Earning a Doctor of Ministry is an excellent opportunity for those dedicated to growing their ability to promote real spiritual transformation — not only in themselves — but within their faith. Considered a professional degree, DMin programs almost always require that the candidate has received their Master of Divinity and has a few years of experience in ministry or pastoral work.
Earning a Doctor of Ministry is a great opportunity for those dedicated to the field and looking to not only increase their professional credentials but their ability to promote real spiritual transformation not only in themselves but their church or organization.
FINDING A DOCTORATE IN MINISTRY
Earning a Doctor of Ministry is a solid way to prove one’s dedication to the work, and an understanding and desire to engage with the work as an academic field and area of research and analysis. While many enter DMin programs to increase their career opportunities in ministry or pastoral work, the doctorate is also a good option for those looking to pursue work in research or other industries. Most DMin programs emphasize the importance of research, whether it be to conduct original research or use those methodologies when encountering issues in the field. The skills acquired during the study of research methodologies and analysis strategies are important in a variety of settings, including the world of ministry in an ever-changing global society.
When selecting a university to study doctoral-level ministry, it’s essential to take note of the format of the program; while all listed below have a substantial amount of their coursework offered online, many either require or provide on-campus residencies. As doctoral programs are typically more competitive, smaller in course size, and host the most dedicated and patient students, students in DMin programs often enter alongside a small cohort of peers. The on-campus residencies are utilized mainly to provide a space for students to engage with their cohorts and meet faculty and mentors in person. Earning a Doctorate of Ministry guarantees students’ ability to become leaders in the field, after proving their dedication to ministry and the thinking skills necessary to engage with theology academically.
RANKING THE 20 BEST ONLINE DOCTORATES IN MINISTRY
While you’re on your way to earning your Ph.D. or Doctorate within your field, the editors at Online PhD Programs are already practicing doctors of their craft: ranking the best online Ph.D. programs. To be featured on our annual rankings online doctorates must satisfy four coinciding requirements: accreditation, research and scholarship doctorate certification, NSF recognition, and institutional association with peer-reviewed academia.
Each degree is then ranked using information provided — primarily — through the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. The data collected is scored through a series of weighted categories to represent seven crucial aspects of what makes an online doctorate valuable to future students. Online program quality and presence are joined by industry salaries, student reviews, degree exclusivity, costs, and completion rates to determine the best online doctorates available. For a comprehensive breakdown of how we categorize and source data, please visit our methodology page.
#1. LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
The Doctor of Ministry offered by Liberty University is a 30-credit program that takes an average of two years to complete and can be done 100 percent online. The curriculum is explicitly designed to advance and sharpen ministry skills by encouraging a deep understanding of biblical principles and outreach strategies. Upon graduation, students are ready to serve in many types of pastoral roles, having been trained in research, offering creative solutions, analyzing issues through an informed lens, and more. Students learn from faculty members who are not only academic professionals of the field but have served for years and share real-world experience. While in-person intensives are not required, they are still offered on campus in Virginia.
There are over ten different specialization areas within the DMin offered by Liberty, including Pastoral Counseling, Theology and Apologetics, Worship, and Chaplaincy. The curriculum will vary based on the selected specialization area, but the core topics of the DMin degree, like Growth and Development of the Contemporary Minister, are standard for all specialization. All students will complete a nine-credit thesis project, taking what they’ve drawn from their cognate courses and their foundations and applying it to an original critical analysis. Prospective applicants must have a Master of Divinity or equivalent degree earned with a 3.0 GPA or higher. They should also have at least three years of ministry experience.
#2. REGENT UNIVERSITY
Regent University’s Doctor of Ministry in Christian Leadership & Renewal program is offered both wholly online or online with a minimum required residency. The degree is dedicated to training students in tools necessary to become successful leaders in the ministry while working with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Students will also be familiarized with some of the complex issues encountered as ministry leaders, and how to cultivate solutions through informed perspectives. Not only still students graduate and reenter the field as developed and dedicated leaders, but they’ll have the skills, knowledge, and experience to support others in this transformative growth as well.
