What Is a Ministry Associate Degree?
Ministry degrees provide essential knowledge and skills to individuals on a path to serve the church. Similar to programs in theology and divinity, ministry degrees explore Christian doctrine and teachings. MInistry programs train students to support the church by working with congregates and the general public. Through communication and liberal arts coursework, learners develop techniques to spread Christian teachings to individuals of various cultural, social, and religious backgrounds.
Suitable for students who want to enter the ministry, an associate degree in ministry also allows current church workers to advance in their careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clergy and religious workers — including include youth pastors, missionaries, and pastoral social workers — are projected to experience 5-6% growth in employment between 2018 and 2028.
The flexibility and convenience of an online ministry program gives students the opportunity to follow their calling while working full time and maintaining personal obligations. Individuals who are removed from the church and hoping to return to their faith, as well as those looking to serve Christ professionally can explore Christian teachings at a pace that meets their needs.
Why Earn an Online Ministry Degree?
Online ministry degrees offer many professional and personal benefits to students. Programs deepen students' understanding of Christian teaching and practice while bringing together like-minded learners and instructors.
- Communication Skills
An online ministry degree incorporates classes in public speaking, rhetoric, and interpersonal communication. Students develop skills to communicate Christian ideas and concepts while learning to interact with individuals and groups in religious and secular contexts.
- Biblical Understanding
Online ministry degrees explore specific books of the Bible, taking students through deep analyses and assessments of their contents. Learners gain insights into Old and New Testament teachings for their own understanding and so they can pass along Christian teachings to others.
As students study the Bible and communication techniques, ministry programs also introduce learners to different faiths, ethnicities, and cultures. Students learn to interact with individuals from all backgrounds and contexts.
- Spiritual Development
Online ministry degrees build biblical and theological understanding to prepare students for roles as ministers and missionaries. This process also affords learners the opportunity to better understand their own spirituality and its influence on their daily lives.
- Personal Fulfillment
Individuals pursuing an online ministry degree enhance their spiritual understanding and gain skills to spread faith-based ideas and concepts. These programs offer fulfilment to Christians who are called to the ministry as they explore their personal relationship with Christ.
Career and Salary Potential With an Associate Degree in Ministry
An associate degree in ministry prepares students for careers as Christian teachers, aid workers, and leaders. While no degree guarantees a particular career or salary, potential occupational paths for ministry students include youth ministry, faith-based counseling, and religious education.
Individuals with an associate degree in ministry may also find jobs with nonprofits or engage in humanitarian work. Many ministry students volunteer with organizations such as the Peace Corps, as well.
Median Annual Salary: $38,000
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2019): N/A
|Many youth pastor positions require individuals to have a bachelor's degree, but an associate degree may suffice. Youth pastors discuss Christian doctrine, teachings, and theology with children and adolescents in a church setting. Youth pastors also develop, implement, and oversee programs to engage young Christians.|
Median Annual Salary: $47,000
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2019): N/A
|An associate pastor works with a senior pastor, providing support and assisting in ministerial duties. An associate pastor may oversee youth or educational programs within a large congregation. Associate pastors also interact with members of the congregation and the general public, visiting them at their homes, at hospitals, or in residential facilities.|
Median Annual Salary: $39,000
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2019): N/A
|A church administrator oversees a church's operations, finances, and programs. Church administers handle church budgets and keep track of contributions and income. They also assist pastors and other clergy members in developing Bible study programs, publications, and newsletters. Additionally, they may schedule the use of church facilities.|
|Social and Human Service Assistant||
Median Annual Salary: $33,750
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2019): 13%
|Social and human service assistants work with individuals, families, and groups alongside social workers, psychologists, and other community and social service workers. They work with clients to implement treatment plans and carry out daily activities. They may focus on working with children and families, the elderly, veterans, or individuals with addictions.|
Median Annual Salary: $29,820
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2019): 5-9%
|As religious workers, missionaries spread religious ideas, teachings, and doctrine as part of a congregation, nonprofit organization, or aid group. Missionaries may distribute aid, provide educational programs, and assist in literacy and social justice efforts. Missionaries promote their faith while working to benefit the lives of individuals, families, and communities.|
Earning an Associate in Ministry Online
Students interested in earning an associate degree in ministry online should take several factors into consideration. For example, many programs differ in terms of the core coursework based on denomination. Additionally, the application process may vary depending on the institution, and some schools may offer easier transfer options for learners with previous religious training or coursework.
