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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • George­town Col­lege has the #1 top min­istry bach­e­lor’s degree.
  • A bach­e­lor’s in min­istry pre­pares stu­dents for roles in church lead­er­ship, reli­gious edu­ca­tion, and com­mu­ni­ty out­reach.
  • Pro­grams range from bib­li­cal stud­ies to pas­toral care, cater­ing to var­i­ous min­istry-relat­ed career paths.

Tra­di­tion­al­ly, reli­gious lead­ers have been edu­cat­ed in a wide vari­ety of ways, from sem­i­nar­ies to appren­tice­ships to on-the-job train­ing. But for­mal min­is­te­r­i­al edu­ca­tion in a con­ven­tion­al uni­ver­si­ty or col­lege set­ting is a fair­ly recent phe­nom­e­non, and many reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions still do not have offi­cial edu­ca­tion­al require­ments. For many church­es – par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Protes­tant tra­di­tion, and Amer­i­can Evan­gel­i­cal church­es – a sin­cere call to min­istry is enough to start a career in the ministry.

Despite the faith in a sin­cere call, though, in the 21st cen­tu­ry, Amer­i­can church­es have become much more sophis­ti­cat­ed orga­ni­za­tions than they were in the past, and it’s becom­ing more and more com­mon to expect a pas­tor to have a col­lege degree. That means at least a bachelor’s degree, and often a master’s. To start a career in the min­istry, many young peo­ple are rec­og­niz­ing their call as a call to prepa­ra­tion, with a bachelor’s degree in min­istry, the­ol­o­gy, bib­li­cal stud­ies, or reli­gion as their first step. For those prospec­tive min­istry stu­dents, Bachelor’s Degree Cen­ter has ranked the 25 Best Bach­e­lor of Min­istry Degree Programs.

Methodology: How We Ranked the Best Biblical Studies Degree Programs

When it comes to rank­ing pro­grams in min­istry, bib­li­cal stud­ies, and reli­gion, Bachelor’s Degree Cen­ter edi­tors cast a wide net, search­ing out accred­it­ed pro­grams from respect­ed insti­tu­tions of all kinds – Chris­t­ian col­leges, pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties, Catholic insti­tu­tions, and many more. From there, we ranked the best min­istry schools accord­ing to five criteria:

  • Tuition Rate
  • Grad­u­a­tion Rate
  • Employ­ment Rate
  • Alum­ni Salary
  • Stu­dent Reviews

Data for these were drawn from Col­lege Score­card, IPEDS, and Niche. With these many per­spec­tives, BDC read­ers can trust that the pro­grams fea­tured will make a dif­fer­ence in their min­istry career.

1. Georgetown College (of Georgetown University)

George­town Col­lege offers a BA in The­ol­o­gy and Reli­gious Stud­ies from the Depart­ment of The­ol­o­gy & Reli­gious Stud­ies, giv­ing stu­dents the option to choose from five con­cen­tra­tions. The con­cen­tra­tions for this bib­li­cal stud­ies degree pro­gram include 1. Bib­li­cal Stud­ies, 2. Reli­gious Stud­ies, 3. Reli­gion, Pol­i­tics, and the Com­mon Good, 4. Chris­t­ian The­ol­o­gy, and 5. Ethics. In lieu of a final exam­i­na­tion, stu­dents fin­ish the pro­gram with a con­clud­ing sem­i­nar. George­town Col­lege also offers its the­ol­o­gy stu­dents an oppor­tu­ni­ty to study abroad.

George­town Col­lege was estab­lished in 1789 and is affil­i­at­ed with the Roman Catholic Church. The par­ent insti­tu­tion of George­town Col­lege is George­town Uni­ver­si­ty. George­town College’s urban cam­pus is home to more than 3,200 stu­dents. George­town Col­lege holds the dis­tinc­tion of being the largest under­grad­u­ate and old­est school at George­town University.

What We Like: The Depart­ment of The­ol­o­gy & Reli­gious Stud­ies at George­town Col­lege offers a renowned sig­na­ture the­ol­o­gy course based on the lec­tures of John Mur­ray, SJ enti­tled The Prob­lem of God.
Degree: BA in The­ol­o­gy (5 concentrations)

George­town College 

2. College of William and Mary

The Col­lege of William and Mary’s BA in Reli­gious Stud­ies degree pro­gram pre­pares stu­dents for reward­ing careers in the areas of busi­ness, inter­na­tion­al ser­vice, law, gov­ern­ment, med­i­cine or the min­istry. Course­work for this Bach­e­lor of Min­istry degree pro­gram includes both west­ern and east­ern reli­gious philoso­phies. Degree grad­u­ates explore the many research meth­ods that dom­i­nate the­o­log­i­cal research studies.

The Col­lege of William and Mary was estab­lished in 1693. Sev­er­al US pres­i­dents grad­u­at­ed from W&M — Thomas Jef­fer­son, John Tyler, and James Mon­roe. The Col­lege of William and Mary was cre­at­ed by a writ­ten decree from the British Mon­archs — King William III and Queen Mary II. Oth­er than Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, the Col­lege of William and Mary is the old­est insti­tu­tion of high­er edu­ca­tion in the Unit­ed States.

