Online doctorate in ministry (DMin) programs provide those with religious interests the chance to earn the advanced degrees needed to take on leadership positions within their churches. Though most assume that they must attend a seminary or religious institution, some private and public colleges offer these programs too. This gives students the choice between studying at a school that has the same religious beliefs they do or attending a more secular university.
The top schools offer different concentrations and specializations that students can use to customize their degrees. They will also need to do a dissertation, which is one of the final steps required to get one of these degrees. We recommend looking at our methodology to see how we created our list before looking at the information we gathered about the most affordable online programs.
Before ranking cheap online doctor of ministry programs, we wanted to see how the cost of those programs compared to those offered by other schools. We first checked with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to find the most recent data available. The NCES compiles data relating to colleges and schools all across the United States and provides valuable information through its College Navigator.
Using the College Navigator helped us find all online DMin programs. It was then a matter of weeding through those schools and looking at the tuition charges and fees associated with each one. Once we found the top 10 most affordable of those schools, it was easy to put our list together.
Earning a ministry Ph.D can cost much more than many students can afford. Those working for churches may spend money out of their own pockets to pay for missionary trips and the supplies that the church needs, which leaves them less money for schooling. Our list includes a number of seminary schools and colleges that charge $11,000 or less per year as well as programs that cost less than $7,000 a year. The criteria that we used to create this list included:
- Identifying which schools offer Ph.D in Ministry programs
- Comparing rates to see which ones offered the lowest prices
- Ranking the top schools in terms of tuition rates
Our list puts the highest priced Ph.D programs that are still affordable at the top and those that charge the lowest tuition rates at the bottom.
Ranking Low-cost Online DMin Programs
10. Denver Seminary
Tuition: $10,080 per year
The Denver Seminary offers one of the most affordable online Ph.D in Ministry programs we found that is available entirely online without any residency component. It provides practical knowledge and training for those currently working in religious institutions and those who want to work for religious organizations. Incoming students must have a minimum of three years of ministry experience, a grade point average of 3.0 or higher and a Master of Divinity or a similar degree. Those students will need to select a concentration in either spiritual formation, pastoral skills or leadership. It features courses like leading in a rapidly changing context, care of souls, the journey and theology of spiritual transformation and leading systems and leading change.
9. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC
Online Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $10,500 per year
Though Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary offers a hybrid doctorate program, it doesn’t have as many residency components as other programs do. Students in this program only need to visit the campus for four sessions to earn their degrees. The program consists of 31 credits, and most students follow the same schedule. Courses in this program include foundations for expository preaching, cultivating spiritual formation through the disciplines, biblical counseling approach to marriage and family issues and developing a strategy for great commission mobilization. Students will spend their third year, which is their final year, working on a last project to complete a dissertation. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary uses a cohort system that places incoming students in small groups to help them learn from each other.
8. Piedmont International University
Online Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $9,650 per year
Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Piedmont International University is a small college that welcomes students from all religious background and students from all around the globe. The university designed a Doctor of Ministry program for students who want to expand their learning and those who want to learn more about helping others. It offers a large number of concentrations that include pastoral leadership, military chaplaincy, missions and biblical counseling. Students will take nine credits of core classes, earn nine credits for their research and dissertation work and take 12 credits of courses from within one of these concentrations. Those classes can include the philosophy and practice of ministry, the strategic ministry leader and biblical counseling.
7. Beulah Heights University
Online Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $9,510 per year
The Beulah Heights University ministry program prepares students for working as teachers in religious schools, as chaplains and senior pastors. Students will also learn the skills they need to do missionary work, and some of its graduates actually dedicated their lives to missionary work. The university requires that incoming doctoral candidates have at least three years of ministry experience and a master’s in a religious subject matter. Students take 15 credits of courses in the first and second year and then spend the last year working on their dissertations. Some of the classes that students take include leadership and peacemaking: conflict and resolution and holistic mission: evangelism, justice and mercy ministries with global awareness.
