The Best Online Master's of Divinity (MDiv) Programs

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Master of divinity degree (MDiv) programs prepare graduates for ministry careers.

Graduates can lead congregations in worship services and provide pastoral care for their communities. They can also counsel individuals and groups on personal issues, matters of faith, and religious responsibilities. Clergy members make a mean annual salary of over $55,000.

During an MDiv program, graduate students build leadership, theological, and pastoral skills. Pursuing a master of divinity online gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Online degrees also allow students to attend top programs in the country without relocating.

Top 10 Online Master's in Divinity Programs 2020

#1 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
#2 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
#3 Creighton University Omaha, NE
#4 George Fox University Newberg, OR
#5 Mercer University Macon, GA
#6 Franciscan University of Steubenville Steubenville, OH
#7 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
#8 University of Northwestern-St Paul Saint Paul, MN
#10 Corban University Salem, OR
#11 Point Loma Nazarene University San Diego, CA

The Best Online Master of Divinity Degree Programs

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4

George Fox University 

Newberg, OR

About this school

Established in the Christian Friends tradition, George Fox University occupies a residential campus, satellite locations throughout Oregon, and an online division. The second-largest private university in the state, George Fox maintains an extensive collection of Quaker history and literature. Students may choose from nearly a dozen fields of study, including business, healthcare, education, and seminary.

George Fox offers a master of arts in ministry through its Portland Seminary school. The 54-credit program offers specializations in Christian history and theology; biblical studies; leadership; creation care; spiritual formation and discipleship; spiritual direction; and intercultural studies.

Regardless of specialization, the curriculum of the M.Div. includes four primary modules in biblical studies, leadership, Christian history and theology, and spiritual formation and discipleship courses. Each specialization culminates in a two-part apprenticeship requirement.

Applicants may submit applications for entry in the fall, spring, or summer semester. Online learners complete courses as part of a cohort group. Students must attend a three-day orientation event for all incoming master's degree cohorts, held on campus prior to the fall semester.

Online students enrolled in Portland Seminary at George Fox receive library access, career services, and an exclusive student portal. Students meet online on Thursdays for periodic video chat sessions. Additionally, every seventh week of classes in October and February, students must attend a BridgeWeek intensive event on campus in Portland. The summer term also requires a three-to-five-day, on-campus, intensive training session.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
67%
Percent Receiving Loans
70%
5

Mercer University 

Macon, GA

About this school

Founded in 1833 under the auspices of the Georgia Baptist Convention, Mercer University's inaugural class included 39 students. Today, between multiple campuses across Georgia and online, that number exceeds 8,700 annually. Students may choose from more than 130 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs spanning 12 schools and colleges, including 40 online offerings.

Mercer offers its M.Div. online degree through the School of Theology. This master of arts in Christian ministry requires 38 credits, completed over 2-3 years. The curriculum imparts a strong foundation in theological studies, emphasizing professional skills for students aspiring to ministry or ministry leadership careers. The program suits part-time ministers and lay leaders who are seeking advancement within their local churches, but it does not lead to ordination or prepare graduates for doctoral programs.

Mercer admits a new cohort group of up to 10 students into the online MA each fall. The university boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 8-to-1. Part-time students typically complete 6-7 credits each fall and spring semester over a three-year period. Mercer also offers a related dual-degree program, leading to a master of science in organizational leadership with a focus in nonprofit and an MA in Christian ministry.

Applicants must hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree that satisfies liberal arts core prerequisites. Additionally, application requires letters of recommendation, an autobiographical essay, a writing sample, a letter of church support, and a background check. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
66%
Percent Receiving Loans
68%
6

Franciscan University of Steubenville 

Steubenville, OH

About this school

Established in 1946 by Steubenville's first bishop, Franciscan University of Steubenville's inaugural class consisted primarily of former WWII military service members. Today, FUS enrolls more than 3,000 students annually, including over 700 studying exclusively online. The school also shares occupancy at Gaming Charterhouse — an Austrian former monastery — where up to 180 students study each semester.

