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Because so many pastors and ministers begin their careers without a degree, education for pastors can sometimes be a messy hodgepodge. Many pastors may have taken courses for ordination in their denomination, for instance. They may have earned certifications from bible colleges or community colleges, or taken extension courses through their church’s larger mission organization. They may have even earned some college credits along the way. One thing all working ministers have, of course, is the experience – some of it very hard-earned and well worth any college course.

The best Christian seminaries, colleges, and universities know this about pastors, and have developed plans to meet ministers and prospective ministers where they are. Not only have schools built fully online and hybrid programs to help pastors complete their degrees; they’ve also adopted generous transfer policies that allow students to make the most of their work experience, previous courses, and even self-taught expertise. Bachelor’s Degree Center has ranked the ministry and biblical studies degree online programs that make the process work for busy ministers and pastors.

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Methodology: How We Ranked the Best Accelerated Online Degree in Ministry Programs

The fastest online ministry degree bachelor’s programs find many ways to streamline education for pastors, with accelerated courses, transfer agreements for previous credits and work experience, and other ways. BDC editors searched for accredited online programs that use a variety of methods to help working adults complete their bachelor’s degree conveniently.

From our initial list, we ranked programs according to five factors: Alumni Salary, Employment Rate, Graduation Rate, Student Reviews, and Tuition Rate. Data came from College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche. Prospective students know, with these criteria, that the program they choose will not only be fast, but reputable, with a real career impact and return on investment.

1. Dallas Baptist University

For a fast bachelor’s degree completion, the many specialized online degree in ministry programs at Dallas Baptist University allows you to transfer up to 90 credits for your degree and provide different options to help with your goals. You can obtain a BA in Biblical Studies, a BS in Christian Studies, or a BAS in Christian Ministries through the online program. The programs offer different areas of Biblical study and leadership development based on a student’s long-term goals for their career.

Dallas Baptist University stands out as a fast program because it allows students to transfer 90 credits to the degree, offers three programs for Biblical study, and is fully online. As an online program, students work at their own pace and have the flexibility to work around personal or career obligations. The degree programs also prepare students for the work they will engage in when they start in a career as a pastor or to support a pastor in a church setting.

Degree: BA in Biblical Studies, BS in Christian Studies, BAS in Christian Ministries
Format: Online – transfer up to 90 credits

Dallas Baptist University

2. Clarks Summit University

Obtaining a Biblical Studies degree online from Clarks Summit University offers students the opportunity to pursue a leadership role in their ministry or to focus on the challenges of studying more complex topics within theology. The school offers two programs for students who want to study a Biblical topic: Bible and Theology or Christian Ministries. The Bible and Theology program focuses on understanding the Bible by evaluating the origin of the work. Students learn the original Greek and Hebrew that shaped the Bible and evaluate the texts from a historical perspective. The Christian Ministries degree focuses on leadership skills as it applies to the church and working in a pastoral position.

Clarks Summit University differs from other programs by taking a linguistic and historical perspective on the Bible. The online classes teach students the original languages to ensure they are prepared for the challenges of Biblical research and writing. It also helps students learn the leadership skills they need to guide members of their church for their spiritual goals.

Degree: BA in Bible and Theology or Christian Ministries (online)
Format: Online – transfer 90 credits

Clarks Summit University

3. American Public University

Obtaining a Biblical Studies degree online from American Public University prepares students for the complexities of religion as it applies to politics, society, culture, and spirituality. The degree program takes a multidisciplinary approach to the study of religion to ensure students have a well-rounded understanding of religion and its influence on the world. Students prepare for a career supporting the leaders of a church or working in human services.

American Public University has a fast-paced online program that allows you to transfer as many as 90 credits to your degree. The flexible scheduling of the online program combined with the unique perspective of the degree program allows students to focus on their career goals. The program focuses on providing students with the practical skills they need to handle challenges in a human services or ministry career.

Degree: BA in Religion
Format: Online – transfer 90 credits

American Public University

4. Liberty University

When you plan to obtain an online degree in ministry to take on a leadership role, the BS in Christian Leadership and Management from Liberty University is a good choice for your goals. The online degree program allows you to transfer as much as 75 percent of your credits to the online program for your degree. Since it is an online program, you can work at your own pace and work around personal or professional obligations. The program focuses on the leadership and management skills associated with taking on a leadership role in a church.