6. Phoenix Seminary
Online Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $8,640 per year
Phoenix Seminary launched its Doctor of Ministry as a hybrid, because the school understands that many students have obligations that keep them from attending a more traditional school. Though the program does have some residency components, it only requires that students spend five days on the campus to complete those components, and some residency modules last for only four days. This program does not offer any concentrations because it includes courses that give students a broad overview of multiple subjects and topics. Students take classes like counseling dysfunctional families, growing and multiplying missional churches, counseling in contemporary cultures and renewing and revitalizing the static church. Though the seminary requires that students do a dissertation, students only need to complete 30 credits total to graduate.
5. McCormick Seminary
Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $9,000 per year (information provided by the Seminary)
McCormick Seminary created a Ministry Ph.D that functions like a remote/hybrid program. Students will take nine classes in a single year that go over various subjects relating to ministry work, but they will also spend 5 days studying on the campus. The seminary can make arrangements for students who live in another city or state who need a place to stay when doing a residency. Instead of requiring a dissertation, this program has a thesis component that students will work on at the same time that they take classes. This program includes some core classes such as the church in the world today, research methods and leading change in church and community.
4. Faith International University
Online Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $7,840 per year
Students enrolled in the hybrid ministry program that Faith International University offers must pick a concentration in expository communication, strategic leadership or christian apologetics. They will then take 24 credits of courses within that concentration. The university awards students 12 credits for their dissertation work and asks them to take some electives too. This program is very small and highly selective. It only accepts a small number of students every year, and those students must have a graduate degree in a religious field and a 3.2 grade point average or higher in all the graduate courses they took. Faith International emphasizes the importance of practical knowledge and experience too.
3. Amridge University
Online Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $7,180 per year
The Doctor of Ministry hybrid program that is available through Amridge University is a 30-credit program. Students earn nine credits for the research they do when working on their dissertations and three credits for passing a qualifying exam. The university requires that all students take this exam after finishing one year of study. It tests them on their knowledge and determines if the students should remain in the program. The program features two courses on research methods and ministry. Students will need to take 12 credits of electives, but can pick from different courses like the minister and leadership, the ministry and controversial issues and the psychology of grief, death and dying.
2. Luther Rice College and Seminary
Online Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $6,800 per year
Luther Rice College and Seminary offers one of the only hybrid Ph.D ministry online that has accreditation from a national organization. An impressive 96 percent of former students report being satisfied with their experiences at the seminary and with the foundation that the program gave them. Students will spend four weeks on the campus as they take four required core courses, but they can spread those courses out over the course of their studies and attend just a single one-week session at a time. Some of its graduates now work as motivational and traveling speakers and as writers as well as for major religious organizations. The program features a final research project that is worth three credits.
1. Grace School of Theology
The Woodlands, TX
Online Doctor of Ministry
Tuition: $5,280 per year
The most affordable online ministry Ph.D program that we found is the Grace School of Theology program, which costs less than $5,300 a year. It features a pre-residency component that asks students to spend three months studying and a residency component that lasts for up to 10 days. All the other work that students do in this hybrid program is available online. Students earn nine credits for their dissertation work and take 12 credits of electives. The program also features a core of religious studies foundation classes that include contemporary theological issues, issues in grace theology and effective biblical leadership. This school offers concentrations in practical theology, leadership, ministry and missions and counseling. There is an interdisciplinary studies track/concentration available too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Even those currently working for religious organizations and institutions may have some questions regarding what they can do with their degrees and how much they can make. That is why we compiled a list of frequently asked questions that we think will make it easier to select an affordable online DMin.
What are Some of the Top Ministry Disciplines?
Looking at the top ministry disciplines is a good way for students to find out about some of the concentrations that these programs offer. Those disciplines include:
- Biblical studies
- Missionary work
- Pastoral leadership
Biblical studies is an area of emphasis that focus more on going deeper into what this book says. It also focuses on how students can take the knowledge they learn from their studies and apply it in their personal and professional lives. Counseling concentrations look at some of the problems that parishioners face and what pastors and other religious leaders can do to help them.
Those enrolled in a chaplaincy program are students who hope to work on military bases and with soldiers. They study some of the issues facing those soldiers and what they can do to boost their morale. Pastoral leadership is a discipline concerned with the ways in which religious leaders act. Students who graduate from these programs can take on leadership roles and work as senior pastors. Many programs also offer a missionary work concentration or discipline that prepares students for working overseas and in other areas for their churches.
What Type of Counseling Can Graduates Do?
