An online associate in ministry prepares students for Christian-based careers like minister of a small church and director of youth ministry in the U.S. or abroad. Ministry programs offer students strong philanthropic skills that are useful in religious contexts, such as local churches, and in secular contexts, such as international relief organizations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for jobs in ministry is projected to grow 5% to 8% between 2014 and 2024, which is an average rate of growth. While this degree is a good first step toward earning your master of divinity or theology and becoming a Christian minister, there are also several entry-level opportunities for graduates with associate degrees in this field.

What are the best ministry programs of 2020?
Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 City Vision University Kansas City, MO
2 Grace College of Divinity Fayetteville, NC
3 Maranatha Baptist University Watertown, WI
4 Johnson University Knoxville, TN
5 Valor Christian College Columbus, OH
6 The King's University Southlake, TX
7 University of Valley Forge Phoenixville, PA
8 Southeastern University Lakeland, FL
9 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, MN
10 Amridge University Montgomery, AL

What's the Difference Between a Ministry, Theology, and Divinity Degree?

While ministry, theology, and divinity degrees are often referred to interchangeably, these degrees are actually separate programs. An associate in ministry is designed for individuals who are interested in supportive work in Christian churches and organizations. This degree provides students with a foundation in ministry, but it does not prepare them for pastoral ordination. A master of divinity degree takes about four to five years to complete and is typically designed for individuals interested in pastoral work; many Christian denominations require pastors to hold an MDiv degree. A bachelor or master of theology involves a more academic approach and features studies in church history, hermeneutics, theology, apologetics, and global studies.

Ministry

Associate and bachelor's degrees in ministry provide students with the basic skills needed to work with Christian churches and organizations. This degree does not prepare students for ordination, although many graduates with ministry degrees continue their education and earn divinity or theology degrees. Ministry classes include biblical studies and youth and student ministries.

Possible Careers: Graduates with this degree earn positions as relief workers, missionaries, youth pastors, nonprofit workers, and directors of church groups and Christian organizations.

Divinity

A master of divinity is a four to five year program that prepares students to be ordinated in a Christian church and to meet the leadership needs of Christian communities. Typical courses in this program include biblical studies, global and community engagement, and history of Christianity.

Possible Careers: This degree prepares individuals for careers as pastors, bishops, or higher education teachers. It also prepares them for secular careers in public arena advocacy, teaching, and counseling.

Theology

A bachelor or master of theology provides students with academic knowledge through the study of church history, global issues, and language. This degree often involves more extensive academic research, analysis, and writing than divinity or ministry degrees. Typical classes in theology programs include introduction to Islam and biblical Greek and Hebrew.

Possible Careers: A theology degree prepares individuals for careers as pastors, high school teachers, college professors, missionaries, and journalists.

2020 Best Accredited Online Associate in Ministry Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

City Vision University

Kansas City, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 100%

City Vision University's online associate degree in ministry and leadership prepares students for careers in ministry, nonprofit services, and urban missions. The 60-credit program builds students' competencies in biblical interpretation, theology, achieving a good work/life balance, and overcoming challenges like addiction and mental health issues.

Students must complete at least 15 of the 60 total credits at City Vision — with a minimum 2.0 GPA — to graduate with an associate in ministry degree. More than 70% of graduates work in the nonprofit or ministry sectors.

To apply, prospective students must provide a copy of their high school diploma or GED certificate, along with a copy of a government-issued ID card. All ministry students pay the same tuition, regardless of their state residency.

2

Grace College of Divinity

Fayetteville, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

GCD offers an online associate in worship ministry degree featuring vocal and instrumental training. The program also fosters students' leadership and communication skills, while helping them learn to incorporate a biblical worldview into their daily lives.

The 60-credit program allows students to take a variety of electives based on their interests and ministry goals. These courses include songwriting, music theory, infused leadership, and mentoring and coaching.

Applicants to this associate in ministry program must provide a copy of their high school diploma or GED certificate. Full-time students typically graduate in two years. Students may also take in-person courses at GCD's campuses in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Broussard, Louisiana; Pearl City, Hawaii; or Southern Pines, North Carolina. The school holds accreditation from the Association of Christian Schools International.

3

Maranatha Baptist University

Watertown, WI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

MBU's online associate degree in Christian ministry allows students to examine their faith and learn how they can use it to help others in church, mission, Christian camp, and nonprofit settings.

The program features a balance of Christian ministry, biblical studies, and liberal arts courses. In addition to helping students move into ministry-focused vocations, the program allows graduates to seamlessly move into an online bachelor's degree at MBU.