The curriculum is divided into foundation courses and concentration courses, with the former focusing on setting a solid background from which students can delve into more specialized topics. The concentration courses within the Christian Leadership & Renewal track include Missional Ministry, Church & Ministerial Health, and Renewal & Transformation. Classes last eight weeks, and start dates are offered throughout the year nearly every month. Students enter the program alongside an online cohort that they may opt to meet face-to-face in the intensive classroom experience residencies. Applicants to the program must have a Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent, earned with at least a 3.0 GPA. They must also have at least three years of significant ministry experience.
#3. DUKE UNIVERSITY
Duke University’s Doctor of Ministry is a hybrid program designed for clergy and lay Christians looking to enhance their skills in ministry, engaging them in rigorous and imaginative theological reflection. The curriculum is made up of short on-campus residential seminars and online courses. Students are admitted into 20-person cohorts each year, with personalized and dedicated engagement with distinguished faculty. Duke’s DMin program prides itself on offering a world-class theological inquiry with faculty members who are not only engaged in scholarship but have experience of service to their respective Christian traditions.
The residency requires students to come to campus five times over two years, each for a weeklong seminar. The seminars are then followed by eight weeks of online courses that are both synchronous and asynchronous. Coursework will require students to study Scripture and traditions and then move toward identifying ways to apply them in practice. Course topics include Old Testament & Christian Leadership; Understanding and Interpreting Context; Forming and Implementing Vision; and much more. The first two years of coursework culminates into an independent research project that students typically begin their third year. The project is meant to showcase student’s own developed innovative research agendas, alongside disciplined theological reflection.
#4. NORTH GREENVILLE UNIVERSITY
North Greenville University created their Doctor of Ministry program for both current and future leaders in the field, all looking for a professional degree that will train them in research, teaching, and equip them with the tools to make a significant impact in ministry. The degree is made up of intensive studies as well as applied courses, where students benefit from practical hands-on experience in a ministry setting accessible to them. The 32-credit program typically takes three years to complete at a full-time pace and is designed in a hybrid format. The first two years are dedicated to covering the breadth of the field as well as its methodologies and praxis.
Course topics include Evangelism and Missions, Discipleship and Spiritual Formation, Church Growth and Revitalization, and more. Every course is centered on the mandate of Christ in Matthew 28, emphasizing each of the listed course’s topics. Upon completion of coursework, students begin planning their final project and project report, working to apply what they’ve gained from the program and make an impact in the field. Prospective students must submit Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores.
#5. EMORY UNIVERSITY
Emory University’s Doctor of Ministry degree is designed for ministers who have experience and are seeking to understand the connection between theology and ministry practice better. Students will reenter the field as advanced ministry professionals who have been trained with the skills necessary to analyze practice through a lens informed by biblical, ecclesiological, and theological perspectives. There are two offered tracks: Church Leadership and Community Witness, and Biblical Interpretation and Proclamation. The first is meant to support students who are interested in ministerial leadership positions within the church, while the latter is for those who are looking for a more theological education to deepen their skills in Bible study.
Prospective students apply and are accepted into one of the two tracks. The first few courses are the same for each track, covering essential topics like reflective practice and understanding community. The second-year marks the beginning of a more specialized study, while the third year is typically dedicated to workshops and a subsequent final project. All students participate in four mandatory on-campus experiences. These experiences vary from orientation meetings to intensive courses among fellow cohort members.
#6. ANDERSON UNIVERSITY
The Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Preaching program from Anderson University is entirely online, designed to equip pastors and church leaders with the tools and knowledge necessary to further their potential in leadership. The degree is made up of advanced-topic seminars culminating in a directed ministry project to prove student’s earned and extensive understanding of preaching and its application in many settings. The curriculum is primarily focused on the practice of ministry, and to ensure that students can continue their present work in the field, courses are mostly online with three weeklong seminars in-person. A final project will also be completed before graduation and apply to the student’s own ministry setting.
Only fifteen students per year are admitted to the program, guaranteeing camaraderie among cohorts and robust and personalized guidance from faculty members. The curriculum is made up of core courses and three event seminars that are attended in-person. Course topics include Creativity, Culture, and Biblical Preaching; Issues and Trends in Biblical Preaching; and Historical, Theological, and Practical Foundations for Biblical Preaching. Prospective students must submit a preliminary application and contacted by faculty members once it’s received. There’s also an offered major in 21st Century Ministry from Anderson, but that program is a more devoted hybrid course of study.
#7. BOSTON UNIVERSITY
Boston University offers a Doctor of Ministry in Transformational Leadership to enrich the careers of religious leaders in both traditional and nontraditional settings. The curriculum trains students always to approach the field eager to deepen their understanding of ministry, using this to refine further and advance its practice. The DMin combines both intensive on-site seminars with online courses. The Transformational Leadership track is made up of four intensives, three cohort courses, one elective, and four credits of thesis work. The 32-credit program covers the breadth of the field as well as it’s technical applications, with courses like Contextual-Theological Analysis and Research Methods.
Prospective students must have a Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent, earned with at least a GPA of 3.3. They must also have at least three years of professional experience in ministry. The program is meant to be received in about three years, culminating in a Project Thesis that identifies an issue and makes it relevant to a broad audience. From there, students can describe how the issues have manifested in ministry, and what can be done to further the field’s breadth and improve its practice. The project also serves to exemplify the student’s practical transformation, and how they will utilize this perspective in future endeavors they take on in the field post-graduation.
#8. SOUTHWESTERN ASSEMBLIES OF GOD UNIVERSITY
The Doctor of Ministry offered by Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a 30-credit degree designed to be accessible for working students, at only one course expected to be taken online per semester. Students are accepted and move through the program among a cohort of peers, with whom they’ll meet with three different times during the ten semesters of enrollment. The program major involves Leadership and Creative Communication, which focuses on leadership, communication, and effective use of media to further the success of the faith. Students are equipped with the tools to evaluate and provide creative approaches to gospel proclamations and have earned the knowledge necessary to formulate and implement effective plans for their ministry context.
Applicants to the program must have a 72-credit Master of Divinity degree and have ministry experience. The curriculum is highly structured with all courses on a strict rotation each semester. These core courses include God and Popular Culture; Spiritual Formation and Self Improvement; Organizational Behavior; Foundations of Leadership; and more. Upon completion of these courses, students then move onto their six-credit Professional Project. The project is intended to prove the student’s ability to understand praxis in ministry in a way that allows for improvement, question, and critique.
#9. BETHEL UNIVERSITY
The Doctor of Ministry program offered by Bethel University is dedicated to not only propelling students further into knowledge but transforming them into ministry leaders in all aspects of the field. The curriculum prepares students to utilize research and experience to find practical answers to pressing questions and issues in this ever-changing world. The DMin from Bethel offers four further concentration areas: Biblical and Theological Engagement, Church Leadership, Congregation and Family Care, and Transformational Leadership. Each concentration area is completed online, and all except for the Transformational Leadership are considered to be self-directed; Transformational Leadership is achieved alongside a small cohort of fellow students with faculty oversight.
The degree can be earned entirely online or in combination with on-campus intensive sessions. The DMin concentration areas encourage the personal development of student’s spiritual well-being and capacity for ministry effectiveness, in preparation to provide support in compelling others to also develop themselves personally and spiritually. The specialized courses for each concentration area vary, but cover an array of things, from the relationship between religion and mental health to historical resources that make up the base of contacts in Christian organizations.
#10. CLARKS SUMMIT UNIVERSITY
Clarks Summit University designed their flexible Doctor of Ministry program to ensure success for practicing ministers who seek to increase their credentials and ability for growth in the field. The curriculum builds off of a secure theological foundation, then training students how to use this knowledge in successful and accessible pastoral practice. Students are equipped with the tools necessary to analyze and then meet the biblical needs of their audience, using a ministry and leadership philosophy that is cultivated throughout their time in the program. The program offers three concentrations: Bible Exposition, Ministry, or Pastoral.
