Best Online Theology & Related Religion Degree Programs
While schools do not necessarily have to be Christian in order to offer Theology degree programs, many Christian colleges offer this program and other subjects related to religion. Many of the schools below are Christian and offer online programs for Theology, and the schools can be contacted for free information with the links provided.
|If you are considering an AA in Christian Ministry or a BA in Christian Leadership & Ministry, Ohio Christian University offers online degree programs. These degrees are designed for students wishing to enter Christian Ministry as a chaplain or in evangelistic work. A variety of concentrations are available.
|If you are considering an online degree in Religion, Grand Canyon University offers a BA in Theology, Christian Studies, Youth Ministry, and Christian Leadership. This program uses biblical studies as the foundation for a deeper understanding of theology, philosophy and history. Graduates acquire the necessary leadership skills for effective ministry.
|Liberty University offers online degree programs MA in Theological Studies, or a BA or AA in Religion, Liberty University. The School of Religion provides a quality Christian education in a relevant format that is based on Christian teachings and principles. Students are prepared for careers in ministry and theology.
|If you are considering an online degree in Biblical Leadership, Southwestern Christian University has a program. This degree focuses on the administrative issues and special training required for effective leadership in ministry environments. It can be completed in as few as 18 months. Coursework is in writing, history, and literature.
|For those seeking a PhD in Pastoral Community Counseling, Argosy University offers an online degree program. This program is designed to prepare pastoral counselors to address individual and communal development in a fashion that this ethically responsible. It integrates the engagement of knowledge and development of skills with practical research.
|If you are considering a BS in Bible Studies, Lancaster Bible College has an online degree program. This program is designed for the student that wants intensive bible education along with the opportunity for specific concentrations and elective courses. Students are able to choose courses from various professional departments, while focusing on ministry work.
|Students interested in studying religion online should consider a degree in Liberal Studies. St. Leo University offers both an AA and a BA. This program provides a broad perspective on human behavior, ideas, and values through a multidisciplinary study of the social and natural sciences. A focus is placed on developing critical thinking skills.
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What Types of Theology Degrees are Available Online?
Most people who study theology do not actually finish school with a “theology degree.” The field is so rich and diverse that many niche specialties are available, and most students walk out of college with something like a Master of Divinity, or MDiv degree, in a particular type of religious or ministerial discipline. Some of the degrees available from theological schools, or seminaries, are as follows:
- Master of Arts – Christian Leadership: This degree can prepare you for a career as a pastor or minister, or other type of Christian leader. Christian leadership encompasses both clergy and non-clergy positions in religious institutions.
- Master of Divinity: An MDiv can lead to a career in religious scholarship, ministry, or just about any other work within a religious context. This is the most common degree issue by seminaries and divinity schools, and can be completed with an emphasis in some particular religion or sector of faith studies.
- Master of Arts – Chaplaincy: Chaplains provide religious council and services in specialized settings. Hospitals and prisons especially tend to have chaplains on duty to serve the religious needs of patients and inmates.
- Master of Religious Education: Teaching religion, in the context of a bible study class, Sunday school, or a university seminary, can be a rewarding career choice for those who want to dedicate their lives to religion without actually becoming clergy.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Theology Degree?
Depending on what level of degree you are seeking, a theology degree can take anywhere from one to four years, and a program of study that earns both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a theology related field could take five years or more. Below is a list of common theology degrees, and an approximate number of credit hours and years that it would take to achieve them at a full time class schedule.
- Associate of Arts – Religion: Generally, associate’s degrees take two years of full time study; approximately 60 credit hours. Part time schedules are often a possibility, and the number of years required can change drastically depending how many or few classes a student takes at once.
- Bachelor of Arts – Religion: Four years is the standard length of time for finishing a bachelor’s degree, but statistics show that most students take five to six years to complete their baccalaureate studies. Most bachelor’s degrees comprise 120 credit hours.
- Master of Arts – Christian Leadership: A Master of Arts degree can take between one and three years, depending on whether your bachelor’s degree was in the same field as your master’s. If you studied religion as an undergraduate, you can likely find an accelerated path through graduate school.
- Master of Divinity: An MDiv program can take from 80-100 credit hours, and can be completed in three years with a full time course load. Many students take classes part time and finish their degree more slowly so they can continue to work while they are in school.
