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Theology examines the foundations, beliefs, and practices of religion. The field explores how individuals experience faith, and how different groups and cultures express and practice their faith traditions. Students may study theology for many reasons. Some seek vocational preparation for careers as pastors or plan to work in educational or counseling positions in religious institutions. Others study theology to better understand and explore the historical and contemporary impact of religion on society.

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For many, the field provides a way to examine, challenge, or strengthen students' personal faiths, or to help them understand the religious beliefs of others. Studying theology requires learners to face challenging questions about the nature of divine existence and spiritual belief.

An online associate degree in theology expands students' knowledge about religious traditions, experiences, and influences. An associate degree can prepare learners for careers in religious organizations and social services, and serve as a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree in theology. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% growth rate for the employment of clergy between 2016 and 2026, with many positions requiring a bachelor's degree.

A bachelor's can open up career opportunities as pastors and ministers, chaplains, counselors, and religion teachers, as well as better rates of compensation.

Associate in Theology Degree Online Ranking Guidelines

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We selected the following degree programs based on their quality and the range of courses they provide, plus school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%

Affordability - 15%

Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

The Best Online Associate in Theology Degree Programs

#1 Best Online Associate in Theology Programs

Gods Bible School and College

  • Cincinnati, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Distance learners looking for a flexible online associate degree in theology should consider Gods Bible School and College. Students can build their knowledge of the field through coursework and experiential learning opportunities. Graduates can pursue further study, such as a bachelor's degree, and apply their college credits towards a four-year institution.

Participants in the associate of arts in bible and theology program benefit from career services, academic advising, and other institutional resources throughout their studies. Online enrollees can also access virtual library services and academic tutoring.

Degree-seekers at the school benefit from financial aid, with 100% of learners receiving some form of funding. Prospective applicants should contact the financial aid office to learn more about funding options they might qualify for.

Gods Bible School and College at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Admission Rate: 53%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 8-to-1

Undergrad Tuition In State: $6,000

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $6,000

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,000
Out-of-state
$6,000
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
53%
Students Enrolled
347
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
84% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Best Online Associate in Theology Programs

Warner University

  • Lake Wales, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Warner University supports two online associate programs from its main campus in Lake Wales, Florida. Participants in the associate of science in Christian ministry program complete courses relevant to the theology field, preparing them for their future careers. Upon completion, graduates can apply their credits towards a bachelor's degree or other educational endeavors.

While enrolled, students can benefit from career services, academic advising, and other success-centered resources. Distance learners can also access virtual library services and academic tutoring.

Typically, 100% of all degree-seekers receive financial aid, with 87% of all enrollees receiving student loans. Prospective applicants should reach out to the financial aid office to see what funding opportunities they may be eligible for.

Warner University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Location: Lake Wales, Florida

Admission Rate: 41%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 14-to-1

Undergrad Tuition In State: $22,300

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $22,300

Average Tuition
In-state
$22,300
Out-of-state
$22,300
Retention Rate
64%
Admission Rate
41%
Students Enrolled
1,058
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 Best Online Associate in Theology Programs

The King's University

  • Southlake, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Individuals interested in an online associate degree in theology should consider The King's University in Southlake, Texas. The school offers a virtual associate of ministry leadership. Students can build their knowledge of the field through coursework and experiential learning opportunities. After graduation, learners can apply their college credits towards a bachelor's degree or other educational endeavors.

The college prioritizes student success through career services, academic advising, and other resources. Other resources available for remote enrollees include academic tutoring and virtual library services.

Around 89% of incoming degree-seekers receive financial aid awards and around 56% receive student loans. Prospective applicants can meet with a financial aid officer to see what funding opportunities are available to them.

The King's University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Location: Southlake, Texas

Admission Rate: 74%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 10-to-1

Undergrad Tuition In State: $11,280

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $11,280

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,280
Out-of-state
$11,280
Retention Rate
69%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
610
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools

#4 Best Online Associate in Theology Programs

Northwest University

  • Kirkland, WA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Degree-seekers looking to earn an associate in theology remotely should consider Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. The school offers a virtual associate degree in ministry leadership. The program builds foundational knowledge in theology, preparing graduates for entry-level careers in the field. Upon graduating, students can apply their course credits towards a bachelor's degree.

While enrolled, learners benefit from institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. Other institutional resources for online enrollees include virtual library services and academic tutoring.

