The 20 Best Online Doctorate in Ministry Programs

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Students who are passionate about spreading their faith or teaching others to do the same can earn a doctorate in ministry. An online ministry doctoral degree allows graduates to become ministry professors or researchers. In the ministry teaching profession, doctorate holders can influence future religious leaders and make an average of $76,000 per year. Graduates can also be pastors and religious counselors. Graduates can start their own churches, counsel distressed people, and work in hospitals or existing churches. Payscale reports that the average salary for learners with this degree is $63,000 per year.

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Best Online Doctorate in Ministry Programs

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Online Doctorate in Ministry Degree Program Ranking Guidelines: We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The Best Online Doctorate in Ministry Degree Programs

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Summit University of Pennsylvania 

Clarks Summit, PA Apply Now

About this school

Formerly the Baptist Bible College & Seminary and then Summit University of Pennsylvania, Clarks Summit University assumed its current name in 2016. The university holds fast to its Baptist heritage, however, and enrolls about 1,000 students on its suburban campus northwest of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Clarks Summit's seminary is called Baptist Bible Seminary, and it offers six master's and doctoral programs, including a doctor of ministry degree online.

The 28-34 credit D.Min. program at Clarks Summit combines biblical studies, practical ministry, and theological foundations to equip practicing ministers to better serve in their current or future roles. Students can choose from five concentrations, including counseling and spiritual development, global ministry, and theological studies. Core courses include developing effective leadership skills, current trends in global ministry, and the centrality of scripture in ministry. The program concludes with a dissertation, which may take one of four forms. The ministry analysis dissertation project helps students analyze and improve their current ministry. Students doing the educational program dissertation develop a new curriculum, and those doing the training manual dissertation project create a training manual for their current ministry. Students in the writing project format dissertation project develop a publishable piece. Students complete the nonresidential D.Min. through a combination of online courses and one-week, on-campus intensives. Most learners take six years to finish the degree.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Luther Rice University & Seminary 

Lithonia, GA Apply Now

About this school

Located in the metro Atlanta town of Lithonia, Georgia, Luther Rice serves about 1,300 students, including 39 doctoral learners. The university holds to the theological tradition of the Southern Baptist Convention, and its programs build on the foundation of conservative evangelical theology and a conviction in the inerrancy of scripture. Luther Rice offers 100% of its programs, except its doctoral program, fully online. In fact, Luther Rice helped pioneer distance education at its inception in 1962. Today, the university offers an online ministry doctoral degree for students currently engaged in vocational ministry.

Luther Rice's D.Min. program takes 30 credits to complete, including four core courses available only through week-long seminars on-campus. The degree focuses on critical thinking, oral and written communication, and the application of theory to real-life ministry. Courses include evangelism in contemporary culture, issues in biblical counseling, and contemporary leadership development. Students finish the program by designing and completing a doctoral project, which requires a proposal, a mentor, and defense before a three-person committee prior to graduation. Typically, it takes three years to finish the D.Min., though some students take up to five years. Luther Rice's full-time faculty hold specializations in pastoral ministry, apologetics, counseling, preaching, and biblical studies. Most have also served in practical ministry roles such as pastors, missionaries, and church staff.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Liberty University 

Lynchburg, VA Apply Now

About this school

With more than 110,000 students around the world enrolled in upwards of 550 academic programs, Liberty may hold the distinction of being the largest evangelical university of its kind. About half of its students are pursuing undergraduate degrees, and half are earning master's, specialist, or doctoral degrees. About 100,000 of Liberty's students study in internet-based programs, including those who are taking the university's doctor of ministry degree online.

