The Best Online Doctorate in Ministry Programs

by TBS Staff Writers

Updated September 27, 2022

reviewed by TBS Rankings Team
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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.

Our Methodology

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Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

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The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

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The Best Online Doctorate in Ministry Degree Programs

#1

Duke University

School Information
Location Durham, North Carolina
Admission Rate 8%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Duke University offers an online ministry program for doctoral students. At the private university, degree-seekers participate in virtual classrooms to earn a doctorate in ministry. Doctoral students meet with career advisors and faculty mentors.

The online ministry program requires doctoral coursework. Doctoral candidates move through the program by passing exams and researching a dissertation project. A doctorate in ministry trains graduates for roles in research, academia, and leadership.

At the accredited institution, online doctoral students qualify for scholarships, federal loans, and other forms of financial aid. Contact the program to learn more about financial aid, enrollment options, and start dates.

Duke University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 997

Online Master's Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 6-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $55,680

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#2

Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The doctor of ministry in transformational leadership program at Boston University offers an online option for doctoral students. At the private university, degree-seekers participate in virtual classrooms to earn a doctorate. Doctoral students work closely with faculty mentors and career advisors.

The online ministry program requires doctoral coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates conduct research for their dissertation. A doctorate in ministry trains graduates for roles in research, academia, and leadership.

The accredited institution meets federal requirements for financial aid support. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about research support, financial aid opportunities, and admission requirements.

Boston University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 3,205

Online Master's Programs: 24

Online Doctoral Programs: 4

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $54,720

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#3

Emory University

School Information
Location Atlanta, Georgia
Admission Rate 16%
Graduation Rate 90%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The doctor of ministry program at Emory University appeals to doctoral students seeking an online route to their degree. The private university provides flexible enrollment options to meet the needs of diverse degree-seekers. Doctoral students strengthen their research skills and present at academic conferences.

The online ministry program requires doctoral coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates spend 1-2 years researching and writing their dissertation. As the terminal degree in ministry, the program prepares graduates for academic, research, and industry positions.

Doctoral students qualify for fellowships, scholarships, and federal financial aid programs at the accredited institution. Contact the program for more information about financial aid and the admission process.

Emory University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 1,426

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 9-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $42,800

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#4

Clarks Summit University

School Information
Location South Abington Township, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 41%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 64% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Doctoral students seeking an online ministry program benefit from the doctor of ministry program at Clarks Summit University. The private university helps degree-seekers complete a doctorate in a flexible format. Doctoral students receive research support throughout the program.

Learners take doctoral classes in the ministry program. Doctoral candidates advance in the program by passing comprehensive exams and writing an original dissertation. Graduates with a doctorate pursue roles in research, academia, and leadership.

Online doctoral students can pay for their degree with scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid. Contact the program for more information about financial aid and the admission process.

Clarks Summit University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 490

Online Master's Programs: 5

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $8,160

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#5

Luther Rice College & Seminary

School Information
Location Lithonia, Georgia
Admission Rate 50%
Graduation Rate 50%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Luther Rice College & Seminary offers a top-ranked online doctor of ministry program. At the private institution, degree-seekers complete a doctorate in a flexible environment. Doctoral students strengthen their research skills and present in academic conferences.

In the online ministry program, learners complete doctoral-level coursework. Doctoral candidates pass comprehensive examinations and conduct research for their dissertation. As the terminal degree in ministry, the doctoral program trains graduates for roles in academia, research, and industry.

Doctoral students who attend the accredited institution in an online format qualify for several types of financial aid. Contact the program to learn more about doctoral admission requirements.

Luther Rice College & Seminary at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 760

Online Master's Programs: 5

Online Doctoral Programs: 1

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $5,130

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#6

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Doctoral students seeking an online ministry program benefit from the doctor of ministry program at Liberty University. The private university helps degree-seekers complete a doctorate in a flexible format. Doctoral students strengthen their research skills and present in academic conferences.

During the online ministry program, learners take 30 credits of doctoral courses to earn their degree. Doctoral candidates pass comprehensive examinations and conduct research for their dissertation. Professionals with a ministry doctorate work in academia, research, and leadership roles.

At the accredited institution, doctoral students can use fellowships, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid to pay for their degree. Contact the ministry program for more information about doctoral admissions.

Liberty University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 78,511

Online Master's Programs: 67

Online Doctoral Programs: 9

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $7,980

Accepts Transfer Credits: Accepted

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#7

Indiana Wesleyan University

School Information
Location Marion, Indiana
Graduation Rate 38%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Doctoral students seeking an online program benefit from the ministry program at Indiana Wesleyan University. At the private university, degree-seekers participate in virtual classrooms to earn a doctorate. Doctoral students receive support services like career advising and research support.

In the online ministry program, graduate learners take advanced courses. After meeting coursework requirements, doctoral candidates conduct research and defend an original dissertation that contributes to the field. A doctorate in ministry trains graduates for roles in research, academia, and leadership.

Doctoral students pay for the program with federal financial aid, fellowships, and scholarships. Contact the program for more information about financial aid and the admission process.

Indiana Wesleyan University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 11,075

Online Master's Programs: 29

Online Doctoral Programs: 3

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $11,083

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#8

The Catholic University of America

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 72%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 13% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The doctor of ministry in spirituality program at The Catholic University of America offers a flexible route to a doctorate. Degree-seekers benefit from flexible course options through the private institution. Doctoral students receive research support, library access, and career advising.

