Best Online Master’s of Divinity (MDiv) 2021

by TBS Staff
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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 2021
#1 Harding University Searcy, AR
#2 Southeastern University Lakeland, FL
#3 Clarks Summit University South Abington Township, PA
#4 Multnomah University Portland, OR
#5 University of Northwestern-St Paul Saint Paul, MN
#6 Abilene Christian University Abilene, TX
#7 Moody Bible Institute Chicago, IL
#8 Anderson University Anderson, SC
#9 Freed-Hardeman University Henderson, TN
#10 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, MN

Featured Online Schools

The Best Online Master of Divinity Degree Programs

  1. Harding University
    Location

    Searcy, AR

    Enrolling more than 4,600 students each year and offering more than 100 majors, Harding, affiliated with the Churches of Christ, provides many ways to pursue higher education. A post-secondary degree, Harding offers a top-notch divinity program for its private university students, which may be taken online with minimal in-person time on campus.

    The master of divinity degree provides a foundation for ministry with an emphasis on spiritual growth, research, and understanding of scripture and theology. The program requires 78 credits, and three courses involve on-campus residency. Students learn about the historical and cultural background related to ministry and churches while furthering their understanding of scripture and theology.

  2. Southeastern University
    Location

    Lakeland, FL

    Originally founded in 1935 in Alabama, Southeastern later moved to Florida and today enrolls around 7,000 annually in its private, Christian campus. The university's mission, to provide students the tools to find the divine design for their lives, is illustrated by the master of divinity program.

    The SEU program requires 72 credits total, usually completed within three years of full-time study. Students explore the Bible, theology, and practical ministry. Thirty-six credits may be transferred from another program, and courses take the flexible form of online learning as well as face-to-face on-campus classes.

  3. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    South Abington Township, PA

    A Christian university offering online, hybrid, and flexible face-to-face degrees and programs, CSU is based just outside of Scranton. The university offers undergraduate and graduate online programming, as well, through the Baptist Bible Seminary.

    One program at CSU is the master of divinity degree, through which students become competent in sharing scripture, serve the church, and study a core curriculum of Bible, biblical languages, theology, and ministry. Dual undergraduate and graduate enrollment is possible, and students choose from multiple tracks including pastoral ministry, general ministry, and other areas of focus based on undergraduate work.

  4. Multnomah University
    Location

    Portland, OR

    A private university founded in 1936, Multnomah offers Christian followers an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    One program provided at Multnomah is the master of divinity degree, featuring online and on-campus learning options. The three-year program offers courses in scripture, biblical interpretation, Hebrew, intercultural studies, and church history. Students choose from a chaplaincy track or general master of divinity based on their interests. The program prepares students for careers as a senior pastor, chaplain, women's pastor, ministry worker, and more.

  5. University of Northwestern-St Paul
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    A faith-based liberal arts university, UNW opened in 1902 and today offers 75-plus undergraduate programs and seven master's degrees with a 15-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    One online program featured at UNW through the college of graduate, online, and adult learning is the master of divinity degree, which requires 76 credits for completion. The master of divinity degree may be taken completely online or in a blended, hybrid format, and students may complete it within 42-46 months. Coursework includes Biblical hermeneutics, theology, ministry, pastoral ministries, and religious heritage.

  6. Abilene Christian University
    Location

    Abilene, TX

    The private and Christian ACU features 160-plus areas of study with a graduate enrollment of nearly 2,000 students. Originally the Childers Classical Institute, today the university provides affordable, flexible programs for students online and on campus.

    One featured online program at ACU is the master of divinity degree. The program offers courses in scripture, history, and theology. The 72-hour, four-year program prepares students to pursue ministry through coursework involving theology of ministry, critical interpretation of the New Testament, and introduction to Hebrew. Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  7. Moody Bible Institute
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    The private Moody, founded in 1886 and originally known as the Chicago Evangelization Society, offers a 15-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio and a 90% graduate job placement rate.

    The master of divinity program provides online, on-campus, and combination flexible options for students with five areas of program emphasis. Students complete two internships and study the subjects of Hebrew, Greek, Bible analysis, Biblical and systematic theology, pastoral practices, church history, ministry leadership, and narrative preaching.

    The five focus areas include ministry leadership, pastoral studies, Biblical spiritual formation and discipleship, TESOL, and interdisciplinary studies. The program is also accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

  8. Anderson University
    Location

    Anderson, SC

    AU, one of the premier universities in the United States, offers 59 major degree programs, 18 master's and doctoral degrees, and eight certification programs to its Christian students.

    The online master of divinity in youth ministry program takes three years to complete and provides students opportunities to explore theology, philosophy, and youth ministry in the church. Students evaluate different methods of youth ministry and work to develop their own approach to Christian youth education. AU also offers a more general on-campus master of divinity degree.

  9. Freed-Hardeman University
    Location

    Henderson, TN

    Founded in 1869, FHU, a private Christian school in Tennessee, offers a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and enrolls more than 2,000 students annually.

    FHU provides an online master of divinity program that is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). Designed for students interested in studying the Bible and religion, the curriculum prepares learners for careers as pulpit preachers, assistant preachers, and educational directors. Other career possibilities include Bible school teachers, counselors, and those who teach Christian education. Graduates must earn 81 credits and complete a 6-credit internship.

  10. Crown College
    Location

    Saint Bonifacius, MN

    Crown College began as a small bible college in 1916 and today offers a Biblically-based education for Christian leadership in The Christian and Missionary Alliance and the church.

    The master of divinity program, offered online, equips students with leadership skills and Biblical and theological understanding. The degree prepares students for roles as a senior pastor, executive pastor, associate pastor, pastoral counselor, chaplain, missionary, theological educator, or leader in faith-based organizations. The last year of the master of divinity online program allows students to practice ministry under the guidance of a mentor.

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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