Home > Top 25 Online Master’s in Theology Programs for 2018

Top 25 Online Master’s in Theology Programs for 2018

Earning a master’s in theology online can prepare you for a number of positions in the church, schools, or another discipline. Many careers in theology only require a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree. However, an advanced degree like a master of arts in theology online is necessary to pursue leadership roles and command a higher salary. Your state of residence and choice of career will influence the rate of job growth and salary that you can expect. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that careers in theology and religious work will rise 6.3% over the next decade, and those with higher levels of education and more professional experience enjoy more employment opportunities.

What are the Best Online Master’s in Theology Programs?

1

Shasta Bible College and Graduate SchoolRedding, CA

Admissions Rate 73%
Default Rate N/A
Retention Rate 100%
Graduation Rate 58%
Online Enrollment 36%

Located in Redding, CA, Shasta educates Baptist pastors, missionaries, Christian school teachers, and other Christian service professionals. Its campus hosts several conferences throughout the year and is home to a creation museum. Shasta’s online graduate students can choose to pursue a master of arts in christian ministries: biblical studies if they possess the required prerequisites in biblical studies, theology, Greek, and Hebrew.

Students who earn their online master’s in theology at Shasta must complete 36 credits. Courses draw from Greek, Hebrew, biblical studies, and biblical theology. A master’s thesis, project, or practicum serves as the program’s capstone. Digital learners have access to coursework throughout the week, and rarely need to be online at a specific time. They do, however, follow the same semester-long course calendar as on-campus students. Students can transfer up to six credits into the program.

2

Holy Apostles College and SeminaryCromwell, CT

Admissions Rate N/A
Default Rate 2%
Retention Rate 100%
Graduation Rate 60%
Online Enrollment 59%

Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT is a catholic institution that offers a master of the arts in pastoral ministry and a master of arts in theology online. Students taking the 36-credit theology degree typically seek careers as religion teachers, are preparing for doctoral work, or are studying for personal enrichment. This program offers seven concentrations, including apologetics, bioethics, church history, theology, and sacred scripture. Theology students complete their program with either a comprehensive exam or a thesis.

Digital learners interested in leadership and ministry in the local parish should investigate the 36-credit pastoral studies program. Students earning this degree complete two corequisite courses, four core courses, and four courses in their concentration. Academic concentration options include marriage and family studies, pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, and youth and young adult ministry. The pastoral ministry program culminates with a comprehensive exam.

3

Jewish Theological Seminary of AmericaNew York, NY

Admissions Rate 52%
Default Rate 2%
Retention Rate 100%
Graduation Rate 88%
Online Enrollment 5%

JTS equips students with a thorough grounding in the traditions of Conservative Judaism and with the skills to engage contemporary society. From its campus in NYC, JTS offers an online master’s in Jewish education. Students in this 45-credit program demonstrate Hebrew language skills through a placement exam and coursework. They also enroll in a series of Jewish education and Judaica courses, including translating Jewish theology in educational settings and pedagogy.

Students in this theology master’s online program select a focus in pedagogy and teaching or one in educational leadership. Online learners in each program can concentrate in arts education, educational technology, or disabilities inclusion. Four courses require on-campus enrollment, and JTS offers a month-long summer program to make this requirement easy for currently employed educators.

4

Luther Rice College & SeminaryLithonia, GA

Admissions Rate 100%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 100%
Graduation Rate 100%
Online Enrollment 92%

Luther Rice offers a variety of master’s degrees in theology online and in a hybrid format. Located in the metro Atlanta area, this Christian college favors Southern Baptist doctrine and charges a tuition rate in the lowest 10% of US Department of Education-reviewed private, nonprofit, four-year schools. Luther Rice’s fully online graduate degree options include the master’s in apologetics, the master’s in Christian studies, and the master’s in ministry.

Apologetics majors take a 36-credit program that they can complete in 18-24 months. Courses include major world religions, science and faith, and a thesis or practicum. Christian studies and ministry majors need the same number of credits and time, but their curriculum focuses on biblical studies, theology, and practical ministry courses. Neither of these programs requires a final project.

5

Saint Joseph's College of MaineStandish, ME

Admissions Rate 78%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 58%
Online Enrollment 57%

A private Catholic school of more than 2,500 students located in Standish, ME, St. Joseph’s College offers a master of arts in theology online. Grounded in Catholic doctrine and aligned with the magisterium, this program serves future lay ministers, deacons, and chaplains. St. Joseph’s offers sacred theology, pastoral theology, and advanced diaconal studies as concentration options.