What We Like: Ethics is at the cen­ter of William and Mary; in fact, the Col­lege of William and Mary was the first school to cre­ate and enforce a stu­dent hon­or code.
Degree: BA in Reli­gious Studies

Col­lege of William and Mary

3. University of California, Santa Barbara

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San­ta Barbara’s (UCSB) Reli­gious Stud­ies divi­sion, con­sid­ered the finest of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Sys­tem, offers UCSB’s BA in Reli­gious Stud­ies degree pro­gram that offers stu­dents many con­cen­tra­tions from which to choose — Chris­tian­i­ty, Judaism, the Mediterranean/European tra­di­tions, Bud­dhism, and Asian Tra­di­tions. UCSB’s Bib­li­cal Stud­ies degree pro­gram requires the com­ple­tion of 48 total cred­it units — of which 44 cred­it units are upper-divi­sion class­es. Stu­dents enter the work­force pre­pared to inte­grate the prin­ci­ples of reli­gion with his­to­ry, lit­er­a­ture, sci­ence, and politics.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia –San­ta Bar­bara was estab­lished in 1891. UC San­ta Bar­bara is the third-old­est mem­ber school of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Sys­tem. UCSB is a pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty orga­nized into five schools/colleges. UCSB is con­sid­ered one of the pub­lic ivy insti­tu­tions of high­er learn­ing in the country.

What We Like: Reli­gious Stud­ies degree can­di­dates may study abroad in 35 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, at more than 140 insti­tu­tions of high­er edu­ca­tion.
Degree: BA in Reli­gious Studies


4. Case Western Reserve University

The Depart­ment of Reli­gious Stud­ies offers Case West­ern Reserve University’s BA in Reli­gious Stud­ies inter­dis­ci­pli­nary degree pro­gram. CWRU’s Bib­li­cal Stud­ies degree pro­gram explores reli­gion through sci­ence, social sci­ence, and human­i­ties, which pre­pares stu­dents for careers in jour­nal­ism, med­i­cine, law, engi­neer­ing, and social work. This Bach­e­lor of Min­istry degree pro­gram requires the com­ple­tion of 30 cred­it hours with­in the cho­sen con­cen­tra­tion of Hon­ors Research II or Inter­pret­ing Reli­gion: Approach­es & Cur­rent Issue.

Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty was tech­ni­cal­ly estab­lished in 1826; how­ev­er, the school’s full uni­ver­si­ty sta­tus was not reached until 1967, when two uni­ver­si­ties joined forces — Con­necti­cut West­ern Reserve and Case IT. The first Amer­i­can to win a Sci­ence Nobel Prize — Albert A Michel­son — con­duct­ed an exper­i­ment that lat­er act­ed as evi­dence in sup­port of Einstein’s The­o­ry of Rel­a­tiv­i­ty. US News rec­og­nizes Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty among the top 40 top nation­al uni­ver­si­ties in the nation.

What We Like: Case Western’s Reisach­er Sum­mer Fel­low­ship pro­vides stu­dents with $3000 in fund­ing for research.
Degree: BA in Reli­gious Studies

Case West­ern Reserve University

5. University of Rochester

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester’s BA in Reli­gion degree pro­gram, from the Depart­ment of Reli­gion & Clas­sics, allows the­ol­o­gy stu­dents to explore the world’s diverse and unique reli­gions. UR’s Bach­e­lor of Bib­li­cal Stud­ies degree program’s course­work includes the Old Tes­ta­ment, the New Tes­ta­ment, Islam, Chris­tian­i­ty, and Judaism. BA in Reli­gion degree can­di­dates must also com­plete a senior sem­i­nar, tuto­r­i­al, and senior the­sis project. In addi­tion, stu­dents are encour­aged to con­sid­er study­ing abroad as they earn their bac­calau­re­ate degree.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester was estab­lished in 1850. UR’s 600-acre cam­pus is home to more than 11,000 stu­dents. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester employs the most work­ers of any employ­er in the Rochester area. The East­man School of Music holds the dis­tinc­tion as the #1 music school in the nation. The School of Music’s Sib­ley Library holds the largest aca­d­e­m­ic library of music in North­ern America.

What We Like: Reli­gion majors can add a minor in Ara­bic, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.
Degree: BA in Religion

Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester

6. Augustana College

Augus­tana Col­lege offers a BA in Reli­gion from the Depart­ment of Reli­gion, Phi­los­o­phy, & Clas­sics. Augus­tana College’s Bach­e­lor of Bib­li­cal Stud­ies offers stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty of select­ing from two areas of con­cen­tra­tion — the Reli­gion major or the Religion/Philosophy major. The cur­ricu­lum offered through Augus­tana College’s reli­gious stud­ies bac­calau­re­ate pro­gram is orga­nized as fol­lows — Tra­di­tion & Cul­ture, Con­tem­po­rary Reli­gious Issues, and the Text & Con­text of reli­gious texts and writings.

Augus­tana Col­lege was estab­lished in 1860 and is affil­i­at­ed with the Evan­gel­i­cal Luther­an Church of Amer­i­ca. The school’s 100+-acre cam­pus sits along­side the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er and is home to more than 2,499 stu­dents. Stu­dents and staff attend inter­na­tion­al pro­grams, avail­able on all sev­en con­ti­nents. Augus­tana Col­lege was found­ed to assert the her­itage and iden­ti­ty of Swedish Americans.

