Quiz: Is an Online Ministry Associate Program Right for Me?
Q: Are you interested in religious studies for faith-based work in community organizations, schools, medical facilities, or social service agencies, rather than teaching within a religious school setting?
A: An online associate degree in ministry can prepare you to become a fully ordained minister in a religious organization. Students explore the foundations of religious beliefs and biblical interpretations, preparing for roles like parish priests and youth pastors.
If teaching at a religiously affiliated school is something you are more interested in, earning an online associate degree in teaching or early childhood education, with a minor in religious studies, may be a better option to explore.
Q: Does a two-year degree program feel like the right study timeline?
A: In general, online students in associate degree programs in ministry complete 60 credits, which takes approximately two years if they study full time. However, online students usually have more flexibility when it comes to accelerating or slowing down that timeline, depending on their goals and other obligations.
Talk to an admissions advisor about rolling admissions, synchronous and asynchronous formatting, and other completion programs designed to alter the standard two-year timeline of an associate degree.
Q: Do you have prior credits to transfer?
A: Perhaps you have completed related courses at another college or within a religious studies program. If so, some credits may transfer over. Prior religious work, military service, or professional experience may also qualify for credit towards your online associate degree in ministry. Check with the admissions office of your prospective school to learn more and determine your eligibility.
Q: Are you interested in eventually earning a bachelor's degree?
A: Students who earn an online associate degree in ministry learn about biblical studies, theology, and practical ministry. They build clear communication and leadership skills, and they acquire knowledge related to history and philosophy. Ministry electives include courses in church life, spiritual formation, and counseling, which can be useful to many careers within religious organizations. Further down this page, look at popular career choices for students who have earned their online associate degree in ministry.
For students interested in greater administrative, management, and leadership positions, going on and earning an advanced education can provide a greater depth of knowledge and training. A bachelor's degree in ministry -- or a graduate-level degree -- can give students the skills needed to advance beyond supportive roles into more supervisory roles.
What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Ministry Program?
Students pursuing ministry associate degrees online take different classes depending on their school, but most programs incorporate similar concepts and principles into the curriculum. With an emphasis on the Bible and Christ's teaching, denominational differences may influence specific ideology. Generally, students who earn an associate degree in ministry build a holistic understanding of the Bible and the role of the church in society.
Ministry curriculum focuses on the basic Christian doctrine with coursework in verbal and written communication, sociology, and ministerial practice. While earning an online associate degree in ministry, learners also explore aspects of Christian thought, education, and leadership.
Common Classes and Coursework
Old Testament Studies: An Old Testament studies class explores the books of the Old Testament, looking closely at content, ideas, and interpretation. Old Testament coursework also focuses on the relationship among different books, characters and events, the geography of the early Bible, and how to apply biblical principles from the Old Testament to the modern world.
New Testament Studies: Coursework in New Testament studies focuses on themes and features of the New Testament, especially the Gospels. New Testament studies courses look at the relationships among books and how they relate to other scriptural texts. Students also analyze the background, arguments, and messages of each book.
History of Christian Thought: History of Christian thought classes explore Christian writers from the earliest days of Christianity to the present. Students analyze and discuss different points of view while identifying and building an understanding of core Chrsitian concepts. These classes also study cultural influences, the relationship between philosophy and theology, and changes to Christian thought over time.
Biblical Counseling: A class in biblical counseling introduces students to principles of faith-based counseling, while also providing training in identifying the needs of individuals, groups, and communities. Coursework stresses the practical framework for counseling from a biblical perspective, as well as how biblical counseling differs from other types of counseling. Students also gain confidence in their own understanding of scripture and its role in daily life.
Christian Ethics: Christian ethics coursework explores Christian theology as the basis for personal and professional choices. Classes in Christian ethics assess moral issues with attention paid to scripture, doctrines, and law. Students also learn about the formation of Christian positions on moral issues and how they function within contemporary society.
Skills You Will Gain
Earning a ministry associate degree online introduces students to complex biblical concepts and principles, breaking them down in a way that allows for a deep, personal understanding. As learners explore the Old and New Testaments, Christian writers, and the development of doctrine through history, they learn how to communicate these ideas to others.
The curriculum also includes classes in written and verbal communication. Learners focus on ministerial theories, practices, and methods while developing effective language and public speaking skills. Individuals seeking to enter the ministry or advance within their current ministerial role can benefit from training in these areas.
Ministry programs also facilitate cultural awareness and engagement. Students who participate in missions or work within communities outside of the scope of Christian practice are prepared to do so with more empathy and respect, allowing for the effective, peaceful exchange of ideas.
