Engaging in advanced study of divinity can be cheaper, faster, and more convenient when you pick from online Ph.D. in theology programs. Theology doctorates online are the highest academic degrees granted by seminaries for biblical scholars to fulfill God’s vocational callings to critique and defend scriptural writings.

As Proverbs 15:14 proclaims, “The discerning heart seeks knowledge.” Whether you’re studying Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or another organized religion, Ph.D. theology online curricula will open your spiritual mind for careers in preaching, teaching, and researching. Taking voluntary steps toward doctorates places post-grads among an elite list of Drs. like David N. Hempton, Gregory E. Sterling, and Yolanda Pierce. According to The Christian Post, 94 percent of doctoral-trained pastors strongly agree that their degree was worth the investment.

Methodology

Giving deserved praise to cheap online theology PhD degrees began with our intensive research using the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator. We utilized the search terms for advanced degrees in Biblical and theological studies available primarily by distance education. Our staff then used Internet search engines to identify any theology doctorates online missing from our results. Academic quality is key to Grad School Hub, so we only considered ranking schools with CHEA-recognized regional accreditation. Many also possess additional approval from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) or Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). Next, we recorded the average graduate in-state tuition for all seven online colleges in our initial pool. The following are the five top-notch, affordable theology online Ph.D. degrees arranged from highest to lowest price.

Ranking Low-Cost Online Theology Ph.D. Programs

5. Regent University

Ph.D. in Renewal Theology Online

Virginia Beach, VA

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Regent University confers its cohort-based theology Ph.D. online with just one two-week, face-to-face residency at its Virginia Beach campus near Norfolk International Airport each term.

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Average Graduate Tuition: $12,726 per year

Graded “A” by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Regent University is a private, nonprofit faith-based institution affiliated with the Christian Broadcasting Network since 1977 to educate 3,949 post-grad Royals either at its 70-acre, coastal Hampton Roads location or online via Blackboard. The U.S. News & World Report ranked Regent among America’s top 300 universities with the 56th best online graduate education. Also crowned the 24th most conservative college on Niche, Regent renewed ATS accreditation in June 2016 for the School of Divinity that educates seminarians of 40+ Christian denominations at a 17:1 student-faculty ratio. Chaired by Dr. Corné Bekker, the Ph.D. in Renewal Theology Online program immerses Church leaders in modular, contemporary training on dogmatic traditions. The 60-credit, post-master’s curriculum spans 2.5-3.5 years with course concentrations for Biblical Studies, Christian Theology, History of Christianity, or Practical Theology before the dissertation phase.

4. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Flex Access PhD in Theology Online

Fort Worth, TX

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Pursuing Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Ph.D. theology online degree requires a biblical-based master’s, cumulative GPA over 3.3, and exegetical knowledge of Hebrew.

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Average Graduate Tuition: $12,600 per year

Linked to 11,057 LinkedIn alumni like James Lankford, Mike Huckabee, and Steve Gaines, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is an independent, nonprofit ATS-accredited former branch of Baylor University founded in 1901 that’s serving 2,590 post-grads in Fort Worth and online via Adobe Connect. In Trust magazine declared the SWBTS library system as North America’s third largest with over 500,000 Christian volumes. Also boasting a 100 percent recommendation rate on GraduatePrograms.com, the School of Theology has 42 degrees, including the Flex Access PhD in Theology Online. Headed by Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, the 68-credit, four-year program admits Fall and Spring cohorts with customized majors in Biblical Studies, Preaching & Pastoral Studies, Systematic Theology, Christian Ethics, or Church History. Active participation in synchronous courses leads pastors to their dissertation thesis with online resources from Roberts Library and the Center for Theological Research.

3. Johnson University

Online Ph.D. Leadership Studies: Philosophy and Theology of Leadership Concentration

Knoxville, TN

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Partnered with Forge America, Johnson University delivers the online theology Ph.D. with asynchronous, ABHE-accredited courses on Sakai for completion in 48 months.