Learners can complete Liberty's 30-credit D.Min. program without ever going on the university's campus (unless they wish to enroll in an optional intensive). Courses are available in an eight-week format, and students may transfer up to six credits into the program. The degree combines foundational courses, a specialization, and a thesis. The foundational courses provide a baseline for the doctor of ministry and growth & development of the contemporary minister. Liberty's 10 specialization options include chaplaincy, church revitalization, pastoral counseling, and theology and apologetics. Students can take courses such as spiritual factors of growing churches, theology of the gospel, and pastoral leadership. A nine-credit thesis completes the program. Typically, this thesis uses applied research and focuses on a solvable or improvable problem in the student's current ministry location. Students who wish to pursue pure academic research, however, may request permission to do so. To make the program more affordable, Liberty charges a block rate instead of a per-credit tuition fee.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Indiana Wesleyan University 

Marion, IN Apply Now

About this school

Headquartered in Marion, Indiana, IWU boasts an enrollment of more than 15,000 students, making it the largest school in the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities. IWU, long affiliated with The Wesleyan Church, also holds the distinction of being Indiana's largest private university. Many IWU students attend courses at satellite campuses and through online programs. Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University offers several distance education degrees, including an online ministry doctoral degree.

This D.Min. program rotates its emphasis each year between transformational preaching and transformational leadership. Students can obtain their degree through a combination of online courses and two weeks of in-person intensives each year. For the intensives, students travel to places such as New England, Oxford, San Diego, Atlanta, and the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky. The transformational preaching track takes four years, and its coursework includes biblical interpretation for preaching, the formation of the preacher, and creativity, imagination, and story. IWU's transformational leadership track also requires four years of study with in-person intensives. Students in both tracks experience an array of guest lecturers from throughout the Wesleyan theological community. Like other D.Min. programs, IWU's degree concludes with a doctoral project.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Catholic University of America 

Washington, DC Apply Now

About this school

Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., CUA is a private, nonprofit university, the only one in the United States founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops. The school's more than 6,000 students pursue higher education through 12 schools, including the School of Theology and Religious Studies, which offers a doctor of ministry degree online in three distinct areas — the doctor of ministry in evangelization, the doctor of ministry in liturgical catechesis, and the doctor of ministry in spirituality.

CUA's doctoral programs in ministry constitute professional degrees aimed at helping people in active ministry apply advanced theological knowledge to their place of service. The university welcomes qualified students from across the Christian communities to apply. The D.Min. in evangelization requires three years of study, mingling online courses with two weeks on-campus each summer. Students in this 30-hour program examine evangelization in modern contexts. The D.Min. in liturgical catechesis, which also lasts three years and requires several two-week summer sessions, emphasizes liturgy and liturgical catechesis in the digital age. CUA's doctorate in spirituality is similar to its sister programs but explores the teaching of spirituality and spiritual practices.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Bethel University 

Saint Paul, MN Apply Now

About this school

Bethel's main campus sits in Arden Hills, Minnesota, just outside St. Paul. More than 6,500 Bethel students pursue bachelor's degrees in 88 majors, as well as master's degrees and doctorates both on-campus and online. Long affiliated with Converge, formerly known as the Baptist General Conference, Bethel's four schools include Bethel Seminary, which offers a doctor of ministry degree online in five distinct areas: biblical and theological engagement, church leadership, ministry in congregation and family care, ministry in missional effectiveness, and ministry in servant leadership.

Bethel's doctorates each require 48 credits, and students can complete them either entirely online or through a mix of web-based and on-campus coursework. The on-site portion of the degrees happens in one- to two-week formats. Most students finish their doctorates in four years. The church leadership, congregation and family care, and biblical and theological engagement degrees are self-directed, while the others operate on a cohort model. Coursework includes personal well-being & ministry effectiveness, missional innovation, and leading transforming organizations. Each program culminates in a nine-credit thesis, which requires innovative social research. Students who complete all requirements except the thesis may earn a certificate of advanced graduate studies.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

North Greenville University 

Tigerville, SC Apply Now

About this school

Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the South Carolina Baptist Convention, NGU sits in the picturesque rural community of Tigerville, South Carolina, just north of Greenville. The university's students pursue degrees in one of eight undergraduate colleges or the T. Walter Brashier Graduate School. Students who hold an M.Div. plus at least two years of effective ministry experience and are engaged in current ministry can pursue an online ministry doctoral degree at NGU.

