Current Doctor of Pastoral Music (D.P.M) programs are usually taken on campus, but it a very adaptable format such that students are able to plan their schedule way ahead of their attendance. There are also alternative courses of similar themes with D.P.M. that are offered entirely online.

Music has always been an integral part of any religion. It is believed that the pastor guides the voices of the faithful to reach the heavens with the church musician leading them.

What does a pastoral musician do?

A pastoral musician is a Christian minister who handles music in religious affairs. First and foremost, the pastoral musician is a pastor and thus can perform evangelical celebrations. This is the distinctive function that sets pastoral musicians apart from lay church musicians.

Similar to church musicians, pastoral musicians play the piano, organ, or any musical instrument to facilitate religious rituals. They also lead the choir when singing songs of worships. However, unlike ordinary church musicians, pastoral musicians are deeply rooted in theology. With their immense knowledge of the Bible and the Christian doctrine, pastoral musicians compose songs inspired by the Word of God, bearing in mind the people of Christian faith.

That said, however, being a pastoral musician is not just a profession; it is considered a vocation. Pastoral musicians are on a mission to help people to practice their faith through singing that harmonizes the body and spirit.

How do I earn my D.P.M. degree?

If you want to pursue a D.P.M, you need to have a masters degree in Sacred Music or Church Music. D.P.M. programs are specifically designed for existing church musicians with advanced degrees. More importantly, the course is intended for musically-inclined pastors seeking to renew their vocation.

The D.P.M. program usually lasts around two to three years. The academic training consists of courses in leadership, theology, and music. Institutions conduct a series of seminars to enhance the liturgical skills of students. In the final year, students are required to write a thesis and a practicum project.

The doctorate thesis should exhibit the theological and liturgical skills of students who are expected to use music as a medium to contextually deepen their pastoral ministry. A D.P.M. thesis can be an original composition or a creative activity in a parish or congregation. It could also adopt the traditional written format wherein the graduate student writes a theological document or musicological analysis that will deepen the contemporary understanding of Christian faith.

As a form of dissertation, a D.P.M. thesis serves as the final hurdle of the student. This thesis has the objective to contribute to improving the current church music curriculum. Preferably, a student may initiate a program in the community and consider their thesis as a comprehensive evaluation of that program. That way, students are able to link their academic pursuits with grassroots Christian communities. Once a D.P.M. thesis is complete, a panel will judge the student’s work in an oral examination.

What sort of accreditation should I look for in a school?

For the Doctor of Pastoral Music (D.P.M.) program, two accreditation programs are fundamental: the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and Association of Theological Schools (ATS). NASM oversees the quality of music programs while ATS checks whether the D.P.M. program is devoid of any heresy that may contradict to Jesus Christ’s divinity.

There are other minor accreditation bodies for D.P.M schools such as the International Senate of Theological Accreditation (ISTA) and the Theological Accreditation International (TAI). International accreditation committees like ISTA and TAI recognize the D.P.M. credibility in the Christian communities around the globe.

What type of degree do I need to pursue research or educate others in Pastoral Music?

Anybody with a doctorate-level degree in church or sacred music may take the teaching path. They can either have a D.P.M. degree, a Doctor of Church Music Degree (DCM), Doctor of Sacred Music (DSM), Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), and PhDs related to music.

Due to high condensation of Theology subjects in the D.P.M. curriculum, scholars and ministers with advanced degrees in Christian theology may also take part in the D.P.M. faculty lineup. In lieu of research, fresh compositions, testimonies, and program improvement proposals are integral to pastoral music as a study.

How do I earn a transitional or bridge D.P.M. degree?

While some courses and activities (oral examinations) must be taken on-campus, there are flexible arrangements that some institutions offer to accommodate the hectic schedules of students who are in fact church musicians and ministers. There are some alternative courses for D.P.M. that are offered in an entirely online program.

What kind of career and salary can I expect with my D.P.M. degree?

When you have a D.P.M. degree, you may teach music in a religious or academic setting. You can train choir members and let them perform in community activities in church and community stages or through caroling. With your leadership, your group can qualify for prestigious competitions wherein you become their director and conductor.

The salary of a pastoral musician depends on the institutional affiliation. However, if you have a D.P.M. degree, you can get out of the gig economy zone and enjoy career stability in music direction. As a doctorate-level church musician, you can earn more than a bachelor degree holder’s typical earning in a year at $50,590. You can expect that amount to rise by 26% with a D.P.M. degree as you form extensive affiliations and maintain networks that translate into better opportunities. You can also receive payment courtesy of your congregation.

The figures above speak for a D.P.M graduate’s earning possibilities as a musician. Remember that if you have a D.P.M. degree, you are also a pastor. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pastors make $78,042 and $107,625 annually. Given both music and theology on your training, a D.P.M. opens up opportunities for a fulfilling career.

Do I need a license to be a pastoral musician?

Because being a church musician and a pastor are both vocations as opposed to strictly being professions, there is no government certification that regulates their way of life. However, a certification from accreditation institutions is necessary before starting liturgical service. The faithful regard your diploma as a form of license that guarantees the credibility and experience of their pastoral musician.

What schools offer Doctor of Pastoral Music degrees?

The Southern Methodist University (SMU) Perkins in Dallas, Texas offers the D.P.M. degree in a hybrid format. Most subjects are on-campus, but are run on flexible set-ups such as weeklong seminars. Some classes are being conducted on the students’ parishes, especially for those pursuing a community-based project or program.

Although not directly offering a “D.P.M.” degree, there are similar alternative routes you can choose from. Liberty University Online in Lynchburg, Virginia opens a completely online program for the “Doctor of Worship Studies” degree. The Graduate Theological Foundation in Mishawaka, Indiana offers a “Doctor of Sacred Music” program wherein students have the option to take half of the coursework online.

The person who sings well prays twice, says the faithful. The pastoral musician has the responsibility to amplify believers’ spirituality through music. Do you want to sing your heart out in prayers and lead the singing of hymns of praise? Enroll in a D.P.M. program now.