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Average Graduate Tuition: $8,100 per year

Envisioned by Protestant minister Ashley S. Johnson at Bearden Christian Church in 1892, Johnson University is a private, nonprofit arts and sciences institution of the Restoration Movement that’s expanding beyond its 175-acre Kimberlin Heights location with Florida and ExtendEd learning online for 1,031 Royals. According to Forbes magazine, Johnson is America’s 56th most financially fit private school. College Factual also recognized JU for the 11th most popular theological studies programs. Led by Dr. Jon Weatherly, the School of Bible & Theology launched the Philosophy and Theology of Leadership Concentration for the Online Ph.D. Leadership Studies. Belonging to the Center for Global Studies since 2008, the four-year program engages clergy in values-oriented dissertation research of Christian scriptures. The $50 application is accepted until June 15th or November 15th annually from post-master’s scholars with minimum “B” averages and GRE scores above the 50th percentile.

2. Liberty University

PhD in Theology & Apologetics Online

Lynchburg, VA

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Presided over by renowned Rev. Jerry Falwell’s son, Liberty University accepts up to 15 transfer credits for squeezing accredited theology online Ph.D. study into nine semesters part-time.

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Average Graduate Tuition: $8,051 per year

Worth $1.8 billion in 2016, Liberty University is a private, nonprofit Baptist NAICU institution that’s located on a 385-building campus with Carter Glass Mansion in Lynchburg and employing 2,500 faculty who train 94,000 “Champions of Christ” online via Blackboard for 289 programs of study. Rated AA by Standard & Poor’s, Liberty is named America’s second best religiously affiliated university on College Factual. According to Forbes, Liberty University awards financial aid to 97 percent of Flames as the 382nd best private college. Known for LU Serve missions abroad, the Rawlings School of Divinity confers the PhD in Theology & Apologetics Online for Web-based discourse on religious doctrines. Led by Dr. Ed Hindson, the 57-credit curriculum integrates dissertation research after online courses like bibliology and some intensives in Virginia. Liberty also created D.Min. in Theology & Apologetics, Ed.D. in Christian Leadership, and Ed.D. in Pastoral Counseling degrees online.

1. Clarks Summit University

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Theology

South Abington Township, PA

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Graduates of the cheap online theology PhD program at Clarks Summit University have excelled at Faith Bible Seminary, Northland International University, Christ Fellowship Bible Church, and many more.

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Average Graduate Tuition: $6,480 per year

Originally called Baptist Bible College & Seminary until April 2015, Clarks Summit University is a private, nonprofit Christ-centered school that’s charging our list’s lowest average price of $6,480 for 1,220 Defenders from 29 states who enroll on the 141-acre Scranton Metro campus and online. CSU was ranked 18th for affordability by SR Education Group and second for safety by Business Insider nationwide. Niche also applauded Clarks Summit for America’s 25th best religious studies programs. Accredited by the ABHE since 1956, the Baptist Bible Seminary trains post-grads for Biblical text interpretation with its Online Doctor of Philosophy in Theology. The 60-credit, non-resident program coordinated by Dr. Kenneth Gardoski builds on M.Div. training with 13-week online courses that require one-week residencies in South Abington Township. Original dissertation research follows within Ph.D. candidates’ concentrations for Old Testament, New Testament, Systematic Theology, or Bible Exposition.

Other Theology Ph.D. Online Degree Offerings

Although the following didn’t meet all of our ranking criteria, these are some extra PhD theology online programs to consider:

South Florida Bible College

Online Ph.D. in Christian Thought and Theology

Average Graduate Tuition: $4,770 per year

Colorado Theological Seminary

Doctor of Theology in Christian Counseling Online

Average Graduate Tuition: $5,043 per year

Luther Seminary

Online Ph.D. Theology Program

Average Graduate Tuition: $16,500 per year

La Salle University

Online Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) Degree

Average Graduate Tuition: $23,020 per year

North Carolina College of Theology

Life-Earned Experience Doctorate in Theology Online

Average Graduate Tuition: N/A

What Types of Theology Doctorate Online Programs are Offered?

Every online theology doctorate takes post-grads on a mentally, spiritually, and emotionally rigorous journey to universities’ uppermost echelon, but different types do exist. Perhaps the most globally recognized option is the Doctor of Philosophy. Theology online Ph.D. degrees are geared toward theoretical research for studying the nature of the divine. Another academic equivalent is the Doctor of Theology (D.Th.), which focuses on critical reflections of sacrosanct scriptures with the divinity school’s ecclesiastics. Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degrees are applied, professional programs rarely found online for theologians concerned solely with practice in Church-related vocations. Doctoral study also offers great independence for online students to specialize in diverse disciplines, such as Old Testament studies, dogmatics, Christian ethics, religious pedagogy, Judaic or Islamic studies, ecumenism, and church planting.