Students take 36 credits, including 21-30 credits of core courses and a selection of electives. A practicum is available as an elective but is not required, and only the sacred theology concentration requires a thesis. Students in all three concentrations take courses covering Catholic moral theology and the New Testament. Companies in many industries partner with St. Joseph’s College to offer tuition discounts so students should inquire with the Associate Director of Partnerships and Special Programming during the application process.

6

Clarks Summit UniversityClarks Summit, PA

Admissions Rate 61%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 59%
Online Enrollment 36%

Located in the rolling foothills of the Endless Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania, Clarks Summit University is a Baptist institution that offers online master’s in theology-related fields such as a master of arts in Bible. This program meets the academic and professional needs of both active laypeople and clergy. Graduate students in Bible take about two years to complete the required 30 credits. Courses operate on an eight-week schedule, and students do not need to be online at any specific time.

To earn their master’s degrees, students complete their core courses in Bible, theology, and interpretation plus one course in communications. Electives in Bible and theology comprise the rest of the program. Courses include inductive Bible study, Christology, and dispensational premillenialism. CSU offers reduced tuition for military members, students currently employed in ministry, alumni, and international students.

7

University of Northwestern-St PaulSaint Paul, MI

Admissions Rate 87%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 66%
Online Enrollment 34%

Located in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, UNW equips students to be Christian leaders in professional and academic fields, including church-based ministry. The school offers a master of divinity and a master’s in theological studies online. The master’s in theology online (MATS) consists of 36 credits and is the foundational prerequisite for the M.Div. program. The program takes 18-22 months to complete.

The master of divinity (M.Div.) builds on the MATS and prepares students for pastoral or chaplaincy ministry. M.Div. students complete a total of 76 credits in 42-46 months. UNW students complete internships and fieldwork but are not required to take courses in biblical languages. UNW also offers a combined BA/M.Div program in which students earn a BA in pastoral ministry as well as a M.Div. over the course of five years.

8

Corban UniversitySalem, OR

Admissions Rate 31%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 59%
Online Enrollment 12%

A Baptist school by heritage, Corban University educates students at its Salem, OR campus and through its online program. Corban’s School of Ministry includes a master of divinity (M.Div.) that’s available fully online or in a convenient hybrid option. Full-time students can complete the M.Div. in three years, but part-time students take longer.

This theology-related master’s degree offered online balances practical ministry courses with biblical and theological studies. Course topics include counseling, worldviews, ministry, Greek, exegesis, Hebrew, and interpreting scripture. Digital learners can choose to concentrate in church ministry or in biblical languages. Upon completion of the program, church ministry majors can pursue a doctor of ministry, while biblical languages majors are ready for a Ph.D. in a relevant field.

9

Columbia International UniversityColumbia, SC

Admissions Rate 34%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 62%
Online Enrollment 18%

Emphasizing intercultural perspectives and opportunities, CIU equips students to lead and serve as Christian educators, pastors, missionaries, and business professionals. The university’s online master’s in theology does not require any on-campus work. Applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree for admission. The program requires 48 credit hours to graduate, but those entering with 30 undergraduate credits of theology, Bible, or church history can take an abbreviated 33-credit curriculum.

CIU students learn aspects of biblical interpretation, tools for evaluating doctrine, and skills to research and write on theological topics. Courses include systematic theology in global Christianity and missions and evangelism in the 21st century. Students can choose a 15-hour concentration in church history, Bible, theology, Greek, or Hebrew. A capstone project or thesis is not required.

10

Hope International UniversityFullerton, CA

Admissions Rate 34%
Default Rate 9%
Retention Rate 91%
Graduation Rate 42%
Online Enrollment 47%

Students can earn HIU’s master of arts in ministry entirely online, but it is also offered with an eight-day residential option at the school’s home campus in Fullerton, CA. Identified with the non-denominational Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, HIU’s theology-related master’s degree lets online learners choose a single or a dual concentration program. Available concentrations include biblical studies, worship, intercultural studies, and church planting.

The single-concentration option requires 36 credits with nine credits in the field while the dual-concentration degree requires 42 credits, nine in each field selected. Students without formal biblical or theological training must take an extra six credits of biblical studies early in their graduate school careers. Unique courses include Jesus and the kingdom among us and C.S. Lewis and literature of faith.

