An online Master's in Theology is a degree that provides students with a strong foundation in Biblical teachings so that they can serve the church as professionals. Whether a student wants to become a pastor or a professor, a Biblical researcher or a missionary, a graduate degree in theology will get them there.
But online programs can be hard to choose from, especially since so many seminaries and graduate schools are now offering graduate degrees. It's critical to note that a master's in theology is the only pathway forward in order to become credentialed to teach theology in accredited seminaries; this is why the degree is so popular.
Because of the popularity of the degree, it was clear that a ranking was needed. Information for this ranking was taken from the National Center for Education Statistics, a public website that acts as a database for higher education. An initial pool of 50 schools was formed from that research. The final 10, which are listed below, were chosen based on their in-state graduate tuition rates.
Ranking Low-cost Online Theology Master's
10. Biola University
La Mirada, California
Online Master of Arts in Theology, Greek Track
Students looking for an online master's in theology will be interested in Biola University. The school offers this degree with a concentration in Greek, making it a perfect choice for scholar-practitioners who want to work as Bible scholars in their career. The program opens up a variety of opportunities for students to either join the church or advance their academic study. Students can choose to take this degree as a fully online program or in a hybrid format; all online courses are delivered in an asynchronous format. The program of study focuses on historical theological trends and biblical foundations. This degree requires 49 credit hours of coursework, a capstone project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Hermeneutics and Bible Study Methods, Patristic and Medieval Theology, and Spiritual Formation, Vocation, and the Disciples.
9. Indiana Wesleyan University
Online Master of Divinity
The Master of Divinity program at Indiana Wesleyan University is a great alternative to the online Master's in Theology. This hybrid program is an innovative approach to divinity and enables students to not only continue their education but also actively research divinity issues as well as work with a local ministry as part of their fieldwork experience requirement. The M.Div. at Indiana Wesleyan is offered as a hybrid cohort program; students will be required to complete praxis courses as well as a yearly convocation in August for the duration of their plan of study. The program is also delivered in a unique team format; students are taught courses by two professors at the same time, providing a different perspective on any given concept. Students will have the chance to take on the Clinical Pastoral Education specialization if they wish to be credentialed as an educator. This degree requires 75 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a capstone project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Pastor, Church, and World, Global Christian History, and The Bible as Christian Scripture.
8. Denver Seminary
Online Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies
Denver Seminary offers a theology master's online degree that is academic-based and focuses on the historical context of the Bible. It is important to note that ordination is not possible with this degree; professionals interested in this pathway often go into education or work in ministry. The degree is also not intended for students who are interested in pursuing doctoral study in this field. The program is based specifically on Biblical and theological studies, as evidenced in the core curriculum, but it also offers a glimpse into Israel as well as mentored formation. The degree requires 39 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive written and oral exam; there are no capstone projects or a thesis that is required. Sample courses include Thinking Biblically and Theologically, Israel's Early History and Poetry, and Old Testament Theology and Religions.
7. The University of Northwestern at St. Paul
St. Paul, Minnesota
Online Master of Theological Studies
The University of Northwestern at St. Paul confers an online Master's in Theology that is designed for professionals who wish to bring a Christian perspective to other industries and sectors in America. The basis for the degree lies in understanding Scripture as well as biblical interpretation and theology as applied to various aspects of human life. It is possible to take this degree as a hybrid or online program; each option enables students to learn from internationally renown experts on the Bible and to learn from a nondenominational setting. There are two excellent options that come with this degree; students can complete a Graduate Certificate in Christian Studies as well as apply this degree's credit hours to the Master of Divinity, which is also available online. This degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework and can be completed in as little as 18 months. Sample courses include History of Christianity, Contemporary Issues in Theology, and Biblical Hermeneutics.
6. The King's University
Online Master of Practical Theology
Students at The King's University are offered an online Master's in Theology that can be earned 100 percent online. It is a practical degree, meaning that professionals can use their knowledge from the program to serve the Church or their community. It is a program that does require a practicum; this can be completed in a student's community provided they find a church that is approved by the department. The courses are taught asynchronously and focus on both professional training and theological concepts, especially those that are connected to the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. Students will be expected to complete 48 credit hours of coursework, a practicum, a capstone project, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Church History and Renewal, Life of Jesus in Historical Context, and The Spirit Formed Leader.
