What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Theology Program?

Online master’s in theology programs are an excellent option for students who don’t live near a seminary or Bible studies college — these programs offer the same academic quality found in traditional on-campus classes. Also, being able to complete courses remotely rather than commuting to campus provides you with more time for meeting work and family obligations. When selecting your online master’s in theology program, you should carefully review the details of each option to ensure you attend the best school for your needs and goals.

Available concentrations

If you already know what you would like to do in the theology field, look for a program that allows you to focus your studies on that area of concentration. Some of the most popular concentration options for a master’s in theology include:

  • Leadership: Learn to take on leadership roles within congregations and ministry-related organizations.
  • Biblical Studies: Examine both testaments of the Bible as well as the history of Biblical books and related interpretations.
  • Church History: Gain a deeper understanding of how history has impacted and reformed the church and how the church has shaped history.
  • Homiletics: Study how to evaluate church needs, design sermons and programs to suit those needs, and host educational opportunities.

Common degree curriculum

Online master’s in theology programs vary widely between educational institutions. Bible colleges, divinity schools, and colleges offering degrees in theology shape their curriculum based on which church, if any, they are associated with, as well as the school’s overarching mission. So, when evaluating different programs, remember to learn more about the institution. That research can help you pick the option best aligned with your background and preferences.

If you are already working in ministry or plan to after graduation, understand your denomination’s requirements on how or where you obtain your degree. You should also consider whether a master’s in theology program requires in-person participation, such as summer or winter intensives.

Some courses you may encounter for this degree include:

  • New Testament Apologetics: Defenses for the New Testament.
  • Old Testament Apologetics: Defenses for the Old Testament.
  • History of Christianity: How the church began and developed over time.
  • Christianity in America: Origins of Christianity in America and its impact on current churches.
  • Evangelism: Sharing the gospel through preaching and teaching.
  • Interreligious Dialogue: Comparative studies of Christianity with other world religions.
  • Preaching: Frameworks for selecting topics and developing sermons.
  • Doctrinal History: How certain beliefs or customs came about in the church.
  • Current Doctrinal Concerns: The impact of current affairs on church doctrine.

Certification and license preparation

Different denominations in the Christian faith have widely divergent policies for the certifications and licenses they confer after a student finishes their master’s studies.

In many cases, the governing body of a denomination requires students to go through certification or licensure requirements as they are also completing their educational studies. In some denominations, the only step necessary is completing a degree before taking on a specific role. Others offer umbrella certifications that enable new graduates to take on any position within the church. Again, know your denomination’s requirements before enrolling in an online master’s in theology program.

Program accreditation

Only apply to schools approved by a DOE-recognized accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate the faculty and curriculum of postsecondary education institutions to ensure they offer students a high-quality academic experience. If your school doesn’t have regional accreditation, you may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Program completion timeframe

Just as specializations and courses vary widely for online master’s in theology programs, so do program lengths — the number of credits required ranges from 30 to 48. Students may complete their studies in as few as three semesters by attending full-time. Higher credit counts or part-time status can make these programs take two or more years to complete.

Some universities allow students to take courses in different semesters, while others are a lock-step experience of taking classes in a set order. Typically, new students can begin in August or January. However, some colleges let online master’s in theology students start at other times of the year or engage in self-paced studies.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Theology Graduates

Regarding salary and job growth, the employment outlook is subpar for master’s in theology graduates.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker with a master’s degree earns $1,661 per week, which amounts to an annual salary of more than $85,000. The typical jobs for theology majors tend to pay much less than that. Theology occupations are also expected to grow relatively slowly over the next decade, which may make it difficult to find employment opportunities or negotiate pay raises.

Indeed, this career path is best for those who find the practice of theology fulfilling on an intellectual or emotional level. Those primarily interested in earning a high income should consider other professions.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)
Minister (Clergy) Ministers are responsible for leading worship services and supporting parishioners. Most ministers work with a specific church, while others may work in hospitals, hospices, or schools. $55,550 1%
Director of Religious Education This occupation involves developing educational strategies, managing individual teachers, and ensuring all teachings align with specific religious doctrines. $49,380 0%

Professional organizations

Many denominations offer their network of religious workers for individuals to join, but nondenominational organizations are also available for clergy and other church professionals to take part in. These organizations enable religious personnel to make valuable connections, enhance development opportunities, and grow professionally.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Theology Degree

Online learning is usually less expensive than obtaining a degree through a traditional in-person education setting, but these programs can still be quite costly. Your first step toward securing help in paying for your master’s in theology is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will allow you to access the many resources the federal government offers through grants and loans. Additionally, you can find scholarships offered by church and private organizations to help you cover the cost of tuition and other expenses. Look within your church and denomination to see what aid you can obtain.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

You’ll need to research to find all the financing options you may qualify for. The following resources will help you discover new opportunities and save as much money as possible.

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Interested in a degree?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.