Minister Certificate and Certification Program Overviews

Read about certificate programs for aspiring ministers. Learn about commonly required courses as well as employment options and certification opportunities for graduates.

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Essential Information

Aspiring ministers, spiritual leaders and spiritual counselors can enroll in certificate programs through colleges and universities. These programs are available in a variety of specializations, though youth ministry and pastoral ministry are among the most common. Many of these programs only require a high school diploma for admission, but others are offered specifically at the graduate level and admit only those students who hold bachelor's degrees. Both youth ministry and pastoral ministry certificate programs focus on topics like Bible studies and church leadership, and youth ministry programs may require completion of a practicum.


Certificate of Achievement in Youth Ministry

One of the most common fields among minister certificate programs, youth ministry involves preparing Christian spiritual leaders for work with young people in a variety of settings. These include minister positions in churches, parachurch organizations and schools. Most programs include a practicum during which students are able to engage with youth in a professional, supportive environment.

Educational Prerequisites

Educational prerequisites for youth minister certificate programs vary widely by program. Many programs are open to all applicants, regardless of prior education. Some certificate programs in ministry are offered at the graduate level; applicants to these programs must possess a bachelor's degree or the equivalent.

Program Coursework

Coursework in a youth ministry certificate program covers both general ministry skills and practices specific to working with children and teens. Common courses include the following:

  • Christian leadership skills
  • Practices of youth ministry
  • Leadership in youth ministry
  • Evangelism and catechism
  • Bible studies
  • Youth ministry practicum

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that religious organizations employed about 184,000 workers in 2012 (www.bls.gov). Clergy held 23,460 of those positions, and the median salary for clergy was $44,060 in May 2012.

Certification Information

Many non-degree programs offer certification in youth ministry. These are offered by schools and non-profit organizations. Requirements for these programs can be similar to the certificate programs and, in fact, some employers consider certificates and certification programs to be equitable.

Certificate of Achievement in Pastoral Ministry

Certificate programs for pastoral ministers are intended for individuals looking to be leaders of religious communities. Students are prepared to lead worship services, council members of their church and train others in evangelism. Some programs focus exclusively on Bible studies. In others, studies include leadership, business and administrative components.

Educational Prerequisites

Pastoral minister certificate programs have highly varying prerequisites. Programs are often open to all applicants with a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some pastoral minister programs are considered graduate-level study and require applicants to possess a bachelor's degree.

Program Coursework

In addition to other topics, extensive time in certificate programs for pastoral ministers is devoted to Biblical studies. Common courses include the following:

  • Old Testament studies
  • New Testament studies
  • Christian ethical issues
  • Preparing sermons
  • Counseling skills for ministers
  • Evangelism
  • History of Christianity

Certification Information

In some denominations, an individual is considered prepared as a minister upon completing a certificate program. In others, certification is granted upon completion of an approved certificate or degree program. For example, in the Catholic Church, certification is obtained upon completion of coursework in a program adhering to the National Certification Standards for Lay Ecclesial Ministers.

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    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
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        • Divinity and Ministry Studies
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