11

Apex School of TheologyDurham, NC

Admissions Rate N/A
Default Rate 11%
Retention Rate 97%
Graduation Rate 95%
Online Enrollment 79%

ASOT offers an online master’s in divinity (M.Div.) to help prepare both clergy and lay people for Christian ministry in the church and community. Grounded in the African American religious tradition, ASOT’s master's in divinity allows online students complete the 90-credit M.Div. program without ever attending class at the school’s campus in Durham, NC.

Students in the program are not required to undertake a thesis or final project for graduation. They do, however, study biblical languages and complete three credits of field education. Coursework includes the passion narratives in the gospels, women in ministry, church administration, the church and elder care, and the soul of black worship. Students may transfer up to 30 graduate credits into the M.Div. program.

12

Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA

Admissions Rate 22%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 47%
Online Enrollment 82%

The world’s largest Christian university, Liberty offers a fully online master of arts pastoral counseling - theology degree with optional intensive courses on the Lynchburg, VA campus. To earn their master’s in theology online, students complete 24 credits of core courses in pastoral counseling such as marriage & family counseling and spiritual formation in counseling. Students then take 12 credits of theology courses, including systematic theology and the doctrine of God. The program concludes with a three-credit internship.

Clergy, lay pastors, and others who have a bachelor’s degree with a 2.0 GPA can enter the program. Students who have earned up to 50% of this 36-credit hour master’s degree from another accredited university can transfer their credits in. Graduates may meet the qualifications to become military chaplains, but the program does not satisfy state licensure requirements.

13

Maranatha Baptist UniversityWatertown, WI

Admissions Rate 69%
Default Rate 1%
Retention Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 44%
Online Enrollment 34%

Teaching from a dispensational, fundamental Baptist perspective, Maranatha Baptist University’s seminary offers its master of divinity (M.Div) and master of biblical studies (MBS) degrees through distance education. To complete the 96-credit M.Div. or the 34-credit MBS, students can enroll in a hybrid of online courses, available asynchronously, and virtual courses, offered at specific times. The school also conducts modular classes through a church-site program and on its Watertown, WI campus.

Maranatha’s online master’s degrees in theology-related disciplines require coursework in biblical languages, theology, biblical studies, and intercultural studies. Students can transfer in up to 48 credits of the M.Div. and 12 credits of the MBS. An advanced placement option can also help students reduce their time in the program. Only male applicants are admitted into the M.Div. program.

14

University of DallasIrving, TX

Admissions Rate 64%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 70%
Online Enrollment 11%

Dubbed “the Catholic university for independent thinkers,” UD students can earn a master of theological studies. Requiring 37 credits for graduation, UD’s online master's in theology allows students to consider pastoral and theological questions in an academic setting. Digital learners concentrate in biblical theology, Catholic secondary school teaching, or general theology. The 22 credits of core courses include moral theology, systematic theology, Old Testament, and New Testament.

For admission, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a 2.75 GPA or above. A maximum of nine graduate credits may transfer from another accredited school after approval by the dean. In lieu of concluding the program with a thesis or capstone project, students complete an annotated bibliography as evidence of theological preparation in a pastoral context.

15

Northwest Nazarene UniversityNampa, ID

Admissions Rate 56%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 49%
Online Enrollment 25%

A higher education institution in Nampa, ID affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, NNU offers an online master of arts in pastoral ministry to equip church leaders for vocational ministry. While the program is open to students from a variety of denominations, its graduates complete the academic requirements for ordination in the Church of the Nazarene.

For this master of arts in a theology-related discipline, online students take 28 months to complete 40 credits. During that time, students work with a pastoral mentor in their chosen ministry setting. Course topics draw from the fields of Christian education, theology, intercultural studies, pastoral leadership, preaching, Bible, and spiritual formation. Students can take advantage of NNU’s zero-interest monthly payment plan to help offset the program’s financial impact.

16

Franciscan University of SteubenvilleSteubenville, OH

Admissions Rate 79%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 79%
Online Enrollment 8%

Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH moors itself to the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. Its master of arts in theology allows students to pursue their degree online with no residence obligation. This 36-credit program requires 10 foundational courses and two electives. Students must complete two background courses (the ecclesial nature and mission of theology and word of God: scripture and tradition) prior to beginning the program.

Students can begin their degrees in summer, fall, or spring semesters, each of which is 15 weeks long. Students can complete their degrees in as few as two or as many as seven years. Most classes are asynchronous, meaning digital learners can study on their own time. Franciscan’s online program costs about 75% of the on-campus program’s tuition.

