What is a Ministry Degree?

Ministry programs prepare students to become ordained Christian ministers or priests. Individuals who earn a degree in the field may ultimately work as pastors, worship leaders, counselors, church administrators, and/or ministerial educators.

Specific coursework depends on the level of degree. Classes may include the following:

  • New Testament and Old Testament
  • Biblical Interpretations
  • Spiritual Guidance
  • Sermons and Religious Rituals
  • Ministry Administration
  • Christian Evangelism
  • Homiletics (Preaching)
  • Pastoral Counseling
  • Christian Rites and Traditions
  • Ministerial Ethics
  • Biblical Counseling
  • Theological Leadership
  • Christian Philosophy
  • Multicultural Studies
  • Youth Ministry Services
  • Ministerial Research and Study
  • Applied Counseling Principles
  • Ministerial Philosophy
  • Ministry Supervision and Administration
  • Organizational Theology

Degree programs involve internships and other opportunities to put class work into practice. These experiences may vary from program to program, but typically include giving sermons, visiting congregation members’ homes, working with youth at a Christian summer camp, teaching Bible classes, or playing/singing sacred music.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Ministry - Two Year Duration
Ministry classes at the associate level include biblical studies and youth and student ministries. This degree program provides students with the basic ministry and philanthropic skills needed to work with Christian churches and organizations and in non-religious settings such as international relief organizations. Graduates with an associate degree may find employment as relief and non-profit workers, missionaries, youth pastors, and leaders of church groups.

Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry - Four Year Duration
Typical coursework in a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry program includes the following:

  • Biblical Counseling – how to apply Bible teaching to help people overcome challenges and struggles
  • Theological Leadership – study of the Bible and theology; the psychological and sociological aspects of leadership
  • New Testament Introduction – the New Testament within historical and social contexts
  • Hymnology – the study and composition of hymns combined with the study of worship, theology, and spirituality
  • Human Rights and Christian Ethics – how a Christian perspective on human rights can address global human rights issues

Bachelor’s degree holders may find work in churches, schools, healthcare facilities, and community outreach centers. Specific roles may include social and community service manager, and religion teacher at an elementary or secondary religious school.

Master’s Degree in Ministry - Two Year Duration
The curriculum and approach of master’s programs in ministry may vary. Some include a supervised practicum; others require a thesis; and some include both. In general though, core courses cover the following:

  • Theological Foundations of Ministry – biblically-rooted ministry, evangelism, discipleship, prayer, biblical leadership strategies
  • Multicultural Ministry – how to serve multicultural populations; community-building; social justice principles; outreach programs
  • Methods of Pastoral Counseling – counseling and caregiving methods; ethical practices in counseling
  • Conflict Resolution in Ministry – identifying and understanding conflict in church ministries and other community settings; applying counseling and conflict resolution techniques
  • Women in Ministry – the experience of women in religious life and ministry, from traditional, historical, and feminist perspectives

Ministry career opportunities expand considerably for holders of a master’s degree in the field. Potential roles include ordained minister, ordained pastor, hospital chaplain, pastoral counselor, and director of religious activity and education.

Doctoral Degree in Ministry - Four to Six Year Duration
Studies at the doctoral level involve learning that is both self-directed and communal. Students are immersed in their own ministry, but are also invited to engage with their peers and students of other ministries to consider their work in the modern world. Coursework at this level tends to cover a broad spectrum that includes psychology, public health, homiletics, apologetics, ethics, evangelism, sociology, and history. Doctors of Ministry may work as ministers, missionaries, or professors of theology. The degree presents them with opportunities to rise to leadership roles.

Degrees Similar to Ministry

Divinity refers to the quality or nature of God’s being. Degree programs in the field study one or more religions and explore how they view God.

Missionary Studies
This degree program prepares students to do missionary work, which may include formal religious teaching, community outreach, social service, and proselytization – recruiting and attempting to convert others to a particular religious belief.

Religious Education
This degree is aimed at students who wish to develop religious education programs and teach religion in religious schools and organizations.

Religious Studies
The focus of religious studies degree programs is the nature and origin of religious belief and traditions. Coursework includes the study of specific religions such as Buddhism and Catholicism, as well as religious history, politics, and anthropology.

This is the study of the nature of the divine and of religious belief. The classes of theology and divinity majors span several disciplines: history, philosophy, literature, anthropology, ethics, science, languages, cosmology, and international studies.

Sacred Music
The history, theory, writing, and performance of religious music is the focus of a degree program in sacred music. Programs prepare students for careers as choir directors, cantors, and organists.

Social Work
Social work is about helping people solve and cope with problems and challenges in their everyday lives. Social workers diagnose and treat the mental, emotional, and behavioral issues of individuals from every walk of life.

Counseling Psychology
Counseling psychologists treat all segments of society and may specialize in areas such as family and marriage issues, substance abuse, or behavioral disorders. They typically hold a Doctorate Degree.

Educational Psychology
A degree in educational psychology is focused on mental and emotional health and social integration. Individuals who wish to pursue a career in educational psychology earn at least a Master’s and often a Doctorate in the discipline.

School Counseling
A degree program in school counselling address child development, assessment, and consultation. Counseling at the elementary and secondary school levels, however, goes beyond these childhood-focused mandates. It includes student and family counseling, specific adolescent counselling, gender identification and cross-cultural counselling; as well as career planning and decision making.

Sociology is the wide study of society, social institutions like religion and law, and the ways in which people live and work together.

The field of philosophy asks questions about the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

Skills You’ll Learn

In addition to a strong theological background, graduates of ministry degree programs come away with skills that they can apply in other professional fields, as well:

To effectively serve a congregation and provide counseling, ministers must be able to maintain connections.

Speaking and Writing
Effective preaching is about both message and delivery. Ministry students learn how to organize a sermon, use central ideas, offer knowledge and comfort, and appeal to the spirituality and emotions of their congregation.

Most churches are organizations that offer more than Sunday service. They are involved in providing Bible studies, conducting community outreach programs, and offering counseling to members. Running a church requires considerable planning and multitasking.

Religious and spiritual leadership is, of course, key to the role of a minister. But ministry students also learn that general leadership abilities like knowing how to rally and recruit people, delegate, and offer encouragement are also very important.

What Can You Do with a Ministry Degree?

Of course, working in ministry as a clergyman or clergywoman is the primary occupational category associated with a degree in ministry.

Religious Education
This field allows ministry graduates to pass on their religious beliefs by teaching what they have learned.

In many ways, ministers are counselors. A degree in ministry can lay the foundation for a career in counseling in schools, churches, or clinical settings.

Social Work
Ministry and social work share the common characteristics of compassion and emotional support. A ministry degree can contribute to one’s education in social work.

The field of philanthropy is dedicated to working for causes of poverty and social injustice to improve the quality of life for all citizens. NGOs and other non-profit organizations want employees and volunteers who seek to do this noble work.

Ministry students quickly learn that the work is largely about communication and insight, both of which are pillars of the field of journalism. Writing for religious and theological publications is another potential option for ministry graduates.

Diplomacy and Politics
The knowledge that ministry students gain in the areas of history, public health, psychology, and leadership is vital in diplomatic and political circles.

The communication and motivational skills that students in ministry programs learn are certainly valued by organizations who understand the importance of effective leadership.

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths