Top 20 Most Affordable Online Doctor of Ministry Degrees

For many pastors and missionaries, the call to serve Christ comes unexpectedly, often without any warning, much less a plan to earn a Doctor of Ministry or any other degree. But it also happens that after some time working, serving, and studying on your own, it becomes clear that to be the best pastor you can be, further education is a must. Many pastors stop at the Master of Divinity degree, but for the highest level of professional development and education, the Doctor of Ministry degree is the standard for church executives and ministry leaders.

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What is a Doctor of Ministry?

A Doctor of Ministry degree is a specialized professional (rather than academic) doctorate; the difference is the purpose. Traditional academic doctoral degrees, like the PhD, are more focused on scholarly research; they’re primarily for people who intend to be teachers, writers, and researchers. Professional doctorates, on the other hand, are for practitioners – people who intend to actually be in the field rather than an academic setting. So the DMin, as a professional degree, is focused on the actual work of ministry – pastoral, missionary, and evangelistic service. Most often, in the US, the prerequisite for a DMin is a Master of Divinity.

That doesn’t mean that someone with, for instance, a PhD in Theology can’t be a pastor or minister – they are certainly qualified. What it means, instead, is that the Doctor of Ministry specializes in the work of ministry, rather than scholarly study. Most DMin programs mix theological study with more practical instruction in areas like organizational leadership, communication, counseling, and even social work – the day-to-day activities that add up to pastoral ministry.

It’s worth noting that the Doctor of Divinity degree is primarily an honorary degree in the US, although in British-influenced areas (England and its historic colonies) it corresponds to the Doctor of Ministry.

Why Get an Online D.Min.?

Students most often enter the Doctor of Ministry program after they have already started their ministry – the call comes first, and then the realization that they need more training and guidance to meet the needs of their congregations. That makes an online DMin a natural choice. Online or low-residency programs allow a working pastor to earn their doctorate without having to leave their church, move their family, or otherwise interrupt their life and ministry to relocate or study full-time.

Many online DMin programs are offered in a hybrid or modular format, giving students the chance to interact with instructors and classmates in a brief, intensive residency or retreat setting, but with coursework done online. Some require a formal, traditional dissertation, while others require a practical research project directly related to the students’ ongoing ministry. There are a number of options available, so busy pastors and missionaries can choose the programs that are right for their needs, and the needs of their family and congregation.

Online PhD Programs has combed the web for hybrid and fully online Doctor of Ministry degree programs from seminaries, colleges, and universities all over the United States. Our results are presented here as the Top 20 Most Affordable Online Doctor of Ministry Programs, arranged in order from the lowest price per credit hour on.

all pictures sourced from institution’s website

1. Northwestern Theological Seminary

Northwestern Theological Seminary is non-denominational, conservative Evangelical seminary based in New Port Richey, FL, offering fully online degrees in theology, divinity, ministry, and more. NTS is associated with Christian Alliance Ministries/Worldwide Church of Jesus Christ, and is led by Dr. Samuel Galloza. Since 1980, Northwestern Seminary has been providing independent degrees for ministers and pastors, attracting thousands of students to their Christ-centered education programs. NTS is recognized as a non-profit religious organization, and recognized by the Florida Department of Education; the seminary is accredited by the International Association for Christian Educational Accountability (IACEA), a religious peer accrediting body.

Northwestern Theological Seminary’s Doctor of Divinity online and online Doctor of Ministry degrees are designed to be flexible, affordable, and convenient for working ministers, pastors, and laypeople. The DD and DMin degrees require 48 credit hours, but up to 25% of required credits can be covered by life experience for students working in the ministry. NTS also offers Accelerated Academic Degree Programs, which allow students with transferable credits to complete their doctorate with only a dissertation. All courses are online and learn at your own pace, for an exceptionally affordable online Doctor of Ministry.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

2. Colorado Theological Seminary

Colorado Theological Seminary began with the merging of the Church of the Cross Bible College in Wheat Ridge, CO (founded in 1996) and the Colorado Theological Seminary (founded in 1999). This merged CTS developed to issue distance learning bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in Biblical Studies, Ministry, Divinity, Theology, and more. As recognized non-profit religious organization, CTS is exempt from secular accreditation, but is recognized by the state of Colorado to grant degrees; by the Florida Council of Private Colleges and the Council of Private Colleges of America; and is affiliated with the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).