What We Like: Augus­tana College’s Bib­li­cal Stud­ies degree pro­gram expands each student’s moral respon­si­bil­i­ty by explor­ing inquiries regard­ing the mean­ing of life.
Degree: BA in Religion

Augus­tana College

7. University of Dayton

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Day­ton offers a BA in Reli­gious Stud­ies that allows stu­dents to delve deeply into the Roman Catholic Reli­gion by integrating/comparing the prin­ci­ples oth­er world reli­gions. UD’s Bib­li­cal Stud­ies degree pro­gram offers stu­dents five aca­d­e­m­ic tracks — the Gen­er­al Track, the Catholic School track, the Min­istry Track, the Grad­u­ate School Prep track, and the World Reli­gions track. Due to the inter­na­tion­al nature of a bib­li­cal stud­ies degree, degree can­di­dates are required to com­plete a lan­guage requirement.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Day­ton was found­ed in 1850 and is affil­i­at­ed with the Mar­i­an­ist (The Soci­ety of Mary) Roman Catholic Church. The school’s 375+-acre cam­pus cross­es both sides of the Mia­mi Riv­er in Day­ton, OH and is home to more than 10,000 stu­dents. Dayton’s Chapel of the Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion is a his­toric church that has been a cen­ter of life in Day­ton since 1869.

What We Like: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Day­ton is rec­og­nized as the first school to offer an under­grad­u­ate degree in Human Rights.
Degree: BA in Reli­gious Studies

Uni­ver­si­ty of Day­ton

8. Grinnell College

Grin­nell College’s Depart­ment of Reli­gious Stud­ies offers a BA in Reli­gious Stud­ies that requires stu­dents to com­plete 32 cred­it units to grad­u­ate. The school’s bib­li­cal stud­ies degree includes class­es in West­ern Reli­gions, Asian Reli­gions, plus the two sem­i­nar require­ments of Advanced Top­ics in Reli­gious Stud­ies and the Study of Reli­gion-The­o­ry & Method­ol­o­gy. Grin­nell Col­lege eval­u­ates trans­fer cred­it options based on a case-by-case basis.

Grin­nell Col­lege was estab­lished in 1846 and is best known for its ardu­ous aca­d­e­m­ic require­ments and a ded­i­cat­ed tra­di­tion to social jus­tice. Grin­nell College’s 100+-acre cam­pus is home to sev­er­al build­ings list­ed in the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places and more than 1,700 stu­dents. US News rec­og­nizes Grin­nell Col­lege among the top lib­er­al arts insti­tu­tions of high­er learn­ing in the country.

What We Like: Grin­nell stu­dents are encour­aged to fol­low their own inter­est in research, part­nered with a fac­ul­ty men­tor.
Degree: BA in Reli­gious Studies

Grin­nell College

9. University of St. Thomas

The Uni­ver­si­ty of St. Thomas’ Col­lege of Arts & Sci­ences offers a Bach­e­lor of Arts degree pro­gram with a con­cen­tra­tion in Catholic Stud­ies or a con­cen­tra­tion in The­ol­o­gy. St. Thomas’ The­ol­o­gy bac­calau­re­ate degree offers stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to select from two majors, Min­istry, and Gen­er­al The­ol­o­gy. The Catholic Stud­ies pro­gram pro­vides stu­dents an in-depth look into how the Catholic tra­di­tion impacts his­to­ry, pol­i­tics, art, sci­ence, lit­er­a­ture in many cultures.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of St. Thomas is a pri­vate insti­tu­tion of high­er learn­ing that was estab­lished in 1885. St. Thomas was ini­tial­ly estab­lished as a Catholic Sem­i­nary and the school remains affil­i­at­ed with the Roman Catholic Church. St. Thomas is the largest pri­vate, non­prof­it insti­tu­tion of high­er edu­ca­tion in the state of Minnesota.

What We Like: St. Thomas’ Catholic Stud­ies bib­li­cal stud­ies degree is rec­og­nized as the largest and the old­est Catholic Stud­ies degree pro­gram across the globe.
Degree: BA in Catholic Stud­ies or Theology

Uni­ver­si­ty of St. Thomas

10. Martin Luther College

Mar­tin Luther Col­lege offers three bib­li­cal stud­ies degree pro­grams. These include the Bach­e­lor of Arts (BA) in the Pre-Sem­i­nary pro­gram, the Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence (BS) in The­o­log­i­cal Stud­ies pro­gram, and the Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence (BS) in Staff Min­istry degree pro­gram. Course­work includes Bib­li­cal Inter­pre­ta­tion, the Prac­tice of Min­istry, Bib­li­cal His­to­ry, Lead­er­ship Train­ing, Reten­tion of Con­gre­ga­tion Mem­bers, and Car­ing & Coun­sel­ing, among others.

Mar­tin Luther Col­lege was estab­lished in 1995 when Dr. Mar­tin Luther Col­lege merged with the North­west­ern Col­lege in Wis­con­sin. The school is affil­i­at­ed with the Wis­con­sin Evan­gel­i­cal Luther­an Syn­od. The school’s rur­al cam­pus is sit­u­at­ed above the Min­neso­ta Riv­er and home to near­ly 900 stu­dents. High­light — The school’s orig­i­nal Main Build­ing (fash­ioned in a Goth­ic Revival style) is list­ed on the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places.