The institution reports that 98% of all students receive financial aid, and 66% receive student loans. Prospective applicants can contact the financial aid office to learn more about funding opportunities.

Northwest University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Location: Kirkland, Washington

Admission Rate: 93%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 11-to-1

Undergrad Tuition In State: $32,500

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $32,500

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,500
Out-of-state
$32,500
Retention Rate
74%
Admission Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
1,339
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#5 Best Online Associate in Theology Programs

Nazarene Bible College

  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online

Nazarene Bible College, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, supports three online associate programs, including a virtual associate of arts in ministry. Enrollees benefit from a robust course curriculum, preparing them for the demands of the field. Learners seeking to advance in study can apply their course credits towards a bachelor's degree.

While enrolled, students benefit from institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. The online learning community connects remote degree-seekers with virtual library resources and academic tutoring. Students can meet with the financial aid office to determine their eligibility for funding.

Nazarene Bible College at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Student-Faculty Ratio: 5-to-1

Undergrad Tuition In State: $8,880

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $8,880

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,880
Out-of-state
$8,880
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
698
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
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The Advantages of a Theology Education

An online associate degree in theology can prepare you for a variety of ministry and pastoral-related occupations in areas such as youth ministry, religious education, and church administration. Earning an associate degree in theology online, or in a traditional on-campus program, appeals to students who want to enter the job market quickly. For others, an associate degree provides opportunities to explore college-level courses in a particular field without committing to a four-year program of study.

An associate degree fulfills most of the general education requirements needed to complete a bachelor's degree. Students who plan on earning a bachelor's may reduce the overall cost of their undergraduate degree if they complete an associate program at a two-year community college before transferring to a four-year school.

Associate degree graduates find rewarding employment possibilities, but many positions in church leadership require a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's results in a significant salary increase. According to the BLS, the weekly median wage increases from$862 for an associate degree to $1,198 for bachelor degree holders.

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Theology Degree Salary Information

With an associate in theology, graduates develop an understanding of scripture in its full context, and are prepared to share practical and educational insight with others through missionary work or church expansion, or as pastors. The annual salary for ministers and clergy members working in religious organizations ranges from $26,160 to $85,040, according to the BLS.

Career Salary Potential
Job Title Entry Level
(0-12 Months)
Early Career
(1-4 Years)
Midcareer
(5-9 Years)
Experienced
(10-19 Years)
Youth Minister $34,000 $34,000 $38,000 $43,000
Church Administrator $35,000 $38,000 $39,000 $39,000
Worship Pastor $35,000 $39,000 $44,000 $50,000
Minister $38,000 $41,000 $49,000 $53,000
Nonprofit Program Director $43,000 $47,000 $55,000 $62,000

Source: PayScale


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Choosing an Online Theology Degree Program

Online associate degrees in theology vary considerably in tuition pricing, course delivery formats, and graduation requirements. As you begin your search for the right program for your needs, make sure to ask the right questions: Will you save money by enrolling in a state school? Are the online courses self-paced, or do you have to log in at a set time and day? How flexible are degree requirements, and can you attend full- or part-time?

Because church-sponsored institutions, Christian schools, and Bible colleges administer the majority of theology programs, pay attention to the curriculum. Also ask: Do the course offerings align with your particular theological interests or faith-based perspective, and will you be comfortable in the program?

  1. Program Cost: Earning an associate degree in theology online may not cost less than a campus-based program; however, attending a two-year community college in your home state tends to cost significantly less than what a four-year school would charge for the same credits. Distance learners may also save on transportation costs and room and board. In addition to tuition, most schools charge technology fees for online courses.
  2. Transfer Policies: More state and private institutions are entering into transfer articulation agreements with community colleges and other associate degree-granting institutions. These agreements ensure the seamless transfer of credits earned in the associate degree to a baccalaureate-granting college. Keep in mind that regionally accredited four-year schools do not accept transfer credits from associate degrees earned from schools without this accreditation.
  3. School Size and Type: Earning an associate degree through your local community college may lower tuition costs and provide you with easily transferable general education credits required by four-year schools. Online programs at private colleges may offer fewer course options but more personalized service, while public institutions typically feature more courses and affordable tuition. Theology degree curricula always reflect the mission and denominational values of their sponsoring institutions.
  4. Program Length: An online associate degree in theology generally requires two years of full-time enrollment, though some programs offer accelerated formats that take 18 months or less. Students enrolled in programs following a semester calendar typically need 60-65 credits to graduate. Some schools use a quarter-based schedule, requiring 90 credits for degree completion.
  5. On-Campus Requirements: Most online theology programs do not require on-campus attendance, though a few may offer an on-campus orientation for new students. Before enrolling in any program with a residency requirement or a hybrid course format, you should decide if the benefits of face-to-face meetings outweigh the time, travel, and financial expense of fully online programs.

