An online theology degree can open the door to deeper spiritual understanding and a greater recognition of the role of religion in society.
Most theology programs in the U.S. explore Christianity, though theology is an interdisciplinary field, drawing from subjects like history, philosophy, and anthropology in its attempt to understand religious practices and beliefs.
Earning a Ph.D. in theology can increase career opportunities, giving graduates the credentials they need to find rewarding and lucrative careers helping others. Theology students gain universal skills like compassion, critical thinking, communication, analysis, and leadership.
|#||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|#||Oral Roberts University||Tulsa, OK|
|#||Pacific School of Religion||Berkeley, CA|
|#||Regent University||Virginia Beach, VA|
A Ph.D. in theology provides a solid foundation for many career paths, including in clergy, research, management, translation, and writing. Many theology graduates also pursue college-level teaching. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that postsecondary teachers earn a median annual salary of $78,470 and can anticipate faster than average job growth between 2018-2028.
This guide discusses reasons to earn a Ph.D. in theology online, what students can expect from an online theology program, and possible careers to pursue after graduation. Prospective theology students can consult our alphabetic list of the best online doctorate in theology programs when making a decision about where to go to school.
Table of Contents
This guide includes everything you need to know about Doctorate in Theology programs. Click on a topic to learn more.
Best Online Doctorate in Theology Programs
About this school
Students at Liberty University -- one of the largest private evangelical Christian institutions in the world -- can pursue a practice-focused, online theology doctorate. The degree offers an advanced understanding of scripture and prepares students to defend their faith and solve practical problems in ministry.
Liberty's 30-credit doctor of ministry in theology and apologetics takes two years to complete. The fully online program uses eight-week courses and offers multiple start dates. Liberty accepts up to six transfer credits toward the degree.
In this program, students complete an integrated thesis project in which they apply advanced Christian scholarship and theology skills. Liberty's faculty members include Christian ministry professionals and scholars, who provide mentorship and research opportunities to Ph.D. candidates.
The curriculum explores the Old and New Testaments; church history; theological methodology; and research, writing, and bibliography. Noteable courses include miracles, the resurrection, and Christian ministry; theology of the Gospel; and cultural apologetics. Liberty offers most textbooks as free electronic resources through its Inclusive Access Initiative.
Admission requirements include a master of divinity or its equivalent with a minimum 3.0 GPA from a regionally or nationally accredited university. Applicants must submit a completed divinity questionnaire, two pastoral recommendations, official transcripts, and proof of three years of ministry experience. Prospective students must also provide a statement of purpose, a resume, and an eccleasiastial endorsement.
Percent Receiving Loans
Oral Roberts University
About this school
Oral Roberts University's doctor of philosophy in contextual theology prepares students to serve God as practitioners and scholars. The program emphasizes whole-person education and explores global Christianity and the Spirit-empowered movement from the perspective of contextual theology. Many full-time theology students receive scholarships and grants.
ORU's hybrid doctor of theology program includes a combination of completely online and blended courses. Blended courses combine online instructor mentoring with intensive, in-person residential sessions. Most full-time students take six credits per term. The 51-credit curriculum focuses on four areas of theological reflection: the history of Christian doctrine, global trends in Spirit-empowered Christianity, the cultural context of specific nations or regions, and inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit.
Students learn new technologies useful in education and ministry settings and can participate in original research. The program takes a modular approach, giving learners the freedom to continue teaching and working in ministry while pursuing the degree. The curriculum includes courses like a seminar in old testament theology, contemporary issues in spirit-empowered Christianity, and spirit hermeneutics.
Percent Receiving Loans
Pacific School of Religion
About this school
Founded in 1866 and grounded in progressive Christianity, the Pacific School of Religion welcomes students of all faiths. PSR is a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), an interreligious consortium of institutes and seminaries in the San Francisco Bay Area. GTU boasts the largest theological faculty in the United States. PSR's GTU membership means that students can take approved online classes from other schools in the consortium.
PSR offers an online doctor of ministry program with year-round start dates. The flexible Ph.D. takes 2-6 years to complete. Ministry students can add concentrations in areas like social justice activism, LGBTQ issues/contexts, and pastoral ministries.
The cohort-style program matches each student with a designated advisor, faculty members, and classmates who go through the full curriculum together. Students regularly communicate with their cohort through the school's online cohort conversation sessions every semester, developing a community and professional network.
The program requires a two-week seminar on the Berkeley campus in January of each student's first year. Each subsequent year includes a one-week, in-person seminar, also in January. The rest of the curriculum includes online asynchronous and synchronous courses, which use the Moodle and Zoom learning management systems.
|Virginia Beach, VA||
About this school
A Christian liberal arts university founded in 1978, Regent University offers more than 135 on-campus and online programs. Regent's School of Divinity offers a doctor of philosophy in renewal theology designed for pastors, educators, and missionaries.
The mostly online doctor of theology requires a two-week, in-person residency on Regent's Virginia Beach campus each semester. Residencies include professional and academic development, orientations, fellowship opportunities, and coursework. In-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition rate and can start the program in spring, winter, or fall.
The 60-credit curriculum explores church history, biblical studies, and renewal theology and prepares graduates for leadership roles in churches across the world. The curriculum includes coursework, exams, and a dissertation. Core courses include advanced cosmogony and anthropology, renewal theology, and advanced hermeneutics. Ph.D. candidates must complete their dissertations from a renewal perspective. The program offers concentrations in biblical studies, Christian theology, church history, and practical theology.
