Top 5 Best Online Doctor of Church Music Degrees

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Updated: March 13, 2024, Reading time: 11 minutes

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Music has often been considered a vital and necessary component of faith and religion, with a long and complicated history to demonstrate its significance. As an art, music is known to house multifarious genres. It is an academic discipline that many students pursue. Pursuing a career in the world of sacred music is made possible with church music programs.

This major is often a combination of the study of music and spirituality. While there is a thorough look into composition and performance, a church music degree program is primarily focused on the kind of music heard and performed in churches. Students who want to build upon the foundation they gained from their master of church music degree may want to consider pursuing the terminal degree in this field – the Doctor of Church Music.

The Doctor of Church Music program is designed for those who want to explore a deeper knowledge of the worship and pedagogy of music. Some programs may offer a concentration or major, usually focusing on a specific instrument such as drums, piano, guitar, and bass.

Quick audio summary:


Choosing a Church Music program is not that hard as there are many universities and colleges offering this particular degree. Some might be in the form of a worship degree or referred to as pastoral music, but they all touch on sacred music as the core of the program.

While it can be challenging for many working adults to pursue an advanced church music program, the availability of online degrees in church music solves the problem. An online doctorate degree in church music offers flexibility that allows them to juggle their professional duties and personal responsibilities.


Doctor of Church Music programs offered online are ideal for individuals whose careers are related to the church or Christian faith, particularly in religious worship through music.

It is possible to earn this doctorate online, and we have outstanding program options for you! These online doctorate programs, delivered by some of the country’s top graduate schools, are our best picks because of these factors:

Check out our Methodology to learn about the procedures we employ for this doctorate program ranking.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

The Best Church Music Programs on Offer

Liberty University

Liberty University - Online
Online Doctor of Worship Studies

Designed for those who want to lead church services or use church music to glorify God, the Doctor of Worship Studies at Liberty University is 100% available online. Students are equipped with the tools needed to create worship rooted in biblical truth. While the focus is on musical knowledge, this degree also includes a biblical emphasis.

This program helps students expand their skills and expertise in various music and worship cultures along with deeper knowledge of the underlying contexts. Featuring philosophical, theological, and practical training rooted in the demands of the evangelical worship set in the 21st century, this Worship Studies degree program is integral in enhancing previous music ministry experience while allowing students to gain a good grasp of the worship practice.

The degree program is composed of 8-week courses that amount to a total of 45 credit hours. Usually, it takes students to earn the degree in two and a half years. Liberty University allows transfer credits up to 50% of the degree. Students will need to meet the program requirement of developing research for their final thesis project, focusing on a chosen ministry topic. They will learn from the university’s experienced faculty who have demonstrated experience in music ministry and other aspects of worship.

Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies

Doctor of Worship Studies

Considered a unique program of its kind, the Doctor of Worship Studies offered by the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies is specifically made for church leaders. This includes pastors, music ministers, and parish musicians, among others.

The program curriculum deals with worship but also encompasses theological disciplines. Students are expected to re-evaluate their personal ministry and spirituality according to cultural contexts.

What makes this program ideal is its hybrid format. While many courses require on-campus presence, several courses can be completed online, including Graduate Research and Writing. Other courses within the curriculum include The Biblical Foundations and Historical Development of Christian Worship and the Sacred Actions and Ministries of Christian Worship. Students will also need to complete the Doctoral Practicum and the Doctoral Thesis.

The Doctor of Worship Studies degree features the Renewal of Sunday Worship: Music and the Arts course that allows students to explore the content, form, and styles of worship, with special emphasis on the ministries of music and the performing arts.

William Carey University

William Carey University
Doctor of Arts in Music

William Carey University, which is a private Christian university in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, offers an online Doctor of Arts in Music degree program. This DA in Music program is designed to prepare musicians for either a collegiate-level teaching career or for leadership roles, such as in worship.

The degree program has a total of 51 Credit hours and integrates general studies in several interest areas with in-depth preparation with a Primary Emphasis. Students can choose among 2 possible Emphasis areas: Music Education, or Worship Ministry. Some of the possible included interest areas are the Marching Arts, Leadership, Theology, and Conducting/Performance Pedagogy. Each emphasis area takes up a total of 15 credit hours, with 5 courses in each.

Likewise, the core courses of the DA in Music degree program include courses in Music History, Music Theory, and Music Performance. Depending on the chosen Emphasis area, there is also a further course on the history of music education or the history of church music.