The university's doctor of ministry program requires 32 credits and takes three years to complete. Students can choose one of two start dates each year and take classes both online and in person. The degree integrates theology with ministry practice, and students engage in seminars, courses, and field settings as part of their learning experience. NGU's program requires 11 courses, including applied ministry experience in evangelism and missions, church growth and revitalization, and evangelism and missions. Each four-credit theoretical course attaches to a two-credit applied ministry course, helping bridge the gap between pure theology and ministry practice. In their third year, students complete and write a doctor of ministry project in which they research and analyze an issue related to the Great Commission and do so under the direction of a supervisory committee. Supervising faculty all possess doctorates in Bible, theology, or ministry along with many years of experience in their respective fields.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Fordham University 

Bronx, NY Apply Now

About this school

Founded by the Catholic Diocese of New York, Fordham is New York's third-oldest university and the only Jesuit school in New York City. The university's more than 15,000 students pursue degrees in four undergraduate and six graduate colleges spread across three campuses. Most of Fordham's degrees are on-campus, but the school's doctor of ministry program blends online and in-person instruction into a hybrid program.

Fordham's online ministry doctoral degree emphasizes the Catholic and Christian religious traditions and the role of the religious professional in issues such as feminism, ecology, multiculturalism, spirituality, globalization, and peace and justice. The degree requires 36 credits, and students may finish in as few as two or as many as six years. To earn the D.Min., learners must complete four courses on-campus and may do so at night or during intensive terms in January. Core course requirements include foundations of pastoral and practical theology, ethics in pastoral ministry, and Ignatian spirituality for ministry. In addition to these core courses, learners in the program choose one of three academic concentrations — spirituality, Latino ministry, or a generalist track. Those studying spirituality may take history of Christian spirituality courses, Latino ministry students may enroll in courses like Hispanic family ministry, and students pursuing the generalist track may take study subjects such as women mystics. The program concludes with a dissertation that can take the form of either a project or a paper.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Southwestern Assemblies of God University 

Waxahachie, TX Apply Now

About this school

Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, SAGU serves more than 2,000 students with academic programs in more than 60 disciplines. The university is affiliated with the Assemblies of God USA, the world's largest pentecostal denomination. SAGU trains men and women for Christian ministry through its various academic programs, including a doctor of ministry in leadership and creative communication.

The university's doctor of ministry degree online is open to qualified applicants with ministry experience and a 72-credit master of divinity or its equivalent. SAGU's doctoral degree focuses on advanced skills in leadership, communication, and media for ministry and missions. The program requires 30 credits, and students enroll in one three-credit class per semester, making a degree more feasible for professionals engaged in full-time Christian ministry. Students take most courses online but must attend three on-campus intensives during their ten semesters of enrollment. Courses include vision, planning, and creativity; God and popular culture; and fresh approaches to preaching in a postmodern era. Students must take all courses in the order designed for them at the program's beginning and cannot skip or substitute courses in the program. SAGU's D.Min. concludes with a six-credit professional project. Currently, SAGU offers a 50% discount for students in their first year, and a 25% discount for those in their second and subsequent years of the program.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Lancaster Bible College 

Lancaster, PA Apply Now

About this school

Headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, LBC maintains campuses in five locations along with a robust online education program. While the school is non-denominational, its theological heritage is biblical, historical, and orthodox. The college's nearly 2,000 students can pursue degrees in more than 30 undergraduate majors or in 14 graduate programs. LBC also offers three doctorates, including a doctor of ministry, which is available through LBC's Capital Seminary and Graduate School. The program incorporates empirical research, entrepreneurial application, and creative reflection in a scriptural, theological, and practical ministry context.