One of the career paths open to graduates of ministry doctorate online programs is that of a counselor. Counselors work with couples, individuals and families facing serious issues that they cannot cope with on their own. Substance abuse counselors work directly with those addicted to substances like prescription drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol. They may work with a 12-step program that walks addicts through the steps towards recovery or with patients in a church or hospital associated with a religious group.
Two other prominent fields of counseling include marriage and family and mental health counseling. Mental health counseling focuses on the disorders that affect the way people live their lives, including anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders and depression. Those working in marriage and family counseling might work with a couple trying to recover after one spouse cheated or with a couple struggling to raise a child who acts out.
Substance abuse and mental health counselors generally make the same amount of money each year. The median pay for those professionals is around $42,000 a year, which comes out to more than $20 an hour. Looking at the career outlook makes it clear that this is a profession in demand. The number of jobs open in this field will grow by up to 20 percent by 2026, which represents the addition of more than 51,000 available counseling jobs. Marriage and family counselors make a slightly higher median wage, which comes out to more than $47,000 a year. The need for workers in this counseling field will also grow by 20 percent in the coming years.
Many types of counselors need a license to work in the state where they live. States usually require that counselors complete an internship or residency program and have a master’s degree. Those enrolled in an online ministry program to earn a Ph.D can complete a residency after they graduate to get a counseling license. Some churches and religious organizations will hire counselors with a religious studies degree to counsel parishioners on a nonprofessional basis.
What Other Jobs are Available With a Ministry Doctorate?
Doctoral candidates enrolled in ministry programs may not want to work as a counselor, but those students will find a variety of other jobs open to them after they graduate. Many of those students want to work as senior pastors within their churches. Senior pastors are responsible for more of the daily duties of running that church. They are the ones who counsel parishioners and offer support to those going through troubling times, ensure that the church operates within its annual budget, hire new workers when needed to fill spaces in the church and give sermons each week. The top 10 percent of these men and women make more than $67,000 a year, and some senior pastors earn as much as six figures a year. Out of all professionals working in this field, the highest reported earners live in the Washington, DC area.
Students can also find work as traveling and motivational speakers. These are speakers who travel across the country and speak in front of large groups. They often travel between churches and give speeches designed to motivate parishioners to help out more and do more volunteer work for the church and in the community. After completing a ministry online Ph.D, a student may also find work as a professor or dean in a college/seminary, begin working as an author and writer or become the director of a nonprofit organization. Some will also take on teaching roles.
There are actually a large number of teaching positions open to those with a ministry degree. Parochial and private schools have a need for teachers who can work with younger students as well as older students. Future teachers can get more experience working with students as a substitute teacher while in school. Students can also work in church-sponsored daycare facilities and in preschools. The need for teachers is on the rise because of new private and charter schools opening across the country. These schools provide parents with more options as to the education of their children.
Does Missionary Work Pay?
Many students do missionary work while in college. These men and women travel to other cities, states and countries to talk about God and their religious beliefs. They believe that they can convert others and make them realize that their ideas are the truth. Some churches even require that parishioners do missionary work when they reach a certain age. The work they do at a younger age is volunteer work and does not pay, but professional missionaries actually do earn a salary.
The average salary among all missionaries is around $30,600 a year. While this may not seem like a lot, missionaries typically spend most of their time traveling and living in different areas. They do not have the same expenses at home like rent or utility bills that others do. The top 10 percent of those doing missionary work earn more than $50,000 a year.
Another thing to consider is that missionaries may receive subsidies or stipends while working. Churches and other religious organizations provide them with extra money to cover the high cost of living in some regions. Missionaries also receive stipends that pay for their rent and other expenses in addition to their salaries. Some live together to bring down costs and to increase the amount that they can save. Some churches and organizations also provide missionaries with health insurance and cover the expenses associated with traveling to new destinations.
Those interested in enrolling in a ministry doctorate online program should talk with their church leaders and pastors. Many churches offer scholarships and grants that can cover some of their costs, which make these programs even more affordable. Colleges and seminary schools may offer financial aid packages that match the amount churches give students too.
Using our useful guide is the ultimate way to find out more about online DMin programs, the jobs that these graduates get, how much they make, and other information.