17

Piedmont International UniversityWinston-Salem, NC

Admissions Rate 24%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 41%
Online Enrollment 72%

Located in Winston-Salem, NC, PIU offers theology-related master’s degrees through online learning, modular coursework, and a church-site program. Students can earn a master of biblical studies (non-language) or a master of biblical studies (Ph.D. preparation) completely online, or they can complete the master’s in ministry through PIU’s unique e4-12 distance opportunity at their local church.

Students with a bachelor’s degree and a GPA of 2.75 or higher can seek admission to the biblical studies program. The ministry major requires a 2.0 GPA. Up to 50% of the programs’ requirements may transfer in. To graduate, students successfully pass a comprehensive examination. Biblical studies majors complete 57 credits and ministry majors must earn 30 credits. PIU takes a dispensational approach to theology in the classroom.

18

The Baptist College of FloridaGraceville, FL

Admissions Rate 52%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 51%
Online Enrollment 27%

A Southern Baptist institution located in Graceville, FL, BCF educates pastors and other Christian leaders through its online master of arts in Christian studies. This 30-hour program is available with or without a thesis. Students pursuing the non-thesis option take an extra elective and a comprehensive exam.

Since the program is an online master’s in a theology-related discipline, students select from a variety of advanced courses in biblical studies, preaching, church history, and graduate research. The school also offers a course in contemporary studies of Southern Baptists and a history of Southern Baptist course, in keeping with its theological heritage. For admission, students must hold a bachelor’s degree with at least a 2.5 GPA and submit GRE or MAT scores.

19

Fordham UniversityBronx, NY

Admissions Rate 48%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 91%
Graduation Rate 81%
Online Enrollment 2%

Fordham University in New York City offers an online master’s in Christian spirituality. This 36-credit program prepares students for general Christian ministry or for work in spiritual direction. Underpinned by Catholic theology, the master’s program allows online students to take a research concentration or a generalist concentration. Fordham also offers a spiritual direction concentration, but it requires some on-campus coursework.

To complete the research program, students write a thesis and demonstrate ability in a second language. Those students completing the generalist program take a comprehensive exam in place of these requirements. Courses in all degree programs include Christian spirituality, Old Testament, New Testament, and discernment in Christian tradition.

20

Olivet Nazarene UniversityBourbonnais, IL

Admissions Rate 77%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 61%
Online Enrollment 23%

ONU is a Church of the Nazarene-affiliated institution in the Village of Bourbonnais, IL. It blends a typical curriculum for a master of theology online with courses in practical ministry to create its master’s in pastoral leadership. This 36-credit program, offered entirely by distance education, serves pastors and Christian leaders with no previous graduate ministerial training. Students take two years to complete the series of required courses, culminating in the development of a ministry plan.

Classes in ONU’s pastoral ministry degree include visionary leadership, the pastoral leader as priest, and theology and ministry. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a 2.7 GPA or higher and have completed a series of prerequisite courses in theology, Bible, world religions, and philosophy. The program begins in January of each year.

21

Indiana Wesleyan University-MarionMarion, IN

Admissions Rate 95%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 60%
Online Enrollment 45%

Offering a master of divinity (M.Div.), a master of practical theology, and a master’s in theological studies (English) online, IWU in Marion, IN trains pastors, church staff members, and theologians. M.Div. students begin the program with 24 credits in intensive on-campus courses with their seminary cohort. The 75-credit M.Div. requires six six-hour courses that blend theory with practice in a local church setting.

The master’s in practical theology online takes 36 hours and serves as a bridge to a doctorate in ministry for students who do not have an M.Div. Practical theology students complete a capstone project.The 36-credit master’s in theological studies (English) provides ministerial training for second-career pastors, teachers, and church workers. A prior learning assessment or transfer credits may shorten the amount of time a student spends at IWU.

22

Crown CollegeSaint Bonifacius, MN

Admissions Rate 53%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 56%
Online Enrollment 44%

Located about 30 miles west of Minneapolis and affiliated with the Christian & Missionary Alliance, Crown College offers online theological education to future pastors and church professionals. Its 72-credit degree master of divinity blends biblical and theological studies with practical ministry coursework. Students can choose one of 10 concentration tracks, including community development, disaster and emergency management, pastoral leadership, spiritual formation, and international Christian education.

