Pastoral Administration Certificate and Degree Program Summaries

Oct 12, 2019

Pastoral administration programs are open to ordained clergy and laypeople interested in fostering communities of faithful followers of Jesus Christ. These programs are offered at the graduate certificate, master's, and doctoral levels.

Essential Information

Pastoral administration programs teach church leaders to mentor community members and make leadership decisions about finances, human resources and initiation of programs. Individuals enrolled in these programs need at least a bachelor's degree. Some programs are open to laypeople, with at least five years of experience in a church environment, while others require that students be ordained ministers. For those seeking a doctoral degree, a master's degree is required. Most combine classes and practical experience, allowing students to use their knowledge in their church work as they move through the programs.

Other requirements may include American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) certification for members of religious communities who are trained to provide counseling services (aapc.org). Minimum requirements for certification include an established relationship to a community of faith and completion of 375 counseling hours and 125 supervised hours of counseling.


Graduate Certificate in Pastoral Administration

Certificate programs teach conflict resolution and financial stewardship to leaders within communities of faith. Because prayer and fellowship are integral parts of faith community leadership, programs are structured to allow classmates to make friends and develop spiritually alongside one another.

Certificate programs typically require between 15-30 credits to complete, depending on the background of the applicant. High school graduates with at least five years of experience in ministry may be interested in certificate programs that take 25-30 credits to complete, while those who have earned a bachelor's degree but lack background courses in theology might find programs requiring 19-24 credits helpful. For those with a graduate level degree in theology, a certificate may be earned by taking 15-18 credits.

Certificate program curriculum covers everything from spiritual development to legal issues in communities of faith. Depending on a student's background, programs are tailored to strengthen understanding of administration or theology. Common classes include:

  • Civil and canon law
  • Faith community leadership
  • Finance
  • Organizational communication
  • Theology

Master's Degree in Pastoral Administration

Graduate students learn to heed the call to serve during the three-year program involving class work, personal spiritual development, and experience mentoring others. Programs teach people to be effective, nurturing leaders, well-versed in Christian doctrine and history. In addition to an undergraduate degree, students commonly need two years of experience in a ministerial capacity.

Studies cover all aspects of ministering to a community, from moral to financial issues. Administration courses include business classes. Classes in interpersonal ministering include:

  • Catechetics
  • Financial management
  • Ministry for the grieving
  • Psychological dynamics
  • Theology

Doctoral Degree in Ministry

A Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree prepares graduates for a career working directly with people, as opposed to research-oriented doctoral degrees, such as Ph.D. degrees. The ministry doctoral degree program is designed to allow professionals working in ministry to apply the learning in a practical way. Many programs offer flexible scheduling, so students are able to continue ministry while enrolled in studies. The D.Min. degree program typically takes from three to six years to complete, including dissertation writing and defense.

Doctoral programs in ministry provide students with a solid foundation in scripture and preaching styles. Students are expected to learn to preach, teach, and otherwise share their faith with the world at large. Practical theology class work covers:

  • Counseling
  • Homiletics
  • Leadership
  • Preaching
  • Spirituality

Popular Career Options

Lay and ordained people study pastoral administration to better serve their communities. Graduates may find themselves working in a variety of settings, such as religious education, hospitals, and ordained ministry. Common callings include:

  • Liturgical editor
  • Music minister
  • Outreach director
  • Religious education director
  • Youth minister

Because the D.Min. degree is a professional degree, it prepares students to take active roles in leadership of faith-related communities. Common callings include:

  • Chaplain
  • Church minister
  • Foreign missionary
  • Parachurch leader
  • Pastoral counselor

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for clergy as of May 2018 was $48,990 (www.bls.gov). BLS data shows the median annual wage, in May 2018, for all other religious workers were $29,820. Among the top industries that hire religious professionals are religious organizations, elementary and secondary schools, and home health care service agencies.

Programs are available for both laypeople and ordained clergy, ranging from certificates for laypeople for 30 credit hours while ordained clergy can earn a master's degree in 1-3 years or a doctorate in 3-6 years.

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