Most associate programs in ministry require students to hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. To obtain high school transcripts, applicants should contact administrative offices at their school, and transcripts can often be sent to potential schools directly. Learners with a GED need to obtain documentation of their achievement from the appropriate granting body.
To apply to an associate program, students may need to meet GPA requirements. If applicants do not have the required GPA to gain full admission, they can sometimes receive provisional or conditional admission status. This allows learners to take classes while demonstrating their educational dedication and acumen. To receive provisional or conditional admission, students may also need to submit a personal statement or provide supplemental information.
Applicants with previous college coursework submit transcripts from all previous institutions for consideration. Prior to admission, students should check a school's transfer policies to see if their work will count toward an associate degree in ministry. Many schools accept a limited number of transfer credits.
Associate programs may also award transfer credit for individuals with previous religious training or certification. Practical experience and work-related training may also qualify for prior learning credit.
Survey of the Old Testament
Coursework related to the Old Testament looks closely at the characters, events, and lessons in each book of the Old Testament. Students explore how the books of the Old Testament relate to one another while learning about their position within Christian beliefs as a whole.
Survey of the New Testament
New Testament coursework investigates each book of the New Testament, often looking closely at the Gospels. Students learn the lessons of each book, how they relate to one another, and their contribution to the overall development of Christian belief. New Testament coursework also places the books of the New Testament in the context of Old Testament teachings.
Christian Thought Through History
Classes that focus on the history of Christian thought assess Christian writers from the origins of Christianity to the present. Students study the works of church founders and other writers, while looking at how their writings shaped, changed, and fostered Christian belief. Christian thought coursework also prepares students to apply Christian teachings to contemporary issues.
Introduction to Missions
An introduction to missions class provides a basic understanding of missionary life, practice, and preparation. Students explore effective communication methods, ministerial techniques, and responsibilities while looking at different cultures, belief systems, and social contexts. Mission coursework also incorporates theories and practice of discipleship, disciple-making, and church planting.
Public Speaking and Interpersonal Communication
Public speaking and interpersonal communication classes train students to express their ideas. Students give persuasive, informative, and argumentative speeches as they learn about different types of communication. Coursework also focuses on rhetoric, nonverbal aspects of communication, responsibilities of audiences and speakers, and ethical considerations of interpersonal communication.
Average Online Degree Length
Online associate degrees in ministry include roughly 60 credits. Full-time students usually earn a degree in two years, while part-time learners can complete their program in 3-4 years. Students with a large number of transfer credits may earn an associate degree in as few as 12 months.
Taking online classes allows students to take complete work on a timeframe that meets their personal and professional needs. Learners who work full time or have other demands may choose to take just 1-2 classes per term. Taking online classes can also offset expenses accrued by on-campus learners, such as room and board, transportation, and residential fees. Full-time students may also benefit from flat tuition rates per semester.
Some learners may also be able to take larger course loads — beyond the traditional 12-15 credits per semester — to earn their degree on an accelerated timeline.
Skills, Traits, and Knowledge Gained
The coursework of an online ministry associate degree introduces students to biblical concepts and lessons. Ministry programs break down individual parts of the Bible and analyze content to enhance individual understanding. Associate degrees in ministry also teach students about the development of religious thought throughout history and the role religion, faith, and belief can play in social and cultural contexts.
While earning an online associate degree, learners build written and verbal communication skills. Students participate in classes that prepare them to articulate complex religious ideas and explore theories and practice of effective ministries.
Public speaking and interpersonal communication classes emphasize the responsibilities of ministers as they work with individuals, groups, and communities. Learners also study different cultures, belief systems, and religious practices as they explore the role of Christianity in a secular or non-Christian context.
Students pursuing online associate degrees in ministry may be able to choose from specializations in areas such as counseling ministries, Bible and theology, and addictions counseling. A counseling ministries program focuses on the principles of psychology as they relate to Scripture, while a Bible and theology concentration emphasizes the role of biblical texts and ideas when serving local church and community members. An addictions counseling program applies a biblical approach to working with individuals dealing with addiction.