Liberty University offers a program that combines leadership and management skills with Biblical truth. It uses the principles of the Bible to teach real-world skills that you can apply to your career and long-term plans. It also teaches students to apply skills like accounting, business law, and human resources to ministry administration. That knowledge allows students to work as a leader in their church or to support a religious leader with the technical aspects of running and managing a church.

Degree: BS in Christian Leadership and Management
Format: Online – transfer 90 credits

Liberty University

5. University of the Cumberlands

The Bachelor’s in Ministry and Missions from the University of the Cumberlands is an online degree program that allows you to focus on developing the skills to navigate modern society while maintaining Biblical ethics and morals. The degree program teaches students theology, history, and literature as it applies to the Bible and modern life. It also focuses on ethics to prepare students for the challenges of taking on a leadership role.

The online degree program from the University of the Cumberlands stands apart by focusing on the challenges of applying Biblical standards to a modern lifestyle. It recognizes the role of the Bible and ethics on modern life and teaches students to follow through with their principles, beliefs, and goals. It also allows students to take the degree program online and transfer credits from other schools to complete the degree at a fast pace.

Degree: Bachelor’s in Ministry and Missions
Format: Online – transfer 90 credits

University of the Cumberlands

6. Lancaster Bible College

Lancaster Bible College offers an online BA in Biblical Studies program that works around a student’s schedule and allows him or her to focus on accomplishing long-term goals. The degree is an accelerated online program that offers six-week courses. Students take one course at a time to complete a degree at an accelerated pace. It also focuses on teaching students about the Bible from experienced ministers and professionals who have worked in ministry for several years.

Lancaster Bible College stands apart by offering credit for life experiences. Students are able to showcase their experience and cut back on the time spent in classes through the life experiences evaluation. The school also offers flexible classes to students, so you can study online or in a traditional class setting. You have the option to set up your schedule as it fits your situation.

Degree: BA in Biblical Studies
Format: Online accelerated

Lancaster Bible College

7. Southeastern University

The BS in Ministerial Leadership from Southeastern University is a Christ-centered program that allows students to study online. Since they can also transfer ample credits to the program, students are able to obtain their degrees at a fast pace. The program centers around setting up a strong foundation in theology and religious studies while also teaching students to take on leadership positions. The combination of skills prepares students for a role in ministry that fits their goals and calling within a church.

Southeastern University stands apart by offering students an accredited education through their online program. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges or SACSCOC. The program also stands out by focusing on developing leadership skills with a strong foundation in theology. That allows leaders within a ministry to focus on providing the guidance others need when visiting a church.

Degree: BS in Ministerial Leadership
Format: Online – transfer 90 credits

Southeastern University

8. Regent University

When you’re looking for a degree in ministry, you will find options that fit your goals in Regent University’s online ministry programs. The school offers a variety of programs associated with ministry work and theology, so students can focus on a specific area of divinity to focus on their long-term goals. The Christ-centered programs are eight weeks or 15 weeks long, so students can work at their own pace. The school offers several programs online as well as hybrid programs to fit a student’s schedule.

Regent University stands out by offering a variety of classes focused on ministry. The school has several online and on-campus programs that focus on Christian studies, Biblical study, theology, divinity, and leadership. Due to the wide array of options, students are able to focus on a specific aspect of Christian leadership and take on specialized careers within a ministry.

Degree: Many ministry bachelors
Format: Online – transfer 90 credits

Regent University

9. Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University offers a BA in Christian Studies online that allows students to develop the skills they need to work as a minister. The degree program focuses on contemporary theories of Biblical study to prepare students for the challenges of working in a modern environment. The program recognizes that modern technology and politics impact the spirituality of a church and the program helps students understand effective ways to communicate with others.

Grand Canyon University stands apart from other programs by teaching religion and theology from the perspective of a Christian. It recognizes that religions shape and impact culture and politics. By evaluating the way religion impacts other areas of life, students understand the challenges Christians face in a modern environment. As students work on their degree, they learn useful skills to navigate the difficulties associated with their career goals.

