With new technology redefining the world of higher education, it is now easier than ever to complete a Master's in Theology online.
Flexibility, the convenience of working from your home or local ministry, and the opportunity to save both time and money are all motivating students nowadays to pursue master's degrees in Theology, Divinity, Ministry, Christian Spirituality, and related fields, online.
Master's in Theology online degree programs ranking guidelines:
We have researched numerous programs to come up with this list: the Top 20 Master's in Theology Online Degree Programs. The first ten schools are most directly related to Master of Theology online degrees and Master of Theological Studies degrees, whereas the other ten programs are closely related degrees in Christian Studies, Ministry, and the like.
There are subtle, but potentially important, differences between these degrees. This means you need to understand which type of degree meets your needs the best. To this end, we lay out your options in this article, thereby helping you in your search. The latter 10 degrees are listed alphabetically since they cannot be comparatively ranked.
All of these schools have solid curricula and reputations, all strive to minister at the local level, and all have master's programs that can be completed entirely or mostly online.
So, let the classroom come to you!
The Top 20 Master's in Theology Online Programs
1. University of Dallas
The University of Dallas School of Ministry has been offering their rigorous coursework and pastoral application for over 25 years. They've now translated their comprehensive curriculum to a fully accredited Master of Theological Studies degree that can be completed entirely online.
UD's Master of Theological Studies degree is designed to give students the tools for practical application of theological knowledge. It's built upon a core of eight courses, among which are Liturgy and Sacraments, Church History, Systematic Theology, and Proseminar. Students then have five additional elective courses to explore a subject of interest in greater depth. Alternatively, the student interested in a concentration in biblical studies can complete a prescribed curriculum of scripture electives.
Worth noting are the many resources available to online students. Through UD's Academic Information Services webpage, online students have easy access to the University's tech support team. Graduate students also have access to the Career Services page, where they can research potential employers, find internships, explore post-graduate service opportunities, and much more.
2. Calvin Theological Seminary
Founded in 1876, Calvin Theological Seminary is the oldest denominational ministry and the sole theological seminary of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. One of the most respected seminaries in the country, Calvin now offers its Master of Theological Studies degree and Master of Divinity through a distance learning program. Though this program is designed to be completed mostly online, students do spend eight days each Fall and Spring semester on Calvin's Michigan-based campus.
When done online, the degrees are designed to take three years. The programs include core courses in Bible Survey, Christian Theology, and Christian Engagement with World Religions. Each student also chooses an area of concentration to complete their Master's.
Success in Calvin's online Master's program relies heavily on students forming bonds of friendship with their online classmates. Students frequently interact in course discussion forums, and share and pay using Google Hangouts.
3. Iliff School of Theology
Iliff promotes its Master of Theological Studies degree towards those wishing to increase their personal understanding of theology. The flexible program is therefore a smorgasbord of study that includes theology, biblical studies, ethics, sociology, philosophy, religious studies, social change and a variety of other offerings.
Made up of 72 quarter credit hours, the degree allows for plenty of opportunity to explore various areas of theological studies. Some students use this uniquely interdisciplinary degree to supplement other research interests and education (Iliff has a cooperative program with the University of Denver), though this is not Iliff's sole intent.
The degree can be completed entirely online, or as a hybrid program. For those students hoping to complete their degree as quickly as possible, it is also offered in an intensive format.
4. Liberty University Online
Liberty School of Theology offers a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. The program is geared towards individuals seeking an introductory graduate degree in religion to then use in a supportive role in their local church. According to Liberty's website, such individuals could be pastors, Christian educators, informed lay leaders, and pastors' wives.
The program builds off of a core curriculum that includes surveys in the Old and New Testaments, systemic theology, and the Christian Church, among others. Each student also chooses a cognate from either Biblical Studies, Church History, or Theology. Upon completion of the cognate and core curriculum, students will have a solid foundation from which to understand the Bible and Christianity.
Liberty's M.A. in Theological Studies can be completed 100% online, or through a hybrid format. Each eight-week long course effectively allows students the flexibility to complete assignments any time during the week, day or night, with no required log-in times.
Liberty Online also offers a Master of Divinity, Master of Theology (ThM), and several other ministry related degrees, 100% online.
5. Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University offers a master's in theology online, providing students with a broad introduction to academic theology from the perspective of Roman Catholic tradition. The program aims to provide students with a graduate-level knowledge of biblical, systematic, historical, pastoral, and moral theology that can then be applied to a variety of vocations.
