Online Master’s Programs in Ministry

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Earning a master’s in ministry online prepares graduates for careers in ministry, church leadership, and spiritual guidance. Students can earn an online MA or MS in ministry, both of which can lead to roles like pastor, counselor, clergy member, and church administrator.

Best suited for compassionate, insightful individuals, ministry master’s programs prepare students for lives of service while also providing a solid academic foundation for doctoral-level theological study. This page covers important information about earning a master’s in ministry online, including common courses, financial aid opportunities, and potential careers for graduates.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Ministry Program?

Online master’s programs in ministry vary by school, but most programs include training in counseling, theology, sermon writing, and church leadership. Students learn general counseling skills, such as listening and boundary setting, as well as faith-based, therapeutic approaches for working with individuals, couples, and families. Theology courses cultivate interpretation and analysis skills, while sermon courses focus on skills in composing and articulating spiritual messages.

Although most coursework in online programs takes place virtually, many programs include an onsite internship requirement that students can typically complete at a site near their home. Some online master’s in ministry programs are counseling-oriented, while other programs focus more on theology. Many schools allow students to specialize their knowledge and skills through a concentration.

What Courses Are Offered in a Master’s in Ministry Program?

In addition to theology and sermon-writing courses, ministry programs typically incorporate courses from fields like counseling, history, and language studies. However, curricula vary by program and school; prospective students should research the curricula at potential schools to ensure coursework aligns with their interests and goals. The following list outlines some common master’s in ministry courses.

  • IconCounseling:
    Counseling courses give ministry students foundational pastoral counseling skills, such as active listening and boundary setting. Some counseling courses focus on skills for serving specific populations, such as married couples.
  • IconTheology:
    Usually part of a sequence, theology courses survey Christian theological doctrine and methods. Course content often depends on a school’s religious affiliation.
  • IconBiblical Greek:
    Many ministry degree programs require that students take at least two consecutive biblical language courses focused on reading the Bible in its original written languages, such as Greek or Hebrew.
  • IconPreaching Theory and Methods:
    This course teaches aspiring pastors how to plan, organize, and deliver sermons and other spiritual teachings. Students also learn skills to help them lead spiritual discussions in church groups.
  • IconChurch History:
    Church history courses survey Christian history from the time of Christ to the present, focusing on how the faith’s features have changed over time.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Students earning a master’s in ministry online should expect to complete a capstone experience, project, or thesis as part of the program. While some programs accept an internship or upper-level coursework as the capstone requirement, others require a capstone paper, thesis, or project. A written thesis involves scholarly research and an analysis of a ministry issue, and students must defend their work before a faculty committee.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master’s in Ministry Program?

Some master’s in ministry programs provide concentration options, such as global missions, strategic ministry, and ministry leadership. However, not all programs offer concentrations; students interested in a specific subfield of ministry should ensure that potential programs offer specializations aligned with their interests and goals.

  • Global Missions:
    This concentration prepares aspiring missionaries and clergy to spread the Christian message across the globe. Students take courses on topics like community building, cultural studies, ethics, and languages.
  • Strategic Ministry:
    Strategic ministry concentrations train students for administrative and business roles within the church. Students learn to create long-term strategic plans that reconcile current and future organizational challenges with church values and missions.
  • Ministry Leadership:
    Designed for aspiring senior pastors, community service program directors, and other ministry leaders, this concentration cultivates general and organizational faith-oriented leadership skills.

How Much Can I Make With a Career in Ministry?

Graduates with a ministry master’s degree can qualify for a variety of roles, such as pastor, activities director, and education director. Although no degree guarantees employment, the following table outlines common careers and average salaries for graduates with a master’s degree in ministry.


  • Activities Director

    Activities directors work for churches and other religious organizations, engaging the community in spiritual activities, such as holiday celebrations, educational events, and fellowship-building activities. They often work closely with religious and community leaders when planning activities.