Degree: BA in Christian Studies
Format: Online – transfer 90 credits

Grand Canyon University

10. Gardner-Webb University

When you are looking for a fast-paced degree in ministry, the BS in Christian Ministry online from Gardner-Webb University is a good choice for your goals. The degree program focuses on building the foundational skills a student needs to work in a leadership role. It develops communication and critical thinking skills, as well as Biblical interpretation. By learning to communicate with others, you are able to teach them and take on a leadership position within your church. The degree program recognizes that your physical and mental state impact your beliefs and teaches the psychological aspects that apply to modern Christianity. It takes a whole-person approach to Christian ministry and provides a strong foundation in Biblical study.

Gardner-Webb University stands out for the fast-paced environment. Students can complete their undergraduate degree online in one year, which is an accelerated pace for the bachelor’s degree. The ability to complete a degree at a fast pace means you can start working in your field and assist a minister. It also allows you to work with others and help them with their situation. The degree program gives students the skills to handle the challenges of working in a modern environment while maintaining their faith and spirituality.

Degree: BS in Christian Ministry
Format: Online – finish in as little as 1 year

Gardner-Webb University

Will a Bachelor’s Degree Help Me Get a Job in Ministry?

Many people who feel called to careers in ministry find themselves a little confused over the job requirements. This is because the requirements for jobs in the ministry are different from church to church. Also, there is not one universally recognized degree that is required for careers in ministry like there is for attorneys, for example. The ministry does not have one governing body like attorneys have the American Bar Association. However, a bachelor’s degree will inevitably lead to more ministry career opportunities and a better shot at prestigious lead pastor jobs. In fact, many lead pastor positions will actually require master’s degrees.

Ministerial jobs can be hard to come by, with relatively few job openings and fierce competition for those seeking careers in ministry. If you’re applying to assistant-level ministerial jobs, chances are the church won’t require a bachelor’s degree. However, if you want to eventually be considered for lead pastor jobs, most churches will require at least a bachelor’s degree. Many working ministers will choose a 2-year bachelor’s degree program to get there.

It is also important to keep in mind that the entry requirements for ministerial jobs are becoming more and more stringent, and many assistant-level jobs in the ministry do prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees. This trend looks to continue for ministry career opportunities.

Because of these changing expectations, many ministers begin their careers without a degree and complete their bachelor’s degrees on the job. An online degree in ministry programs is becoming more common to help these working professionals get their degrees conveniently. Accelerated degree programs help them do it even faster.

What If I Don’t Want a Full Bachelor’s Degree?

While it is becoming more and more common for pastors to have bachelor’s degrees and even master’s degrees, many churches do not require a bachelor’s degree. Students that don’t want a bachelor’s degree can instead pursue a certificate in ministry. As long as you complete a certificate in Christian ministry at an accredited bible college, many churches will be happy to hire you as an assistant or associate pastor. There are even many online ministry certificate programs offered by recognized bible colleges.

Those who are looking to get a certificate in ministry through an online school should double-check to ensure that the school is accredited, as an online ministry certificate wouldn’t be worth much otherwise.

Keep in mind that a certificate in Christian ministry will likely just meet the minimum requirements for your application to be considered. A bachelor’s degree in ministry or theology would be more beneficial for prospective ministers. It will likely help your application to be considered more seriously than a certificate in ministry. However, a certificate in ministry from a recognized Bible school will certainly elevate your candidacy above those who do not have any divinity school credentials at all.

Keep in mind, financial aid may be a challenge with some schools. Many theology programs come from schools that do not get federal assistance, so students interested in loans should be careful.

What Can I Do With a Biblical Studies Degree Besides Being a Pastor?

There are many types of careers in ministry that are perfect for people with biblical studies degrees. For example, missionaries often have biblical studies degrees. Also, many people with biblical studies degrees work for Christian non-profit organizations. Many other careers that involve serving God, including those that are outside of traditional types of ministry callings, are more accessible to job seekers with a biblical studies degree.

Another popular career for people with a biblical studies degree is teaching the Bible at a Christian school. The vast majority of accredited Christian schools will require a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies for their Bible teachers. Of course, you will also have to get a teaching certificate from a secular school before you will be authorized to teach at an accredited Christian school.

There are even many careers that involve serving God in the non-profit sector. Many Christian charities will be happy to hire someone with a Biblical studies degree, especially for positions that involve community outreach.

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