Best Online Master’s in Theology

Earning a master's in theology could lead to new career opportunities. Learn more about online programs here.

March 11, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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Find a program that’s right for you.

Professionals with an online master's in theology become Bible instructors, educators, or nonprofit workers. Other potential careers include pastor and writer. Some universities offer many concentrations, such as biblical studies, global studies, and Christian apologetics. No matter the concentration, degree-seekers take classes in biblical history, issues facing Christianity in the 21st century, and the gospel.

Prospective students should hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college. Many programs require a statement of faith or a divinity questionnaire. Applicants submit a pastor recommendation, as well. The following article discusses theology master's degrees in depth. The final section explains how to become a religious director.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Theology

true Q. What is the difference between a master's of divinity and a master's of theology?

Divinity students examine God's sacred teachings, while theology degree-seekers research religion as a whole. Both degrees train learners for a career as a pastor.

true Q. What can I do with a master's in theology?

Graduates who do not become pastors work as historians or social workers. These and related professions may require additional education and training.

true Q. Can you teach with a master's in theology?

Graduates qualify to work as K-12 teachers at private, Christian schools. However, public schools require teachers to hold a state-issued license.

Why Get a Degree in Theology?

Online master's in theology programs appeal to learners wanting to start or advance a faith-based career. Many programs feature concentrations in global and youth ministry, letting students prepare for a specific job. Some theology careers, including religious activities and education director, pay more than the U.S. median salary.

Master's in theology online degree-seekers enjoy the same resources as on-campus peers, including career counselors and librarians. Universities also provide distance learners with virtual career counseling services that include interest inventories and job boards. Many programs feature an asynchronous curriculum, as well.

How Much Does a Theology Degree Cost?

As of March 2022, affordable theology master's degrees cost around $400 per credit at a top school. These universities may offer a tuition reduction to active-duty service members and their families. Other schools offer financial benefits to this group through the Yellow Ribbon Program. Applicants should note that out-of-pocket expenses over 1-2 years in school include student fees.

Theology master's degree-seekers save money in more ways than just selecting an affordable university. Applicants should focus on schools offering institutional scholarships and grants. These awards may require a separate application, recommendation letters, and an essay. Students with financial need receive federal grants and loans by submitting the FAFSA.

Additional Online Student Fees

Pursuing a master's in theology online may save learners thousands on graduate education. However, these programs often charge a per-semester or per-credit technology fee. Online master's in theology programs require enrollees to pay for a capable computer and stable internet connection. Fortunately, many technology companies give college students a discount. Hybrid program participants must also budget for commuting to campus or an internship site.

Some workers with an online master's in theology need a certification to achieve their career goals. The American Psychotherapy Association (APA) awards the Board Certified Professional Counselor credential. Candidates need a master's, a state-issued license, and three years of relevant experience. As of March 2022, APA charges a $250 examination fee.

How Much Do Theology Majors Make?

Most professionals with a master's make more than their peers with only a bachelor's. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that religious activities and education directors earn a median $45,100 salary. The top 10% of earners in the profession make more than $93,990.

Master's degree-holders not only earn more than other workers, but also hold an advantage in the job market. A graduate degree may qualify them for a management-level position. Many of these roles feature a higher starting salary. The BLS reports that geographic location also affects salary. Religious directors in North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. make more than peers in other states.

Courses in Theology

An online master's in theology's curriculum requires learners to consider theological questions and analyze biblical teachings. Classes may include the God who pursues, controversies in the Catholic Church's history, and foundations of moral theology. Degree-seekers also take classes in research methodology. A typical degree ends with either a final project or a master's thesis.

The following sample curriculum highlights three core classes learners take when pursuing a master's in theology online. Note that Christian schools' curricula vary by university. The denomination a school follows affects the academic experience and graduate outcomes. Please contact universities' admissions advisors and visit programs' websites for more information.

  • The God Who Pursues

    The introductory class emphasizes theological foundations, such as the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Students analyze Aquinas's works concerning God's nature and love for humankind. Participants consider Jesus Christ's life and sacrifice. Examining these and other topics helps learners understand the true meaning behind Christian salvation.
  • Controversies in Church History

    Catholic degree-seekers preparing for a career must understand the Church's accomplishments and faults. Controversies in the Catholic Church's history features coursework on the Protestant Reformation, Galileo's persecution, and the rise of religious fundamentalism. Analyzing these topics lets students form a personal understanding of the Catholic Church's history and their role in it.
  • The Foundations of Moral Theology

    Ethics plays a significant role in how the Catholic Church educates congregants. Enrollees learn how to apply moral theology in their career by researching different ethical systems and natural law theory. Learners analyze the latest guidance concerning the Catholic Church's role in debating moral controversies. Many degree-seekers build upon what they learn in foundations in moral theology in an upper-division class.

How to Become a Religious Director

Religious activities and education directors need a bachelor's or master's degree, depending on their employer and job title. Other requirements may include a counseling license or a certification. Degree-seekers interested in this job should work with a career counselor to research employers' expectations for candidates.