What We Like: Mar­tin Luther Col­lege offers a gen­er­ous trans­fer cred­it pol­i­cy of up to 30 eli­gi­ble cred­it hours
Degree: BA Pre-Sem­i­nary, BS Staff Min­istry, BS The­o­log­i­cal Studies

Mar­tin Luther College

11. Rhodes College

Rhodes College’s Depart­ment of Reli­gious Stud­ies offers a Bachelor’s in Reli­gious Stud­ies degree pro­gram that allows bib­li­cal stud­ies degree can­di­dates to explore the reli­gious beliefs and tra­di­tions from across the globe, in rela­tion to one anoth­er. Pro­gram course­work is updat­ed rou­tine­ly to reflect the world’s chal­lenges. It includes class­es in South­east Asia reli­gions, Healthcare’s Racial Dis­par­i­ties, Black­Lives­Mat­ter, the Holo­caust and Euro­pean Film, Art & Literature.

Rhodes Col­lege was estab­lished in 1848 in the heart of Mem­phis. The school’s unique and beau­ti­ful urban cam­pus is home to more than 2,000 stu­dents. The aver­age class size at Rhodes Col­lege is four­teen stu­dents; with a faculty/student ratio of 10:1. Forbes rec­og­nizes Rhodes Col­lege among the top twen­ty south­ern col­leges. Prince­ton Review rec­og­nizes Rhodes College’s cam­pus among the most beau­ti­ful school cam­pus in the country.

What We Like: Rhodes College’s intern­ships are avail­able near­by in orga­ni­za­tions ded­i­cat­ed to pro­vid­ing social, reli­gious and health care ser­vices to Nashville’s res­i­dents.
Degree: Bach­e­lors in Reli­gious Studies

Rhodes Col­lege

12. Illinois Wesleyan University

Illi­nois Wes­leyan Uni­ver­si­ty offers a BA in Reli­gion that explores reli­gion through the cul­tur­al fab­ric of art, pol­i­tics, human thought, and lit­er­a­ture. Course­work includes a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive of reli­gions, tex­tu­al stud­ies, and phi­los­o­phy. Through com­plet­ed course­work, stu­dents gain an under­stand­ing as to why it is so chal­leng­ing to define the con­cept of reli­gion. Illi­nois Wes­leyan University’s intern­ships deliv­er a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty for stu­dents to expe­ri­ence a hands-on/a­ca­d­e­m­ic occurrence.

Illi­nois Wes­leyan Uni­ver­si­ty was estab­lished in 1850 and offers under­grad­u­ate degrees exclu­sive­ly. The school’s sub­ur­ban cam­pus is home to near­ly 1,900 stu­dents study­ing for bachelor’s degrees in fine arts, lib­er­al arts, busi­ness, and nurs­ing, among oth­ers. Illi­nois Wes­leyan Uni­ver­si­ty is rec­og­nized among the best val­ue insti­tu­tions of high­er edu­ca­tion in the coun­try. Near­ly 90% of stu­dents attend­ing Illi­nois Wes­leyan Uni­ver­si­ty receive some form of finan­cial assistance.

What We Like: IWU grad­u­ates have gone on to some of the most pres­ti­gious grad­u­ate pro­grams in the world, includ­ing the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go and Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty.
Degree: BA in Religion

Illi­nois Wes­leyan University

13. Valparaiso University

Val­paraiso University’s Depart­ment of The­ol­o­gy offers a BA in The­ol­o­gy & Min­istry for stu­dents who wish to work serv­ing the fam­i­lies (and indi­vid­u­als) of Chris­t­ian con­gre­ga­tions across the world. Degree can­di­dates are encour­aged to par­tic­i­pate in the­ol­o­gy-relat­ed activ­i­ties spon­sored by the Cen­ter for Church Voca­tions. Course­work required to earn Val­paraiso University’s bib­li­cal stud­ies degree includes 40 the­ol­o­gy cred­its units.

Val­paraiso Uni­ver­si­ty is a pri­vate insti­tu­tion of high­er edu­ca­tion that was estab­lished in 1859. The school is affil­i­at­ed with the Luther­an Church. The school’s 350-acre sub­ur­ban cam­pus is home to near­ly 4,500 stu­dents study­ing from six schools/colleges. Stu­dents grad­u­ate pre­pared for reward­ing careers as a Chris­t­ian Edu­ca­tion Direc­tor, a Social Work­er, a Jour­nal­ist, a Librar­i­an in a Reli­gious Library, an Over­seas Out­reach Worker.

What We Like: Val­paraiso Uni­ver­si­ty is home to the 2nd largest aca­d­e­m­ic chapel in the world.
Degree: BA in The­ol­o­gy and Ministry

Val­paraiso University

14. Messiah College

Obtain­ing a Bib­li­cal stud­ies degree from Mes­si­ah Col­lege offers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to focus on help­ing oth­ers and reach­ing out to those in need. Mes­si­ah Col­lege offers two pro­grams for stu­dents who want to study min­istry or Chris­tian­i­ty. Mes­si­ah’s BA in Bib­li­cal and Reli­gious Stud­ies focus­es on inter­pret­ing the Bible and Bib­li­cal text while devel­op­ing use­ful lead­er­ship skills. The BA in Chris­t­ian Min­istry allows stu­dents to focus on a spe­cif­ic area of pas­toral work. Stu­dents can learn to be a youth min­is­ter, a con­gre­ga­tion­al min­is­ter, or take the dif­fi­cult road of cross-cul­tur­al min­istries to per­form missions.

