Online Associate Degree in Ministry

What You'll Learn & What's Next

Earning an online associate degree in ministry opens multiple doors for faith-driven students. Graduates from ministry associate programs can either earn pursue associate pastor positions and ordination or work toward advanced degrees in the field. According to data from Payscale, graduates with an associate in ministry degree can expect to earn an annual wage of just under $50,000, a solid figure for a helping profession.

The following page provides more information about online ministry associate degree programs, including typical coursework in ministry programs and postgraduate careers.

What Will You Learn in an Online Ministry Associate Degree Program?

Students who enroll in online associate ministry programs receive a thorough grounding in the foundational knowledge they need to serve as associate pastors. As such, topics covered in associate ministry programs generally include theology, the New Testament, the Old Testament, church history, and Christian leadership. Students can expect to spend significant time discussing Bible passages and more abstract theological topics.

Common Courses

Christian Leadership

This course introduces students to leadership examples in biblical contexts. Students and professors discuss how they can lead their congregations in a Christ-centered manner. As many careers for ministry graduates involve leadership, this course is particularly relevant.

Old Testament

Old Testament courses in ministry programs generally combine a survey of all literature with specific study of leadership figures like the priest, prophet, and king.

New Testament

New Testament courses in ministry programs combine a survey of all New Testament literature with specific leadership case studies. Most courses pay particular attention to the leadership styles and decisions of Paul and Jesus.

Church History

All ministers, pastors, and Christian leaders must possess a basic knowledge of church history. This survey course usually covers all historical periods, making use of elements such as case studies, primary sources, and textbooks.

Introduction to Theology

This course often takes a survey approach, with students reading, analyzing, and discussing primary sources and works from different schools of theology.

Core Skills

In addition to specific course materials, online ministry associate degree programs provide students with hard and soft skills that can serve them in any profession, ministry-related or not. Below, we spotlight a few specific skills.

Public Speaking

Most graduates of ministry associate programs work in positions that require public speaking. Graduates who serve as associate pastors, lead pastors, or ministers must prepare to give sermons every Sunday, speaking in front of large groups of people. They must also prepare to give fundraising speeches to ensure that their church and congregation remain financially healthy and viable.

Counseling

Many postgraduate positions for ministry students involve some form of counseling, so many programs provide coursework on one-on-one or group-level counseling or therapy.

Leadership

Most associate-level ministry programs maintain one overarching goal: graduating Christian leaders. Throughout their program, students learn how to lead a church, both in terms of inspiring with sermons and speeches, as well as raising money and balancing checkbooks.

What Can You Do With an Associate Degree in Ministry?

The following section provides more information about careers and salary expectations for professionals who earn an online associate degree in ministry. Most positions that graduates can pursue exist in the church, hospice, or nonprofit sectors, and most require skills such as counseling and public speaking.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Though enrolling in online ministry associate degree programs commits you to a certain type of work, you can still pursue a range of careers and hold different job titles with a ministry degree. Ministry graduates can work in settings such as churches, hospitals, or military camps. They can work with older, youthful, wealthy, and impoverished populations. Most positions require helping others, public speaking, and providing one-on-one counseling situations.

Below, we spotlight five common careers for graduates from the best online colleges for an associate degree in ministry.

Lead Pastor

Average Annual Salary: $64,332

Lead pastors plan, organize, and lead worship services for congregations. Before they can practice, they must earn ordination within their chosen church or denomination. An online associate degree in ministry often represents the first step toward becoming a lead pastor.

Associate Pastor

Average Annual Salary: $47,183

Associate pastors assist lead pastors in their duties (planning, organizing, and leading worship services for congregations). Graduates who hold an online associate ministry degree can often serve as associate pastors as they work toward higher degrees that open up doors to lead pastor positions.

Hospice Chaplain

Average Annual Salary: $47,793

Hospice chaplains serve patients in hospice care and their families by providing spiritual services, such as traditional worship services and one-on-one and group counseling. A degree in ministry or a related field such as theology or divinity can help professionals earn chaplain jobs.

Minister

Average Annual Salary: $50,321

Ministers provide similar services as pastors, preaching on Sundays and providing spiritual services to others. Ministers can work in hospitals, churches, and/or army camps. All ministers must earn ordination in their chosen denomination before they can practice professionally.

Nonprofit Executive Director

Average Annual Salary: $78,617

The nonprofit sector provides a different option for ministry graduates who do not want to work in a traditional church setting. Often, graduates who hold an online associate degree in ministry can find entry-level jobs in faith-based nonprofit organizations and work their way up the ladder.

Source: PayScale

What's Next After an Online Associate Degree in Ministry?

Students do not necessarily need to enter the workforce after they graduate from their two-year online ministry program. They can transfer to a four-year ministry program or a four-year program in another field such as therapy or communications studies. Below, we provide more information about each of those individual options.

Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program

Students can use an online associate degree in ministry to kickstart their education by transferring to a four-year ministry program. In some cases, students can transfer to a four-year program at the school where they received their two-year degree without any admissions requirements. If you think you may want to pursue this path, you should consider transfer agreements and connect with the academic advisors at your chosen two-year and four-year programs early in your studies. The earlier you can plan, the better.

What Degrees Can You Pursue After Earning an Associate in Ministry?

Students who complete two-year ministry programs in good standing can pursue bachelor's degrees in any related field. Below, we spotlight three particularly relevant four-year degrees: a bachelor's in ministry, a bachelor's in therapy, and a bachelor's in communications.

Bachelor's in Ministry

A bachelor's in ministry provides students with a deeper understanding of information they learned in their two-year program.

Bachelor's in Therapy

Students who enjoy the one-on-one element of ministry may wish to pursue a bachelor's in therapy, which helps students hone skills in helping others.

Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies

Students who enjoy preaching and speaking to large groups may wish to consider pursuing a bachelor's in communication studies, which opens up more professional possibilities than a degree in ministry.