LBC's doctor of ministry degree online is a 32-credit program that students can complete in two years. Enrolled learners take most courses online and only need to attend three weeks of on-campus requirements during the program. The program's first year focuses on coursework, letting students devote the second year to their applied research project. Concentrations in LBC's D.Min. program include chaplaincy studies, formational leadership, and strategic leadership. Regardless of the concentration chosen, 16 credits must come from advanced ministry concentration seminars, eight credits from applied seminars, and 10 from research design and reporting. Course options include addiction counseling and care, the leader as communicator and vision-caster, and advanced exegesis. The program concludes with a mentored project focused on a particular aspect of ministry. Faculty members include Dr. Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of the New Hope Christian Fellowship, a church with nearly 15,000 parishioners.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Southern California Seminary 

El Cajon, CA Apply Now

About this school

Southern California Seminary is affiliated with Shadow Mountain Community Church. The seminary offers courses in both English and Korean, and it emphasizes the Bible as its primary text. At SCS, students can study for associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees either online or on-campus. SCS offers a doctor of ministry program for pastors and leaders of Christian ministries.

The doctor of ministry degree online at SCS requires 36 credits, and students can choose Christian leadership, Christian education, or biblical exposition. In each track, students learn online and spend just two weeks per year on-campus. The program runs on a cohort model and is designed to be completed in three years, though students may take up to seven years. A focus on biblical exegesis, learning labs, and mentored ministry characterize the SCS doctor of ministry program. Core coursework includes Christianity, culture, and crossroads, applied theology for biblical ministry, and perspectives on understanding and communication. Concentration courses include text-driven exposition, nonprofit leadership, and history and philosophy of Christian education. Students complete their degrees with a dissertation, a practical project that demonstrates scholarly competence and ministry acumen.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Regent University 

Virginia Beach, VA Apply Now

About this school

Headquartered in Virginia Beach, Regent boasts more than 10,000 students pursuing degrees in more than 70 academic areas through eight schools, including the School of Divinity. Interdenominational and evangelical, Regent is home to students from 38 Christian denominations, and the school offers courses from a distinctly Christian worldview to students earning degrees both online and in person. Regent's School of Divinity offers four online ministry doctoral degrees, including a doctor of ministry with a concentration in ministry leadership coaching.

This D.Min. program is available completely online with no residence requirements, though students can enroll in on-campus intensives in Virginia Beach. Admission requires a 72-credit master of divinity or equivalent, three years of full-time ministry experience, and a current ministry placement. Students may enroll during eight different class periods each academic year. Once enrolled, students take courses in eight-week sessions. Coursework includes leading spiritual renewal, redemptive leadership, and ministry coaching strategies. The 36-credit degree concludes with a nine-credit dissertation divided into an integrative examination, a dissertation proposal, and a dissertation, which must involve a research-based solution to a practical ministry problem. Upon conclusion of the degree, graduates are ready to assume roles as coaches, consultants, marketplace ministry leaders, or parachurch executives.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

George Fox University 

Newberg, OR Apply Now

About this school

A historically Quaker institution, GFU sits in Newburgh, a town located south of Portland, Oregon. The university has nearly 4,000 students at its main and satellite campuses, and online programs. The school offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, including a doctor of ministry through its Portland Seminary. Students can enroll in three doctoral tracks — leadership and spiritual formation, semiotics and future studies, and leadership and global perspectives.

These online ministry doctoral degrees combine face-to-face learning experiences with an online component. GFU's D.Min. students take advantage of a cohort-based community, a lead mentor, individual mentoring, and customizable research. Those students enrolled in the D.Min. in leadership and global perspectives learn in intensive courses in Cape Town, Hong Kong, and London; students in the semiotics and future studies doctorate sit under renowned futurologist Dr. Leonard Sweet. Each 36-credit track takes 15 to 20 hours of study per week and three years to complete. Courses include global concerns in spirituality and leadership, developing leadership strategies with theological perspectives, and global spiritual identity. Students finish the program with a dissertation, completing an applied research topic such as reaching millennials, technology and ministry, or global ministry trends in church and nonprofit sectors.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Drew University 

Madison, NJ Apply Now

About this school

Located in Madison, New Jersey, Drew maintains a theological affiliation with the United Methodist Church though it makes no religious demands of its learners. The university's more than 2,000 students pursue degrees in 31 undergraduate areas and multiple graduate disciplines, including six degrees in The Drew Theological School, established in 1867.