With an associate degree in ministry, current church members can move into leadership and mentor roles by gaining a deeper understanding of doctrine and faith. This personal journey can help individuals move closer to Christ in their daily lives while they serve the church.
Accreditation for Ministry Associate Programs
All reputable colleges and universities in the United States hold national or regional accreditation. Accrediting bodies, recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education, work with institutions to maintain educational standards and academic integrity. Accreditation is a voluntary process and gives colleges and universities a chance to work with one another to ensure high-quality educational offerings.
Schools with research-focused or liberal arts programs often hold regional accreditation. Alternatively, institutions with technical/career-focused certificates, diplomas, and degrees tend to maintain national accreditation. When looking for an online ministry associate degree, students should check the accreditation status of potential schools. Accreditation status can impact transfer options and financial aid opportunities.
Additionally, many programs and departments maintain programmatic or specialized accreditation. Granted through an agency or organization related to a specific discipline, programmatic accreditation indicates that a degree maintains the highest standards in the field. Ministry programs may hold accreditation from the Association for Biblical Higher Education or the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Professional organizations for ministry students and professionals build networks of individuals dedicated to spreading the Christian faith. Members can gain access to job listings and professional development opportunities, as well as publications, training programs, and research opportunities.
Annual conferences and events bring together members for face-to-face interactions, while listservs, webinars, and other online programs facilitate continued communication throughout the year. Resources provided by religious organizations and ministries also allow ministry students to access current information on ministerial practices, efforts, and programs around the world.
The AAR facilitates religious understanding in the public while fostering excellence in religious education. It brings together scholars, teachers, students, and researchers to inquire and examine religious beliefs and practice. Members receive AAR publications, discounts from publishers, and access to leadership positions in the group. Additional resources include employment services, video content, and annual events.
As a network of Christians dedicated to bringing the Christian faith to individuals, families, and communities, CCDA provides training programs, webinars, and conferences to members and the general public. Justice initiatives include immigration, mass incarceration, and education equity. Members of CCDA also gain access to association publications.
ETS unites scholars, teachers, pastors, and students to exchange theological thought and research. Dedicated to Scripture and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, ETS provides education programs and study groups to members. Additional resources include publications, directories, job postings, and access to annual regional and national meetings.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
Students who earn an online associate degree in ministry often go on to pursue a bachelor's degree. Learners can pursue a four-year degree in theology, church leadership, or religious studies. Students can also pursue bachelor's degrees in history, social work, and communication. Some of these programs provide avenues to graduate degrees in divinity and related disciplines.
Transferring to a Four-year Degree Program
Ministry students enrolled in an associate program who want to transfer to a four-year program should contact an academic advisor as soon as possible. With their advisor, learners can plan a course sequence and timeline that facilitate their transition to baccalaureate study.
Students who wish to transfer should also check to see if any articulation agreements exist between their current institution and four-year colleges and universities. Many community colleges have agreements in place that provide easy transfer of a two-year degree into a four-year program. By exploring transfer policies and procedures well in advance, students can ensure a smoother move into a bachelor's program.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
Associate-level ministry programs build knowledge and skills applicable to bachelor's degrees in theology, religious studies, and Christian thought. Additionally, after gaining a fundamental understanding of church doctrine and teachings, students can also move on to graduate study in divinity and similar disciplines. The liberal arts content of an associate degree in ministry also prepares students to earn a four-year degree in history, social work, or public administration.
- Bachelor's Degree in Theology: A bachelor's degree in theology incorporates coursework related to biblical texts and Christian ministries. It also explores administrative, educational, and mentorship aspects of working within the church. Theology programs may introduce students to non-Western religious thought, as well.
- Bachelor's Degree in Church Studies: Church studies bachelor's programs train students about many aspects of Christian church management, leadership, and responsibility. Students study theology and doctrine while learning how to minister to a congregation, implement religious programs, and revitalize and plant churches in contemporary society. Church studies degrees also assess the development of the Christian church in the context of other belief systems and formal religions.
- Bachelor's Degree in Religious Studies: Religious studies bachelor's programs include classes in belief systems across global boundaries and through history. Students study the role of religion in society and the development of theological and religious concepts over time. Religious studies programs also assess the role of religion in contemporary society.