What Careers are Available to Someone with a Theology Degree?
Ministry or pastoring at a church are two of the primary careers sought by those who study theology, but these are not the only options. Teaching at a religious high school or a university are viable options for theology students, as are chaplaincy and religious research and scholarship.
Working in a religious establishment usually involves a lot of communication and collaboration with parishioners, clergy, and other religious workers. While it is not crucial to have the exact same beliefs as those you work with, some shared form of faith or religious belief is usually the basis for relationships between members of a given religious community, including employees of that community.
Though religious organizations are far and away the largest employers of clergy and others with theology degrees, there is also a strong trend of hiring religious workers in the medical establishment. Hospitals and military bases always have chaplains or even priests, to perform last rites and provide other religious services to patients and soldiers both on a day to day basis and in times of great need.
What Are Some Common Classes Required for Theology Students?
The focus of your Bachelor of Theology, Master of Theology, or MDiv degree will determine what types of classes you take, but as with most degree programs, there is a core curriculum that is relatively similar across programs and universities. Some of the core classes required for theological study include:
- Biblical Interpretation: Focuses on understanding the symbolic meaning of biblical stories. Some scholars choose to interpret the Bible as the literal word of God, where others believe that changes in human context over the millennia have left the Bible open for interpretation. Biblical interpretation can be a contentious subject for theologians in different camps.
- Philosophy of Religion: Rather than examining the precepts of any particular religion, this course examines the institution of religion as a whole. Whether you believe in God or not, religion has demonstrable influence on human events, and a philosophy of religion course seeks to explore this dynamic as a whole.
- Intercultural Ministry: Even within a single religion or sect, different cultures have profoundly different approaches to religious practices. Intercultural ministry may involve traveling abroad to preach and evangelize, or just building relationships between members of a faith from different secular cultures.
- Pastoral Ministries: This course is an introduction to some of the responsibilities of church pastors and other clergy. Learning to minister to parishioners as a group, and provide the individual counsel that many expect from their religious leaders, is likely to be a large part of your career after you finish a degree in theology.
- Homiletics: Homiletics is essentially the study of preaching. A homily is a broad term for various types of religious speaking, but is essentially the same as a sermon or delivery of catechism.
If your emphasis is on a religion other than Christianity or Judaism, Biblical Interpretation classes will likely be replaced with a study of the holy book most relevant to your religion.
How Can I Become Ordained?
Becoming a priest or pastor and moving up in the ranks of religious officials is a long term goal for many theology students. The process of being ordained as a minister varies across denominations, but if your ultimate goal is to become a leader in your denomination of choice, there are a few steps you can follow toward realizing that goal.
- Being an active member of the denomination you want to be a leader in is a must. Knowing the politics and apocryphal beliefs that have built up on a congregational and denominational level in your religion will help you navigate the path toward leadership.
- Baptism is likely a necessary step in becoming the leader of a church. Most congregations will shy away from hiring a pastor who is unbaptized in the faith.
- Volunteering at a church or seminary can help you decide whether religious leadership is really an ideal job for you. However interested you are in theology, if the day to day work of pastoring does not keep you excited, then you might want to look into other career paths, such as religious teaching or research.
Where Are Other Resources for Aspiring Theology Students?
There is a strong community of theological scholars and religious leaders, so finding a mentor or at least a good blog on the subject shouldn’t be hard. Listed below are a few sites that can help you learn more about what theology school is like, and help you decide whether studying theology is the best path for you.
- Helm’s Deep is the philosophical theology blog of Paul Helm, a teaching fellow at Regent College in Vancouver.
- Restorative Justice is a blog kept by Howard Zehr, a professor of restorative justice and peace-building at Eastern Mennonite University.
- That Theology Student recently wrapped up, and is more of a peek into the world of a theology student than a resource of hard info about theology. The blog was updated consistently for a while, and may offer some insight into what life is like for one theology student, though new updates are no longer being published.
How to Get Started?
Studying theology, whether for personal enlightenment or professional advancement, requires a certain level of respect for the power of religion and the global communities founded upon it. To start on your path towards a degree in theology, visit the websites of some of the schools below and learn more about their theology degree offerings.