Earning a Master of Ministry Online

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A master of ministry online prepares graduates to minister to congregations and serve the needs of religious communities. While more a calling than a lucrative career, the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds clergy earn annual median salaries of $48,990. Completing this degree qualifies individuals for church leadership positions, including head pastors, directors of music, and overseas ministry directors. Keep reading to learn about average salaries, available jobs, funding opportunities, degree completion times, and professional organizations that offer support and resources.

Why Get a Master of Ministry?

Pursue Deeper Knowledge and Specialization

Undergraduate degrees in religion provide students with a foundation of knowledge that serves them well in ministry support roles but does not necessarily prepare them for leadership positions. Graduate ministry online degrees, conversely, plunge learners into advanced study of nuanced topics. They also frequently allow degree seekers to select a concentration and deepen their knowledge in a particular area.

Career Advancement Opportunities

While no set educational requirements exist in the world of ministry and church leadership, most larger churches, nonprofits, and international missions groups look for individuals with advanced degrees. Aside from helping you earn larger salaries, these programs also make it possible to take on more responsibilities and hold leadership roles.

Online Learning Technology

Digital technologies are increasingly being used in the world of ministry as tools for reaching those who cannot visit physical sanctuaries and keeping congregants current on church happenings throughout the month. Online students become familiar with education and communication technologies that can serve them well once they graduate and begin serving religious communities.

Prerequisites for Master of Ministry Programs

The majority of master of ministry online programs set prerequisites to ensure prospective students can handle the rigors of graduate study. These requirements vary based on the institution at hand, but those highlighted in this section give learners an idea of what to expect.

    • Bachelor's Degree from an Accredited College All departments of religion require candidates to possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. This accreditation should either be regional or programmatic, depending on the undergraduate degree area. The majority of programs accept students even if they did not study religion prior to applying to graduate school.
    • Minimum GPA GPAs help admissions panels ascertain a student's preparedness for master-level study. Less competitive programs typically expect applicants to possess GPAs in the neighborhood of 2.5. Some departments look for GPAs of 3.0 or higher.
    • Relevant Experience Religion departments typically do not expect applicants to possess explicit paid experience in ministry, but they do want to see a commitment to a calling. Examples may include working for a religious nonprofit, volunteering with various community organizations, and taking up an unpaid leadership role at their church, such as a Sunday school teacher or small group leader.

How Much Can I Make With a Master of Ministry?

Salaries for graduates of master of ministry online degrees vary based on level of experience, employer, title, location, and industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clergy members in the bottom 10% of earners brought home less than $26,160. Those in the top 10% commanded salaries in excess of $85,000. Students should remember that, while experience can help increase salaries over time, higher education also promotes a broader set of skills that can often be leveraged into higher wages.

Potential Careers

Careers Stats Description

Clergy

Median Annual Salary: $50,800

Members of the clergy conduct services throughout the week, provide pastoral support and counseling, lead the congregation through times of change and growth, oversee other members of church leadership, and provide moral guidance to congregants.

Youth Minister

Median Annual Salary: $36,081

Youth ministers work with teenagers and adolescents in religious environments to provide spiritual guidance and development. They create sermons, plan lessons, and oversee other youth ministry staff. They also plan youth trips, visits to Christian music festivals, and other outings to bring the youth together.

Music Ministry Director

Median Annual Salary: $37,959

Music ministry directors play creative roles in the churches they serve by directing music initiatives, organizing choir events, selecting appropriate music for services, and auditioning members of the congregation to join the band or choir. They also oversee departmental budgets, ensure instruments stay in working order, and manage technical requirements.

Paying for an Online Master of Ministry Program

As the cost of higher education continues to grow, prospective master of ministry online students often need to find ways of lessening their costs. Generally speaking, finding a school where you pay in-state tuition rather than out-of-state or private fees can help save significant amounts of money. Accelerated degrees also cut down on the amount of time spent enrolled and allow you to begin working more quickly. Be sure to look for ministry-specific financial aid, grants, and scholarships to further reduce costs.