FUS students may pursue a master of divinity online through the School of Theology and Philosophy. The MA in theology and Christian ministry requires 36 credit hours, and students can choose either a general or research intensive track (RIT). Students complete general coursework in topics like fundamental theology, church history, and interpreting the Old Testament and the New Testament. The RIT program culminates in a final research paper or project.

The RIT program prepares graduates for doctoral study, while the general program leads to a variety of master of divinity jobs. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The program also requires letters of recommendation and a Graduate Admissions Board assessment of the student's personal fitness in Christian ministry. RIT applicants must also submit GRE scores and a writing sample for consideration.

FUS charges per-credit tuition rates for graduate programs based on whether the student enrolls on campus or online, regardless of the student's state of residence. Online coursework follows a 15-week term schedule, starting in May and ending in August. FUS accepts applications on a rolling basis throughout the year.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
77%
Percent Receiving Loans
85%
7

Regent University 

Virginia Beach, VA

About this school

First conceived as Christian Broadcasting Network University in 1977, Regent University now ranks among the nation's top Christian colleges, and its reputation is particularly strong in its online offerings. Students may choose from more than 135 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across nine academic schools and colleges.

Regent's master of divinity suits aspiring executive pastors and faith-based or nonprofit marketing and administrative professionals. The master of arts in church leadership emphasizes foundational skills in biblical studies, team motivation, and organizational leadership. Students must complete 33 credits in courses like foundations of leadership, organizational development, and strategic thinking, all within the context of the church environment. The MA in church leadership closes in a culminating experience requirement.

Applicants to the master of divinity program must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. The admissions committee evaluates applicants holistically using criteria like academic achievement, leadership experience, and writing quality. Regent offers eight start dates throughout the year during the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Students can complete the M.Div. online through a 12-month, accelerated fast-track option.

Regent charges the same per-credit tuition rate for all online MA students, regardless of the student's state of residence. Students complete online courses over eight- or 15-week periods. The university has a generous transfer policy, enabling students with prior experience to transfer up to 90 credits toward the online master's degree.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
59%
Percent Receiving Loans
93%
8

University of Northwestern-St Paul 

Saint Paul, MN

About this school

Opened in 1902 as a Bible and missionary training school, the University of Northwestern St. Paul held its first classes of seven students at Baptist churches in Minneapolis and Jackson Hall. Today, UNW enrolls nearly 3,500 students both on campus in St. Paul and online. The school is also known for owning a chain of Christian radio stations in the Midwestern and Eastern U.S.

NWU offers its master's in ministry online through the College of Graduate, Online, and Adult Learning. The master of arts in ministry leadership stresses skills in spiritual formation, biblical interpretation, and organizational leadership, offering a practical education by hiring faculty with practitioner experience. Students may choose from seven emphasis tracks:

  • Pastoral leadership
  • Organizational leadership
  • Biblical studies
  • Theological studies
  • Human services
  • Educational studies
  • Clinical pastoral education

Students must complete 36 credits in both core and emphasis track coursework, with each emphasis incorporating its own major and elective requirements. Core requirements include spiritual formation for leadership, ministry relationships, and biblical hermeneutics, culminating in a two-part graduate internship. Graduates qualify to pursue further graduate study or can enroll in a credentialing clinical pastoral education program.

Students can complete the degree in 18-22 months, depending on their emphasis track. The program requires prerequisite undergraduate coursework in the Old Testament survey, the New Testament survey, and biblical or systematic theology. UNW also offers a dual program option leading to both a master of arts in ministry leadership and a master of divinity degree.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
63%
Percent Receiving Loans
67%
10

Corban University 

Salem, OR

About this school

Founded in Arizona in 1935 as Phoenix Bible Institute, Corban University moved to Oregon in the 1960s and changed its name to its current moniker in 2005. Today, Corban enrolls nearly 3,000 students annually at its campus in Salem and online. Students may choose from more than a dozen graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs in arts and sciences, ministry, business, education, and counseling.