Mes­si­ah Col­lege stands out for its focus on pro­vid­ing spe­cif­ic skills based on the goals of stu­dents. When stu­dents are called to engage in mis­sions abroad or with­in a com­mu­ni­ty, they have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn ways to han­dle dif­fer­ent cul­tures and sit­u­a­tions. The con­cen­tra­tion on cross-cul­tur­al min­istries as well as the more tra­di­tion­al stud­ies avail­able in the school allows stu­dents to focus on their goals and plans for the future.

What We Like: Min­istry stu­dents ben­e­fit from Messiah’s Fit­ness for Min­istry pro­gram, which pro­vides sup­port includ­ing men­tor­ship, church expe­ri­ence, and even resume and port­fo­lio help.
Degree: BA in Bib­li­cal and Reli­gious Stud­ies or Chris­t­ian Ministry

Mes­si­ah College

15. Sewanee: The University of the South

When you are look­ing for a bach­e­lor of Bib­li­cal stud­ies that fits your plans for your career, a BA in Reli­gious Stud­ies from Sewa­nee: The Uni­ver­si­ty of the South may offer the train­ing and skills you need for your goals. The degree pro­gram focus­es on explor­ing the ques­tions that sur­round reli­gion and the impact of reli­gion on his­to­ry, cul­ture, and val­ues. The degree pro­gram also encour­ages stu­dents to explore sacred texts and the philoso­phies behind reli­gions by tak­ing a cross-cul­tur­al approach to the learn­ing environment.

Sewa­nee: The Uni­ver­si­ty of the South dif­fers from oth­er pro­grams by focus­ing on com­par­a­tive stud­ies. It does not lim­it stu­dents to Chris­t­ian beliefs and it rec­og­nizes that reli­gion plays a role in cul­ture, soci­etal norms, and the his­to­ry of a region. That recog­ni­tion allows stu­dents to com­pare sacred texts and lit­er­a­ture with a well-round­ed view of dif­fer­ent reli­gious beliefs. The uni­ver­si­ty also encour­ages stu­dents to engage in extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties and inde­pen­dent research as part of their degree program.

What We Like: Sewanee’s Reli­gious Stud­ies pro­gram is deeply inter­dis­ci­pli­nary, incor­po­rat­ing fields as diverse as arche­ol­o­gy, soci­ol­o­gy, and media stud­ies.
Degree: BA in Reli­gious Studies

Sewa­nee: The Uni­ver­si­ty of the South

16. Hamline University

Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty offers a BA in Reli­gion that focus­es on build­ing con­nec­tions and exam­in­ing the way reli­gion impacts self-under­stand­ing, cul­ture, and his­to­ry. Stu­dents focus on explor­ing their own reli­gious beliefs as well as the beliefs of oth­ers on cam­pus and around the world. The goal of the degree pro­gram is help­ing stu­dents rec­og­nize the impact of reli­gion on dif­fer­ent cul­tures and under­stand the way beliefs may shape human behavior.

Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty stands apart from oth­er pro­grams by offer­ing unique exam­i­na­tions on the sig­nif­i­cance of reli­gion on lit­er­a­ture, his­to­ry, and con­tem­po­rary soci­ety. It does not study reli­gion through the lens of min­istry; rather, it stud­ies reli­gion as it applies to dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties and groups. That recog­ni­tion that reli­gion shapes behav­ior and cul­ture teach­es stu­dents the respect they need to inter­act with oth­ers. The degree pre­pares stu­dents to work in their church or to move for­ward with more advanced edu­ca­tion in a vari­ety of fields and industries.

What We Like: Hamline’s reli­gion is root­ed in the ecu­meni­cal val­ues of the Methodist Church.
Degree: BA in Religion

Ham­line University

17. Northwestern College

A Bib­li­cal Stud­ies degree from North­west­ern Col­lege pre­pares stu­dents to take an active role in their church. It also helps stu­dents advance in their stud­ies by help­ing them get into pro­grams for sem­i­nary stud­ies. The BA in Bib­li­cal and The­o­log­i­cal Stud­ies pro­vides a firm foun­da­tion in the prac­tice of min­istry and the study of Bib­li­cal texts. It also strength­ens a stu­den­t’s knowl­edge of the scrip­ture to pre­pare for the chal­lenges of work­ing in min­istry or engag­ing in church-relat­ed activities.

North­west­ern Col­lege offers co-cur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties that allow stu­dents to pre­pare for their min­istry work. The co-cur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties range from act­ing as a youth pas­tor and lead­ing wor­ship in the school’s chapel to going on short-term mis­sion trips around the Unit­ed States or abroad. The expe­ri­ence helps stu­dents deter­mine their long-term goals and pre­pares them for the chal­lenges of min­istry work.

What We Like: North­west­ern Col­lege focus­es on expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing by help­ing stu­dents obtain intern­ships as a wor­ship assis­tant or a youth leader.
Degree: BA in Bib­li­cal and The­o­log­i­cal Studies

North­west­ern College

18. Mississippi College

The Chris­t­ian Stud­ies and Phi­los­o­phy pro­gram at Mis­sis­sip­pi Col­lege teach­es stu­dents the phi­los­o­phy behind Chris­t­ian liv­ing and pro­vides a strong foun­da­tion in Bib­li­cal stud­ies. The degree pro­gram takes a hands-on approach to the learn­ing process and encour­ages stu­dents to active­ly par­tic­i­pate in activ­i­ties that build lead­er­ship skills and help out in local com­mu­ni­ties. The degree pro­gram focus­es on effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and crit­i­cal think­ing to pre­pare stu­dents for the chal­lenges of work­ing in a mod­ern environment.