Non-ministry professionals can enroll in these programs to build a closer relationship to Christ and his teachings. Christians seeking to enter the ministry or better understand Christian beliefs and ideas for personal growth can also benefit from in-depth analysis of doctrine and faith. Additionally, students who plan to continue to a bachelor's or graduate program in ministry, divinity, or a similar discipline can establish a solid foundation for further study.
Average Degree Length
An online associate degree in ministry includes roughly 60 credits of general education and degree-specific coursework. Full-time students can complete these programs in two years, while part-time learners graduate in 3-4 years.
Transfer students may shorten this timeline significantly. A large number of transfer credits may allow learners to earn a degree in as few as 12 months. Many programs award transfer credit based on previous religious training, work experience in the ministry, and/or similar life experiences.
Online classes benefit students by allowing full-time professionals and others to complete classes on a more flexible, convenient schedule. Part-time students may take 1-2 classes each term, depending on their personal and professional needs. However, part-time learners usually pay higher per-credit tuition rates.
Career Opportunities With an Associate Degree in Ministry
An associate of ministry program prepares students for positions within church organizations, nonprofit agencies, and faith-based institutions. Associate degrees build communication skills and foster cultural awareness, allowing learners to pursue careers in social and human services, public service, and pastoral education.
Individuals who earn ministry associate degrees online also learn how to handle the managerial aspects related to working in religious settings. Ministry students train to work with congregates of all ages, often developing youth, Bible study, and outreach programs in the process.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Students who earn a ministry associate degree online prepare for entry-level and support roles in the church. For example, learners can build the knowledge and skills needed to work as an associate pastor or minister. By gaining theological and ministerial competencies, ministry students can work as youth ministers, developing and implementing programs aimed at children and adolescents.
Ministry associate degrees can also lead to roles working within community and social agencies. With ministerial training, learners who want to help others as relief workers, social service assistants, and personal aids develop communication and interpersonal skills to perform their duties through a Christian lens.
- Church Administrator
Church administrators oversee church operations, facilities, and finances. Administrators keep track of contributions and income while working with other church officials to implement faith-based programs. They may also develop newsletters and maintain schedules.
Median Annual Salary: $39,000
- Associate Pastor
An associate pastor works alongside a senior or executive pastor, providing support in ministerial duties. Associate pastors may develop and implement educational programs, visit groups within the larger congregation, tend to congregates at hospitals and nursing homes, and represent the church at public events.
Median Annual Salary: $47,000
- Social and Human Service Assistant
Social and human service assistants work with social workers, sociologists, and other community and social service professionals. They tend to clients, families, and groups, assisting them in daily activities. Social and human service assistants may work exclusively with elderly populations or veterans. They may also work in faith-based contexts.
Median Annual Salary: $33,750
- Youth Pastor
Youth pastors develop, implement, and supervise faith-based programs aimed at children and adolescents. Youth pastors may meet with individuals or groups, offering guidance and spiritual support. They also recruit and train young members of the church for missionary work and promote outreach efforts.
Median Annual Salary: $38,000
- Religious Missionary
Religious missionaries perform pastoral duties while teaching individual groups about church doctrine, theology, and practice. Religious missionaries may work in classrooms, at churches and religious organizations, or within the community in an informal capacity.
Median Annual Salary: $45,000
Ministry Scholarships to Apply For
Ministry students have access to a variety of scholarships through professional organizations, faith-based institutions, and church foundations. Some scholarships and grants award funds to learners studying a certain denomination while others provide financial support to students studying Christian faith/belief in any capacity.
- United Church of Christ Scholarships and Grants
Who Can Apply: The UCC offers awards to students studying church leadership, global ministry, and ministry education. Applicants must be members of a UUC congregation and enrolled in an appropriate program for consideration. Additional requirements vary by depending on the award.
- Young Christian Leaders Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The YCL scholarship funds students entering or currently enrolled in an undergraduate program. Applicants must be active in their local church; maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA; and reside in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. However, students can attend programs based outside of those states.
- United Methodist Women Grants
Who Can Apply: United Methodist Women awards women entering and working in the ministry financial support. For example, the Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship Award funds young women studying, exploring, and researching a subject area that matches the United Methodist Women's priority issues of climate justice, economic justice, and criminalization of communities of color.
Amount: Up to $10,000
- Christian Ministry Scholarship Foundation
Who Can Apply: The Christian Missionary Scholarship Foundation supports children of missionaries seeking a college education. Applicants must enroll in one of the schools approved by the organization and have parents currently or recently returned from missionary service.
Educational Advancement in Ministry
An online associate degree in ministry establishes a solid foundation for continued study. Students can often transfer credits earned in an associate program into a four-year program.