Eligible applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED certificate and show a track record of academic success. They must also actively attend a Bible-preaching church and testify to achieving personal salvation in the name of Jesus Christ.

Most students complete the 64-credit program within two years. All learning takes place online using an asynchronous format.

4

Johnson University

Knoxville, TN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 63%

JUTN delivers an associate in ministry leadership focused on cultural awareness, pastoral leadership, communication skills, and addressing challenges and opportunities through a biblical worldview.

Students can complete the program online or at one of the school's campuses in Tennessee or Florida. All online classes feature an asynchronous structure, and most students complete the degree in two years.

Course topics cover foundations like the New and Old Testaments, exegetical methods, interpersonal and family relationships, and spiritual formation. Students also engage in a service learning experience to demonstrate their discipleship. Qualified applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate.

5

Valor Christian College

Columbus, OH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

VCC Online offers an associate degree in ministry that empowers distance learners to apply general and biblical knowledge to a variety of vocational and service opportunities in church, missionary, and nonprofit environments.

The 63-credit program features all online coursework. Guided elective options include courses that cover the life of Christ, Bible study methods, theology, Christian ethics, and strategies for youth ministry.

To apply, prospective students must submit their high school and/or college transcripts, along with a personal statement and recommendation from the current pastor of their primary church. Applicants should also provide a summary of volunteer, prayer group, music, leadership, and mission trip activities they have completed in the past. VCC is located in Columbus, Ohio.

6

The King's University

Southlake, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 33%

Located in Southlake, Texas, TKU delivers an online associate degree in Christian ministries. Participants can seek spiritual enrichment, explore scripture, and take a deep dive into the church's teachings and doctrines.

The 65-credit program's curriculum features classes on biblical interpretation, biblical counseling, marriage and family dynamics, the life of Jesus, and Pentecostal charismatic movements. Students also take several general education classes to earn a well-rounded educational experience.

Eligible applicants must hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Prospective students should also provide official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Full-time students typically earn their associate in ministry degree within two years. The school offers the same tuition rate to in-state and out-of-state learners.

7

University of Valley Forge

Phoenixville, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

UVF offers an online associate degree in ministry leadership that teaches students knowledge about church outreach, administration, and ministry, while also strengthening their understanding of the Bible.

Students choose to follow a track in children's studies, youth and family studies, or pastoral studies. The 60-credit program includes foundational classes on theology, life formation, and the teachings of C.S. Lewis. Required courses are combined with electives based on a student's concentration.

All online courses use an asynchronous format, enabling students to learn mostly on their own schedules. The program features 14-week terms, and full-time students can graduate within two years.

To apply, prospective students must submit proof that they hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. VFU is located in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

8

Southeastern University

Lakeland, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 42%

SEU's online associate degree in ministerial leadership focuses on church operations and administration. Students also develop a foundational understanding of the Bible. The program prepares individuals to serve in ministry, missions, and faith-based nonprofit organizations.

The 60-credit program features an asynchronous learning format, allowing students to complete assignments largely on their own time. Learners take a total of 20 classes on subjects like holistic disciple making, theology of salvation, and foundations of family ministry.

Applicants to this associate in ministry program must provide their official high school and/or college transcripts, a personal reference form, a biographical essay, and ACT or SAT scores. SEU is located in Lakeland, Florida. All students pay the same tuition, even if they live out of state.

9

Crown College

Saint Bonifacius, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 52%

Crown developed its online Christian ministry associate program for individuals with little to no postsecondary experience. The degree prepares students to serve with churches, youth programs, nonprofits, and para-church ministries, while also instilling the ability to incorporate Christian values into an individual's daily life.

Faculty deliver online courses asynchronously. Students take classes on topics like systematic theology, interpreting the Gospels, biblical literature, and ethical faith-based leadership practices. A course on world missions explores the history and current trends influencing cross-cultural missions, as well as the challenges facing global faith communities.

Crown — located in Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota — allows associate students to transition into a bachelor's in Christian ministry program. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate.

10

Amridge University

Montgomery, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 40%

Amridge University delivers an associate in ministry and the Bible program that prepares students for careers in ministry and missionary work. Graduates can also transition into a bachelor's program. Students who earn this associate degree learn to create a framework for integrating Christian values into their daily routines.

Students complete 64 credits, taking classes on biblical interpretation, the establishment of the church, how to study the Bible, and ecclesiastical history. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate.

Eligible applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, while also demonstrating a commitment to the Christian faith. Amridge's campus is located in Montgomery, Alabama.

