public well-being.
    • Median annual salary: $77,030
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 9%
    • New job openings projected: 16,000 annually
  • Social worker — Help individuals and families deal with problems in their everyday lives, such as health, behavioral, and financial issues.
    • Median annual salary: $58,380
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New job openings projected: 63,800 annually
  • Marriage or family therapist — Help clients work through issues in their family or relationship dynamics.
    • Median annual salary: $58,510
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 15%
    • New job openings projected: 5,900 annually

Online Master’s in Ministry Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in ministry degree program?

These programs generally require a bachelor’s degree, but most universities don’t require that it be in theology or another religious studies field. While admission to campus-based classes may give preference to those who already have some experience working in a ministry position or related field, this isn’t as much of an issue for online applicants.

Most graduate programs require that applicants have a GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4.0. Transcripts should be provided. Those with a lower GPA may be admitted based on professional experience or strong personal references. It’s always a good idea to speak with an admissions counselor before applying.

How much does an online master’s in ministry degree cost?

The average cost of a master’s degree in ministry is between $10,000 and $23,000. There may be additional fees for books, software and other technology-related requirements, and various university services available to online students.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in ministry degree?

Most students can complete an online master’s in ministry program in about two years. Many universities offer full- and part-time study options, which will affect how long it takes to earn the degree. A total of 30-39 credit hours is generally required, and this also has a bearing on the total time needed to complete the program.

Is an online master's in ministry worth it?

A master’s in ministry program provides individuals with a deepened understanding of theology, pastoral care, and leadership, preparing them for diverse roles within religious organizations. Graduates gain the expertise to address complex spiritual and social issues, making meaningful contributions to their communities.

One of the key benefits of earning an online master’s in ministry is flexibility. Online programs allow individuals to access course materials, lectures, and assignments from anywhere with an internet connection. This flexibility is particularly advantageous for those juggling ministry responsibilities, community service, or family commitments.

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