Scholarships

Many scholarships exist to help ministry students avoid significant debt from student loans. We highlighted a few below, but learners can also research awards from colleges and universities, seminaries, state and local governments, denominational organizations, private foundations, and churches.

What to Expect From a Master of Ministry Program

Students who complete a master in ministry online should plan to spend approximately two years of full-time study moving from matriculation to graduation. Accelerated programs can take as few as 15 months, while part-time learners may need three years. Online degree seekers use learning management systems such as Blackboard and Moodle to watch lectures, interact with fellow students and faculty, complete assignments, take part in group projects, and sit for examinations.

Major Milestones

Master of ministry online learners can look forward to hitting several milestones over the course of the degree to keep them focused and motivated.

  1. Capstone Coursework

    Some master of ministry online programs require students to submit a culminating project that brings together all that they learned during the degree into a synthesized capstone.

  2. Apprenticeship

    Individuals who plan to work in the church often take part in a semester-long apprenticeship where they work under ministry leaders, such as music minister, youth director, and lead pastor, and gain real-world experience.

  3. Thesis and Defense

    Learners who want to work in academia or biblical research often opt for programs requiring a thesis, which requires extensive research and a lengthy written project.

  4. Intent to Graduate/Completion Confirmation

    After meeting all degree requirements, students must alert the registrar's office of their intent to graduate. Steps involved in this process include filing out graduation forms, paying outstanding fees, and ordering a cap and robe.

  5. Application to Doctoral Program

    Students who plan on pursuing a doctoral degree in ministry often work on their applications during the final year of master's study.Application requirements often include writing a statement of purpose, and gathering letters of recommendation.

Coursework

Courses reviewed in this section give degree seekers an idea of what to expect, but they should check with individual schools to learn about specific plans of study.

Ministry Leadership

Students in this course learn how to develop Christian-based leadership skills that can help them lead congregations in spiritual formation and moral living. They also learn about the role of self-reflection in servant leadership.

Creating Effective Ministry Teams

This course gives students the tools needed to cultivate healthy and strong teams, including employees and volunteers. Students learn how to create strategic plans, manage diverse personalities, and stay biblically focused.

Christian Tradition

Students in this class will delve into the history of Christianity as a faith tradition, with surveys of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant tenets. They also look at how history, culture, politics, and society influence beliefs.

Ministry Finances

Since so many ministry professionals oversee staff responsible for finances, this class gives students an overview of how to be effective and ethical stewards of tithes and other sources of income.

Mentored Ministry

Equivalent to an internship, this course allows degree seekers to put theory into practice in an actual ministry setting. Students must write reflective papers about their experiences and demonstrate competencies along the way.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional ministry organizations offer myriad benefits to future and current ministers looking to meet like-minded individuals, take advantage of continuing education programs, and stay abreast of ministry news. Some organizations are offered in nondenominational formats while others appeal to ministry professionals working in specific faith traditions, such as Methodist, Southern Baptist, and Episcopalian. In addition to the national associations provided below, be sure to look for local and regional chapters.

  • Association of Professional Chaplains: APC offers members opportunities for certification, career development, webinars, annual conferences, symposiums, continuing education, professional advocacy, in-house publications, and resources related to program development.
  • Association of Presbyterian Church Educators: This national organization provides award programs, an annual conference, regional networking opportunities, online communities, ministry teams, educator certification, scholarships, and job openings.
  • Association of Youth Ministry Educators: This nonprofit represents youth ministers from more than 60 colleges and youth ministry organizations. The group provides an annual conference; the Journal of Youth Ministry; student, scholar, and educator awards; and job postings.
  • Association for Women in Ministry Professions: AWMP supports women working in part-time and full-time ministry roles. The group provides quarterly gatherings, opportunities for joining the board, professional member resource pages, and a statement of faith.
  • National Campus Ministry Association: This organization provides a listing of campus ministry job postings, the Bethany Initiative, book recommendations, higher education and spirituality resources, a list of NCMA-member campuses, and an annual meeting.