Learners complete doctoral coursework in the online ministry program. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates propose a dissertation topic and conduct research in their specialty area. With a doctorate, graduates work in academia, research positions, and leadership roles.

Doctoral students qualify for fellowships, scholarships, and federal financial aid programs at the accredited institution. Contact the ministry program for more information about financial aid and the admission process.

The Catholic University of America at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 738

Online Master's Programs: 8

Online Doctoral Programs: 3

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $48,000

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#9

Bethel University

School Information
Location Saint Paul, Minnesota
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 73%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The doctor of ministry program at Bethel University appeals to doctoral students seeking an online route to their degree. At the private institution, degree-seekers complete a doctorate in a flexible environment. Doctoral students strengthen their research skills and present in academic conferences.

In the online ministry program, learners take doctoral-level courses. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates complete a dissertation that contributes original research to the field. A doctorate in ministry prepares graduates for careers in academia, research, and leadership.

Doctoral students attending the accredited institution online qualify for several forms of financial aid. Contact the program for more information about research support and financial aid.

Bethel University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 1,569

Online Master's Programs: 12

Online Doctoral Programs: 6

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $11,700

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#10

North Greenville University

School Information
Location Tigerville, South Carolina
Admission Rate 63%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The D.Min. program at North Greenville University offers a doctorate in ministry in an online learning format. With flexible enrollment options, the private school helps degree-seekers earn a doctorate. Doctoral students receive research support throughout the program.

In the online ministry program, graduate learners complete advanced classes. The program also requires passing scores on a comprehensive examination and the successful defense of an original dissertation project. With a doctorate in ministry, graduates pursue academic, research, and industry roles.

Online doctoral students at the accredited institution pay for their degree with scholarships, fellowships, and loans. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about research support, financial aid opportunities, and admission requirements.

North Greenville University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 396

Online Master's Programs: 11

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $10,800

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#11

Fordham University

School Information
Location Bronx, New York
Admission Rate 46%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online doctor of ministry program at Fordham University ranks as one of the best degrees in the field. Degree-seekers benefit from flexible course options through the private institution. Doctoral students conduct research and participate in academic conferences.

The doctoral program incorporates advanced coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates begin working on an original dissertation project. A doctorate leads to job opportunities in research, academia, and leadership.

Doctoral students pay for the program with federal financial aid, fellowships, and scholarships. Prospective applicants can contact the program for more about financial aid and admission requirements.

Fordham University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 2,097

Online Master's Programs: 12

Online Doctoral Programs: 1

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $34,608

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#12

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

School Information
Location Waxahachie, Texas
Admission Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 45%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online ministry program at Southwestern Assemblies of God University ranks among the best in the field. At the private institution, degree-seekers complete a doctorate in a flexible environment. Doctoral students receive research support throughout the program.

During the online ministry program, learners take doctoral courses to earn their degree. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates complete a dissertation that contributes original research to the field. A doctorate in ministry prepares graduates for careers in academia, research, and leadership.

Online doctoral students at the accredited institution qualify for several forms of financial aid. Reach out to the program to learn more about admission requirements.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 1,440

Online Master's Programs: 16

Online Doctoral Programs: 1

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $10,710

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#13

Lancaster Bible College

School Information
Location Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 96%
Graduation Rate 62%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The D.Min. program at Lancaster Bible College offers a flexible route to a doctorate. The private university provides flexible enrollment options for degree-seekers. Doctoral students participate in career counseling and benefit from research support.

The online ministry program requires doctoral coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates begin working on an original dissertation project. A doctorate leads to job opportunities in research, academia, and leadership.

The accredited institution meets federal requirements for financial aid support. Contact the ministry program for more information about doctoral admissions.

Lancaster Bible College at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 550

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $10,440

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#14

Southern California Seminary

School Information
Location El Cajon, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
Percent Online Enrollment 74% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Southern California Seminary offers a doctor of ministry program with an online learning format. At the private university, degree-seekers participate in virtual classroom work to earn a doctorate. Doctoral students receive research support and participate in scholarly events.

In the online program, learners take advanced doctoral coursework in ministry. After completing coursework, doctoral candidates conduct research for their dissertation or doctoral project. As the terminal degree in ministry, the doctoral program trains graduates for roles in academia, research, and industry.

Doctoral students who enroll online at the accredited institution qualify for fellowships, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid. Reach out to the ministry program to learn more about the application process and start dates.

Southern California Seminary at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 130

Online Master's Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 8-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $15,588

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#15

Regent University

School Information
Location Virginia Beach, Virginia
Admission Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 57%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The doctor of ministry in leadership and spiritual formation program at Regent University offers an online option for doctoral students. With its flexible format, the private university helps degree-seekers complete a doctorate. Doctoral students participate in career counseling and benefit from research support.

In the online ministry program, graduate learners complete advanced classes. Doctoral candidates advance in the program by passing comprehensive exams and writing an original dissertation. Graduates with a ministry doctorate pursue roles in research, academia, and leadership.

At the accredited institution, doctoral students can use fellowships, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid to pay for their degree. Reach out to the ministry program to learn more about transfer credit policies, research support, and admission requirements.

Regent University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 9,507

Online Master's Programs: 37

Online Doctoral Programs: 12

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 29-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $15,552

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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.

Accredited Online Schools

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.
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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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