Graduate theological students at Drew can pursue a doctor of ministry with a concentration in courageous leadership in a changing culture. This online ministry doctoral degree is one of four D.Min. concentrations at Drew. Applicants should hold an M.Div., though a two-year master's degree may be acceptable. Drew also expects applicants to show three years of ministry experience and current involvement in a ministry context. Students may enroll in spring or summer terms. Mixing online and in-person courses, this doctorate requires 30 credits, including 18 for coursework and 12 for theologically reflective and ministry-specific research. As part of the program, students write an essay that demonstrates an ability to think theologically and biblically. Using that paper as a basis, students then complete a second research project focused on a contextual issue.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Faulkner University 

Montgomery, AL Apply Now

About this school

Faulkner University, a higher education institution affiliated with the Churches of Christ, sits on a 74-acre campus in Montgomery, Alabama. The university's more than 3,500 students earn bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in humanities, religion, social sciences, and more. Students can also pursue a law degree at Faulkner. Many programs are available online, including an experimental doctor of philosophy in biblical studies.

This online ministry doctoral degree equips academic scholars who wish to pursue careers in teaching, research, and diverse aspects of ministry. Key areas in the program's curriculum include theology, archaeology, religious history, biblical backgrounds, and biblical and related languages. This 54-credit degree program requires two foundational courses: biblical scholarship and Christian ministry and advanced studies in biblical hermeneutics. Students also take six core courses and six electives. The program ends with a 12-credit dissertation. Students must also pass language examinations in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic and demonstrate competency in a secondary research language such as German, French, or Latin. It takes most students four to five years to complete the degree program. Admission standards include a master's degree in biblical studies with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Anderson University 

Anderson, SC Apply Now

About this school

Located in Anderson, South Carolina, AU is a private, comprehensive university associated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. AU's nearly 3,500 students pursue degrees in more than 60 academic areas, including art, music, education, and Christian studies. The university also offers a doctor of ministry in biblical preaching.

AU's doctor of ministry degree online serves pastors and other church leaders who desire to improve their leadership and preaching skills. This D.Min. is a research degree with a secondary focus on practical ministry. Only 15 students per year gain admission to AU's D.Min. program in order to maintain high standards of quality instruction and participation. The program's hybrid approach involves independent and online study, three event-based seminars, three week-long seminars, developing and implementing a significant ministry project, and a dissertation. Students must complete 35 credits to earn their D.Min. degrees. Courses include historical, theological and practical foundations preaching in the 21st century; creativity in ministry practices; and issues and trends in biblical preaching. Students also participate in an online sermon colloquia and two-day project methodology workshop. In addition to evidence of an M.Div. and three years of ministry experience, students must submit a video of themselves preaching to qualify for admission.

Graduation Rate
Online Enrollment

Lexington Theological Seminary 

Lexington, KY Apply Now

About this school

LTS offers three master's degrees and a doctor of ministry degree online. The school is located near Lexington, Kentucky and is affiliated with the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), sharing physical space with Baptist Seminary of Kentucky and Georgetown College, a Baptist-related higher education institution. Despite these strong ties, nearly 50% of its approximately 80 students come from outside its own faith tradition.

