Earning a Doctorate in Ministry Online

Should I Pursue a Doctorate in Ministry Online?

Individuals who have strong connections to their faith — and a desire to lead religious communities or organizations — may find an online ministry doctorate to be terrific preparation for their careers. Graduates of doctorate in ministry online programs often lead church communities as ministers or chaplains, or direct faith-based organizations such as hospices, military camps, and or college ministries. While ministry work can often be challenging, these professionals benefit from a rewarding career and the opportunity to make a difference in peoples' lives.

Students can pursue their doctorate in ministry through a traditional on-campus program or as an entirely online degree. For example, learners who live in remote areas or who wish to maintain full-time careers may enjoy the flexibility of asynchronous coursework. Online students can also save money by avoiding expensive housing or relocation costs. Finally, many institutions confer the same degree to students, regardless of whether it was earned online or on-campus.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Ministry Graduates

While graduates of an online ministry doctorate degree usually commit themselves to faith-based work, they qualify for a range of different job titles in several different fields. In general, students who pursue ministry doctorate programs online must possess a mission-driven mindset, excellent speaking and writing skills, and the ability to serve people from diverse backgrounds. Many graduates also work in challenging settings, such as hospices or military camps.

Below, we explore five possible career paths for professionals who earn a doctorate in ministry online.

Associate Pastor

Annual Average Salary: $47,183

Associate pastors assist the lead pastor in preparing and leading worship services, typically for large congregations. Most associate pastors need at least a bachelor's degree in ministry before they can practice. Depending on the denomination they serve, they may also be ordained.

Lead Pastor

Annual Average Salary: $64,332

These pastors plan and deliver worship services for congregations of all sizes. Depending on the denomination, ordination may be required, but a master of divinity or ministry is often a minimum requirement.

Hospice Chaplain

Annual Average Salary: $47,793

Hospice chaplains provide spiritual services to hospice patients and their family members. They typically provide both customary religious services and one-on-one counseling and therapy. All hospice chaplains need an advanced degree in a field such as theology, ministry, divinity, or chaplaincy.

Nonprofit Executive Director

Annual Average Salary: $78,617

Graduates who hold a doctorate in ministry online — and who do not want to work in the traditional church environment — can often work as executive directors or chaplains for faith-based nonprofit organizations. In most cases, executive directors need an advanced degree to demonstrate their qualifications for the position.

Minister

Annual Average Salary: $50,321

Ministers can practice in a range of settings, including traditional settings like the church or as far afield as military camps. In all cases, ministers provide religious and spiritual guidance and services to the communities they serve. They generally need an advanced degree in ministry or divinity to practice.

Source: PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Ministry Program?

The specific coursework for an online doctorate in ministry varies by program, as well as each learner's academic interests and career goals. However, most online ministry doctorate programs feature some iteration of the topics listed below.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate Degree in Ministry

Old Testament

This course explores various leadership figures throughout the Old Testament literature, including the historical kings, priests, and prophets.

New Testament

This course examines several key points within the New Testament and relates them to challenges that future Christian ministers and leaders may face. This course usually emphasizes two leaders — Paul and Jesus — as well as the apocryphal literature of Revelation.

Church History

All ministers must be familiar with the extensive history of the church. This course typically takes a survey approach, and students use historical readings, primary sources, and case studies to learn about conflicts, key historical figures, and challenges unique to Christianity.

Introduction to Christian Leadership

As many graduates of doctorate in ministry online programs become ministers or pastors, most programs provide courses in Christian leadership. Topics include leadership in the context of Christianity and how individuals can lead in theology-inspired ways.

Thesis

Like many other terminal degree programs, online ministry doctorate degree programs typically require their students to complete a thesis or dissertation. In the ministry field, this usually takes the form of a lengthy academic paper based on original research. Students typically work on these projects during their final semester or year at school under the guidance of a faculty member.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Ministry Prepares For

  • International Association of Ministries Licensure/Ordination
    Ministers can be ordained through the International Association of Ministries (IAM) when they complete an accredited degree in the field and have a membership with IAM in good standing. To maintain their ordination, they must complete two ministry-related, college-level continuing education courses each year.
  • Transformation Ministries License
    Members of Transformation Ministries can earn a license or ordination by completing a degree in ministry or divinity, then obtaining a recommendation from the Transformation Ministries church board. Candidates must also demonstrate a "proven knowledge of biblical truth" to earn licensure or ordination.
  • Evangelical Free Church of America Credential
    Ministry graduates can earn a credential to practice in the Evangelical Free Church of America by completing a degree in ministry, submitting an application, writing a paper, and completing required reading/coursework in history, theology, and polity.

Professional Organizations & Resources

A career in ministry is primarily people-facing; professionals who enter this field must support others and lead communities to nourish their faith. Professional organizations support the work of ministers by facilitating networking opportunities, as well as offering continuing education, professional development, and job boards.

Below, you can find some of the major professional organizations in the field, as well as helpful resources for current and future ministers.

Professional Organizations


Academy of Homiletics

Founded in the 1960s, the Academy of Homiletics counts approximately 400 homiletics teachers and doctoral students among its members. The academy offers various resources to members, including networking opportunities.


American Academy of Religion

The American Academy of Religion — one of the largest organizations of its kind in the world — promotes excellence in religious teaching and learning. The academy hosts an annual meeting, job boards, and publications.


Association of Youth Ministry Educators

The Association of Youth Ministry Educators brings together youth ministry educators to network, learn best practices, and grow professionally.


The Evangelical Theological Society

The Evangelical Theological Society is an academic and scholarly hub for professionals in evangelical Christianity. In addition to scholarship, the society provides an annual meeting and other networking opportunities.


Institute for Biblical Research

The Institute for Biblical Research connects scholars of evangelical faiths who specialize in Old and New Testament topics. Services include an annual conference and research groups.

Resources


Sermon Calendar Excel Template

Staying on top of sermons and other logistics is a key responsibility of ministers or pastors. This Microsoft Excel calendar template makes that job easier by facilitating long- and short-term planning.


Develop.Me

Designed specifically for church teams, Develop.Me provides a platform for ministers, pastors, and other church employees to set goals and keep up with their professional and personal development.


Life.Church

The creator of Develop.Me, Life.Church provides various resources to help both ministers and churchgoers develop professionally and in their faiths.


ForMinistryResources.com

ForMinistryResources.com provides a range of resources and content to youth ministry educators, including a popular circles curriculum with multiple lessons.


MinistryResources.com

MinistryResources.com provides a search engine of various resources that can help individual ministers and pastors start, maintain, or grow their own operation.