Corban's online master of divinity builds a foundation in Bible, ministry, and theology concepts. The master of arts in Christian leadership offers a choice of concentrations in nonprofit leadership, Christian teaching, or spiritual formation. Students must complete 52 credits in Bible/theology and leadership core as well as concentration coursework, culminating in a supervised leadership experience.

Depending on a student's chosen concentration, graduates of the online program may qualify for master of divinity jobs like Christian school teacher or missionary. Program faculty hold decades of experience in fields like youth ministry, church planting, and Bible commentators. Students may enroll full or part time. In the former case, the program takes two years to complete.

Distance learners can complete multiple simultaneous courses over two eight-week terms per semester. Corban accepts applications on a rolling basis and admits students to the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Applicants should have at least a year of life or work experience since graduating high school, must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA for transfer students or a 2.7 GPA or high school graduates, and must profess their dedication to living a Christian lifestyle. Corban charges a set, per-credit tuition rate for all students, regardless of their resident state.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
67%
Percent Receiving Loans
72%
11

Point Loma Nazarene University 

San Diego, CA

About this school

Established in 1902 by the primary founder of the Church of the Nazarene, Point Loma Nazarene University offers liberal arts programs in the Wesleyan tradition. PLNU enrolls more than 4,600 students annually across multiple California campuses and online.

PLNU's master of arts in Christian ministry (MACM) emphasizes four key themes: Christian scripture, church in mission, Christian formation, and Christian tradition. The hybrid program comprises 36 units and can be applied toward PLNU's master of divinity degree. Balancing practical application with rigorous academics, the MACM curriculum includes a focused sequence of core courses in topics like Christian ethics, preaching and teaching the scripture, and congregational discipleship and formation.

Students complete the majority of courses online in eight-week sessions, with one-week, intensive campus residency requirements each semester. Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree, complete an interview with the MACM program director, and provide a writing sample that includes a statement of faith and a commitment to academic excellence. Most students complete the MACM online in two years.

Distance learners may start the program in the fall, spring, or summer semester. PLNU charges the same set, per-credit tuition rate for all MACM coursework, regardless of the student's state of residence. The university supports online students through resource workshops and webinars along with career, tutoring, and academic planning services.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
77%
Percent Receiving Loans
59%
12

Freed-Hardeman University 

Henderson, TN

About this school

Founded under the motto of "Teaching How to Live and How to Make a Living," Freed-Hardeman University enrolls more than 2,000 students from 31 states and 17 countries annually. Students may choose from more than a dozen graduate and undergraduate programs across six colleges and schools.

FHU offers its master of arts in ministry (M.A.Min.) through the Graduate School of Theology. The 48-credit program includes required, emphasis, and elective courses. Students may choose an emphasis in preaching, missions, or leadership. Core coursework explores topics like the Old Testament, the New Testament, education program of the church, and contemporary ethics. Students must complete an internship to close the degree.

FHU records M.A.Min. classes on campus before uploading them, enabling distance learners to complete courses synchronously or asynchronously through web conferencing. Applicants must hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA. Additionally, students must submit a personal essay and recommendations from an employer, a professor, and a church leader. Underqualified students may receive conditional admission.

Students with a bachelor's degree in Bible studies may qualify for advanced standing of up to 12 credits toward the online M.A.Min., thereby eliminating the equivalent of two courses from the total degree requirements. FHU offers resources for online students including library, writing, and technology services, as well as online Chapel broadcasts from campus.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
60%
Percent Receiving Loans
55%
13

Union University 

Jackson, TN

About this school

Established in 1823, Union University is the nation's oldest school affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. This private, liberal arts university occupies three locations across Tennessee, its main campus in Jackson, and its online division.