Mis­sis­sip­pi Col­lege takes a hands-on approach to the learn­ing process. Stu­dents in the Chris­t­ian Stud­ies and Phi­los­o­phy pro­gram are expect­ed to serve church­es and engage in activ­i­ties that build up lead­er­ship skills. A stu­dent may take on a paid posi­tion with a church, engage in mis­sion trips that require trav­el­ing to a dif­fer­ent loca­tion, or work in sum­mer camps and pro­grams through the church. You may also be asked to par­tic­i­pate in char­i­ty orga­ni­za­tions and activ­i­ties while study­ing at the college.

What We Like: Mis­sis­sip­pi College’s Insti­tute for Chris­t­ian Lead­er­ship gives stu­dents and fac­ul­ty alike the chance to devel­op their lead­er­ship skills through a vari­ety of activ­i­ties.
Degree: Chris­t­ian Stud­ies and Philosophy

Mis­sis­sip­pi College

19. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Mid­west­ern Bap­tist The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary offers three bib­li­cal stud­ies degree pro­grams for stu­dents who want to obtain a bach­e­lor of min­istry degree. Stu­dents can obtain a BA in Bib­li­cal Stud­ies, Chris­t­ian Min­istries, or The­ol­o­gy. The dif­fer­ent pro­grams focus on spe­cif­ic areas of Chris­t­ian study and help stu­dents eval­u­ate their goals before start­ing their degree. Stu­dents who want to work as a pas­tor or take on lead­er­ship roles in the church may find the Chris­t­ian Min­istries degree to fit their goals. The Bib­li­cal Stud­ies degree focus­es on eval­u­at­ing and ana­lyz­ing Bib­li­cal texts and is ide­al when you want to focus on research-relat­ed fields. The­ol­o­gy eval­u­ates the impact of reli­gion on his­to­ry and society.

Mid­west­ern Bap­tist The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary stands out for their accel­er­at­ed pro­grams and their focus on pro­vid­ing a cus­tomized edu­ca­tion for stu­dents. Since it offers mul­ti­ple degree pro­grams, stu­dents can focus on a spe­cif­ic area of Chris­t­ian stud­ies. It also allows stu­dents to trans­fer cred­its or take accel­er­at­ed class­es to fin­ish up a degree in a short amount of time.

What We Like: Stu­dents at MBTS can earn their bachelor’s and Mas­ter of Divin­i­ty degree in five years.
Degree: BA in Bib­li­cal Stud­ies, Chris­t­ian Min­istries, Theology

Mid­west­ern Bap­tist The­o­log­i­cal Seminary

20. Spring Hill College

Spring Hill Col­lege offers a BA in The­ol­o­gy that allows stu­dents to focus on study­ing reli­gions and ser­vice with­in the Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty. The degree pro­gram gives stu­dents an in-depth look into Chris­tian­i­ty and Chris­t­ian faith. It also teach­es stu­dents about oth­er reli­gions and their impact on soci­ety, his­to­ry, and cul­ture. The degree pro­gram takes a well-round­ed approach to reli­gious study and pre­pares stu­dents for more advanced study or to make an impact in their community.

The way Spring Hill Col­lege dif­fers from oth­er pro­grams is the focus on in-depth dis­cus­sion and eval­u­a­tion of reli­gion. Stu­dents are encour­aged to think crit­i­cal­ly about their beliefs and the beliefs of oth­ers. They are asked in-depth ques­tions and encour­aged to dis­cuss the top­ics for a well-round­ed approach to their stud­ies. It also rec­og­nizes the impor­tance of reli­gion on cul­ture and explores the way reli­gious beliefs impact or change the cul­ture over time.

What We Like: Spring Hill has sent grad­u­ates to some of the world’s great­est grad­u­ate pro­grams, includ­ing Boston Col­lege and Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty.
Degree: BA in Theology

Spring Hill College

21. Athens State University

When you are look­ing for a bach­e­lor of Bib­li­cal stud­ies, the BA in Reli­gion from Athens State Uni­ver­si­ty may assist with your goals. The degree pro­gram gives stu­dents the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explore world reli­gions, the­ol­o­gy, ethics in reli­gion, Bib­li­cal stud­ies, and cul­ture as it relates to reli­gion. By devel­op­ing a well-round­ed view of reli­gion, stu­dents are able to engage with oth­ers in a respect­ful and under­stand­ing way. It allows stu­dents to explore their own beliefs as well as to under­stand the way oth­ers form their beliefs based on their own expe­ri­ences and religions.

Athens State Uni­ver­si­ty has offered a degree in reli­gion since 1938. The long his­to­ry of study­ing reli­gion has allowed the school to rec­og­nize the changes to reli­gious stud­ies over time and to pre­pare stu­dents for the chal­lenges they may face in the future. It rec­og­nizes that mod­ern soci­ety changes rapid­ly and strives to ensure stu­dents are pre­pared to han­dle the changes that may arise over time.