Typical day-to-day responsibilities for these workers include creating and coordinating different educational programs, such as community outreach. Directors also provide one-on-one and group spiritual counseling to families, individuals, youth, and other groups. The majority of directors work for a religious organization, K-12 school, or postsecondary school.

Best Online Master's in Theology

  1. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Location

    Louisville, KY

    Established in 1859, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is one of the oldest and largest seminary institutions in the Southern Baptist Convention. Master’s degrees are available in several different areas, including theology. The Master of Theology (ThM) degree offers a research or ministry track, both with the same core course requirements. The ministry track is designed for ministry preparation while the research track is geared towards students planning to move on to a PhD degree, and contains more concentrated areas of study along with a research and thesis component. Also available to qualifying master’s degree students is a modular ThM in Theological Studies degree.

  2. Columbia International University
    Location

    Columbia, SC

    Columbia International University’s MA in Theological Studies degree, which is available fully online, prepares graduates for missionary, ministry and marketplace work, teaching and scholarly research and writing projects. This master’s degree is available to both students with a background in theology, and for those coming in with unrelated undergraduate degrees. Program one is for students with no previous theology experience and has additional courses in bible and theology, with a program total of 48 credits, and program two is for those with at least 30 semester hours of bible, theology or church history credits, with a program total of 33 credits.

  3. Moody Bible Institute
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    The master of arts in biblical exposition at Moody Bible Institute prepares students to serve their communities through preaching the Scripture. Graduates will be prepared to establish ministries, create sermons and communicate effectively. They may go on to professional positions or serve in a lay capacity. The program is unique because it delivers coursework at the master's level that is generally associated with doctorate-level theology. The program, which operates on a cohort-based framework, begins a new session three times a year. Upon graduation, students will be able to develop their own preaching philosophy based on the needs and makeup of their communities.

  4. Lincoln Christian University
    Location

    Lincoln, IL

    The master of arts in Bible and theology degree gives graduates the tools needed to help others develop a Scriptural understanding. The program, which is delivered completely online, consists of courses that follow a seven-week format. Students take two courses back to back each term. Terms take place in the fall, spring and summer, and there is one-week break after classes end before they begin again. This enables students to finish the entire program in two years while focusing on just a single course at any given time. The program follows the cohort format, with new cohorts starting every spring and fall.

  5. Cornerstone University
    Location

    Grand Rapids, MI

    Master of arts degrees are available at Cornerstone University in both ministry leadership and biblical study. Both graduate degrees are available completely online. The ministry leadership degree, which can be finished in two years, is designed for students who either work full time in the ministry or who intend to do so. Students receive advanced ministry training and instruction in both biblical studies and theology. The biblical studies MA is taught by published scholars who have lived and studied in Israel, and who are counted as experts in both testaments of the Bible.

  6. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    The Harvard Divinity School offers three degrees at the graduate level: master of divinity, master of theology and master of theological studies, which can be finished in three, one and two years, respectively. Divinity School programs have a higher percentage of international components than any other school at Harvard. The school hosts many renowned events and services, including the Religious Literacy in the Professions Initiative. The school maintains a database of article posts and tutorials showcasing the lives and careers of both former and current students and faculty, as well as resources describing the programs and their potential outcomes.

  7. Dallas Baptist University
    Location

    Dallas, TX

    Dallas Baptist University is a liberal arts university with a large variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including those based on Christian faith. For students planning to study theology at the graduate level, a MA degree is offered in theological studies, with concentrations available in Christian scriptures, heritage and ministry. Also offered is a dual degree in theological studies and worship studies, and several accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degrees, including a BA in biblical study/MA in theological studies. The MA in theological studies degree is offered online or as a hybrid program with evening classes available to provide flexibility to those with outside obligations.

  8. Lee University
    Location

    Cleveland, TN

    Both the Department of Christian Ministries and the Department of Theology offer master's degrees for graduate students at Lee University. The former prepares students for entry-level work in the ministry, and the latter gives students the option of a pastoral studies emphasis or a pre-graduate studies emphasis. Graduates will be prepared to enter highly regarded universities and seminaries, to teach at the college level, serve in para-church ministries, serve as pastors in churches or embark on missions across the world. Advisors will work closely with students to ensure they meet all the requirements for graduation and choose the appropriate courses.

  9. Jewish Theological Seminary of America
    Location

    New York, NY

    The Davidson School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America offers a master's degree in Jewish education. The program is designed for students who plan to serve as leaders in Jewish education. Master of arts candidates will receive immersive instruction in both Hebrew and Jewish education. Students can choose from two different tracks, but no matter which area of focus they choose, they will be able to supplement their education with instruction in educational technology or arts education. Students can also choose to pursue the exact same degree and coursework 100 percent online.

  10. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    South Abington Township, PA

    There are several theological degrees available at the graduate level, including master of arts degrees in church ministries biblical studies, biblical counseling, intercultural studies, and a master of divinity degree. The church ministry MA is a 36-hour professional degree. The biblical counseling and intercultural studies MAs are both 60-hour programs. The biblical studies degree is a 72-hour program and the master of divinity degree is a full 96 hours. All programs are run through the Baptist Bible Theological Seminary, which exists to train Christian students for life callings as pastors, missionaries, lay leaders, counselors and church staff.

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