Union University's master of Christian studies features an emphasis on building ministry skills for pastors, church administrators, church planters, and missionaries. The 36-credit program comprises coursework in foundational topics like biblical interpretation, theology, and spiritual formation. Completed credits may be applied toward a seminary or graduate-level program such as a master of divinity degree.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.4 GPA. Additionally, the application process requires official transcripts and letters of reference to determine a student's academic and spiritual fitness for the program. Union University charges the same per-credit tuition rate for all students, regardless of the student's state of residence.

Online learners complete courses in an accelerated eight-week format, enabling students to graduate in 1-2 years. Students may transfer up to nine credits toward the online master's degree, provided the credits come from a regionally accredited institution and each course earned a grade of "B" or above. Union University also offers a dual degree program in social work and Christian studies, which requires additional social work and elective courses.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
71%
Percent Receiving Loans
56%
14

Grace College and Theological Seminary 

Winona Lake, IN

About this school

Grace College was founded under the auspices of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches in two phases: the seminary, in 1937, and the college, in 1948. Grace offers more than 90 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across five schools and colleges. Students may choose from more than a dozen online programs.

Grace offers its online master of ministry studies through a partnership with Christian University GlobalNet. The 36-credit program suits current and aspiring vocational ministers and church professionals seeking an accelerated master's degree to advance their biblical knowledge. Students may choose a concentration in ministry studies, women's leadership studies, or counseling.

Regardless of concentration, the curriculum requires core coursework in topics like ministry leadership, principles and practice of prayer, and Bible study methods. Students must also complete a two-part theological seminary and surveys in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Each course lasts for eight weeks, and students may enroll in two courses consecutively during each of the fall, spring, and summer terms. Full-time students can graduate in as little as two years.

Grace accepts applications on a rolling basis and offers multiple start dates throughout the year. Students pay the same per-credit tuition rate for all online master of ministry studies coursework regardless of their state of residence. Grace's student portal for online learners offers support, including library, writing, and technology services.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
57%
Percent Receiving Loans
72%
15

Lee University 

Cleveland, TN

About this school

Established in 1918 by the Church of God, Lee University originated as the Bible Training School. Today, the university offers more than 200 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across six schools and colleges. Lee enrolls more than 5,000 students from 46 states and 52 countries annually. Students may choose from 23 degrees and certificates offered through Lee Online.

Lee's master of arts in ministry studies emphasizes practical ministry skills for the contemporary Christian church. The 36-credit program combines core coursework in ministry practice and theory with an emphasis area of the student's choice: practical theological studies, leadership studies, worship studies, or youth and family studies. Core courses explore topics like perspectives on leadership, principles of Bible study, and Christian faith and culture.

The degree culminates in an internship or final project based on the student's area of emphasis. Students who do not hold a bachelor's degree in a religious studies major may need additional prerequisites, raising the total to 39-48 credits to earn the M.Div. online. Additionally, applicants should demonstrate a preferred minimum 2.75 GPA and provide a writing sample and personal and academic references for review. Students must also participate in an admissions interview.

Students complete online courses asynchronously over seven-week semesters. Distance learners may complete the online master of ministry studies in 2-4 years. Lee charges the same per-credit tuition rate for all coursework in the online master's degree regardless of the student's state of residence.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
57%
Percent Receiving Loans
88%
16

Huntington University 

Huntington, IN

About this school

With campuses in Indiana, Arizona, and online, Huntington University delivers liberal arts programs in the tradition of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. HU's master of arts in pastoral leadership suits current and aspiring pastors in the Christian church. The two-year, online program consists of 32 credits in core curriculum, including pastoral counseling, worship, mission, and Christian education. Additionally, coursework explores topics like personal spiritual formation, hermeneutics, and intergenerational ministry. The degree culminates in a seminar in ministry and a field-based research project.

Applicants must submit official transcripts with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. They also need recommendation letters and writing samples, including an essay describing the student's personal calling and experience in ministry. The MA in pastoral leadership also requires prerequisite courses in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and theology. Students complete courses online over seven-week periods. HU offers online ministry courses every other year.

