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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 in 2021 was $49,720, while postsecondary teachers made an average of $79,640 per year. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average tuition for a master’s degree in the 2020-21 academic year was $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private universities.

Students who study full-time can typically complete an online master’s in ministry degree 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

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 college or university professor, 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 field.

For example, some programs offer specializations in counseling, evangelism, family ministry, pastoral ministries, women’s leadership, or spiritual care. Some universities 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. Additionally, the 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.
  • Some programs have scheduled classes and lectures, while others offer asynchronous learning. Determine your preference. Also, consider if you will be studying full- or part-time. You should find out what’s available at each school, as not all offer a part-time option.
  • 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.

Prepare for tests and applications

Students generally don’t need to pass an entrance exam for this degree, but admission requirements can vary. There are likely GPA requirements, which students will confirm by submitting a copy of their undergraduate transcripts. 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.

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. If you’re accepted to multiple schools, choose the one that’s highest on your list.

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. Financing and pay-as-you-go options may also be available from the university. Beyond these possibilities, if your schedule allows, you can work part-time to help cover your costs as well.

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

This list focuses on master’s degrees in ministry. Students may earn either a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in this field.

This list includes schools that have either regional or national accreditation. Many programs are accredited by specialized accrediting bodies like the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) or the Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting. Please note that degrees from regionally accredited schools are generally more transferable and recognized than those from nationally accredited institutions.

All 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 the 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 is a shorter, more basic degree than a master’s in divinity. It 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

The career outlook for individuals with an online master’s degree in ministry is robust, reflecting the ongoing demand for skilled religious leaders, educators, and counselors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of clergy is projected to grow nine percent from 2022 to 2032, with a focus on positions with religious organizations and community service entities. Clergy members make a median salary of $60,180, although those with leadership roles at large churches may make considerably more.

Career paths

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:

  • Youth minister — guides and mentors young people in their faith journey; plans and organizes youth-oriented events and programs within religious communities.
  • Community outreach coordinator — develops and implements outreach programs to engage with local communities or religious organizations.
  • Church administrator — oversees the day-to-day operations of a church or religious organization, managing budgets, coordinating events, and supporting the logistical aspects of ministry.
  • Christian school administrator — manages the administration of a Christian school, including curriculum development, teacher supervision, and fostering a spiritually enriching educational environment.
  • Prison chaplain — provides spiritual support to inmates at correctional facilities.


Earning Potential: $56,892-$123,528 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in ministry or a related field

A chaplain provides spiritual care in diverse settings such as hospitals, military institutions, and correctional facilities. They offer comfort, guidance, and religious support to individuals facing challenges or crises. Chaplains conduct religious services, facilitate pastoral counseling, and play a crucial role in fostering emotional and spiritual well-being. Their duties extend to comforting patients, supporting military personnel, or assisting inmates, contributing to a sense of community and providing a valuable source of spiritual strength in challenging circumstances. A chaplain’s role is characterized by compassion, empathy, and a commitment to addressing individuals’ spiritual needs.

Pastoral Counselor

Earning Potential: $39,740-$69,817 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in ministry, counseling, or a related field

A pastoral counselor integrates theological principles with counseling techniques to provide emotional and spiritual support. Working in churches, healthcare settings, or private practices, they address individuals’ mental health and spiritual needs. Pastoral counselors offer guidance through life’s challenges, utilizing faith-based perspectives to foster healing and personal growth. Their role involves conducting counseling sessions, assisting in crisis intervention, and facilitating discussions on the intersection of faith and mental well-being. With a focus on holistic care, pastoral counselors play a vital role in helping individuals navigate life’s complexities while drawing on spiritual resources for resilience and healing.

Ministry Educator

Earning Potential: $39,770-$57,151 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in ministry, education, or a related field

A ministry educator teaches religious studies, theology, or pastoral care in academic institutions. Their role extends beyond traditional teaching, encompassing the cultivation of both academic and spiritual development. Ministry educators contribute to shaping the next generation of religious leaders by imparting knowledge, fostering critical thinking, and guiding students in understanding theological principles. They often integrate practical insights, facilitating discussions on real-world applications of faith. Ministry educators play a pivotal role in preparing students for leadership roles within religious communities, emphasizing the integration of academic rigor with a deepened understanding of faith and its application in various contexts.

Online Master’s in Ministry Frequently Asked Questions

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

Graduate 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?

A traditional on-campus program usually takes two years to complete. However, the online degree can often be completed in 12-18 months.

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?

Earning an online master’s degree in ministry offers several advantages. According to the BLS, clergy with advanced degrees often have better job prospects. Based on data at, the median salary of a senior minister is $106,480.

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.

Online programs may also cost less than their on-campus counterparts. Students can save on commuting, housing, and other expenses associated with traditional, in-person education. Additionally, many online programs offer financial aid options.

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