Earning a Doctor of Ministry Online

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Earning an accredited doctor of ministry online allows students to engage in deep theological and academic reflection, refining their approaches to professional practice while also continuing to serve in their ongoing ministries. By pursuing the deep knowledge that accompanies an advanced degree, students expand their potential and reach for greater career opportunities. Graduates may excel within their current ministries or advance to leadership within nonprofit organizations, international missions, and denominational governing bodies.

On this page, prospective students can learn about potential salary increases and career advancement opportunities for doctorate holders, along with information on funding, curricula, degree milestones, and professional organizations.

Why Get a Doctor of Ministry Online?

Pursuing Deeper Knowledge and Specialization

Doctor of ministry students enter their programs with a solid foundation of knowledge that allows them to concentrate their continuing studies in theology, church tradition, congregational care, family care, and leadership. Rigorous coursework ensures students become experts in their chosen specializations. Leadership underpins most doctor of ministry programs and allows students to focus on practical applications and advance as experts in the field.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Doctor of ministry graduates leave their programs with a degree that prepares them for advanced career opportunities where they take on extensive responsibility as nonprofit leaders, ministry directors, and denominational executives. As such, graduates become leaders in the field as they influence organization-wide practices, guide the direction of their chosen ministries, and educate future generations of pastors.

Online Learning Technology

By pursuing a doctor of ministry online, professionals learn to use the latest technology and apply it to their continuing practices. Some programs offer courses in subjects like technology and ministry, allowing pastors to more effectively expand congregational offerings to younger generations. Nonprofit leaders and organizational executives also benefit from technological training, which can be geared toward fundraising, social media, or overall management.

What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.)?

The doctor of ministry degree emphasizes in-person practice, with a focus on practical aspects of the field. Graduates use what they learned through their studies to serve congregations, obtain leadership positions within their denominations, or take on ministry and nonprofit leadership. Doctor of ministry students encounter coursework that emphasizes practical ministry skills through specializations such as leadership and spiritual formation, counseling, church leadership, transformational leadership, and biblical engagement.

The research-focused Ph.D. prepares students for jobs in higher education through intensive dissertation studies. Most Ph.D. graduates find positions as professors; they teach students along with continuing their own writing and research. Ph.D. curriculum focuses on research, with concentrations that cover the academic side of theology. Concentration subjects might include topics such as Old Testament, New Testament, Christian ethics, and theology and culture. The Ph.D. requires a dissertation to graduate.

Prerequisites for Doctor of Ministry Online Programs

Students pursuing a doctor of ministry online program may need to complete prerequisites for admission due to the advanced nature of the degree. While details vary depending on the school, applicants should expect to encounter some of the following when researching admissions requirements.

    • Master of Divinity or Theology from an Accredited University: A master of divinity prepares pastors for ordination. The degree provides congregational and clinical pastoral experience, along with a strong foundation in scriptural studies and theology. Some doctor of ministry programs accept equivalencies in place of the master of divinity, though students may need to complete additional coursework.
    • Relevant Ministerial Leadership Experience: Doctor of ministry applicants must demonstrate ministerial leadership experience by submitting a curriculum vitae, detailed personal statement, and church-related recommendations. Some schools do not hold minimum requirements, though others may require three years or more of professional experience in addition to ongoing service in a faith-based environment.
    • Statement of Support from Home Ministry: Due to the rigorous nature of the doctor of ministry degree, applicants may need to provide a statement from the home congregation, church council, or denominational body that supports their participation in the program. This letter can also come from a board of directors if the student ministers for an organization rather than a congregation.
    • Research Paper/Academic Writing Sample: Students applying to a doctor of ministry online degree generally must complete rigorous research assignments and be able to effectively communicate their findings. As such, some programs expect students to demonstrate these skills by submitting a research paper as part of the application process.
    • Assessment exam: Online doctor of ministry programs may assess applicants in content areas like biblical knowledge or languages, such as Greek or Hebrew, to determine whether a candidate is prepared to engage in the rigorous study a doctoral degree requires.

How Much Can I Make With a Doctor of Ministry Degree?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary range for members of the clergy is $26,160-$85,040. While pastors, chaplains, and other clergy gain important experience through the work they do, a doctor of ministry degree develops student's leadership skills through practical experience and provides a deeper understanding of theology and church tradition. By strengthening these skills through an online doctor of ministry degree, students prepare for a variety of job opportunities.

Potential Careers

Careers Stats Description

Lead Pastor

Median Annual Salary: $64,332

A lead pastor leads worship services, preaches sermons, counsels members of the congregation, and manages church affairs. The more experience a lead pastor holds, the higher their salary may be; a doctor of ministry can secure more advanced pastoral positions or positions with a larger congregation.