HU records and broadcasts each course in the online MA in pastoral leadership, enabling students to choose to study synchronously or asynchronously. Distance students may participate in HU's unique Idea to Action symposium series, which features Brethren practitioners and pastors and is offered biannually on campus and through live streams. HU charges the same per-credit tuition rate for all graduate ministry students regardless of their state of residence.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
61%
Percent Receiving Loans
81%
17

Harding University 

Searcy, AR

About this school

Established in 1924 under the auspices of the Churches of Christ and the American Restoration Movement, Harding University is among Arkansas' premiere divinity schools. With an enrollment of nearly 4,000, Harding is also the state's largest private university. Students may choose from more than 100 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs, offered both on campus and online.

Harding's master of arts in Christian ministry is one of five graduate degrees offered through the School of Theology located in Memphis, Tennessee. The 48-hour program emphasizes Christian leadership for specialized applications, including youth, campus, or women's ministry or missions. Students must complete a series of courses in advanced theological research, ministry core, theological foundations, biblical foundation, and elective subjects, culminating in a required two-course practicum experience.

In addition to online coursework, students must periodically complete weekend- and week-long intensives on campus in Memphis. Harding generally offers its weekend intensives on multiple dates throughout the academic year, and week-long intensives occur during the summer semester for online students. Harding also offers online master of arts, master of divinity, and doctor of ministry programs.

Applicants need a minimum 2.7 GPA for non-conditional admission into the MA. Students with a GPA of at least 2.3 may receive probationary admission, provided they complete 18 credits in graduate study and maintain a 2.7 GPA. Applicants may apply up to 12 credits for advanced standing in coursework, including languages, ministry, and ministry electives. Students with previous experience may transfer up to 24 credits toward the online master's degree.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
67%
Percent Receiving Loans
59%
18

Abilene Christian University 

Abilene, TX

About this school

Opened in 1906 as the Childers Classical Institute, Abilene Christian University began as a primary and secondary school with 25 students. Today, ACU enrolls more than 5,200 postsecondary students from all 50 states and from 46 countries annually. Students may choose from more than 150 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs, delivered through two Texas campuses and online.

ACU's online Christian ministry degree prepares graduates for specialized areas of ministry and careers involving education or social service within the Christian church. The 48-hour master of arts in Christian ministry (MACM) offers a choice of four tracks: student and family ministry, spiritual formation, ministerial leadership, or ministry and Bible. Coursework explores topics like biblical exegesis, history of Christianity, systematic theology, and foundations of the theology of ministry.

Supplemental to the online curriculum, students must take four courses on campus, including teaching scripture in contemporary contexts. The MACM culminates in a field education contextual immersion course, which must be in a church ministry environment. Regardless of track, all students must complete a sequence of core MACM courses, including Bible, ministry, and history and theology concepts.

Applicants need an accredited undergraduate degree with a GPA of at least 3.0 and must submit two letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and an academic writing assessment. Students with a GPA lower than 3.0 may qualify for probationary admission. ACU charges the same per-credit or per-course tuition for all online MACM students regardless of the student's state of residence.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
67%
Percent Receiving Loans
57%
19

Southwestern Assemblies of God University 

Waxahachie, TX

About this school

Established after the merger of three Bible schools in 1943, Southwestern Assemblies of God University delivers postsecondary education programs in the Pentacostal tradition. SAGU's master of divinity program provides comprehensive training in Christian leadership and ministry for a variety of careers, including pastor, missionary, or church planter. The online M.Div. comprises 72 credits and offers a eight concentrations:

  • Biblical studies
  • Biblical languages
  • Counseling
  • Chaplaincy
  • Intercultural studies
  • Family ministries
  • Theological studies
  • Practical theology

Students may pursue a non-thesis or thesis option, the latter reserved for students who plan to pursue a Ph.D. immediately following the M.Div. online. Students who completed a thesis in a previous MA program may not enroll in the thesis option. The curriculum includes major requirements and a research component, culminating in a practicum experience.

