Requirements for an Ordained Minister License

Learn about how to become a minister and get an ordained minister license. Here, the education and ordained minister licensure requirements and pathways are summarized. Schools offering Christian Ministry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Ordained Minister Career Overview

An ordained minister is a person authorized by a church or other religious body, typically of a Christian denomination, to carry out various spiritual operations such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, and more generally providing spiritual guidance to the local community. Prospective ministers can progress towards becoming ordained along a traditional path or a nontraditional path depending on their reasons for seeking ordination as well as time and financial constraints.

Education Bachelor's degree
Field of Study Theology, Religious Education/Studies
Average Salary* $53,290 (All clergy, May 2018)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Become a Minister: 3 Steps

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

The first step along the traditional pathway to becoming an ordained minister is to obtain a bachelor's degree in theology or religious studies. Such programs will require students to cover and acquire a foundational understanding of a range of topics which may include:

  • Biblical interpretation
  • Theology
  • Spiritual formation
  • Ministry skills
  • Religious tradition
  • Religious philosophy

Whichever denomination an aspiring student seeks to practice within, it is important that they have at least a basic grasp of various religious doctrines and scriptures so that they can instruct members of their chosen church in a competent manner.

Step 2: Go to Divinity School

Most churches will require prospective ministers to hold master's degrees. Therefore, the next step to becoming a minister is to go to divinity school and graduate with a master's degree or even a doctorate of theology. Unlike undergraduate programs that equip students with foundational theological knowledge, seminary programs prepare them to be church and community leaders. Divinity degree pathways can include theology, Christian education, Christian practice and, of course, divinity.

Postgraduate programs such as these will typically include core and elective courses so that students can tailor their program more to their needs and also gain hands-on practical experience through internships. Courses may include:

  • Christian theology
  • Preaching
  • Bible translation
  • Pastoral care and counseling
  • Spiritual formation

Step 3: Get Ordained Minister License: Minister License Requirements

Once an aspiring minister has graduated from divinity school, he or she is ready to complete the ordination process and get an ordained minister license. The nature of the process will vary by denomination. Some denominations may require candidates to first complete a one-year internship, placement and supervision through their seminary. Others may ask candidates to attend an interview in front of a church committee or take written and oral exams. As an example, the National Association of Christian Ministers requires candidates to:

  • Agree to a statement of faith
  • Offer testimony about their call to service
  • Undergo a background check
  • Pass a theological evaluation by an elder

Nontraditional Path to Becoming a Minister: Get Ordained Online

There are some people who wish to become ordained for very specific purposes such as being able to conduct a marriage ceremony or funeral for friends and family. In this instance, spending years in academia studying is not necessary. Instead, nontraditional ordination can be achieved online, regardless of denomination, in a matter of days by completing a form and paying a fee. Upon completion of this short process, the newly ordained minister will receive a legal ordination credential certificate. In some states, such as Ohio, ministers must also register with the state office in order to legally perform weddings.

This type of ordination is offered by a wide range of multi-denominational religious organizations. These organizations will usually offer access to religious ceremony training materials post-ordination.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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    • Doctoral
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      • Master of Theology (No Thesis)

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  • Harvard University

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    • Massachusetts: Cambridge
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    • Columbia (D.C.): Washington
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    • North Carolina: Durham