Colorado Theological Seminary offers doctoral degree programs in Ministry and Biblical Studies, and a PhD in Clinical Pastoral Counseling. All of CTS’s doctoral degrees are available entirely online, giving working pastors the flexibility to earn their online DMin degrees at their own pace, with an individual mentor assigned to each student. While the online Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Biblical Studies programs are 36 credits, the PhD in Clinical Pastoral Counseling is 72 credits. The CTS counseling PhD prepares students for licensing by the National Christian Counseling Association (NCCA), though not for state licensure. Pastors who want to increase their credentials, or add counseling to their expertise, will find Colorado Theological Seminary affordable and convenient.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

3. Providence Bible College & Theological Seminary

Founded in 1952 as a small Christian school in Norfolk, VA, Providence Bible College & Theological Institute took its inspiration from George Whitfield, one of the founders of Methodism, to make disciples. By 1987 PBCTS had become a Bible college, offering degrees in religion, and today Providence offers degrees in ministry, Biblical studies, theology, and other religious disciplines at all levels, from bachelor’s to doctorate. Providence is dedicated to training pastors and missionaries for service, and is accredited by the Transworld Accrediting Commission, a California-based agency regulating small Bible colleges and schools all over the globe.

Providence Bible College & Theological Seminary offers an online Doctor of Ministry (DMin), a professional degree focused on using theological learning and organizational leadership skills to train pastors. PDCTS’s three-year program is designed to help students draw on insights from the Bible, social science, and other disciplines to develop intellectually and spiritually into better, more responsible pastors. Students must also write a professional dissertation based on an intensive doctoral project done in the context of their ministry; students have 5 years to complete the dissertation. All coursework is fully online, giving working pastors the flexibility they need to work on their classes and dissertation while still keeping their jobs and earning their online DMin.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

4. Trinity College of the Bible & Theological Seminary

Trinity College of the Bible & Theological Seminary has been specializing in distance education since 1969 – way before the internet, when distance education meant correspondence courses by mail. Back then, Trinity’s mission was helping ministers expand their education and increase their credentials without having to leave their churches, and that is still basic to Trinity’s vision. Trinity’s Christ-centered, Bible-based courses are available fully online, with no need to visit the campus in Evansville, IN, and all are welcome to Trinity’s multidisciplinary community – not only pastors, but any Christian who wants the knowledge to serve Christ.

Trinity’s online Doctor of Ministry degree is designed to help experienced, working ministers develop their theological knowledge and research skills to become more effective servant leaders. Students take courses not only in theology, but also in developing their prayer life and strengthening themselves as leaders. A specialization in Christian Counseling is also available, giving pastors the knowledge they need to counsel others while also evangelizing. Students must complete a capstone project on the theological stance that drives their ministry. Low tuition rates make Trinity’s online DMin affordable for any pastor.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

5. Rockbridge Seminary

Rockbridge Seminary is young, and its youth makes it an intriguing, potentially game-changing, all-online seminary. Rockbridge is intentionally designed as a New Paradigm seminary to meet the needs of New Paradigm churches and pastors. In the New Paradigm, pastors begin their ministry before their seminary education, usually recruited from the church itself in a grassroots way. To meet those new and unusual needs, Rockbridge has focused on fully online distance education, helping working ministers and lay leaders increase their spiritual and Biblical wisdom conveniently, and in a way that can apply right away to the work they are doing daily.