Applicants must hold a regionally or professionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 cumulative undergraduate GPA. Additionally, the M.Div. requires official transcripts for all previous experience, an essay, and reference letters for admission consideration. SAGU charges the same per-credit tuition rates for all online graduate students, regardless of the student's state of residence.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
44%
Percent Receiving Loans
82%
20

Oral Roberts University 

Tulsa, OK

About this school

Headquartered in Oklahoma's largest city, the Oral Roberts University campus is within three miles of more than 60 churches. ORU enrolls more than 4,000 students annually from all 50 states and from 100 countries. Students may choose from more than 150 majors and programs, including 25 online graduate and undergraduate degrees across six academic colleges.

ORU's master of Christian ministry emphasizes practical ministry skills rooted in a comprehensive study of Scripture. The online program comprises 30 credits in ORU distinctives and core and elective courses. ORU distinctives explore topics like spirit-empowered ministry and graduate health fitness and include a graduate orientation course. The degree culminates in a capstone project and presentation.

Full-time students typically enroll in one three-credit course per seven-week term, with six terms per academic year. Students may not take more than eight credits per seven-week term. Online students complete coursework as part of a cohort group and are required to meet with instructors through webinars four times during each course. ORU offers a set, per-credit tuition rate for all online graduate students regardless of their resident state, with further discounts for military and veteran students.

Applicants should hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 2.5. Additionally, the MA in Christian ministry requires official transcripts, academic and ministerial recommendation letters, and a resume or curriculum vitae. ORU assigns a team of success coaches to each student upon online enrollment. Students may apply at any time and start classes in any semester.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
57%
Percent Receiving Loans
63%
21

Milligan College 

Johnson City, TN

About this school

Established more than 150 years ago, Milligan College enrolls more than 1,300 students annually from 35 states and 30 countries. Students may choose from more than 100 graduate, undergraduate, and professional programs in Christian and liberal arts disciplines. Milligan comprises five academic schools and its own seminary, offering graduate programs in divinity, ministry, religion, and Christian studies.

Milligan students can complete a master of arts in Christian ministries through Emmanuel Christian Seminary. The 48-credit program emphasizes practical ministerial skills. Students must complete courses over four primary categories: Christian ministries, biblical studies, church history and Christian theology, and spiritual formation/mentored ministry experience. Students complete the majority of coursework online, with 1-2 week-long, on-campus residencies required per year.

Distance learners complete the online MA in Christian ministries as part of a cohort group. The program admits a new cohort group each January; however, Milligan also offers additional start dates in other semesters for students seeking to gradually ramp up to a full-time course schedule online. Most students who begin with a cohort in January and follow the recommended fall, spring, and summer course sequence graduate in three years.

Applicants should hold an accredited bachelor's degree and demonstrate academic and spiritual experience and potential through recommendations from personal references. Emmanuel Christian Seminary charges the same per-credit tuition rate for all students, regardless of the student's state of residence. Online students can access resources like tutoring, the library, and technology assistance services.

School Type
Private Nonprofit
Graduation Rate
70%
Percent Receiving Loans
62%
👏

End of list, bravo!

Ranking Methodology
Best Online Programs

Online Master's in Divinity Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked the following programs based on factors like quality, faculty strength and publications, reputation, and rankings.

Choosing an Online MDiv Program

Prospective MDiv students should consider several factors when researching potential programs. We cover several important considerations for prospective learners below.

  • Program Cost: In addition to researching tuition cost per credit, students should research any online learning fees, graduation fees, and book costs when determining the total cost of a prospective program.
  • Transfer Policies: Many programs offer transfer credits for prior academic work, military training, and professional experience. Programs with generous transfer credit policies can save students time and money on a degree.
  • School Size and Type: Students should consider factors such as average class size, online student support services, and a school's alumni network when seeking the best program for their needs.
  • Program Length: An online MDiv program typically takes three years to complete, but some programs offer accelerated timelines.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Some online MDiv programs incorporate on-campus requirements, which students should ensure they can meet before committing to a program.
  • Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: Some online MDiv degree programs have thesis or internship requirements. Students should choose a program with requirements aligned with their career goals.

