Types of Ministry Degrees

Two individuals reading Bibles.

Pastors play a critical role in Christian religious organizations. They instruct their congregations on scripture, provide spiritual guidance to church members, and lead church organizations. Today, 80% of clergy hold a college degree, according to CareerOneStop, a resource from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

While earning a ministry degree is an important step for many individuals interested in becoming pastors, ministers, and chaplains, it also can lead to educational, counseling, and administrative roles in religious and nonreligious organizations. But what types of ministry degrees can faith-driven students earn? 

What Is a Ministry Degree?

Ministry degree programs are designed to educate students about theology, scripture, and church leadership. They also seek to strengthen students’ general leadership, counseling, and teaching skills. Many ministry programs offer specializations in areas such as youth and family ministry, pastoral care, and church leadership.

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in ministry emphasize textual analysis, interpersonal communication, and public speaking. They also help students develop critical reasoning and conflict resolution skills.

Earning a ministry degree helps prepare students for pastoral leadership roles, including as pastors, youth pastors, ministers, or chaplains. With a ministry degree, graduates can also pursue educational or administrative roles in church organizations, including as religious activities directors, church teachers, or missionaries. 

4 Types of Ministry Degrees

Students interested in earning a ministry degree can choose from several options. At the undergraduate level, a bachelor’s program in ministry, theology, or Christian leadership can provide students with foundational skills in scriptural analysis, pastoral care, and church leadership. A master’s degree in ministry program offers advanced coursework in ministry studies, often with an emphasis on practical applications.

Following are descriptions of four types of ministry degrees.

1. Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry

Ministers and pastors typically need to have at least a bachelor’s degree. According to CareerOneStop, 26% of clery hold a bachelor’s degree. Common majors for ministers include Christian ministries, Christian leadership, and theology. 

In a ministry bachelor’s program, students take courses in theology, Christian scripture, and church leadership. Programs also incorporate general education requirements that strengthen students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students can customize their degree with elective courses.

Common courses in a bachelor’s degree in ministry program include:

  • Ministry Foundations: Students examine the role of ministers in the church while developing core skills in religious leadership, public speaking, and pastoral care. 
  • Leadership Formation: Students explore leadership principles and develop their personal leadership style. Topics covered generally include inspiration, leadership styles, and servant leadership.
  • Christian Theology: Students study biblical scripture and the interpretation of religious texts, with a focus on Christian living and applying scripture to daily life. 

Earning a bachelor’s in ministry prepares students for careers as ministers, pastors, and church leaders. Graduates with a ministry degree also can pursue educational or administrative roles in religious organizations.

2. Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Leadership

While many prospective ministers major in ministry, theology, or religious studies, some choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Christian leadership, which combines theological study with coursework on leadership skills. 

In a Christian leadership degree program, students explore pastoral care, leadership approaches, and congregational leadership. Depending on the program, students may have the option to choose a concentration in an area such as children’s ministry, youth ministry, pastoral care, or Christian worship. 

Common courses in a bachelor’s in Christian leadership program include the following:

  • Pastoral Ministry: Students examine key components of faithful pastoral ministry, including congregational leadership skills and the importance of personal spiritual formation.
  • Leadership Principles: Students investigate components of successful leadership, with an emphasis on Christian leadership and developing a personal leadership style. 
  • Sermon Preparation: Students develop practical skills in sermon preparation by examining sermons and creating their own sermons.

With a bachelor’s in Christian leadership, graduates meet the educational requirements for many ministerial roles. They also are prepared to pursue opportunities as youth pastors or religious organization directors.

3. Master’s Degree in Ministry

A master’s degree is the most common level of education for clergy, as 36% of clergy members hold a master’s degree, according to CareerOneStop. Earning a graduate credential such as a Master of Ministry degree can strengthen a student’s pastoral and leadership skills.

In a Master of Ministry program, students explore spiritual formation, church history, and preaching techniques. They also can develop strategic planning and organizational leadership skills. Many programs incorporate a practicum to apply classroom knowledge in real-world church settings. 

Common courses in a Master of Ministry program include the following:

  • Family Ministry: Students learn how to develop and deliver church programs centered on family life, including family structures and the needs of families in the community. 
  • Homiletics: Students strengthen their textual analysis and sermon preparation skills in a course focused on preaching and sermonic form. 
  • Biblical Leadership: Students examine leadership teachings based on biblical principles, including morals and ethics for those working in ministry. 

Graduates with a master’s degree in ministry pursue opportunities as pastors, lay leaders, and church directors.

4. Master’s Degree in Ministry Leadership

Ministry careers require strong leadership skills. Earning a master’s degree focused on ministry leadership, such as a Master of Arts in Leadership with a Ministry Leadership Emphasis, enables students to explore leadership theory, organizational change, and teaching skills with a focus on spiritual callings. 

While both master’s in ministry and master’s in ministry leadership programs help students strengthen their ministerial skills, a ministry leadership degree program can include additional coursework focused on organizational leadership. 

Common courses in a master’s degree in ministry leadership program include the following:

  • Theology: Students survey the development of Christian theology, including different theological approaches. 
  • Leadership Theory: Students examine the role of leaders within organizations, with a focus on developing a leadership style and applying leadership skills. 
  • Change Leadership: Students explore the role of leaders in guiding organizations through changes, including building support among stakeholders, organizational planning, and implementing new processes.

Earning a master’s degree in ministry leadership prepares students for careers as pastors, church administrators, and religious educators. 

Earn a Ministry Degree at Mid-America Christian University

Earning a ministry degree can help you launch your career as an impactful servant leader. Students who feel called to ministry roles can choose from one of several types of ministry degrees at Mid-America Christian University’s School of Ministry, which offers certificates and bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in various ministry concentrations.

Designed for those eager to amplify their faith and kindness in the world, MACU’s online programs include a Bachelor of Science in Christian Ministries, a Master of Ministry, and a Master of Arts in Leadership with a Ministry Leadership Emphasis. MACU also offers a Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership at its campus in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that emphasizes Christian leadership skills. Contact MACU today to learn which of our ministry degree programs is right for you.