What We Like: Athens State’s Reli­gion and Ethics pro­gram focus­es on an in-depth analy­sis of eth­i­cal sys­tems around the world.
Degree: BA in Religion

Athens State University

22. Lancaster Bible College

Lan­cast­er Bible Col­lege offers a BA in Pas­toral Min­istry and a BA in Bib­li­cal Stud­ies. When you want a bach­e­lor of min­istry degree or a relat­ed degree, the school offers pro­grams to assist with your goals. The Pas­toral Min­istry degree pro­gram focus­es on devel­op­ing lead­ers who fol­low the stan­dards set by the Bible. The goal of the pro­gram is becom­ing a shep­herd who engages with the mem­bers of a church with com­pas­sion and firm guid­ance. The Bib­li­cal Stud­ies degree focus­es on gain­ing an in-depth knowl­edge of Bib­li­cal texts and devel­op­ing the skills to sup­port a leader or to take on a lead­er­ship role with­in the church.

The way Lan­cast­er Bible Col­lege stands apart from oth­er pro­grams is its focus on devel­op­ing a shep­herd leader. The col­lege does not treat min­istry stu­dents or Bib­li­cal stud­ies stu­dents as a busi­ness leader. It focus­es on author­i­ty as ground­ed in the Bible and strives to ensure stu­dents under­stand min­istry, dis­ci­ple­ship, and lead­er­ship from a Bib­li­cal per­spec­tive. It gives stu­dents an in-depth knowl­edge of how to lead with com­pas­sion and kindness.

What We Like: LBC’s Four-Plus-One track allows stu­dents to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in just 5 years.
Degree: BA in Pas­toral Min­istry or BA in Bib­li­cal Studies

Lan­cast­er Bible College 

23. Webster University

Web­ster Uni­ver­si­ty offers a BA in Reli­gious Stud­ies that pre­pares stu­dents to engage in the mod­ern min­istry envi­ron­ment. It rec­og­nizes that reli­gion is a com­plex top­ic and stu­dents will face chal­lenges when engag­ing in diverse cul­tures, reli­gions, and back­grounds. The Reli­gious Stud­ies degree pro­gram eval­u­ates the socio-his­tor­i­cal con­text of reli­gion as well as the way reli­gion may impact inter­na­tion­al affairs. It also exam­ines the myths, rit­u­als, arts, and ideas behind reli­gions that may impact cul­tur­al practices.

Web­ster Uni­ver­si­ty stands out for its focus on under­stand­ing the way reli­gion pro­vides mean­ing in the lives of indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties. It strives to under­stand the impact of reli­gion on indi­vid­u­als as well as to study world reli­gions for a com­plete view of how cul­ture relates to reli­gious expres­sion and beliefs. It takes a cross-cul­tur­al view of reli­gion to pre­pare stu­dents to work with diverse com­mu­ni­ties and groups.

What We Like: Web­ster takes a glob­al approach to reli­gious stud­ies, includ­ing hands-on expe­ri­ences like Japan­ese flower arrang­ing.
Degree: BA in Reli­gious Studies

Web­ster University 

24. Central Methodist University

Cen­tral Methodist Uni­ver­si­ty offers a BA in Reli­gion and Church Lead­er­ship that pre­pares stu­dents to take on a lead­er­ship role in min­istry. The degree pro­gram gives stu­dents a strong foun­da­tion in tra­di­tion­al col­lege stud­ies and then moves into top­ics relat­ed to Bib­li­cal stud­ies and reli­gious stud­ies. It also focus­es on devel­op­ing lead­er­ship skills that allow stu­dents to take on the chal­lenges of work­ing as a min­is­ter with­in their church. Stu­dents are able to study the his­to­ry of Chris­tian­i­ty, World Cul­tures, and Bib­li­cal lit­er­a­ture for an in-depth under­stand­ing of religion.

The way Cen­tral Methodist Uni­ver­si­ty stands out from oth­er pro­grams is its focus on a well-round­ed edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence. The degree pro­gram allows stu­dents to focus on their goals to work in ser­vice to the church with­out giv­ing up on the valu­able skills they need to engage in mod­ern dis­cus­sions and activ­i­ties. By devel­op­ing skills that apply to dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, stu­dents devel­op crit­i­cal think­ing skills that help with their long-term goals.

What We Like: Cen­tral Methodist’s Guid­ing Vision is root­ed in Com­mu­ni­ty, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and Curios­i­ty.
Degree: BA in Reli­gion and Church Leadership

Cen­tral Methodist University

25. Clarks Summit University

When you are look­ing for a degree in min­istry, then the BS in Pas­toral Min­istries from Clarks Sum­mit Uni­ver­si­ty is a good option for your plans. The degree pro­gram offers a focused study into the Bible and Bib­li­cal lit­er­a­ture. Stu­dents learn the orig­i­nal Greek to ful­ly under­stand the Bible and to rec­og­nize the role of gram­mar and word-usage for con­text and meaning.

Clarks Sum­mit Uni­ver­si­ty dif­fers from oth­er pro­grams by pro­vid­ing stu­dents with an in-depth study of Bib­li­cal scrip­ture and lead­er­ship. The degree pro­gram helps stu­dents by offer­ing hands-on expe­ri­ence in min­istry through intern­ships and vol­un­teer work, as well as men­tor­ship pro­grams. That focus on devel­op­ing lead­er­ship skills through hands-on expe­ri­ence com­bined with in-depth study of the Bible pre­pares stu­dents for their role as a leader in the church.

What We Like: All Clarks Sum­mit stu­dents earn a dou­ble major, com­bin­ing Bib­li­cal Stud­ies with a sec­ond major.
Degree: BS in Pas­toral Ministries

Clarks Sum­mit Uni­ver­si­ty

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Pastor?