Students can opt to fulfill either a Doctoral Thesis or two Research Articles as part of their final requirements.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Ph.D. in Church Music and Worship

Regarded as one of the largest seminaries in the world, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Church Music and Worship. The Ph.D. program is primarily a residential program, however, applicants may take part in the experimental online delivery format being conducted by Southwestern, and approved by the Association of Theological Schools.

The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Ph.D. program combines intensive study in church music with biblical, philosophical, theological, historical, and theoretical perspectives, and emphasizes rigorous scholarship and original research. All in all, it has around 46 credit hours in total.

Southwestern Seminary’s Ph.D. program has a unique requirement for its students in that they are required to be able to demonstrate competency in at least 2 research language competencies. These languages are chosen by students under the guidance of their supervisors.

English may not be one of the chosen languages, nor can any other native language that does not directly pertain to a particular student’s area of research.

In order to complete the program, students must have completed the Research Language requirements, completed the required recitals, and submitted and successfully defended the required research document, on top of completing the required coursework and passing qualifying exams.

Graduate Theological Foundation

Graduate Theological Foundation
Doctor of Sacred Music (DSM)

The Graduate Theological Foundation is a nonprofit interreligious institution that was originally founded in Indiana but is now based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As part of its mission of continuing education for practicing ministry professionals, administrators, as well as academics, it offers a Doctor of Sacred Music (DSM) degree program, delivered in a hybrid format, with online coursework making up its online component. 

The program has a total of 36 credit hours, with 30 of them being coursework, and the rest dedicated to the final exit project.

The Graduate Theological Foundation’s Doctor of Sacred Music program is designed to give advanced sacred music training that builds on students’ previous musical training and takes their music expertise to a higher level. It is ideal for applicants to have a master’s degree in church, liturgical, or sacred music or have studied religious music as part of their previous educational attainment.

This degree program is ideal for individuals in parish music ministry or ministry leadership roles such as pastoral musicians, directors of music, or music missionaries.

As a capstone project for the DSM, doctoral students’ final work can be a recital, a lecture-recital, a choral/instrumental performance, a traditional thesis, the creation, and performance of an original composition or a set of original works, or the development of an in-ministry activity.

What can one expect from a Doctor in Church Music degree program?

Frequently Asked Questions

What can one expect from a Doctor in Church Music degree program?

The Doctor of Church Music degree often offers an intensive study in the field of church music and worship. Different perspectives are integrated into the curriculum, encompassing theological, biblical, historical, and theoretical viewpoints. Students who pursue this degree receive ample training to help them become professional performers, conductors, and composers.

The program requirements include rigorous coursework and a capstone project or doctoral research. Some universities offer elective courses while others require the completion of a practicum. There might be instances where a major can be chosen, often depending on the instrument one chooses to focus on.

What can one do with a Doctor of Church Music degree?

Many students who pursue a doctor of worship studies degree with an emphasis on church music become church musicians or take Christian leadership roles. They can be music directors in places of worship or proceed to the academe, holding posts as music professors in universities. Some assume leadership roles within the church.

What are the requirements for a Doctor of Music degree?

In most cases, admission into the program requires a master’s degree from a regionally accredited higher learning institution in the field of church music or other programs, such as Master of Divinity. There are some universities that require meeting the specific average grade. In some instances, applicants may need to undergo an interview with the chair of the music department for final approval.

What are some courses that are in Doctor of Church Music degree programs?

Names for the courses vary by institution, but typical Doctor of Church Music degree programs will have courses on music fundamentals and history. These degree programs will also have a component focused on performance, such as choral conducting and performance evaluation, as well as on worship, and the specifics of worship leader roles.

Lastly, some of these degree programs will also have components in their coursework intended to discuss music education, especially if they’re designed for educator roles as one of the possible careers after graduation.

How does a Doctor of Church Music degree differ from a Doctor of Musical Arts degree?

Both DCM/DSM and DMA degrees are the same in that they require students to have significant theoretical backgrounds in music or a relevant music degree and be actively involved in a music-related career. Both degree programs can also have performance-oriented components, particularly in their final requirements.

The key difference is that a Doctor of Church Music or a similar degree program adds a second layer of specialization, focusing on music within the context of worship, religion, and spirituality.

These degree programs also tend to have a theological/philosophical component to them, and in keeping with the community-oriented side of worship, these degree programs will often have components that involve student’s work within the context of their current ministries, either as coursework that relates to leadership roles in worship or as part of their final doctoral requirements.

Key Takeaways

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