Bible Exposition focuses on the thoughtful and patient explication of God’s word, emphasizing the meaning, authorial intent, original purpose, and present significance to varying contemporary audiences. The Ministry concentration is specifically dedicated to preparing students for non-pastoral ministry roles within the church, equipping them with valuable leadership skills and the ability to evaluate current theological issues. The Pastoral concentration is the most philosophically based addressing the theoretical, conceptual, and practical elements of leadership. Regardless of the selected concentration area, all students complete a dissertation project, each tailored to fit the student’s postgraduate ambitions best; some may focus on biblical curriculum development, an analysis dissertation, and others.
#11. FORDHAM UNIVERSITY
Fordham University’s Doctor of Ministry program prepares students for the application rigorous theological inquiry to practical ministerial experience. Upon graduation, students are ready to provide sound scholarship and contribute valuable research in the field and its relationship to issues in ecology, feminism, multiculturalism, globalization, enculturation, peace and justice, and spirituality. The program offers three concentration areas: the Spirituality Concentration, Generalist Concentration, and the Latino Ministry Concentration. All areas will provide a core foundation of courses, covering pastoral and practical theology, and research and ethics in the fields. After completing the core coursework, students go onto more refined courses dedicated to their concentration area. This may include US Latino Theology, History of Christian Spirituality, or Women Mystics.
All students will work closely with a faculty mentor, taking courses both online and on-campus in the hybrid-based program. However, courses can be taken at either a full or part-time pace. There are also two intensive on-campus sessions during the first two years of study. Acquired knowledge of the field and the application of its theory into praxis culminates into a dissertation or final project. Applicants should have a master’s degree in divinity or a related field, and at least three years experience in pastoral practice.
#12. INDIANA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY-MARION
Each year, the Doctor of Ministry program at Indiana Wesleyan University rotates its offered emphasis areas. Currently, the provided concentrations are in Transformational Leadership, Transformational Preaching, or Spiritual Formation. The dynamic program is designed for working ministers to maintain their pastoral positions while earning the degree. The course layout is flexible and accommodating, with coursework completed predominantly online with two weeks of residencies each year. Residencies can take place in Marion, IN or globally, depending on the selected concentration. All concentration areas will equip students with the tools, skill set, and perspectives necessary to thrive as leaders in personal, communal, culturally diverse, and societal settings. The Spiritual Formation concentration is especially beneficial to those who are dedicated to learning the deepest parts of God, by exploring Scripture-centered practice, spirit-enabled information, and Christ-like transformation.
All concentration areas consist of three years dedicated to coursework, and the final fourth year is spent working on a Ministry Project. The first year typically covers the breadth of the field’s varying topics. The second and third prepare students with more technical tools necessary to put the theory into practice, such as Literature Reviews and Research Methods. Applicants to the program must have earned a Master of Divinity or equivalent degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, and hold at least three years of ministry experience.
#13. AMRIDGE UNIVERSITY
The Doctor of Ministry from Amridge University is designed for those already engaged in ministry, and are looking to increase their qualifications and further their skills in theological reflection, their capacity for spiritual growth, and more. There’s also opportunity within the program for students to select a specialty within the field and familiarize themselves more. The program is set up to utilize student’s current work setting as a primary learning resource; accompanying the coursework is many in-service projects that will also directly benefit the candidate’s ministry. Unlike other doctoral programs in Theology or related fields, the DMin is explicitly focused on excelling skills in practical ministry, rather than emphasizing the advancement of those skills prioritized in academia. However, students will graduate with the tools necessary to analyze and research issues in congregational ministry.
The program is a total of 30 credits that may be completed at a full or part-time pace. While coursework is completed online, there is also a residency requirement during the first year of the program. This residency will help fulfill the nine required core credits. The remaining credits of the curriculum are made up of electives, a dissertation, and an examination. Elective topics include Church Growth and Membership Development; The Minister and Homiletics; Ministry in the World of Science, Philosophy, and Religion; and Psychology of Religion.