With coursework in theology, Christian teachings, and the Bible, learners can transition to bachelor's tracks in divinity, Christian studies, or the ministry. The associate degree curriculum also prepares students to pursue bachelor's degrees in fields such as history, communication, and social work.
Should You Transfer to a Four-year Degree Program?
Students interested in transferring to a four-year program should consult with an academic advisor as soon as possible. Advisors help learners complete coursework on an established timeline, preparing them to advance into a bachelor's program.
Many colleges and universities have articulation agreements in place, facilitating transfer from two-year programs to bachelor's programs. Learners should consult with their current institution and potential schools to see if any articulation agreements exist. Students should also contact admissions departments about transfer policies and procedures as they move to a four-year program.
What Degree Paths Should You Consider?
Students who earn ministry associate degrees online can go on to earn bachelor's degrees in religion-related disciplines. Students can enter bachelor's tracks in religious studies, theology, or Christian ministries to prepare for many careers in religious settings. Additional bachelor's degree options include history and social work. A bachelor's degree in one of these disciplines also serves as a springboard to graduate study.
- Bachelor's Degree in Theology: A bachelor's degree in theology explores in-depth aspects of Christian doctrine, teaching, and practice. Students also study non-Western theology, often in the context of the Christian faith. Theology bachelor's degrees prepare learners for higher-level ministry positions in a religious setting.
- Bachelor's Degree in Religious Studies: Religious studies bachelor's degrees integrate coursework related to belief systems from around the world. Students study the history of religious thought and learn about historical religions and the role religion has played throughout history. Religious studies programs may compare religions, look at how different ideologies relate to one another, and assess religion in the context of contemporary society.
- Bachelor's Degree in Church Leadership: A bachelor's degree in church leadership prepares students to work as ministers in a variety of contexts. Programs may center on youth and student ministries or spiritual guidance. Church leadership programs emphasize the role of a spiritual mentor and leader while training learners to manage, administer, and maintain church facilities, finances, and functions.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Professional organizations bring together students, educators, scholars, and practitioners. Ministry organizations and associations may provide opportunities for networking and training, as well as additional resources like job boards, publications, and updates related to ministerial practice.
American Academy of Religion:
AAR dedicates itself to building public understanding of education while enhancing excellence in religious education. AAR provides employment services, training programs, and publications to members. Additional resources include networking opportunities at events and meetings, advocacy initiatives, and partnerships with affiliated scholarly organizations.
The Academy of Parish Clergy:
The APC works to build pastoral skills among current and aspiring parish clergymen and women. Members gain access to the APC's online networking opportunities. The APC also provides awards, volunteer projects, and contests to facilitate communication and collegiality among the clergy.
Academy of Preachers:
AoP supports individuals of all ages in their call to preach the Gospel. Based at Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, AoP holds annual events and partners with 50 businesses, denominations, institutions, and organizations around the world.
Association of Certified Biblical Counselors:
ACBC certifies biblical counselors to ensure excellence and integrity in biblical counseling practice. ACBC's certification programs include learning, exam, and supervision phases during which learners complete coursework, readings, assessments, and at least 50 hours of supervised counseling. Additional resources include access to ACBC's ethical guidelines, research in the field, and annual events.
Catholic Biblical Association of America:
CBA holds annual meetings, issues publications, and provides financial support for the scholarly study of scripture. Members of CBA gain access to annual publications, events, and service on CBA committees. Additional resources include links to biblical resources, members-only announcements, and job listings.
Christian Community Development Association:
CCDA works to build the spiritual lives of individuals, families, and communities through training programs, annual conferences, and justice initiatives. Members receive CCDA publications, and the CCDA Institute Online provides access to information on leadership development, community, and Christian empowerment.
Evangelical Theological Society:
ETS unites professional biblical and theological scholars, pastors, and students. Tasked with fostering conservative Christian and biblical scholarship, ETS offers assistance for job-seekers while members receive publications and access to the group's directory. Additional resources include news and information updates and study group connections.
Institute for Biblical Research:
An organization of evangelical Christian scholars, IBR pursues excellence in biblical studies through seminars, workshops, publications, and annual conferences. IBR also provides job postings and a subgroup for women in the field.
International Association of Women Ministers:
IAWM advocates for women in Christian ministries, continued ordination of women, and preserving the heritage of women in faith. Members receive quarterly publications, a prayer calendar, access to annual assemblies, and connections with regional associations.
Society of Christian Philosophers:
The SCP promotes collaboration and cooperation among Christian philosophers, scholars, and educators. With opportunities for intellectual exchange online and at face-to-face events, members of the SCP also gain access to publications, grants, and discounts.