Crown’s M.Div. is a fully online program that students can complete in two and a half to four years. Crown’s transfer policy allows up to 48 credits to transfer into the program. Online students beginning their graduate education at Crown may qualify to receive another online master’s in a theology-related discipline (MA in Christian studies or MA in ministry leadership) along with their M.Div.

23

Regent UniversityVirginia Beach, VA

Admissions Rate 84%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 49%
Online Enrollment 66%

Regent University boasts an enrollment of more than 11,000 students on its home campus in Virginia Beach and through its online programs, such as the master of theological studies (MTS). This degree program allows online students to pursue a 48-credit master’s in theology, which prepares them for theological writing, research, and teacher training. The program can also serve as the foundation for a Ph.D. in theology.

The MTS is available in four concentrations: biblical studies, Christian theology, history of Christianity, and interdisciplinary studies. Courses include Christian ethics, New Testament, and theology of global religions. Students can conclude their program with a thesis or a comprehensive exam. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of a 2.75 GPA. Students can enroll eight times each year.

24

Johnson UniversityKnoxville, TN

Admissions Rate 58%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 57%
Online Enrollment 24%

Affiliated with the non-denominational Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Johnson trains preachers and Christian leaders. Its online master’s in theology degrees include a master of arts in New Testament. A 24-credit core curriculum in New Testament and a 12-credit concentration make up this 36-credit degree. Concentration options include preaching, spiritual formation and leadership, research, and a customized concentration.

Applicants who do not have 27 undergraduate credits of Bible and theology must take two preparatory courses in Old and New Testament. Standard courses include world of the New Testament, Gospel of Matthew, and New Testament theology. While the degree can be completed entirely online, some courses require a one-week residence at Johnson’s Knoxville, TN campus. The program concludes with an honors thesis or a research project.

25

Concordia University-ChicagoRiver Forest, IL

Admissions Rate 50%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 62%
Graduation Rate 50%
Online Enrollment 52%

Concordia University system’s Chicago campus offers an online master of arts in religion. Taught by theologians ordained in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, the 11 courses in this program help enrich the spiritual lives of church workers and laypeople. Digital learners study messianic prophecies, early church fathers, and Lutheran confessional theology. The program concludes with a 16-week applied research project in theology.

For admission, applicants must prove competence in Lutheran studies of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Lutheran doctrine through previous undergraduate coursework or a competency exam. Once accepted, students move through the program as a cohort, taking one eight-week course at a time. Courses take place in the spring and fall semesters only. Students complete the full 33-credit program in six semesters.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Theology Program

Given the wide variety of options available, it can be difficult to choose the master’s in theology online that is right for you. Luckily, there are a few fundamental aspects that you can consider to shorten your list of potential schools. First, you should consider whether a program includes any on-campus requirements. You’ll also want to determine the duration of each program and the cost per credit hour. If you plan on working while earning your degree, then you may want to choose a program with a part-time learning option or one that delivered courses asynchronously online. Finally, you’ll want to choose a school that is accredited.

Careers for Graduates of Master’s in Theology Programs

Many of the careers found in theology have been present in society since the birth of religion thousands of years ago. As long as there is religion, there will always be a demand for professionals educated in theology to guide followers in their spiritual and moral decisions. Earning an online master’s in theology can open doors to a career as a leader in a church, school, or even in other workplaces. By earning a master’s in theology online, you increase the chances of obtaining a leadership role that commands a higher salary.

Job Outlook and Salary for Graduates of Theology Master’s Degrees

As noted above, the BLS projects that there will be increased employment opportunities for those with a master of arts in theology online during the next decade. Where you live can have a large impact on the salary and rate of job growth that you will experience. For example, states with large populations and coastal cities are more likely to offer higher salaries thanks to their larger economies and high demand for religious services. Religion, and by extension religious leadership, has always been fundamental aspects of human culture; as long as religion exists, there will be a steady demand for theological professionals.

Employment Growth for Theology
Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026
78,160 109,424

Salary Growth by Experience for Graduates of Theology Master’s Programs

In most fields, you can earn a higher salary if you have more professional experience. As an entry-level employee, you’ll start with a lower base salary that will grow as you gain more experience in the field. Theology and other religious fields follow the same rules. The more you become immersed in a religious field, you’ll come to understand what is expected of a successful professional in that field. As a result, your skills will be honed accordingly. The chart below details the average salaries you can expect to see in several careers that are common among theology master’s online graduates.


To determine the best online theology programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 25 best online theology degree programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.