What Will I Learn in an Online Ministry Program?

Classes, assignments, and skills acquired will vary depending on the program and school you choose for your online associate in ministry degree. However, below you can find a sample curriculum for this degree.

  • Introduction to the Old Testament: This class examines the Old Testament through the lens of contemporary ministry. The course prepares students for work as Christian teachers, ministry directors, missionaries, and other Christian organization leaders.
  • Church History: This course offers a survey of the movements and ideas that have influenced and formed the Christian church. Students will gain the foundational knowledge necessary to eventually become ministers, missionaries, and other Christian leaders.
  • Systematic Theology: Offering a survey of the Christian belief system, this class considers a variety of perspectives on scripture but emphasizes those of the Christian church. The course prepares students for mission work and positions in other related fields.

What Can I Do With an Associate Degree in Ministry?

An associate degree in ministry prepares students for several occupational and educational paths. The degree provides students with a strong foundation in Christian teachings, and many students with associate degrees in ministry continue their studies and earn degrees in divinity or theology. While most graduates with this degree work in Christian fields and eventually become ministry directors or pastors, many graduates also work in secular fields, such as counseling, teaching, and nonprofit work. It is common for students with associate degrees in ministry to work as Peace Corps volunteers. This degree is a good fit for individuals who are already active in their churches and are interested in Christian leadership positions or Christian-based global nonprofit work. This degree is also fitting for individuals who have a gift for public speaking and teaching, are driven by a sense of personal calling rather than by a desire for financial success, and are interested in humanitarian work.

Youth Pastor

Youth pastors work with a church or Christian organization's youth population through outreach and other activities. These Christian leaders are responsible for organizing meetings, mission trips, fundraisers, and classes for middle school, high school and college students.

Median Annual Salary: $34,996

Relief Worker

Relief workers typically work on the frontlines of recovering from natural or manmade disasters. Duties for this occupation include providing emergency aid, coordinating volunteers, and communicating with government agencies.

Median Annual Salary: $38,326

Director of Ministry

A director of ministry works as a leader in one of many specialized areas, including children's, ministry, single's, and senior adult ministry. Ministry directors perform management, administrative, and project management tasks.

Median Annual Salary: $41,773

EDUCATIONAL PATHS

An associate degree in ministry is a strong first step towards formal Christian training. Many individuals earn their associate ministry degrees in order to supplement their secular careers with leadership work in their church. Students who earn an online associate degree in ministry often transfer to a bachelor's program, which can make them more competitive candidates for jobs in ministry, worship, church leadership, education, and nonprofit work. A bachelor's degree in ministry also prepares students to earn a master of theology or divinity. Below are a few common degrees that individuals with an associate in ministry pursue.

  • Bachelor's Degree in Ministry: A bachelor's in ministry allows students to complete advanced studies in Christian leadership skills. The degree emphasizes hands-on experiences in a church setting and the practical skills needed for global work and the knowledge of Christian belief systems.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Christian Counseling: This degree provides students with a foundation in counseling from a Christian perspective. The degree focuses on theories of psychology and Christian counseling methods and prepares students for nonclinical positions in counseling and psychology.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Biblical Studies: This degree involves a contextual and historical exploration of the Bible, including studies in the Old and New Testaments and in systematic theology. It prepares students for careers in advanced church ministry positions or for further studies in divinity and theology.

Salary Outlook for Associate in Ministry Graduates

The salary that you earn after receiving your associate in ministry depends on your position and employer. Graduates with ministry degrees often work in unpaid mission or relief work positions for a few years before moving on to paid positions. Below you can find information from PayScale for the median annual salaries for common ministry positions.

The salary you earn after earning your associate in ministry also depends on your level of experience and your location. Below, is a table with data from the BLS regarding the highest paying states for general clergy and ministry jobs. The table also features data regarding the estimated number of individuals working in clergy and ministry positions in each state.

State Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage Estimate of Employment
California $26.76 $55,670 5,210
New York $25.28 $52,570 8,490
Texas $24.48 $50,910 2,480
Oregon $22.69 $47,200 4,660
Michigan $20.31 $42,240 2,460

Financing Your Online Associate in Ministry Program

Students enrolled in online associate in ministry programs can access several scholarships and grants from local churches and Christian organizations. While certain churches only offer scholarships to members, other organizations offer scholarships to any Christian students or to students from certain denominations. The Cannon Endowment Scholarship, for example, is awarded to students who are members of the Presbyterian church, the United Methodist church, the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, or the United Church of Christ. In order to better understand federal funding opportunities, make sure you complete a FAFSA form.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.