Which Careers Benefit From an Online Theology Ph.D.?

Attaining a terminal theology Ph.D. online degree will certify your spiritual expertise for limitless careers involved with interpreting sacred doctrines like the Torah and Vedas. Although only a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) is required, doctoral training can assist with passing Bible, religious tradition, and Hebrew or Greek exams needed for ordination. The 24/7 access of online doctorate programs allows faithful laity to master Church catechisms and transition into the clergy. Job possibilities are abundant with doctorates, especially when combined with credentials like Evangelical Theological Society membership or United Methodist Professional Certification. Let’s review some popular careers held by theology online PhD graduates below:

Theology Professor: The United States’ nearly 200 divinity schools, such as Fuller Theological Seminary, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary, and Moody Bible Institute, rely on godly scholar-practitioners to share knowledge from their PhD theology online. Professors will usually conduct spiritual research, prepare lectures, moderate religious debates, grade students’ papers, review recent journal literature, lead missions trips, perform collegiate chapel services, and provide ministerial job development.

Religious Minister: Finishing an online theology doctorate exceeds the requirements to preach sacred text to congregants as a priest, rabbi, deacon, pastor, imam, or other clergy member. The Pew Research Forum found that 60.8 percent of Americans identify as “religious,” so ministers are needed to prepare sermons, lead prayer, study scripture, coordinate spiritual education, provide moral guidance to parishioners, perform religious rites, fundraise for the ailing, and attend congregation conferences.

Executive Nonprofit Director: Clergy putting online Ph.D. theology principles to practice could become presidents of religious-based nonprofits like Catholic Charities, Samaritan’s Purse, Lutheran World Relief, Operation Blessing, and Hadassah. Executive directors would receive the biggest C-suite responsibilities of developing the board of directors, overseeing charitable campaigns, applying fundraising tactics, creating annual budgets, approving employee contracts, and aligning goals to scripture.

Biblical Librarian: Adding an online theology PhD to library science training might lead seminary scholars toward the maintenance of holy, revered writings like the New Testament, Koran, Tanach, and Book of Mormon. These special librarians collect religious materials, organize spiritual archives, catalog reference materials, assist patrons with research, develop online book databases, review videos or other media for shelving, prepare budgets, train assistants, and schedule talks with leading theologians.

Spiritual Life Director: A UCLA study from the Higher Education Research Institute found that 80 percent of American college students had attended religious services in the last 12 months. Spiritual life directors work on-campus to coordinate nondenominational activities that deepen residents’ connections to God. Daily duties include coordinating chapel ministries, teaching Bible classes, planning spiritual retreats, scheduling feast day events, building volunteer partnerships, and counseling students for discipleship.

Related: 25 Most Affordable Master’s in Counseling Online Degrees

How Much Do Theology PhD Online Graduates Earn?

Money isn’t the best motivator for becoming a God-fearing servant leader, but the above cheap online theology Ph.D. degrees costing less than $13,000 annually could pay off financially. According to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, average lifetime earnings rise from $2.67 million to $3.25 million with master’s to doctoral progression. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 243,900 U.S. clergymen and women earned a mean annual wage of $49,450 in May 2016. Postsecondary philosophy and religion teachers made significantly more with mean income of $77,420 each year. On Salary.com, median pay was $61,881 for religious activities directors, $93,303 for pastors, and $52,584 for Christian counselors. PayScale shows annual salaries rising up to $119,044 for executive nonprofit directors too.

What is the Job Outlook After Ph.D. Theology Online Programs?

Economic reports on the pastoral pipeline show that hiring opportunities after an online theology PhD will be above average. In June 2017, The New York Times published Pew Research showing that America’s clergy leaders have a median age of 57. Aging pastors leaving for retirement will likely exacerbate several denominations’ shortages. For instance, the Evangelical Lutheran Church reports that the number of affiliated clergy has dropped from 9,105 to 6,868 since 2005. The Catholic Church warned that the ratio of parishioners to priests hit an all-time high of 3,126:1 in 2012. Theologians choosing the higher education route are also in large demand since the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 12 percent job growth for 3,900 religious faculty jobs during the next decade. Market yourself for scriptural success without breaking the bank by selecting from inexpensive online Ph.D. in theology programs.

GSH Staff
January 2018

This concludes our ranking of the five most affordable online PhD in theology programs for 2018.