Admission requirements include a master's in divinity or its equivalent from an accredited institution and a minimum 3.5 GPA. Applicants must demonstrate high academic achievement, spiritual maturity, and integrity. Prospective students must agree with Regent's mission statement and statement of faith. The program requires an academic writing sample, unofficial transcripts, and a recommendation from a clergy member. Students graduate in 4-7 years.
Percent Receiving Loans
End of list, bravo!
Online Doctorate in Theology Degree Program Guidelines
We selected the following programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided. We also considered school awards and reputation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Doctorate in Theology?
A doctorate in theology typically covers advanced philosophical issues in Christian religion and theology. Students explore the Bible, church history, theological scholarship, and Christian leadership.
What Type of Degree Is Theology?
Theology programs award the following titles: doctor of theology, doctor of philosophy, doctor of ministry, and doctor of practical theology.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Theology?
Most doctor of theology programs take 2-7 years to complete and require 30-60 credits.
What Is the Best Online Theology School?
Many schools offer excellent online theology degrees. The best choice varies by student, depending on individual interests, career goals, cost, program length, and faculty.
Can I Study Theology Online?
Yes. Students can find many hybrid or completely online theology degrees. See below for a list of the best online theology programs.
What Kind of Jobs Can I Get With a Theology Degree?
Graduates of theology programs can become clergy professionals, college professors, writers and authors, interpreters and translators, and social and community service managers.
Is There a Ph.D. in Theology?
Yes. Many colleges offer Ph.D. in theology programs.
What Is a Doctoral Degree in Theology?
A doctorate in theology uses an academic perspective to explore the nature of the divine, religious beliefs and practices, and the role of religion in society. Theology can explore spiritual traditions throughout the world, but most theology Ph.D. programs in the U.S. study Christianity and the Bible. Typical theology Ph.D. students include current and aspiring clergy, individuals seeking spiritual development, and students with an academic interest in theology.
Theology doctoral programs vary in length, but most students graduate in 2-7 years.
Admission requirements for doctor of theology programs vary by school. Common requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some programs also require a master's degree in divinity or its equivalent from a regionally accredited university. A liberal arts bachelor's or master's degree with a focus on history or philosophy provides a strong foundation for studying theology at the doctoral level.
Some programs require applicants to submit GRE or MAT scores. Other admission requirements may include letters of recommendation, a writing sample, a resume, or proof of moral or spiritual character.
Theology doctoral programs vary in length, but most students graduate in 2-7 years. Common courses include reading advanced scriptural research, advanced hermeneutics, the history of Christian doctrine, and global trends in spirit-empowered Christianity. Some programs offer concentrations in areas like biblical studies, practical theology, and church history. Doctorates in theology develop communication, interpersonal, research, and leadership skills.
A theology degree can provide a strong foundation for a variety of jobs, not just the ones listed below. Theology graduates gain critical thinking, communication, and interpersonal skills that are relevant to many fields.
The list below provides a selection of potential theology-related careers, including a few that might not immediately come to mind, like college professor, writer/author, and interpreter/translator. Some of the careers below require further study in other academic programs or certifications.
College professors teach a variety of subjects at postsecondary institutions like universities, community colleges, and technical schools. They also conduct research, publish papers and books, develop instructional plans, assess student progress, and stay informed about changes in the field. Full-time, tenured professors typically devote more time to their research, while part-time or adjunct professors spend most of their time teaching students.
Most postsecondary teachers need a Ph.D. in their field, and many specialize in a subfield. Some colleges prefer professors with relevant work experience in their field of expertise. College professors typically need excellent critical thinking, writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills.
Writers and Authors
Writers and authors create content for different types of media, like books, movies, blogs, websites, and magazines. They conduct research, write, revise, and work with editors. Writers and authors often specialize as content writers, biographers, bloggers, novelists, or copywriters.
Writers typically have at least a bachelor's degree. Many writers gain experience through both paid and unpaid internships or on-the-job training. They advance in their careers by building a reputation and publishing work. Many writers work for themselves. Important qualities include creativity, critical thinking, adaptability, and writing skills.
Interpreters and Translators
Interpreters and translators translate information from one language to another. Interpreters deal with spoken or sign language, while translators work with written language. These professionals need to speak, write, and read at least two languages fluently; in the United States, one of those languages is usually English. Interpreters and translators also use their cultural knowledge to ensure the accurate interpretation of the original message.
Professional interpreters and translators need at least a bachelor's degree and may need to earn an additional license or certification. These professionals can expect a strong job outlook because of increasing diversity and globalization.
Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers oversee community organizations and social service programs. They also manage workers who provide these services. Duties vary by organization, but social and community service managers identify necessary services, analyze data, plan outreach activities, and write proposals for funding.
Social and community service managers usually need at least a bachelor's degree and relevant experience. Some positions require a master's degree. Important qualities for social and community service managers include communication, time-management, and problem-solving skills. An increasing elderly population and growing demand for mental health services and substance abuse treatment should drive job growth in this field.
Clergy professionals perform spiritual activities and conduct worship services for members of a religious denomination or faith. Job titles vary by religion; a few examples include rabbi, minister, priest, imam, and pastor. Clergy work for religious organizations, hospitals, home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, and schools, guiding and assisting members on moral and spiritual matters. Typical job duties include performing religious ceremonies, leading worship, offering counsel, and promoting spirituality.
Clergy professionals typically need at least a master's degree in a field like theology, but each religion establishes its own educational and training requirements. Clergy must be compassionate and skilled at communication, interpersonal relationships, and problem-solving.