Colleges are offering a growing diversity of bachelor of ministry degrees online, but it can be a bit confusing trying to choose the one that’s right for you. That’s because ministry is an area with a vast range of career opportunities, some of which are well paid and include benefits, and others which are part time or even done on a volunteer basis. At the same time, a big increase of new options in youth ministry, worship leadership and other specialized areas has occurred as all sorts of Churches have grown larger and more complex. Colleges and universities have jumped in to offer more and more specialized ministry degrees to prepare graduates for those jobs.
A Job and a Calling
Many people take courses or even full degrees in divinity, theology or ministry mainly for personal enhancement. But if you wish to pursue the ministry as a real career, you should expect to find a very wide array of salaries and job descriptions. A denomination that has only recently been founded and wants to grow from a base of 75 or so members may need only a part-time minister, and be able to pay just $30,000. or so per year. In that situation, the minister would probably need to hold another job (which is not unusual), and that could be tough if the new Church is a remote rural environment.
On the other hand, a job as a senior minister or head pastor at a large Church with more than 2,000 members could pay more than $75,000. per year and include a full package of benefits. Bachelor of ministry degrees online are designed to prepare a graduate to get on a career path to this type of job, though most ministers of large congregations will add a master’s degree to their resume before they are hired for this type of position.
Diverse Job Opportunities
Even if you don’t get, or perhaps don’t want, the job as a head minister, there are growing opportunities in specialized jobs, particularly in larger churches. Directors of youth ministry, family ministry and even musical directors for Church services are all needed, and there are specialized degree programs designed for each.
A degree can also prepare you to work outside the traditional Church environment, as a missionary, a religious scholar, a counselor working in prison, hospital or other institutional environments or even a non-profit organization with a religious underpinning.
Degree Holders Abound
Churches that have job positions to fill are obviously interested in a candidate’s religious commitment as much as his or her educational background. It’s certainly possible to get hired in a smaller Church without a college degree. But larger Churches tend to lean more toward candidates with advanced training. That’s partly because there is such a large number of applicants today who do possess a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, you can tend to stand out in a negative way if you don’t have one.
Choice of Denominations
While there are many non-denominational Churches and degrees offered schools not affiliated with any particular Church, you should consider whether or not you’re focused on working with a particular Church. There are numerous schools operated by Baptists or The Churches of Christ, for example. If you wish to do your ministry work with one of them, it’s not a bad idea to consider getting your degree from a college that’s affiliated with them. Catholic Churches, in particular, like to bring in people who have attended a Catholic college. The picture is a bit different with the broad range of Evangelical, Bible and other religious schools out there, but if you choose a school with a direct connection to the denomination you are interested in, it can help you get your foot in the door a bit more quickly.
Most Churches who are hiring for pastoral or other jobs will want to see that a job candidate has real experience working in a Church environment, regardless of what degree he or she has. If you’re an adult who is currently doing that kind of work either on a paid or volunteer basis, an online ministry degree can enhance your career without forcing you to stop working while you study. And the personal satisfaction you can obtain from bachelor of ministry degrees online can have a high value, wherever they lead you in your career.