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For those aspiring to take on leadership roles in religious settings or congregations, a master’s in theology degree offers extensive knowledge and many opportunities. This degree provides students with critical thinking skills, ethical reasoning, and a comprehensive understanding of religious texts and traditions. With these skills, graduates are well-prepared for careers in the clergy, where the median salary is $58,920, and demand is expected to grow as over 48% of current clergy members approach retirement age.

Most theology master’s programs can be completed in two to three years with full-time study, with an average investment of $19,749 — making it both a time-efficient and financially feasible academic pursuit for future religious leaders.

How to Choose a Master’s in Theology Program

Choose your area of study

Theology is already a specialized field, but you can customize your education even more by selecting a specific area of study — often referred to as a specialization. This choice allows you to align your degree more closely with your career objectives.

For example, students wanting to work in academia or church leadership may opt to specialize in biblical studies. In contrast, those interested in non-profit or community leadership roles may prefer ethical studies, where they can explore moral questions and societal impacts. Lastly, some programs may offer a specialization in historical theology, which is ideal for those drawn to research and teaching, examining the development of doctrinal thought over time.

Research schools and programs

Once you’ve chosen a specialization for your master’s in theology, thorough research on potential schools and programs is your next step. Consider these questions to help guide your research:

  • What is the reputation of the faculty in my chosen area?
  • How flexible is the program in terms of course offerings and scheduling?
  • What support services, like advising and library resources, are available?
  • Are there opportunities for research, internships, or community engagement?
  • What are the program’s outcomes regarding graduate employment or further study?

Information about these programs is often readily available on university websites, but you may also benefit from contacting admissions counselors directly or attending an information session or open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

When applying for these degree programs, start by requesting transcripts and letters of recommendation early, as these can take time to gather. Devote significant effort to writing your personal statement or statement of purpose, which is pivotal in illustrating your interests and qualifications for graduate-level study. If the program requires GRE scores, consider enrolling in a test prep program well in advance to improve your performance.

Starting these processes early ensures a well-rounded application and avoids last-minute pressures, establishing a foundation for a solid submission to your top programs.

Select your program

Once acceptance letters arrive, you may have a big decision to make. You can simplify this decision by revisiting your initial research criteria, focusing on factors most important to you, such as faculty you’re excited to learn from, curriculum relevance, and support services. Evaluate how each program aligns with these priorities.

Additionally, reassess the total cost of attendance and compare it with financial aid offers to ensure the program is financially feasible.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Paying for your degree may require some planning to avoid accruing substantial debt. Start by prioritizing funding options that do not require repayment, like scholarships and grants, often awarded based on merit or need. Additionally, many theology programs offer teaching or research assistantships that provide a stipend and sometimes tuition waivers. If you’re currently employed and this degree is relevant to your job, reach out to your employer and ask if they offer tuition reimbursement as a part of their employee benefits package.

Lastly, federal loans should be considered to bridge any remaining financial gaps. These should be your last resort, as every dollar taken out on a loan will eventually have to be repaid with interest.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Theology Programs

Best Master's in Theology Degree Programs_2024 badge

Yale University

Drew University

Baylor University

Xavier University of Louisiana

Williamson College

Xavier University

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

World Mission University

University of Northwestern, St. Paul

Westminster Seminary California

Criswell College

Westminster Theological Seminary

Western Theological Seminary

Western Seminary

Welch College

Wesley Theological Seminary

Asbury Theological Seminary

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

We reviewed many master’s in theology programs, including Master of Theological Studies (MTS) and Master of Arts (MA) degrees. Our list includes online, on-campus, and hybrid options in order to offer many choices to meet students’ diverse needs.

All of the programs listed are regionally accredited, and most have accreditation through a programmatic accrediting body as well. The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) are the two main accreditors for graduate schools with religious degrees.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Theology Program?

A master’s in theology lends an immersive learning experience for students called to this vocation. Students explore religious beliefs, practices, and their impacts on society. Although curriculum content can vary, many encourage learners to examine different theological perspectives, building critical thinking, interpretation, and ethical reasoning skills. Lessons typically cover sacred texts, historical and contemporary religious movements, and the role of religion in shaping cultures and philosophies.

Some programs may require a thesis, while others may not. Others may provide you with a thesis and a non-thesis option — allowing you to choose between the two. The thesis track is ideal for those considering further academic or doctoral studies, culminating in a significant research project. The non-thesis track may include additional coursework or a practical project better suited for students seeking ministry, counseling, or education careers without a research focus.

Completion timelines vary but generally range from two to three years, depending on part-time or full-time enrollment and the specific requirements of each track.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in theology program

  • Systematic Theology: Considered a core component in many curriculums, this foundational course explores the systematic formulation of religious doctrines and beliefs. Students will engage with major theological themes such as the nature of God, Christology, and eschatology, learning to articulate and analyze several different doctrinal positions within a coherent theological framework.
  • Biblical Hermeneutics: With a distinct emphasis on the principles and methods of biblical interpretation, this course allows students to analyze and interpret biblical texts critically. Students develop a nuanced approach to understanding and teaching scripture by examining historical contexts, literary genres, and contemporary applications.
  • History of Christianity: This essential course provides a comprehensive overview of the historical development of Christianity from its beginnings to the present day. Students will study significant events, figures, and theological developments, gaining insight into the historical context that shaped modern Christian beliefs and practices.
  • Religion and Society: Occasionally deemed an elective, this course investigates the influence of religion on social structures and cultural practices. Participants will examine case studies involving the role of religion in public policy, ethics, and community dynamics, fostering an understanding of how religious beliefs shape and are shaped by societal changes.

Master’s in Theology Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in theology degree program?

When applying for these degree programs, you’ll notice that specific requirements can vary significantly between institutions — with some schools requiring official transcripts, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation, and others needing a specific minimum GPA or GRE scores. For this reason, it’s crucial to consult an admissions counselor at each institution to understand their particular prerequisites and customize your application accordingly.

How much does a master's in theology degree cost?

The cost of a master’s in theology degree varies, with the average graduation tuition being $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year. However, expenses can fluctuate based on the school, program duration, and whether you attend part-time or full-time.

Beyond tuition, you’ll also want to budget for books, supplies, and potentially commuting or housing costs — as these aren’t often included in a school’s tuition price and can significantly add up over time.

How long does it take to earn a master's in theology degree?

Full-time students take two to three years to obtain this degree, while part-time students might take four to five years, depending on their course load. Completion timelines can vary significantly based on the total number of required credits, which differs from one program to another. It’s crucial to review each school’s program details thoroughly to understand the credit requirements and to plan your studies accordingly.

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