Study Christian Ministry: Master's, Bachelor's & Online Degree Info

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Master's and bachelor's degrees in Christian ministry can lead to careers in churches and other religious settings. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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At a Glance: Degrees in Christian Ministry

People of strong Christian faith who wish to assume leadership positions within their denominations and congregations may consider degrees in Christian ministry. These programs combine biblical studies with practical skills that will assist students in moving into leadership positions, whether pastoral, mission-related or in youth ministry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2010-2020, job prospects in the field of religion are expected to grow about as fast as average, as measured by growth in both clergy and non-clergy religious leadership positions.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? People seeking to further their religious training in a Christian context, especially within certain denominations Individuals seeking training to become ministers in specialized ministry roles
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Director of religious activities and education ($36,000)*
- Missionary and other lay leadership positions within the church ($26,000)*
- Youth pastor (Clergy) ($44,000)*
- Clergy ($48,500)*
Time to Completion 4 years full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 35-40 courses
- Possible practicum
- Roughly 12-22 graduate-level courses
- Possible service requirements
- Some programs may require a capstone project or thesis
Prerequisites - High school diploma
- Strong Christian belief
- Bachelor's degree
- Same faith requirements as bachelor's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Bachelor's in Christian Ministry

A bachelor's degree in Christian ministry is a 4-year program that prepares students for non-clergy leadership roles in their denomination. Degrees granted may be a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Christian Ministry (B.C.M.) or Bachelor of Arts, Christian Ministry (B.A.C.M.). The programs that grant these degrees are sometimes denomination-specific or denomination-focused. Few jobs are available with this degree outside of Christian ministry, so you should make sure that this is a career path you want to follow.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Because these programs are offered by denomination-specific schools, students may find the environment and faith community supportive
  • Students can begin work immediately to fulfill their religious duty through service activities, practica and internships
  • Some of these programs may be designed to fulfill ordination requirements of denominations that do not require a Master of Divinity (M.Div.)

Cons

  • Some programs may have limited transferability outside of specific denominations
  • Compared to some other bachelor's degrees, these degrees in Christian ministry do not prepare students for high-paying, widely-available positions
  • Fewer schools offer these bachelor's degrees compared to the Bachelor of Arts in Religion, a non-professional degree

Common Courses and Requirements

Students study the Bible, biblical languages, ministry, theology and apologetics, evangelism, history and culture. This program prepares students for the role of carrying the ministerial mission, both within the community through lay and youth ministry and elsewhere through Christian mission preparation. Coursework might include such topics as:

  • Youth evangelism
  • Theological principles
  • The prophets and wisdom literature
  • The process of spiritual formation
  • Systematic theology
  • Modern church issues
  • Leading Bible education
  • Jesus' message and mission

Online Degree Options

Bachelor's degree programs in Christian ministries are available online. These programs are equivalent to those offered on campus, and courses may be available to students who attend face-to-face classes as well. These online course and program offerings may be particularly useful for non-traditional students who are working as well as earning their degree.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Christian ministry degrees prepare students for vocations and careers in the religious field. Successful students must maintain focus on the goals of the program while making professional connections, developing strong relationships with mentors and taking advantage of professional growth opportunities. These are professional programs for students who have already discerned their vocation and may not be the ideal place for exploration outside the field.

Other Degrees to Consider

For students who are not looking for a professional degree or who are considering an M.Div. at a later date, many schools offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion. These programs are available at many schools and may broaden the search for a program that is a good fit for the student's needs. Unlike some bachelor's degree programs in Christian ministry, these programs may have a broader or more ecumenical focus, which may suit some student's learning styles or interests.

Master's in Christian Ministry

A master's degree in Christian ministry - either a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (M.A.C.M.) or a Master of Christian Ministry (M.C.M.) - can prepare students to take on leadership roles in religious settings. This degree differs from a Master of Divinity (M.Div.), which is often the basic degree undertaken by those seeking ordination in many Christian churches. M.A.C.M. and M.C.M. degrees are usually shorter in duration, taking two years to complete instead of three. In addition to earning a degree, students may need to have several years of experience before obtaining a head clergy position.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The M.A.C.M and M.C.M. degrees generally take less time than the M.Div. degree (approximately 36 credits instead of 60)
  • These programs may have more specialization options than bachelor's degree programs
  • Master's degrees in Christian ministry may not require a master's thesis, though this option may be available

Cons

  • Master's degrees in Christian ministry do not provide the same theological education as Master of Divinity degrees
  • Many religious organizations hold the M.Div. as the basic professional degree necessary for ordination
  • Requirements for ordination or lay ministry with this degree should be discussed with congregations before enrolling and committing time and money

Courses and Requirements Subsection

Master's degrees in Christian ministry focus on biblical interpretation, theology, religious leadership and biblical counseling. They may also provide knowledge of church history and educational theory as it applies to the role of the church. Students study the Bible to understand religious and historical perspectives, but also to understand what can be learned and applied from these perspectives. Programs instill knowledge, but also work on the development and strengthening of personal faith and the faith of a community.

Online Degree Options

Some master's degrees in Christian ministry are available partially or completely online. Of these programs, some have additional requirements, such as a minimum age for participation. However, these requirements may be waived in some cases, so interested students may benefit from contacting the schools directly. Online coursework may be asynchronous, which can be a benefit to working adults.

Stand Out with This Degree

Some students may use this degree as preparation for further ministerial education. Others may already be assuming leadership positions in their denominations. In both cases, selection of capstone projects offer a chance to develop novel approaches to ongoing concerns within the faith community. Further, these programs offer many opportunities for students to network with other members of their faith, building strong relationships that can support burgeoning careers.

Other Degrees to Consider

For those looking to gain a standard professional degree that is more recognized across denominations and faiths in the United States, the M.Div. may be a better fit. While the M.Div. is a more rigorous and lengthy program, which may increase the costs, it can increase transferability across congregations and prepare ministry professionals for mid-career entry into Doctorate of Divinity (D.Div.) programs. This may also open additional opportunities for a career in postsecondary teaching.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. Ministry - Church Health and Revitalization
      • M.A. Ministry - Leadership
      • M.A. Ministry - No Specialization
      • M.A. Ministry - Pastoral Ministry
      • Master of Divinity
      • Master of Practical Theology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Divinity with an Emphasis in Global Ministry
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry
      • M.A. in Christian Ministry
      • M.A. in Urban Ministry
      • M.A. in Youth and Family Ministry
      • Master of Divinity
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Museum Studies
      • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA in Liberal Studies
  • Los Angeles, CA

    World Mission University

  • Findlay, OH

    Winebrenner Theological Seminary

  • New Haven, CT

    Yale University

  • Escondido, CA

    Westminster Theological Seminary in California

  • Glenside, PA

    Westminster Theological Seminary

Featured Schools

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • M.A. Ministry - Church Health and Revitalization
  • M.A. Ministry - Leadership
  • M.A. Ministry - No Specialization

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Master of Divinity with an Emphasis in Global Ministry
  • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry
  • M.A. in Christian Ministry

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Museum Studies
  • Master of Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education?

Excelsior College

  • MA in Liberal Studies

What is your highest level of education completed?

World Mission University

Winebrenner Theological Seminary

Yale University

Westminster Theological Seminary in California