Rockbridge Seminary’s online Doctor of Ministry program is intended for experienced church leaders who hold an MDiv or equivalent to complete their studies. In the DMin program, students learn to apply principles of leadership and spiritual development to their guidance of their churches and ministry. Students learn to approach modern problems with Biblical solutions, rooted in spiritual growth and the Christian mission. Rockbridge is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), and its fully online programs are accessible in every state, giving pastors everywhere the opportunity to earn a DMin from Rockbridge.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

6. Apex School of Theology

Apex School of Theology began in 1995 at the Apex First Baptist Church, in Apex, NC, guided by its founder Dr. Joseph Perkins. In just a decade the school had grown to a campus in the Research Triangle Park region, offering a variety of degrees both on-campus and fully online. Apex’s mission is the same as it has been from the beginning – to offer affordable religious education to ministers and lay leaders of all denominations. To keep prices affordable, faculty provide their expertise as a service ministry for a nominal stipend. Apex School of Theology is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS).

Apex School of Theology’s online Doctor of Ministry degree program offers four specialty tracks for pastors and leaders who want to develop their ministry: Biblical Studies, Christian Counseling, Preaching, and Leading for Congressional Change. Applicants must have an MDiv degree and at least 5 years of experience in the ministry, as well as being currently active. The 42-credit program can be completed entirely online, including classes and a dissertation, and can be completed in as little as 3 years. Affordability is central to Apex’s mission, and its online DMin is one of the most affordable in the South.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

7. South University

South University was founded in 1899 as a small, private business school in Savannah, GA, originally teaching classes in accounting, bookkeeping, and secretarial work. The school grew steadily, but South University’s star really rose when it began online education in 2004. Today, more than half of South University’s student body is fully online. Long operated as a for-profit college, South University is now a regionally-accredited, non-profit university, licensed for online education in most of the US. South’s mission focuses on education a diverse student body conveniently and affordably.

South University’s online Doctor of Ministry degree program is a professional degree focused on preparing students for ministry careers. This 96-credit program can be completed fully online, either through the Standard or Advanced track. The Standard track is for students who have a bachelor’s degree, or are in the early stages of their ministry; the Advanced track is for master’s degree holders, or active ministers with a substantial number of transferable credits. The Advanced track gets students through faster, but in either case, South University is committed to low tuition and convenient format, making their online DMin a value.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

8. Liberty University

It may well be the foremost name in evangelical Christian education – Liberty University. Founded in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell, Liberty University had small beginnings, but the ambition was there all the time. While Liberty grew steadily through the latter part of the 20th century, it was Liberty’s embracing of online education that was the turning point. Since starting Liberty Online in 2009, Liberty has become the largest private Christian university in the US by far, with well over 100,000 students – the vast majority of them online. With regional accreditation and strong rankings from secular and Christian sources alike, Liberty is a winner.

Liberty’s online Doctor of Ministry degree program is designed for the practical needs of ministry, providing an advanced degree that marshals theological expertise for the service of the church. This fully online program is rooted in research, preparing pastors to use their knowledge and research skills to help guide their congregations. Ten specializations are available, ranging from Chaplaincy and Discipleship to Biblical Studies and Theology/Apologetics. Students are also invited to intensives at Liberty’s Lynchburg, VA campus, but these are not required. Liberty’s international reputation and affordability make the online DMin a theologically and financially sound choice.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

9. North Greenville University

North Greenville University is a small, intimate community of students and faculty affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Founded in 1891, NGU began as a Christian high school, at a time when the area lacked adequate secondary education. By the 1930s the high school had added a junior college, and by 2006, NGU was a comprehensive, regionally-accredited university. Today, North Greenville is one of the best-ranked and most respected private Christian universities in the Southeast, with a deep commitment to Christian life, education, and service that is woven through everything NGU does.