What Is a Master of Divinity Degree?

Online master of divinity programs prepare graduates for ministerial leadership roles in churches, social service agencies, hospitals, and the military. Most MDiv programs require three years of full-time study. During that time, students take courses on topics like ministry studies, religious studies, ministry experience, and scriptural interpretation. Graduate students may also study religious traditions outside of their own faith. Some MDiv programs conclude with a capstone project, research paper, or senior seminar.

Applicants to master of divinity programs typically need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. They must also submit essays on their religious faith and reasons for pursuing the degree. Some programs set prerequisite undergraduate courses for admission.

What's the Difference Between a Master of Theology and a Master of Divinity Degree?

Both master of theology and master of divinity programs include coursework on religious traditions, theology, and biblical studies. However, master of theology programs emphasize academic pursuits, including textual analysis and theological theory, while master of divinity programs focus on preparing graduates for leadership roles in ministry.

During a master of theology program, students may conduct original research and write a master's thesis. In MDiv programs, graduate students build the leadership and administrative abilities necessary for providing pastoral care to a congregation. Divinity school may also incorporate field experiences.

After earning a master of theology, graduates can enter a doctoral program or pursue academic or research positions. A master of divinity leads to ministerial roles, such as pastor, chaplain, or spiritual counselor.

Divinity Careers

Master of divinity programs prepare graduates for religious leadership roles, like minister, pastor, or preacher. Students also gain pastoral and counseling skills that prepare them for roles like military chaplain or spiritual counselor. In addition to clergy positions, graduates can pursue careers as community service managers, high school teachers, and college professors.

The following list outlines several common careers and potential salaries for graduates.

Clergy

Clergy members conduct worship services and provide pastoral care for members of their churches. They write sermons, advise their congregations, and offer spiritual guidance to individuals and groups. They also analyze religious texts and interpret them, often sharing their conclusions with their church communities. Clergy may also manage the financial and administrative needs of a church. In some churches, they perform community outreach to expand church membership and engage in fundraising for the church.

Median Annual Salary

$48,990

Projected Growth Rate

8%

Social and Community Services Managers

Social and community services managers supervise social service programs and oversee community organizations. They identify a community's needs for programs and services, implement programs, and analyze data on a program's effectiveness. They may also plan outreach activities and write proposals to secure funding.

Many faith-based organizations hire social and community services managers to oversee programs that address poverty, hunger, and other social problems.

Median Annual Salary

$65,320

Projected Growth Rate

13%

Private High School Teachers

Private high school teachers can teach a variety of subjects, depending on their educational background and the school's needs. Some private schools hire graduates with a master of divinity to teach courses on religion and theology.

High school teachers create lesson plans, deliver lectures, and design assignments and exams to assess student abilities. They also communicate with parents and work with school administrators to carry out the school's functions. Some private high schools may require a state-issued teaching license.

Median Annual Salary

$60,320

Projected Growth Rate

4%

College Professors

College professors instruct students in a particular subject. MDiv graduates may teach subjects like religion, theology, or pastoral care. Professors plan lessons based on specific topics and assess student learning through assignments and exams. Many professors also conduct research and publish in scholarly journals.

Professors may also supervise graduate students, apply for grants, or serve on specialty committees at their institutions.

Median Annual Salary

$78,470

Projected Growth Rate

11%

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Master of Divinity Mean?

A master of divinity trains students for religious leadership roles, such as minister, pastor, and preacher.

Is a Master of Divinity a Master's Degree?

Yes, a master of divinity is a master's degree. Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree before gaining entry into a master's program.

What Is the Study of Divinity?

The study of divinity examines theology and ministry, particularly Christian theology.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Divinity?

A master's degree in divinity typically takes three years to complete, though some programs offer accelerated timelines.

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