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A bachelor’s degree in theology opens up many possible career paths in both religious communities and the secular world. Individuals with this degree can go on to become pastors, outreach coordinators, or missionaries, or they can pursue further education.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for clergy is $63,720. For students who want a strong return on investment, finding an affordable bachelor’s in theology degree program is essential, which is why we compiled this list of the most affordable theology bachelor’s degrees.

Cost Breakdown for a Bachelor’s in Theology Degree Program

When students think of college costs, they typically focus on tuition. However, there are other expenses that contribute to how much a theology bachelor’s degree will cost.


Colleges charge tuition to cover the costs associated with providing instruction to students. Tuition rates vary from school to school based on multiple factors. Generally speaking, for full-time students in bachelor’s degree programs, schools charge a flat, per-term tuition rate. Part-time students usually pay per credit hour based on how many classes they take in a given term. The Education Data Initiative reports that the average per-credit tuition rate for undergraduate programs is $830. Students can get specific information on a school’s per-credit or per-term tuition by contacting the school’s financial aid office.


Most schools charge additional fees for specific services or resources. For on-campus programs, this can include fees for campus activities, parking, and technology services like printing. Online programs may charge fees for virtual learning technology or tech support services. Schools may assess fees on a one-time, annual, or per-term basis. Students should review additional fees and factor them into their budget.

Room and board

Students living in on-campus housing must also pay room and board fees to cover their living expenses. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the annual cost of room and board (on-campus meal plans) was $13,175 for the 2022-23 academic year. Even if you’re living off-campus, you should still account for living expenses like rent, food, utilities, and transportation.

Books and supplies

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average undergraduate student spends anywhere from $628 to $1,200 per year on books and supplies. This is another cost that students must factor into their budgets. Before starting your theology degree, assess your current technology and upgrade if you need a more reliable computer or internet access.

Factors Influencing the Cost of a Bachelor’s in Theology Degree Program

As mentioned above, tuition differs between institutions. Here are some of the factors influencing what a school charges for tuition:

Public vs. private institution

Colleges in the U.S. are classified as either public or private. Public colleges receive money from federal and state governments to fund their operations and subsidize tuition costs, particularly for students who live in the state where the school is located. Therefore, students can often find the lowest tuition rate at a public college in the state in which they reside. Out-of-state students who attend public universities typically pay a higher tuition rate because their taxes aren’t subsidizing their education.

Meanwhile, private colleges, which don’t receive government funding, charge higher tuition rates because they rely more on tuition as a revenue source. Private institutions charge all students the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Most theology programs are offered by religious-affiliated institutions, which are private and may therefore have a higher tuition rate.

Nonprofit vs. for-profit

Another status to look for when reviewing colleges is non-profit or for-profit. All public and most private universities are non-profit, meaning they must reinvest revenue into the institution via faculty and staff salaries, infrastructure, student services, and more. For-profit schools operate with the primary goal of earning profits for investors and shareholders, and they aren’t required to invest any revenue into operations. Therefore, while tuition rates may be lower at for-profit schools, a lack of investment in faculty, infrastructure, and student resources can impact the quality of education students receive from these institutions. If you’re considering a for-profit school, carefully review how the school invests its money and what its student outcomes are.

Student military status

Many schools offer tuition discounts to students who are active-duty military, veterans, or the spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. If you think you may qualify for a military tuition discount, contact the school’s financial aid office or veterans’ services department for more information.

Number of credits and completion time

The longer you’re enrolled in a degree program, the more you’ll pay. The minimum number of credits for a bachelor’s degree is 120, which typically translates to four years of full-time study. If you have college credits from an associate degree or previously attended a bachelor’s program, you may be able to transfer those credits to your theology degree program, decreasing your completion time and costs. Meanwhile, if you take longer than the standard four years to earn your bachelor’s in theology, you will end up paying more overall.

Most Affordable Bachelor’s in Theology Programs

Most Affordable Bachelor's in Theology Programs_2024 badge

Moody Bible Institute

Franciscan University of Steubenville

Holy Apostles College and Seminary

Montreat College

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Concordia University Wisconsin

God’s Bible School and College

Houston Christian University

Grand View University

University of Mary

Lincoln Christian University

Calvary University

Ozark Christian College

South Florida Bible College & Theological Seminary

Indiana Wesleyan University

Southern Adventist University

Boston College

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary - Leavell College

Andrews University

Barclay College

University of Valley Forge

Ave Maria University

Southwestern Adventist University

University of St. Thomas

Wayland Baptist University

St. John's University

Benedictine College

Concordia University, Nebraska

Mount St. Mary's University

University of Dallas

SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary

Johnson University

Saint Louis University

Palm Beach Atlantic University

Lee University

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best online bachelor’s in theology degree programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online bachelor’s in theology degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

How to Pay for a Bachelor’s in Theology Program


Most students and families contribute some money to tuition and other school-related expenses. This is considered paying ‘out of pocket’ because students and families pay their own money directly to the institution. Some students and families may be able to cover the entire cost of a theology degree out-of-pocket, but they usually combine out-of-pocket payments with other forms of financial aid. Students paying some or all their tuition out-of-pocket should find out if their school offers payment plans that allow them to make tuition payments throughout the term instead of paying in a lump sum at the start of the term.