NGU’s online Doctor of Ministry degree program is offered with a specialization in Great Commission Studies, preparing ministers and lay leaders for discipleship as servant leaders. The NGU DMin program uses a hybrid format, online courses mixed with on-campus activities, and the combination of modes helps students develop relationships with their professors and classmates. Classes, seminars, and events are designed to focus on the Biblical basis for discipleship, evangelism, and missions in every part of ministry, from pastor and worship leader to missionary. An affordable online DMin from North Greenville may be a wise investment.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

10. Lexington Theological Seminary

Lexington Theological Seminary dates back to 1865, when it was founded as the College of the Bible at Kentucky University. When that university’s College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts split off to form the University of Kentucky in 1878, the Bible college went its own way as well, eventually changing its name to Lexington Theological Seminary in 1965. LTS, then, is one of Kentucky’s oldest and most trusted institutions. Today, LTS is an ecumenical seminary affiliated with the Disciples of Christ church, and its mission focuses on flexible, well-rounded education for church leaders of all denominations.

Lexington Theological Seminary’s online Doctor of Ministry degree comes with the highest pedigree and the utmost reputability. Built around a cohort model, the LTS DMin program is designed to focus on community, building relationships between the class that can provide a foundation and support network for students. Two courses within the program are offered in one-time, on-campus intensives; all other are online, each scheduled for two months. The overall schedule of the program is intended to work smoothly with a pastor’s schedule, so that working church leaders can earn their degree flexibly, and apply what they learn as they learn it. LTS’s online DMin is a model of the form, not only well-designed for flexibility and convenience, but for affordability and value.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

11. Knox Theological Seminary

Knox Theological Seminary began in 1989 as a ministry of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Under its founder, Dr. D. James Kennedy, the seminary devoted its mission to carrying on the tradition of the Reformation into a new era of the church. Beginning in 2008, Knox Seminary took that mission to mean fully online degree programs, reaching ministers and church leaders on their own ground, and 2013 KTS became independent of the church. Knox is accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

Knox Theological Seminary’s online Doctor of Ministry degree program offers specializations in Biblical Preaching and Teaching, Theological Exegesis, and Gospel in Church and Culture. The online DMin is a professional degree intended to enhance the ministry of working pastors, and applicants must have an MDiv or equivalent degree. The KTS DMin program is designed for busy contemporary pastors; the majority of courses can be taken fully online, while others are offered in an intensive, 1-week on-campus format. Thirty credit hours and a Major Project can be done in just three years, and Knox’s affordable tuition makes the online DMin an investment.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

12. Bethel University

Bethel University had its beginning in 1871, founded as a seminary training ministers to the Midwest’s Swedish Baptist immigrant population. In 1914 Bethel was acquired by the Baptist General Convention and moved to St. Paul, MN, where it added undergraduate programs in fields beyond theology, growing into a college. Bethel made major steps when it added adult education and fully online degree programs, but the Bethel Seminary – one of the largest seminaries in the US – remains at the university’s heart. Bethel has grown in size and reputation, but its focus is still faithful Christian education.

Bethel University’s online Doctor of Ministry in Transformational Leadership is a uniquely focused degree program for pastors and ministers who feel called to lead churches and Christian organizations through difficult changes. Students are steeped in the challenges and conflicts affecting the church today, and given the skills and knowledge to use research, evidence, and good judgment to make decisions and solve problems. All coursework is fully online for the convenience of busy working pastors, with 3 years of coursework and 1 year of dissertation writing. Bethel’s national reputation and affordable tuition add to the value of the online DMin.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

13. Wesley Seminary (Indiana Wesleyan University)

Wesley Seminary is a relatively young institution, but its background is long and prestigious. Indiana Wesleyan University is a large, evangelical Christian university that has been a trusted part of higher education in Indiana since 1920. It’s not only Indiana’s fastest-growing university, but regularly ranked as one of the top regional universities in the Midwest. Wesley Seminary was founded in 2009 to meet a need – the Wesleyan Church had no seminary, and 85% of Wesleyan ministers had no seminary degree. In less than a decade, Wesley Seminary has grown to more than 500 students and shares IWU’s impressive reputation.