#14. GEORGE FOX UNIVERSITY
George Fox University designed their Doctor of Ministry for experienced ministry leaders looking to increase their capacity and skills in what the field desires in professional practice. The online program is offered with three different focus areas: Leadership and Global Perspectives; Leadership and Spiritual Formation; and Semiotics, Church, and Culture. All focus areas include a lead faculty mentor and allow students to customize their research. The Global Perspectives path includes intensive in-person sessions in Cape Town, Hong Kong, and London, while the Leadership and Spiritual Formation focus area re-imagine God’s mission in a diverse array of environments. Semiotics, Church, and Culture focus on how proactive ministry can successfully evolve in an always-changing society.
Applicants must have a Master of Divinity or an equivalent degree. Each focus area in the DMin from George Fox is a total of 36 credits that are typically completed in three years. All focus also require intensive residencies with different locations; the Leadership and Spiritual Formation intensives take place on the Oregon Coast. Coursework in each concentration area is dedicated to the transformation of students into leaders, achieved by expanding perspectives of God’s work within the world while increasing their skill set in areas like organization, research, assessment, and more.
#15. CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA
The Catholic University of American offers a Doctor of Ministry with three furthered concentration areas: Evangelization, Liturgical Catechesis, and Spirituality. The DMin with a focus in Spirituality offers coursework entirely online in conjunction with a two-week residency on-campus each year. The program runs once a year for 15 weeks for three years, beginning in April and ending in July. Courses only take place during this period, where students typically take three sessions each year and then complete the residency. Applicants to the program should have a Master of Divinity or other degrees in Theology, earned with at least a 3.0 GPA. They should also have at least three years experience in full-time pastoral ministry.
Seven courses are core to the program, including foundational seminars and methods courses. The remaining three are dedicated to Spirituality, with sub-concentrations in Methods for the Study and Teaching of Spirituality; Spiritual Practices; and Spirituality and the Workplace. All students will complete a DMin project focused on Spirituality and consisting of a literature review and then a project design, implementation, and evaluation. The project is designed so that early on in the program, students identify a significant ministerial problem or pastoral issue that needs resolution and development. They will incorporate this topic into what they draw from studies in preparation for furthering it into their research project.
#16. LUTHER RICE COLLEGE & SEMINARY
The Doctor Ministry offered by Luther Rice College & Seminary prepared students for the advanced competencies and biblical insights necessary to transform their active involvement in vocational Christian ministry to greater leadership. The 30-credit degree prepares students to think critically, biblically, and theologically in ways that lead toward successful communication and practice in the field. The first four core courses are completed on-campus during weeklong modules. These courses set the foundation for focuses on different topics in the area, which include Research & Writing for Ministry, Evangelism in Contemporary Culture, and Critical Issues in Ministry. From there, students complete courses online, such as Issues in Biblical Counseling, Ethics, Relationships in Ministry, and Contemporary Leadership Development.
The curriculum provides advanced knowledge of the breadth of the field so that by the time students are beginning their Doctoral Ministry Project, they are equipped to take on more specialized topics in the area. Graduates from the program have gone onto becoming authors, pastors, theologians, professors, teachers, and much more. Applicants are preferred to have earned a Master of Divinity, but those who have a master’s degree accompanied by 90 semester hours of graduate coursework in ministry may be eligible. They must also score a 100 out of 150 on the online Bible Content Test.
#17. SHILOH UNIVERSITY
Shiloh University’s Doctor of Ministry offers a Relational Leadership focus, made up of 36 credits that can be completed in three years. The curriculum is designed to further prepare pastors and ministers with professional and practice-oriented skills that will propel them forward as informed, knowledgeable, and dedicated leaders of the field. The emphasis on relational ministry development focuses on the importance of facilitating spiritual renewal and stimulating an increasingly active fell in today’s society. Students are encouraged to challenge, refine, and enhance their ministerial skills, beginning with a Theological foundation and then moving toward a relational approach to leadership focused on being rather than doing.
