Best Online Doctorate in Theology 2021
| TBS Staff
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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.
The Best Online Theology Doctorate
Established in 1848, Grace, an evangelical Christian college, serves roughly 2,000 students per year.
Grace offers an online doctor of ministry – pastoral studies with a campus-based seminar week. Designed for working pastors, the program focuses on helping each student identify areas of personal strength and weakness and develop a more effective ministry.
Applicants must hold a seminary master of arts or master of divinity degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, along with professional pastoral experience. Applicants must also submit a spiritual life reference and a ministry reference.
An evangelical Christian university established in 1971 by Jerry Falwell, Liberty now welcomes more than 100,000 primarily online students each year.
Liberty offers an online doctor of ministry in theology and apologetics. The program balances research with practical skills, preparing students for advanced church leadership positions. All students must complete a 15 credit thesis or portfolio project.
Applicants need a master's degree with at least 18 credits in theology or Bible-related courses and a GPA of 3.0 or above. Additional submission requirements include a professional vita, a divinity questionnaire, a statement of purpose, and an ecclesiastical endorsement.
Founded by evangelist Oral Roberts in 1963, ORU now enrolls approximately 4,000 students annually.
ORU offers a partially-online doctor of philosophy in contextual theology. The program mixes fully online courses with blended classes, which require up to a week of on campus study per course. The program prepares students for the highest levels of ministry leadership, as well as teaching positions.
Admissions requirements include official transcripts, GRE scores, a resume, a writing sample, a vocational essay, and a research proposal. Applicants must also submit four recommendations.
Established in 1866 and now part of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), PSR serves approximately 100 students each year.
PSR offers a mostly-online doctor of ministry. Students must attend two-week seminars on campus every January. The program utilizes a cohort model, in which students become part of a small of group of peers and faculty that progress through the degree together. Students may, if desired, select a concentration such as LGBTQ+ issues/contexts, pastoral ministries, or social justice activism. All students must complete a final project.
Applicants must submit official transcripts, a personal statement, and three references.
Founded by Pat Robertson in 1977, Regent welcomes roughly 10,000 students per year.
Regent offers a mostly-online doctor of philosophy in renewal theology, with one two-week campus-based residency per semester. Students may choose a concentration in biblical studies, Christian theology, church history, or practical theology. All students must complete a dissertation.
Applicants must hold a master of divinity degree and demonstrate proficiency in at least one biblical language. Additional submission requirements include an admissions questionnaire, a clergy reference, and an academic writing sample.
Online Theology Doctorate Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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.
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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.
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Featured Online Theology Doctorates
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Theology programs award the following titles: doctor of theology, doctor of philosophy, doctor of ministry, and doctor of practical theology.
Most doctor of theology programs take 2-7 years to complete and require 30-60 credits.
Many schools offer excellent online theology degrees. The best choice varies by student, depending on individual interests, career goals, cost, program length, and faculty.
Yes. Students can find many hybrid or completely online theology degrees. See below for a list of the best online theology programs.
Graduates of theology programs can become clergy professionals, college professors, writers and authors, interpreters and translators, and social and community service managers.
Yes. Many colleges offer Ph.D. in theology programs.
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