Wesley Seminary’s online Doctor of Ministry degree program takes a unique approach to the DMin degree, with rotating concentrations for each year. In 2018, the concentration in Spiritual Formation follows previous concentrations in Transformational Leadership (2016) and Transformational Preaching (2017); Transformational Leadership will return in 2019. All coursework is online, except for two week-long residencies during the year, and the degree is completed with a dissertation. Three chapters are written in the online courses, leaving the remainder for a year-long project. It’s an online DMin designed to help the busiest working pastor earn a doctorate conveniently.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

14. Portland Seminary (George Fox University)

Oregon’s oldest and most prominent Christian university, George Fox University was founded in 1891 as Pacific College, but its roots go back farther, to an academy opened by Quaker pioneers in the Chehalem Valley. George Fox College merged with the Western Evangelical Seminary in 1996, becoming a university and starting a period of growth in size and esteem. Renamed the Portland Seminary, GFU’s seminary remains a multi-denominational, broadly evangelical institution with its own identity and a mission to create responsible ministers. GFU is regularly ranked as one of the top Christian universities in the nation.

Portland Seminary’s online DMin is one of the most unique and experimental ministry doctorates available in the US. Named the Leadership and Spiritual Formation DMin, the program focuses on the minister’s individual spiritual journey, helping working pastors and leaders grow their personal faith along with their skills as leaders. Students work together in a cohort format, getting to know each other during initial face-to-face retreats, and continuing their interaction online. With the emphasis on personal growth, students develop their own individual course plans with their advisors. Rooted in Christian tradition, the online DMin is a 21st century approach to an age-old mission.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

15. Luther Seminary

Luther Seminary, a St. Paul, MN, based institution, had a long and winding road to today, having built up slowly through the graduate merging of six different Lutheran seminaries. The oldest of those was founded in 1869, with mergers in 1917, 1963, 1976, and 1982 finally bringing the seminary to its current status. Today, Luther Seminary is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and is the largest of the denomination’s eight seminaries. With regional accreditation and accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), Luther Seminary is one of the Midwest’s most trusted religious institutions.

Luther Seminary’s online Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Preaching degree program is offered in a hybrid format. Students in the DMin program must commit to a 3-week residency each year, taking a required course, an elective, and a colloquy. All other work, including special projects and thesis writing, is done online. Students work through the program in a cohort, keeping in touch with their classmates through online forums. The emphasis on preaching gives working pastors a practical skill set they can apply immediately to their profession, including writing, design, and delivery. Luther Seminary is a trusted name, adding value to any pastor’s credentials.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

16. Drew University

Drew University’s Theological School offers three very unusual, very inspiring tracks for their Doctor of Ministry degree program. The two-year Fast Track program, Courageous Leadership in a Changing Culture, is designed for church leaders who want to advocate for social change in the public sphere. The 30-credit program is online, except for one 2-week intensive. The hybrid-format Pastoral Identity and Prophetic Fire is led by two of the nation’s most influential pastors, Dr Leonard Sweet and Dr Gary Simpson; students take 5 modules, each consisting of one week-long intensive and a semester of online mentoring. The Bible, Theology, and Leadership in a Korean Context is a hybrid program focusing on Korean Christianity. There is no institution quite like Drew University, and no online DMin program quite like Drew Theological School’s.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

17. Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit University had its humble beginning as a seminary hosted by the First Baptist Church of Johnson City, NY in 1932. When growth and demand grew too much for the church, the seminary moved to the borough of Clarks Summit, PA, in the foothills of the Endless Mountains, establishing a college. A regionally accredited, comprehensive university, Clarks Summit remains committed to its Baptist heritage and works to educate undergraduate and graduate students with a Biblical foundation and a focus on leadership and lifelong learning for any ministry life takes their graduates.