Coursework in the DMin in Relational Leadership teaches students how to formulate their personalized philosophy of identity formation and renewal as a minster. They’ll be trained in taking an interpersonal approach to ministry but through the tools of critical thinking, prayerful reflection, and application of both theory and knowledge. All students will complete nine seminars and two research clinics within the first two years so that their final year is spent designing, implementing, and writing a research project related to their current ministry. Research projects consist of reviewing literature, conducting research responsibly and with the appropriate methodologies, and proving one’s understanding of a Biblical-theological base. All courses are offered entirely online, but the program takes a minimum of three years and must be completed within five.
#18. LEXINGTON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
The Doctor of Ministry offered by Lexington Theological Seminary is designed for pastors who are looking to enhance their capacity in the field, through skills of critical interpretation and application of ministry to contemporary issues and questions. The program is offered entirely online with only two on-campus visits and is formatted so that students study within a cohort to ensure a learning community of peers. The coursework will equip students with the tools to engage with the field in more advanced ways that allow them to transform the broader community. The 30-credit program is made up of highly interactive online coursework, a week of intensives on campus, and a final project completed with the support of a scholar-practitioner.
The curriculum is divided into about one year of core courses, taken alongside a cohort of peers, and then 12 credits of electives completed at each student’s own pace. The program is flexible, and students can take as few as one class per month. Courses last from two weeks to eight weeks, depending on the desired credit intake from that course. Core Courses include topics like Interpreting Contemporary Cultural Contexts and Leading Congregations through Adaptive Change. All students in the DMin program receive a 30% scholarship from LTS, with flexible payment options for the remainder of the tuition. Prospective students must have earned a Master of Divinity degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, and have at least three years experience in ministry.
#19. BEULAH HEIGHTS UNIVERSITY
Beulah Heights University offers a Doctor of Ministry program to prepare students for service in the ministry and the marketplace, increasing their potential in ministry by acquiring advanced competencies in many aspects of the field. Upon graduation, students are professional leaders ready for careers in the Church and among society, in para-church organizations, civic positions, and more. The curriculum equips students with an understanding and preparedness for the practice of Christian ministry in contemporary society. Students will receive a holistic education, covering all the environments and realities of the modernity that ministry is a part of. This accompanies time in disciplined study, critical reflection, and evaluation of current and long-standing ministry issues.
While the program is built to be a general Ministry education, the school offers specialization areas that are in collaboration with other departments at the university. This includes Leadership, Worship Studies, Women’s Studies, Preaching, and Pentecostal-Charismatic Ministry. Course topics in the bulk of the program include Scripture, History, and Theology; Advanced Research Methodologies; Transformational Ministry; and Holistic Mission: Evangelism, Justice, and Mercy Ministries with Global Awareness. After completion of these core courses, students will go onto a formal specialization area or take electives in a subject related to their proposed research project and thesis.
#20. LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE
Lancaster Bible College’s Doctor of Ministry Program is offered by their Capital Seminary & Graduate School. The school offers three specialization areas within the DMin degree: Chaplaincy Studies, Formational Leadership, and Strategic Leadership. The program takes an approach to a ministry focused on empirical research, creative reflection, and practical application, using lenses of Scripture and what it means to live out Scripture through ministry critically. The program is specifically designed for those who have already earned a Master of Divinity degree and is, therefore, suited best for pastors, missionaries, para-church ministry leaders, teachers, and other leaders in Christian professional settings. To accommodate working students, the program’s coursework is provided online over two years. Students must only be on campus for three weeks of a required residency.
Each concentration area is accompanied by the core coursework of the program, which is made up of Advanced Ministry Concentration Seminars, Applied Seminars, and Research Design and Reporting. These seminars include Contextual Ministry Praxis and Applied Research, completed in preparation for an Applied Research Dissertation. Other coursework will vary based on chosen concentration areas, but courses cover an array of vital subjects and tools necessary for success in ministry: The Leader as Communicator & Vision-Caster; Nature of the Chaplaincy; Formational Leadership in the Digital Age; and more.