Youth Ministry Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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Associate or bachelor's degrees in youth ministry can lead to a career as a youth minister. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Associate and Bachelor's Degrees in Youth Ministry at a Glance

Youth ministry degree programs prepare students to lead, educate and counsel young churchgoers in group prayer, worship and community social activities. Those seeking a career as a youth pastor or worship leader might consider degree programs in youth ministry. While associate degrees are available for aspiring youth ministers, it should be noted that most entry-level religious directors, including youth ministers, enter the field with a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reports that positions in this field will be growing about as fast as the rest of the economy in the years 2010-2020.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Christians looking to take their first educational steps in youth ministry Christians interested in working within the church in youth ministry
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Youth minister ($36,000 - based on salary for directors of religious activities and education)*
- Missionary ($26,000 - based on salary for non-categorized religious workers)*
- Church administrator ($26,000 - based on salary for non-categorized religious workers)*
- Same as associate, some denominations may require a bachelor's degree
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Generally 24 courses
- Possible internship
- Approximately 48 courses
- Field experience or internship
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability No Hybrid

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

Associate in Youth Ministry

For those seeking a career in youth ministry but who are uncertain where to start, there are a few programs that offer either an associate degree in youth ministry or in ministry with coursework addressing youth ministry programs. These programs can give students the background and training needed to pursue various church ministry positions or can be used to transfer to bachelor's degree programs in ministry. Programs may be associated with specific denominations of Christianity, and students should research what programs best suit their religious and career needs. For some churches, a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or a bachelor's degree in ministry may be necessary for ordination as a youth minister.

Pros and Cons


  • An associate degree aligned with a student's denomination may offer a chance to begin ministry much more quickly than if a student were to complete a full M.Div. program.
  • These programs are often offered in a religiously homogenous setting.
  • Because of the common denominational ties, developing relationships with mentors and professional networks may be especially effective.


  • Not all denominations of Christianity consider associate-level training sufficient preparation for ministry and religious leadership roles.
  • Credentials may not transfer from one denomination to another.
  • Theological training will likely be denomination-specific.

Courses and Requirements

The courses required for an associate degree focusing on youth ministry are a combination of religious studies and ministry best-practices. Courses and programs may also be designed to promote a deepening of faith. Specific courses address such topics as counseling youth, and give context for the role in the Christian tradition.

  • Prophets
  • Christian education
  • Christianity and justice
  • Doctrine of Christianity
  • Gospel studies
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Youth ministry in perspective
  • Youth ministry programming

Online Degree and Course Info

At this time, accredited online associate-level programs in youth ministry are not available. As this may change, interested students are encouraged to carefully examine accreditation and to check with congregational leadership to make certain that online programs offer suitable training.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

In order to get ahead with an associate's degree focusing on youth ministry, students should focus on finding a program that is religiously compatible with their own faith. Beyond that, students may benefit from following up on opportunities to practice ministry-related activities, developing links to the community of faith, networking with faculty and rising to leadership challenges with fellow students. Further developing social skills, from empathy to leadership, while in an educational setting, can strengthen both faith and community.

Bachelor's Degree in Youth Ministry

For students looking to assume roles of educational leadership within their local churches, a bachelor's degree in youth ministry may fulfill educational requirements. Students learn how to teach Bible and gospel fundamentals to youth and study societal pressures on young adults. They learn about youth culture and relational skills. Schools offering these degrees may or may not be associated with specific denominations, so students should check with their own church leadership to determine program suitability. In many denominations, ordination requires an M.Div. degree, but roles such as youth ministry may be subject to lesser requirements.

Pros and Cons


  • A bachelor's degree requires a significantly smaller investment of time and money to complete than a Master of Divinity program.
  • Careful course selection may also prepare students to take on other roles in the church, such as general ministry or missionary duties.
  • These programs provide opportunities for professional networking both with future colleagues and established leaders.


  • Preparation through a bachelor's degree may not fulfill requirements for full ordination in some denominations.
  • Top leadership positions may require ordination.
  • The bachelor's programs may be theologically specific to denominations, narrowing the job search to a specific group.

Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs provide basic education in theology, biblical theory and interpretation, leadership, exegesis and apologetics, while also offering specialized youth ministry courses like family ministries, evangelism and discipleship, contemporary youth culture, urban youth ministries, activity programming and preaching. Practical areas of study will likely include educational theory in a Christian context, psychology, composition, public speaking and church administration. Students may be required to participate in field placements or practicums, which could include summer internships or study abroad options.

Online Degree Options

Bachelor's degrees in youth ministry are sometimes available in hybrid format, with some courses being available online while others are taught in a more traditional face-to-face setting. Depending on the program you choose, you may need to visit campus for an extended period or spend time in the field acquiring practical experience. When examining online schools, students should check accreditation status, as schools that offer only religious degrees may be exempt from normal accreditation processes. Nonetheless, many schools seek this accreditation for its educational rigorousness.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

A bachelor's degree in youth ministry may prepare you for accepting a role in church education and leadership. Ordination to ministry or the priesthood may require not just education but also a recommendation from the church leadership. For this reason if no other, excelling at responsibilities in all aspects of life may benefit youth ministers. Such positive relationships with established leaders may also assist in the job search.

While earning your degree, you might consider engaging in activities that can help you stand out when you are ready to start your career. Many schools offer campus ministry programs where you can utilize the skills learned in your degree program. You may also be able to participate in service projects, helping with youth camps or community youth groups.

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