Clark Summit’s Doctor of Ministry degree comes from their Baptist Bible Seminary, the direct descendent of the seminary that started CSU. Not a completely online Doctor of Ministry, CSU’s DMin is offered in one-week intensive on-campus modules in October, February, and June, supplemented with online coursework. This professional degree is directed toward pastoral excellence, building on a grounding in Biblical theology and practical leadership skills. Five concentrations are available: Pastoral Ministry, Theological Studies, Global Ministry, Counseling and Spiritual Development, and Communication. Reasonable tuition rates from a fully accredited university seminary like Clark Summit means a degree that carries its own weight.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

18. Lancaster Bible College

Lancaster Bible College began with a small Bible school in 1933, settling in Manheim Township, Lancaster County, PA. Centrally located between Philadelphia and New York City, Lancaster Bible College was able to grow its student bodies and programs to encompass bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, earning both regional accreditation and accreditation from the Association for Biblical Higher Learning (ABHL). A nondenominational, evangelical Bible college, LBC is dedicated to traditional, orthodox theology and to Bible-based, Christ-centered education for professional, religious, and cultural leadership.

Lancaster Bible College’s online Doctor of Ministry degree program uses a blended hybrid format to give students the best of both worlds – face-to-face instruction and mentorship, with the convenience of online classes. Designed to give flexibility to working pastors, the online DMin requires just three weeks of intensive residency, with all other coursework provided online. Students can complete coursework in the first year, and complete their applied research project in the second year, to complete their DMin faster than most other programs. Three concentrations – Chaplaincy Studies, Formational Leadership, and Strategic Leadership – help the Doctor of Ministry student focus on their calling. Reasonable tuition helps them do it with less debt.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

19. Regent University

Regent’s fully online Doctor of Ministry degree program was one of the first Association of Theological Schools (ATS) accredited programs to be offered without residency, and it remains a leader in the field. Designed for working pastors, Regent’s online DMin focuses on building practical leadership skills on a foundation of Biblically sound theology, preparing pastors for leadership in diverse, multi-denominational settings. For students who want face-to-face instruction, the online DMin also offers a low-residency modular option. Regent’s name is strong within Christian education, and quickly earning a national reputation that will make its degrees still more valuable as time passes.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

20. Fuller Theological Seminary

The first multi-denominational seminary in America, Fuller Theological Seminary is one of the most influential institutions in American evangelicalism and a center of the neo-evangelical movement of the mid-20th century. Founded in 1940 by radio evangelist Charles E. Fuller, Fuller Seminary has frequently led the debate between conservative and liberal factions in American Christianity, as well as advancing discussion between religious and secular positions, advocating for Christ-centered, Biblically-based diversity and evangelism. Fuller is both regionally accredited, and accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.

Fuller’s online Doctor of Ministry hybrid degree program demonstrates Fuller’s excellence and influence. The Fuller DMin is focused on innovation and transformation, taught by experienced church leaders interested in finding ways to bring the Gospel to the people of today. The program offers either a Personalized or Cohort format. The Personalized format uses a mix of 1-week intensive residencies and online classes designed to be flexible to match the working pastor’s needs. In the cohort format, students work through the program together, with three to five on-campus intensives. To inspire lifelong learning, DMin graduates who audit 5 courses get to audit unlimited courses for free for the rest of their life.

Cost Per Credit: $$$$$

A Note on Accreditation

In conventional, secular higher education, the key standard for quality is regional accreditation from one of the seven agencies recognized by the US Department of Education. However, many seminaries do not seek regional accreditation, in order to avoid US Department of Education regulations that they may believe interfere with their Christian moral standards. In these cases, seminaries will seek out accreditation from other, faith-based organizations, such as the International Association for Christian Educational Accountability (IACEA) or the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). The Association of Theological Schools (ATS), which is recognized by the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, is often considered the highest standard for religious higher education.

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