Federal student loans

As part of the Federal Student Aid (FSA) program, the U.S. Department of Education offers Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans to undergraduate students. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for student loans. These education loans have interest rates and repayment terms set by Congress and are generally more favorable than private education loans. More information about applying for student loans through the FAFSA is included in the next section. Only students attending eligible programs at accredited universities can receive federal student loans. To verify a college’s accreditation status, visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) directory.

Private education loans

Students and families can also borrow money for college from private lenders like SoFi, Sallie Mae, and Ascent. Unlike federal student loans, lenders set terms for private education loans based on current interest rates and the borrower’s credit history. Experts generally recommend that students use private education loans only if they have exhausted other avenues of paying for school. Students borrowing money from private lenders should keep track of interest rates throughout the year to lock in the most favorable terms possible.


This form of financial support is considered gift aid because it doesn’t have to be repaid. Most schools offer a variety of scholarships based on merit or financial need. There are also many external sources for scholarships, including professional organizations, nonprofits, community and religious organizations, private endowments, and more. Depending on the scholarship, there may be an application process. For most need-based scholarships, students must submit FAFSA information for consideration.


Grants are typically awarded based on financial need and are also considered gift aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. Some grants, like the Pell Grant, are awarded by the Federal Student Aid program to students with extraordinary financial need. Other grants are available through state governments or individual institutions.


Another element of the Federal Student Aid program, work-study pays students to work at a part-time, on-campus job as part of their financial aid package. Students in work-study jobs earn at least the federal minimum wage, although some positions pay higher rates. Work-study jobs are available in many different college departments, although students who get work-study funding are typically responsible for finding and applying for available positions.

Employer tuition assistance

To encourage employees to develop new skills, many employers offer tuition assistance benefits. This type of financial aid can come in different forms, but it typically involves an employer reimbursing an employee for some or all of their education-related expenses after successfully completing a course or degree. If you’re planning on working while earning your bachelor’s in theology degree, check with your employer about availability, policies, eligibility requirements, and payment amounts.

Applying for Financial Aid

To apply for financial aid, the first step is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Schools use the information from this application to determine students’ eligibility for need-based aid, such as student loans, grants, and work-study. Most undergraduate students will use their parents’ or guardians’ income information, as well as their own, for the FAFSA. For an in-depth overview of the FAFSA, visit our Ultimate FAFSA Guide.

Student loan forgiveness and repayment

Borrowing student loans to pay for college is a significant responsibility. Students and families taking out student loans, whether federal or private, should always expect to pay those loans in full with interest. They should also carefully review all loans’ interest rates and repayment options before committing to them.

While the Biden administration has taken steps to forgive student loan debt, the Supreme Court blocked a comprehensive student debt relief plan in June 2023. Although student loan debt relief efforts are ongoing, students and families who are borrowing money to pay for school should assume they’re responsible for repaying those loans in full, with interest.

To help students and families navigate the financial aid process, Dana Marvin, an independent college counselor, says, “Borrow only what you need and nothing more. If you’re eligible for a $12,500 loan but only need $8,000, there’s no need to take out a loan for those extra funds — every dollar you borrow in a loan must be repaid with interest.”

Marvin also advises students to begin paying off their loans as soon as possible, “Even paying off a few hundred or thousand dollars before finishing school can make a huge difference to those loan amounts post-graduation,” she says.

Lastly, Marvin encourages students and families to be realistic about what they can afford in terms of out-of-pocket costs and loan amounts.

“If attending a certain pricy college will put a family into major debt and require potentially dangerous financial decisions, such as taking out a second mortgage or withdrawing from a retirement account early, it may mean a hard conversation of choosing a different school.”

What Can I Do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology?

The most common career path for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in theology is becoming a member of the clergy, such as a pastor or minister. These individuals work in a variety of different settings, including churches, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools.

Median annual salary varies depending on the setting in which a clergy member works. For example, those serving religious organizations earn a median annual salary of $65,280, while those in skilled nursing facilities earn $55,750.

Other potential career paths include religious educator for children, teens, or adults; coordinator of religious camps or programs; college campus minister; or church music director.

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