Accreditation for Online Theology Degrees

Accrediting agencies provide an extensive evaluation of schools' academic standards and financial practices. These independent agencies hold recognition by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Most degree-granting institutions seek out either national or regional accreditation. Technical, vocational, and for-profit schools usually acquire national accreditation. These institutions often offer less rigorous admissions requirements and inexpensive tuition.

Regional accreditation, the most popular and prestigious designation, requires higher professional and academic standards.

A school’s accreditation status determines credit transferability and eligibility for federal financial aid. If you plan to earn a bachelor's after completing your associate degree, keep in mind that most four-year schools only accept credits from regionally accredited colleges. Employers often prefer applicants with degrees from accredited institutions.

Many colleges offering theology degrees hold regional accreditation, but some seek out specialized accreditation recognizing program-specific excellence, as well. For example, Bible schools may acquire programmatic accreditation from theAssociation of Biblical Higher Education. TheAssociation of Theological Schools grants accreditation to seminary schools offering graduate degrees.

Two major organizations oversee the accreditation review process for U.S. colleges and universities. The ED administers federal financial aid programs and establishes national educational policy. TheCHEA coordinates postsecondary accreditation and advocates on behalf of its 3,000-member academic institutions. Both regional and national accreditation associations, and some programmatic accreditors, receive approval from the ED or CHEA to ensure they meet regulatory standards.

The accreditation review considers several variables, including curriculum quality, faculty reputation, student services, and financial integrity.Students considering any online theology degree should confirm each prospective school’s accreditation status by checking the ED and CHEA websites.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Theology?

Requirements for earning an associate degree in theology online vary widely across institutions, but most programs require 60-65 credits taken over two years of full-time attendance. Students who must manage work or family responsibilities often choose online programs offering part-time study.

Programs following asynchronous course delivery formats allow students to progress at their own pace. They finish in as little as 18 months or as long as four years, depending on the number of credits they complete each term. Some online programs use a cohort model, in which students progress together in lock-step through synchronously delivered courses that meet weekly at the same time.

Cohort programs encourage faculty and peer interaction, because they require all students to take the same classes in a fixed sequence each semester. Degree completion may take longer to complete than self-paced course formats. Depending on the program's theological focus, students may have to participate in ministry leadership or preaching practicums.

Courses in an Online Associate in Theology Program

Coursework for an online associate in theology varies between departments and programs, depending on whether a school affiliates with a specific denomination or religious tradition. In general, theology programs provide an overview of the scriptures, church leadership, and basic questions of theology and doctrine. Some common courses are listed below.

  • Biblical Studies in the Old and New Testament:
    This gateway class for students entering the theology field presents an overview of the canonical books of the Old Testament through the New Testament. Students acquire skills in biblical hermeneutics, analyzing biblical language and text, synthesizing biblical knowledge, and integrating principles to contemporary applications.
  • Church History:
    The knowledge and understanding of church history represents a central focus of theological training for future church leaders, ministers, and educators. This course explores the history of Christianity and the church both in the United States and globally, with a special emphasis on non-Western traditions. Students examine various theological developments and major social movements that have shaped the church over time.
  • Introduction to Ministry:
    This course prepares future church leaders for the responsibilities and challenges of contemporary church ministry. Students learn about leadership principles, organizational and managerial procedures and practices, counseling, and ethics. The course also addresses practical considerations, such as the management of staff, volunteers, and finances; physical plant upkeep; and congregants' worship and pastoral needs.
  • Pastoral Counseling:
    Students learn to apply theological foundations to the psychological practices used in pastoral counseling and care. Course content focuses on case studies illustrating marriage and family counseling, bereavement support, and ministries designed for youth and other special populations. This course appeals to students seeking positions in pastoral ministry and provides the academic foundation for more advanced undergraduate and graduate studies or licensure.
  • World Religions:
    This survey course compares the history and growth of Western and non-Western religious theories, viewpoints, and practices. Students will explore the foundations, key concepts, and historical and contemporary influences of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. The course also includes research on ancient religions and religious practices among non-literate societies.
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Theology Membership Associations


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