Saint Leo's MTH is comprised of 36 credits, 27 of which come from a core curriculum that includes Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, Christology, and Christian Ethics I, among others. Students complete the degree with three elective courses of their choice.
The online learning center at Saint Leo University has been around since 1998. Students can complete their entire degree without having to come to campus, making it a great option for students unable to attend conventional classrooms or even hybrid programs (many of Saint Leo's online student population are stationed members of the military).
6. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern is very proud of their unique, academically rigorous online program. It is the shortest, fully-online master's program of any Southern Baptist seminary. Combining high standards for academics, renowned faculty, affordability, and easy access, Southwestern has a top ranked online program and a lot to be proud of.
In addition to the Master of Theological Studies, Southwestern offers a Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Education (both new programs that started in Fall 2013), and an MTS in Cross-Cultural Missions (45-unit hybrid program). All except the last are 36-unit degrees that can be completed 100% online. Southwestern's two year Master programs are designed to serve and support churches at the local level, and therefore have a curriculum that includes bible and moral issues, church history, Baptist heritage, and four classes on the Old and New Testaments.
Though the entire degree is completed online, there is an additional internet registration fee totaling $270 per class. For those who serve at a local church for at least 20 hours per week, however, this internet registration fee is waived, totaling a 30% discount. Southwestern also offers their classes in Spanish, a unique perk for some.
7. Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
Golden Gate's Master of Theological Studies is a brand new program, only available since Fall 2013. According to Golden Gate's online director of education, “this online concept maximizes learning through weekly interaction with qualified faculty and fellow students.”
The 49-hour, two-year program uses a wide variety of online methods including graphic and video lectures, video and audio chats, threaded email discussions, shared applications, wiki documents, online exams, and posting shared research. Golden Gate's online program strives to be as personal an experience as possible -- class size is limited and courses are taught by professors, not teaching assistants. Online students also have full access to 24/7 technical support and virtual librarians to help students in finding the best databases and electronic sources.
Due to the limited class sizes, the Golden Gate admissions department suggests students apply as early as possible.
8. Campbellsville University
Campbellsville University offers a Master of Theology online with available emphases in Biblical Studies, Pastoral Leadership, and Theological Studies. Though the University has enjoyed a solid reputation in Kentucky since its founding, the seven years it has offered its fully-online program has seen Campbellsville's influence grow to nation-wide recognition.
Most students pursuing Campbellsville's Master degree have already obtained the 18-hour prerequisite of undergraduate Christian studies. For those who do not have that pre-requisite, additional classes at the undergraduate level will be required. 30 credit hours are needed to complete Campbellsville's Master degree, 18 of which is core curriculum that is unique to each of the three offered concentrations. Elective options include Church Planting, Pastoral care in Human Crisis, the Baptist History and Heritage, among others. The face-to-face courses required of resident students are instead offered through video conferencing services.
Unlike programs with set semester dates, students have a number of opportunities throughout the year to begin this program. It is also worth noting that each online class requires an additional course fee of $125.
9. Columbia International University
Columbia offers a Master of Arts in Theological Studies that is composed of a wide array of subject matter. As part of the degree, students will gain an interdisciplinary knowledge of biblical studies, church history, intercultural studies, and theology.
The “capstone course” of the M.A. is the Integrative Research Seminar that all students take. This unique course is an interactive seminar designed to help students reflect on their education experience and the academic, personal and ministry dimensions of their course work. Students are also required to conduct research to contribute to their ministry.
For those students unable to participate in hybrid programs, Columbia International's M.A. in Theological Studies is designed to be completed 100% online.
10. Saint Joseph's College
Saint Joseph's master's in theology online program is ideal for Catholic deacons and lay ecclesial ministers. Rooted in Roman Catholic doctrine and fully aligned with the magisterium, the program is based on the philosophy that “effective ministry requires a solid theological foundation, grounded in solid Catholic doctrine, with a deep spiritual and pastoral orientation.”
Comprised of 36 credit hours, the program offers specialization in Advanced Diaconal Studies, Pastoral Theology, and Sacred Theology. Students choose their specialization based upon their current career or career goals.
Degrees Related to Master of Theological Studies
Here we list several topnotch programs that may better suit your academic interests. We believe that these schools would likely rank at the top of the lists if each were compared to more similar degrees. Hence, the programs listed below are somewhat "Honorable Mentions" that we thought might help you in your search for a degree program most in line with your calling. These programs are arranged alphabetically.