The doctoral program at LTS equips men and women serving in pastoral ministry to engage contemporary culture with the transformational power of the gospel. The D.Min. operates on a cohort model in which a group of students move together through the program's curriculum. At the program's conclusion, students should be able to integrate classic theological study with analysis of contemporary culture, understand approaches for reimaging organizations, and lead organizational change. The program's 30 required credits divide into 10 credits of required courses, 12 credits of electives, and eight credits of a final course and doctoral project. Coursework includes interpreting contemporary congregational contexts, interpreting the resources of the faith for contemporary contexts, and leading congregations through adaptive change, and students must divide their electives between practical and classical disciplines. In the final project, doctoral students review a question, problem, or issue related to mission and ministry in contemporary church and society. The project's methodology must employ reflection-action-reflection, and its approaches rely on congregational analysis, cultural analysis, theological reflection, and leadership through adaptive change.


End of list, bravo!

Choosing an Online Doctorate in Ministry Program

A learner who pursues an online ministry doctoral degree can customize their classes. They can choose to focus on areas like evangelism, biblical studies, applied theology, children's ministry, theological research, or pastoral counseling. Even programs without concentrations allow students to focus on a specific career. Degree candidates can choose from electives, including the psychology of religion, growing a church, theological improv, and spirituality in today's society. Degree candidates who want to study any of these areas should check course availability before enrolling. Researching a school is especially important for those who want to be pastoral counselors. Students should also consider programs that can ordain them in their denomination. Applicants may need to check with both church officials and university representatives to determine ordainment.

Many schools that offer ministry programs require students to attend church and grow in their faith. As such, it is important for learners to choose a school that aligns with their spiritual beliefs. Admission requirements also affect which university an applicant attends. For example, an institution that offers an online ministry doctoral degree may only accept applicants who have a master's degree in a related subject and pastoral experience.

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

Each online ministry doctoral degree may look different based on student preferences and what each university offers. Ministry programs; however, often have commonalities. Students may find that many schools provide similar concentrations and courses. Below, are some of the specializations and classes that degree candidates encounter.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Doctoral Degree in Ministry

Curriculum for an Online Doctoral Degree in Ministry

  • Communities of Faith:
    This course teaches students to form a church where members can grow in their faith. Learners discover how to gain disciples and strengthen existing communities.
  • Faith in Today's Culture:
    This course considers the role of religion in a changing society. Learners in these classes place their faith in historical and societal contexts. They learn to address local and global issues with spiritual principles.
  • Christian Spiritual Formation:
    This course examines the history of biblical principles. Degree candidates learn how different sects of Christianity began and what differentiates belief systems.
  • Theological Foundations of Ministry:
    Learners in these courses study the religious principles that guide ministers in their religions. For example, biblical students learn about the Christian tenants of church leadership.
  • Thesis Seminar:
    A doctor of ministry degree often requires students to complete a thesis project. Learners use this time to research specific areas of ministry, become experts, and prepare to defend their theories.

Careers with a Doctorate in Ministry

Although a doctorate in ministry is a specialized degree, graduates have many career paths. Learners with this educational background can become senior pastors, church executive directors, or college professors. Students may select electives based on the career they prefer.

  1. Senior Pastor:
    These spiritual leaders give sermons and lead ministries at churches. They may have other pastors that work under them, or they may be the only ministers at their congregations. Senior pastors at larger churches tend to earn more than their peers. They may work for any Protestant Christian sect, including Baptist and Presbyterian.
    • Median Annual Salary: $57,525
    • Projected Growth Rate: Not available
  2. Executive Director:
    Since churches are often nonprofit organizations, they need business-minded and spiritually guided leaders to help them succeed. Executive directors oversee all church activities, from spiritual guidance to fundraising. A doctorate can help directors learn to grow congregations. Learners who want to follow this path may choose business-related electives.
    • Median Annual Salary: $76,167
    • Projected Growth Rate: Not available
  3. Postsecondary Teachers:
    University faculty members teach classes in ministry and theology. Professors can specialize in certain areas, often a subject that relates to their thesis project. Many colleges and universities require postsecondary teachers to have a doctorate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that this profession will grow much faster than the average career.
    • Median Annual Salary: $76,000
    • Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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