5. Piedmont University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Online Master of Divinity (Non-Language)
The Master of Divinity (Non-Language) is conferred online at Piedmont University and requires no campus residencies. It is an incredible opportunity for students who are interested in serving their church as a pastor or a ministry leader; working in the chaplaincy is also another career option. This degree comes with six different tracks, including Local Church Ministry, Military Chaplaincy, and Pastoral Studies. The general M.Div. provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the Bible and other historical religious texts, all of which are taught by renown experts and scholars. Students can expect to complete 72 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Old Testament World Studies, New Testament World Studies, and Baptist History and Distinctives.
4. Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Online Master of Theology (ThM)
The Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary confers a Master's in Theology online that was designed for students who already possess a Master's in Divinity; the program is also open to students who have previous theological or religious education and who wish to pursue doctoral studies in the field. This is a hybrid program; students will be required to complete half of their coursework on campus, which takes the form of week-long intensives. Students will also have online synchronous courses available to them. The Th.M. comes with three concentrations: Biblical Studies, Reformation and Post-Reformation Theology, and Systematic Theology. The program will require students to complete 30 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a comprehensive exam; students who do not have an M.Div. will be required to complete a thesis. Sample courses include Introduction to Advanced Theology, Ethics for Faith-Based Professionals, and Research Methodologies.
3. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Kansas City, Missouri
Online Master of Theological Studies (MTS)
The online Master's in Theology that is delivered by the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is built for students who are interested in beginning a career in theology or who are wishing to enter in postgraduate study in the field. It comes with seven emphasis areas, including Christian Counseling, Preaching and Pastoral Ministry, and Discipleship Ministries. The degree was designed to provide students with asynchronous courses and a faculty that have professional experience in faith-based careers. This degree requires a minimum of 45 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a practicum and a comprehensive exam; there is no thesis requirement for this degree. Sample courses include Old Testament Survey, Introduction to Hermeneutics, and Missiology.
2. Luther Rice University
Online Master of Arts in Christian Studies
Luther Rice University confers an alternative to an online Master's in Theology that is steeped in Biblical and theological concepts and coursework. This is a 100 percent online practical degree that includes a practicum requirement that can be completed in a student's community. Students will find that the program is best suited for professional work in the church; please note that this degree does not lead to ordination nor is it a pathway to doctoral study. The program can be completed in as little as 18 months with full-time study or in three years with part-time study. Students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a practicum, and a comprehensive exam prior to graduation. Sample courses include Acts of the Apostles, Introduction to the New Testament, and Systematic Theology.
1. Baptist College of Florida
Online Master of Arts in Christian Studies
The Baptist College of Florida confers a cheap online Master's in Theology option for students who are interested in a research-based degree. The degree is taught by renown scholars and practitioners, enabling students to gain a valuable education, all while studying from home. This 100 percent online program was built to help those who work in a church setting to understand the bible and theology in the context of their career. Students will find that this degree has two concentrations: Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry. Both concentrations come with their own research options, which is a requirement for graduation. Students can expect to complete 30 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a thesis; for students who choose the non-thesis option, a capstone project will be required. Sample courses include Christian Education Integration, The Discipleship and Missions Ministries of the Church, and the Bible Study Ministries of the Church.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Master's in Theology Degree?
An online Master's in Theology opens up a variety of careers for students, including a minister, pastor, and missionary. There are other interesting career options as well that students may not yet have thought of as viable careers. These include:
- Church Planter
- Religious School Teacher
- Bible Scholar
- Executive Director of a Nonprofit Organization
- Teaching Pastor
- Bible Translator
- Museum Coordinator
- Campus Minister
The world is open to theology graduates. With so many different career options, a student will have to do some soul-searching to find the correct path for them. Fortunately, time in the degree often points students in the right direction, so while these careers may not fit the needs of all students, they will find something that calls to them.
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
Theology careers often dictate the actual salary available, and because theology is used in so many different careers, it can be difficult to pinpoint the actual average salary. The range, however, is $28,000 to $100,000.