    Median Annual Salary: $40,810

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 5%


  • Education Director

    Education directors plan and monitor the implementation of religious education programs, such as Sunday school and youth groups. Education directors may offer support to learners and other staff when needed.

    Median Annual Salary: $40,810

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 5%


  • Pastor

    Often employed by churches and other religious communities, pastors lead spiritual events and provide counsel and spiritual guidance to community members. Some pastors also contribute to or manage nonprofit initiatives to serve people in need.

    Median Annual Salary: $63,380

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 6%


Online Master’s in Ministry Program Accreditation

The best online master’s in ministry programs hold accreditation. Accreditation indicates that a school and/or program meets high academic standards while expanding employment, financial aid, and education opportunities for students.

Master’s in ministry programs may hold programmatic accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, the Association for Biblical Higher Education, or the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Specializing in faith-based education, these organizations work to ensure that religious schools and programs meet rigorous academic standards.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Ministry Degree

Students can take advantage of several financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of tuition, such as employer assistance, fellowships, grants, and scholarships. The list below outlines a few opportunities for master’s in ministry students.

Employer Assistance

Some employers offer tuition assistance to employees pursuing a degree. Students who currently work at a church, nonprofit, or other ministry-related organization should consult with their employers to learn about any employer assistance opportunities.

Fellowships/Paid Internships

Some professional organizations for ministers and other spiritual leaders offer fellowships to ministry graduate students preparing for lives of Christian service. These fellowships may require internships or other service work.

Grants

The federal government offers grants to eligible students enrolled in accredited schools with demonstrable financial need. Some schools, churches, and professional organizations also offer grants for ministry students.

Scholarships for Master’s in Ministry Students


  • Mary E. Bivins Foundation

    Who Can Apply: To qualify, applicants need to be pastors serving in churches in the Texas panhandle. They must also be enrolled full time in an accredited academic program and have a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    Amount: $2,500 per semester for up to six years.

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Ernst Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Ordained American Baptist Church pastors in Ohio pursuing graduate ministry degrees at accredited schools may apply for this scholarship.

    Amount: $1,000-$1,500

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Biblically conservative students in the greater Chattanooga area who are pursuing service-related degrees are eligible for this scholarship. Applicants must also demonstrate academic merit and financial need.

    Amount: Up to four years of full tuition coverage

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Disciple Chaplains' Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants must hold U.S. citizenship; membership in the Disciplines of Christ Church; and status as a full-time, first-year seminary student. Applicants must also have a minimum 2.0 GPA.

    Amount: $2,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • David Tamotsu Kagiwada Memorial Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Full-time Asian American religion or theology students with a minimum 2.0 GPA may apply for this award. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, members of the Disciplines of Christ Church, and aspiring ministers.

    Amount: $2,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


Professional Organizations and Resources

Master’s in ministry students and graduates can take advantage of professional organizations and resources, which offer benefits like networking, career development, and financial aid opportunities.

  • Association of Professional Chaplains: A national nonprofit organization devoted to interfaith ministry and chaplaincy, this organization supports chaplains. In addition to providing a variety of career and education resources, APC sets professional standards and publishes APC Forum: News and Ideas in Chaplaincy Care.
  • Academy of Parish Clergy: This international organization offers professional development and networking opportunities to clergy members. Members gain access to benefits like volunteer opportunities, a writing contest, articles and reviews, and regional colleague groups.
  • Association for Clinical Pastoral Education: ACPE helps improve ministry services by running, accrediting, and certifying clinical pastoral education programs and educators. ACPE also offers leadership and networking opportunities for spiritual professionals, including spiritually integrated psychotherapists and counselors.
  • Community Development Society: An interdisciplinary group of professionals who provide leadership to community developers, CDS provides members with access to benefits like job listings, professional development opportunities, and networking tools and events.
  • National Association for Lay Ministry: NALM cultivates pastoral leadership among ordained and lay ministers in the Catholic Church. The organization offers access to discussion forums, webinars, newsletters, and conferences.

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