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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.

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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

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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
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $20770

    Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke has earned a reputation as one of the world's top research universities. Founded by Methodists and Quakers, Duke now boasts a nonsectarian identity but maintains ongoing ties with the United Methodist Church. Among Duke's 12 schools and institutes is a divinity school, which offers a myriad of seminary-style degrees including a doctor of ministry degree online.

    Duke's D.Min. program engages Christian lay leaders and pastors in theological reflection for practical ministry through distance education courses and five week-long, onsite seminars. The on-campus components typically take place in January, May, and August. This three-year program accepts 20 new students each year. Learners pay tuition for the first two years, and in the third year, they only pay a continuation fee of approximately $650. Once enrolled, students take courses from world-renowned theological scholars such as Lauren Winner, Will Willimon, and Stephen Chapman. Coursework explores leadership in Old and New Testament contexts. Students conclude the program by researching and writing a thesis, a faculty-directed independent research project that makes a significant contribution to the larger church.

  2. Boston University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $30047

    Historically affiliated with the United Methodist Church but now operating as a nonsectarian research university, BU sits in the heart of Boston. BU maintains an enrollment of more than 33,000 students pursuing degrees in 17 schools and colleges, including the School of Theology, which serves as a United Methodist seminary. Among BU's theology programs is an online ministry doctoral degree for religious leaders in traditional and nontraditional settings.

    BU's D.Min. offers a single academic track in transformational leadership. Students take classes through a combination of online study and intensive, one-week seminars on campus. These in-person courses take place in August and January each year. The D.Min. degree requires 32 credits broken into four intensive seminars, three cohort courses, one elective course, and a four-credit thesis. Courses include transformational leadership, contextual-theological analysis, and research methods. Electives can come from the disciplines of music, world religions, Hebrew scriptures, church history, or ethics. A student's thesis focuses on researching opportunities for transformation of a practical problem. Student scholars can take advantage of BU's diverse and well-regarded theology faculty, including experts in practical theology, United Methodist studies, and religious education. Most students can complete the D.Min. in three to four years but may take no more than five years.

  3. Emory University
    Location

    Atlanta, GA

    Tuition

    $26399

    A private research university in Atlanta, Georgia, Emory began in 1836 as an educational ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Today the university maintains its affiliation with the United Methodist Church, but has grown to an enrollment of more than 15,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate schools, including the Candler School of Theology. Emory's graduate theological school serves as an approved seminary for the United Methodist Church and offers a variety of academic programs, including a doctor of ministry degree online.

    Students who have completed an M.Div. and three years of successful ministry may apply to study in one of two D.Min. tracks: church leadership and community witness and biblical interpretation and proclamation. Both programs require 32 credits, including online coursework and four short on-campus stays. Students must take a course on strategies and resources for online learning, six additional courses and related colloquies, and a final project. Courses include reflective practice, ecclesiologies in action, and cultivating church leadership and witness. In the final project, students design an innovative ministry practice that builds upon their academic study. Recent projects include the decline and possible revitalization of Wednesday evening suppers in a local church context, how to help African-American congregations become a more hospitable environment, especially to visitors, and studying and implementing a program of contemplative prayer in a local church.

  4. Summit University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Clarks Summit, PA

    Tuition

    $16378

    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.

  5. Luther Rice University & Seminary
    Location

    Lithonia, GA

    Tuition

    $15229

    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.

  6. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $23634

    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.

  7. Indiana Wesleyan University
    Location

    Marion, IN

    Tuition

    $24741

    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.

  8. Catholic University of America
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $33125

    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.

  9. Bethel University
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    Tuition

    $23379

    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.

  10. North Greenville University
    Location

    Tigerville, SC

    Tuition

    $21101

    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.

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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