Hospice Chaplain

Median Annual Salary: $47,793

A hospice chaplain assists patients and families through the hospice process with counseling and spiritual support. They work closely with clinical staff to understand and follow the guidelines set forth by their centers. Hospice chaplain positions typically require at least a master of divinity, and since employers often seek experienced applicants, a doctor of ministry may assist graduates in obtaining their preferred positions.

Minister

Median Annual Salary: $50,321

A minister may work in a church, military chaplaincy, or other mission, but generally they act as spiritual guides and religious leaders. They manage staff, counsel full congregations, run services, and give sermons. Students wanting positions with increased responsibility may wish to earn a doctor of ministry to bolster their qualifications.

Paying for a Doctor of Ministry Program

Tuition rates for an online doctor of ministry degree vary widely depending on the program, institution, and location. Online students can access reduced tuition rates, and learners who seek out self-directed or accelerated programs may also pay less per credit. Many programs offer both need and merit-based assistance, and university staff can help students find additional degree-specific financial aid, grants, and scholarship opportunities.

Scholarships

College students at every level are eligible to apply for a variety of scholarships through their universities or, for doctor of ministry students, through their churches' governing bodies. Specific scholarships exist for doctor of ministry students; however, students should be sure to check location, denominational requirements, and demographic restrictions before applying.

What to Expect From a Doctor of Ministry Online Program

While details vary by program and school, students can typically complete a doctor of ministry online degree within 3-5 years. Some programs offer self-directed concentrations that students navigate at their own paces, while others offer cohort-based formats. Many doctor of ministry degree programs require students to appear on campus for occasional residencies to bolster their online studies.

Synchronous online meetings are common when pursuing a doctor of ministry online. Students participate in lively discussions, watch lectures, complete collaborative projects with their peers, and submit written assignments.

Major Milestones

Graduation requirements for an online doctor of ministry vary by program and school, but students can expect to encounter some of the following as they near the completion of their programs.

  1. Thesis

    Students will typically complete a thesis paper or project to graduate. Most programs require an in-depth research paper. Thesis work generally takes place during the student's final year.

  2. Portfolio

    Online doctor of ministry programs may require students to complete a portfolio to demonstrate the work they have mastered during their programs. A portfolio is an ongoing project that may include student work, faculty feedback, and reflections.

  3. Thesis Proposal

    To proceed with a final project or thesis, students must often present their proposed research questions to faculty for approval. Students may need to defend the proposals before a committee, or submit succinct, written plans.

  4. Thesis Defense

    Some online doctor of ministry programs require that students present and defend their theses to a committee of faculty members. A thesis defense takes place in the final semester of study.

  5. Onsite Seminars

    Online doctor of ministry programs may require onsite residencies, where students gather on campus for a week of intensive study. In-person seminars typically occur once per semester.

  6. Application to Graduate

    Students in their final year may need to file an application, typically online, to inform the school of their intent to graduate. This may be necessary even if the student does not plan to attend commencement ceremonies.

Coursework

While requirements vary by school and program, students who pursue a doctor of ministry online can expect to encounter some of the courses listed below.

Theology and Christian
Leadership

This course applies theological studies to daily practice, often through the study of philosophy and primary source documents by religious and social justice leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Children and Family
Leadership

Students study approaches for supporting and guiding family church life from a biblical perspective. The course may also offer foundations for teaching and evaluating faith-based curricula in a church-related environment.

Church History

To secure firm knowledge of church traditions, students study topics like early church and Reformation periods, the history of Christian thought, and classic Christian literature. Courses may survey large movements or focus on a particular time period.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations provide numerous opportunities for graduates entering the ministry field. By seeking out membership in one or more of these organizations, students access conferences and networking events, online resources, training and continuing education, and community engagement. Professional organizations can also assist graduates looking for job placements and provide support for the challenges they encounter during the course of their ministries.

  • American Academy of Religion AAR is a professional organization of religious scholars and teachers that supports academic excellence in the field. AAR offers national and regional conferences for ministry professionals.
  • Association of Professional Chaplains APC supports chaplains working in a variety of healthcare and correctional settings. The organization sets forth professional standards for chaplains and provides numerous offerings, such as continuing education, conferences, and career resources.
  • Academy of Parish Clergy APC is an interdenominational organization that provides professional development and networking resources for professionals who serve in congregational leadership roles. APC runs an annual conference and publishes a quarterly journal.
  • The Evangelical Theological Society ETS promotes biblical scholarship and community between academics, teachers, and pastors. They hold annual meetings along with frequent regional meetings, and members can subscribe to their periodical publication.
  • Institute for Biblical Research IBR conducts annual conferences along with frequent seminars and workshops to support excellence in faith-based biblical scholarship. IBR also supports pastors and teachers through robust continuing education opportunities.