The discrepancy in salaries come into play based on a few factors, the career position being the most obvious. Students who utilize their degree in social work or as a fund-raising specialist for the church often make around $28,000 to $45,000 a year. Those who go into ministry and preach at mega-churches, on the other hand, can make upwards of $1 million a year.
Theology graduates often go into education or research work, and those salaries can be different. Religious school teachers can make up to $75,000 a year while college professors can make $95,000 a year; this comes with years of experience working at well-funded schools. Bible scholars and translators make the most money, often earning $100,000 to $125,000 depending on their job and who is funding the project.
What are the Various Disciplines of Theology?
Theology is a distinct discipline in and of itself in the field of religion, but that does not mean that other disciplines do not affect it. History, theory, religion, culture, archaeology, anthropology, politics, psychology, and sociology all play a role in theology.
Many professionals will find that the disciplines that inform their career in theology will vary based on their chosen path. Bible scholars, for instance, may focus on linguistics while educators focus on education. Even ministers and pastors have their distinct disciplines, such as leadership and administration.
Is it Possible to Become Credentialed as a Theology Teacher After Graduating with This Degree?
Yes, it is possible to earn a credential as a theology or religion teach after graduating with this degree. The steps will be listed below, but please keep in mind that everyone's path towards faith-based teaching is different. Students are encouraged to consult with their seminary or college prior to proceeding on this career path.
The first thing a student must do before entering into this degree is to research if the school offers pastoral education or credentials for teaching in that denomination. These are often listed as graduate certificates that can be earned through the program of study, or the school may have a stand-alone certificate that may also be earned.
The second step is to successfully complete the requirements as well as take on a teaching practicum or internship. It will not be possible to earn credentials in teaching without field experience. Just like in secular schools, the practicum is a way of assessing a student's ability to take on the role of educator.
The third and final step is to pass the credential examination provided by the denomination. Students may find different requirements for each denomination's exam, so it is advised to seek out certification in that certain faith. Some denominations will require a valid state teaching license while some states also require it.
There are a few things to keep in mind, the first and foremost being that in order to be an educator at a school in America requires previous training as an educator. This means that many students will earn an undergraduate degree in education first and then move on to graduate study in theology. Again, it may be possible to earn a degree in theological teaching and the credential, but some states will not recognize it without a valid educator license.
It's also important to note that denominations are different. Some will require a degree in theology while others do not. This is up to the denomination and the schools in which a student is trying to teach in. Research and consultation with the appropriate denomination leaders is recommended.
Is Ordination Possible After Earning This Online Graduate Degree?
The online master's degree in theology alone will not help someone called to ministry in the process of becoming ordained. The degree is not built for students who wish to become ordained.
The reasoning for this is two-fold. The first issue is that in most denominations, a Master of Divinity is the only proper educational pathway towards ordination. This is a comprehensive degree, far more in-depth than theological studies, that often requires an internship as well as research projects and a thesis. At the current time, most students who wish to be ordained work towards a Master of Divinity as it is considered a terminal degree for seminaries.
There is light at the end of this tunnel: students who earn a degree in Theological Studies from a school accredited by the Association of Theological Schools may count their credit hours in the degree towards a Master of Divinity. This is a very common practice for students, especially if they work full time and have other responsibilities. And because many people work, an online degree in theological studies is a step in the right direction towards ordination.
The other issue is that the ordination process begins before a student steps foot on campus. Students must go to their denomination and declare their call to ordination. After that, the process begins and includes appearing before regional denomination committees, working with a mentor, earning a degree, undergo Clinical Pastoral Education, and then a final ordination paper. The process takes years and is designed to ensure that those called to God's service are doing it for all the right reasons.
In short, an online Master's in Theology is not enough for any person to become ordained, but if they choose to get a concurrent degree in divinity, the pathway may be open. Students are encouraged to speak to their local pastor about the ordination process as they will have better resources that will shine light on this calling.
Theology is a wonderful field that continues to evolve as societal attitudes towards religion evolve. For faith-based professionals, there has never been a better time to think about earning a degree in theology. With online programs offering asynchronous courses, flexible term schedules, and affordable tuition rates, degrees are even possible for working professionals. Students who are seriously considering the online Master's in Theology are encouraged to take a good look at these schools and decide for themselves that now is the right time to go back to school.