Have you con­sid­ered how to become a min­is­ter? Have you seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered if becom­ing a pas­tor with­out a degree is pos­si­ble? Have you said aloud — I want to become a Pas­tor? You don’t have to go to school to become a pas­tor. You’re don’t need an M.Div. You don’t even need a high school diplo­ma. But if you want to be a good pas­tor, edu­ca­tion helps.

The good news is that very few reli­gious tra­di­tions or denom­i­na­tions man­date that pas­toral can­di­dates pos­sess a col­lege degree as a pre­req­ui­site to being ordained. How­ev­er, it is impor­tant to under­stand that a reli­gious stud­ies degree hold­er would like­ly be pre­ferred to some­one with­out a pas­tor edu­ca­tion degree.

Addi­tion­al­ly, it is gen­er­al­ly expect­ed that an indi­vid­ual apply­ing for a posi­tion of lead­er­ship in a reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion or house of wor­ship — like a head pas­tor — holds a bac­calau­re­ate degree, at a min­i­mum. If you want to know how to become a pas­tor with­out a degree, keep reading!

Becom­ing a pas­tor with­out a degree is espe­cial­ly a great idea to obtain an entry-lev­el posi­tion. In fact, many reli­gious lead­ers learn how to become a min­is­ter with on the job train­ing as they earn their reli­gious stud­ies degree through a part-time pas­tor edu­ca­tion. Those who say to them­selves — I want to become a pas­tor — can choose to start with or with­out a reli­gious stud­ies degree, but the advan­tages of a degree are real.

What Kind of Degree Should I Get to Go Into Ministry?

There are many kinds of pas­tor schools, and many kinds of col­leges for min­istry. Most min­istry majors seek­ing to devote their career to the world of reli­gion and the min­istry, gen­er­al­ly look inside them­selves to dis­cov­er which facet of the min­istry would ben­e­fit most from their tal­ent or the area in which the stu­dent finds them­selves drawn to.

Gen­er­al­ly, the types of min­istry degrees at the bac­calau­re­ate lev­el fall into one of two cat­e­gories — A Bach­e­lor Arts (BA) degree, and a Bach­e­lor of The­ol­o­gy (Th.B.).

A degree to become a pas­tor is avail­able as follows:

Bach­e­lor of Arts in Bib­li­cal Stud­ies
Bach­e­lor of Arts in Min­istry
Bach­e­lor of Arts in Reli­gion
Bach­e­lor of Arts in Reli­gious Stud­ies
Bach­e­lor of Arts in The­ol­o­gy,
Bach­e­lor of Arts in Youth Missions

When research­ing the avail­able types of min­istry degrees or your pre­ferred degree to become a pas­tor, remem­ber to research if the school offer­ing the spe­cif­ic pro­gram has received the appro­pri­ate accred­i­ta­tion because cer­tain career choic­es, like teach­ing, require an accred­it­ed program.

A Bach­e­lor of Arts degree is gen­er­al­ly com­plet­ed in four years. The cur­ricu­lum includes the school’s core cur­ricu­lum plus the major’s course­work. A Bach­e­lor of The­ol­o­gy dif­fers from the BA pro­gram in that it is com­plet­ed in five years. The ‘Th.B.’ Degree course­work also includes the study of Hebrew and Greek.

What Do Ministers Do?

What does a min­is­ter do? Have you ever con­sid­ered the dif­fer­ence between a rev­erend vs pas­tor and a min­is­ter vs pastor?

The real­i­ty is when con­sid­er­ing the dif­fer­ences between a rev­erend vs pas­tor, and a min­is­ter vs pas­tor, the dif­fer­ence in the titles depend on upon the reli­gious tra­di­tions they rep­re­sent. For exam­ple, the term min­is­ter is used in the reli­gious tra­di­tions of Bap­tist, Pres­by­ter­ian, and Reformed Church­es (and oth­ers) for their spir­i­tu­al lead­ers and mem­bers of the clergy.

Con­verse­ly, the term priest is used for the Catholic, Angli­can, and Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian affil­i­a­tions. Min­is­ters may also be known as a father, a chap­lain, a bish­op, or a preacher.

Full-time min­is­ters pro­vide pas­toral care, bap­tisms, evan­ge­lism, bible study, chap­lain­cy, and many oth­er ser­vices for churches.

A min­is­ter is autho­rized by a reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion to per­form min­is­te­r­i­al duties in the ser­vice to God and the con­gre­ga­tion. These include:

  • Com­fort­ing Church parish­ioners at their home or on Church grounds
  • Con­duct­ing reli­gious for­mal­i­ties like a mar­riage cer­e­mo­ny, a funer­al ser­vice, among other
  • Lead­ing wor­ships and prayer
  • Man­ag­ing the busi­ness and per­son­nel of a reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion. Busi­ness expe­ri­ence is valu­able for this part of their offi­cial min­is­te­r­i­al duties.
  • Par­tic­i­pat­ing in Youth Mis­sions and Train­ing Workshops
  • Rep­re­sent­ing the Church to the pub­lic and to the Church’s elders and orga­ni­za­tion­al members

Relat­ed Rank­ings:
15 Best Online Min­istry Degree Bach­e­lor’s Pro­grams
10 Fastest Online Min­istry Degree Bach­e­lor’s Pro­grams
10 Most Afford­able Online Min­istry Degree Bach­e­lor Programs