11. Abilene Christian University
Abilene Christian University offers a hybrid Master of Arts in Christian Ministry. A popular program with students from all over the world, Abilene's degree focuses on helping students advance their ministerial leadership skills.
The graduate program does require all students to complete part of their degrees on campus, though the student is able to choose between completing this residency requirement in one week or in multiple weekend sessions.
Unlike other Master's programs with highly structured core curriculums, Abilene's degree is flexible. With more elective opportunities than the average degree, students are able to personalize their education to their particular ministry passions and interests. Common specializations are youth and family ministry, children's ministry, and education ministry.
12. Dallas Theological Seminary
The Master of Arts in Biblical Studies is the only master's program at DTS that can be completed entirely online. It is designed to provide a strong foundation for Christians living in any setting, and is therefore ideal for lay leaders.
The 62-unit degree is made up of Biblical Studies (24 units), Theological Studies (20 units), Spiritual Life and Evangelism (4 units), and 14 units worth of electives. Though comparatively, this is a longer degree program than most, there is no thesis required for graduation.
The seminary's MA can be completed entirely online, though students may have fewer options for courses. Unlike many other programs, DTS' degree can be completed on a year-round basis or during Summers only.
13. Fordham University
Fordham University has offered exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition since 1841. Their M.A. in Christian Spirituality prepares students for general Christian ministry, Spiritual Direction, or an academic career in teaching.
For students interested in ministry work or Spiritual Direction, the degree can be completed as a hybrid program (some direction courses may require a brief residence on campus). However, students preparing for Doctoral programs or careers teaching Christian Spirituality can complete their degrees entirely online. The degree requires a core curriculum that includes the Old and New Testament, History of Christian Spirituality, Methods in Christian Spirituality, and a total of four electives.
Online students at the Jesuit university have access to all the faculty and resources of Fordham's other schools, centers, and institutes.
14. Fuller Theological Seminary
Fuller's MDiv (120 quarter units) is a comprehensive theological program that forms students holistically for innovative, agile leadership in either traditional or non-traditional ministry roles. The Master of Arts in Theology online (80 units) sharpens students theologically and spiritually, preparing them for advanced study if they wish.
Both programs are now available in a hybrid format. To maximize their online options, student can take all courses entirely online except for eight (for the MDiv) or six (for the MAT [pending WASC approval]) “Hybrid Plus” courses. Each Hybrid Plus course consists of nine weeks of online study, then one week of on-campus work---and these courses are paired, so that students can complete two of them during the week they're on campus. This translates to a total of just four one-week visits (for the MDiv) or three one-week visits (for the MAT) to any of Fuller's eight campuses. These degrees are also customizable, with 16 areas of emphasis to choose from.
Fuller's Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry is designed for those who wish to combine a deeper biblical understanding with practical learning; many are called to serve in pastoral or other ministry roles. The curriculum covers the basic areas of theology, biblical studies, and ministry, and includes a practicum.
This flexible program is a hybrid degree, reduced to 80 units as of Fall 2015. For students wishing to maximize their online options, 56 units can be taken entirely online, while 24 can be completed through six “Hybrid Plus” courses. This translates to just three one-week visits (for the MATM), at any of Fuller's eight campuses, over the course of the program. The MATM degree is also customizable, with 16 areas of emphasis to choose from.
15. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Gordon-Conwell has a one hundred year tradition of quality theological education. The Seminary offers a Masters in Religion in Christian Ministry, and their students represent over 40 countries and 100+ denominations. Between their two institutions and their online program, Gordon-Conwell is the fifth largest seminary in the United States.
Gordon-Conwell's MAR is a 61-credit program that prepares students to think biblically and theologically about issues both local and global. While many of the classes can be completed 100% online, other classes are hybrid; in addition to their online courses, most students spend 4 to 5 weeks (over the course of the entire degree) at a Gordon-Conwell campus. The core curriculum consists of classes in the Bible, theology, missions, church history, and spiritual formation. Additionally, students can choose to concentrate in leadership, counseling, education, or a similar field.
Gordon-Conwell's online program is designed to be a flexible alternative for those students dedicated to family, ministry, or work responsibilities. The online classes are taught by the same faculty as those on-campus. Through the learning management system Sakai, online students watch video modules for instruction and engage regularly in discussions with peers and faculty.
16. Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University offers a variety of Master degrees in Christian Studies. The programs are designed to teach students to lead as Christians in areas of influence both secular and religious, making it an ideal program for both the lay and church-hired minister.
Students choose from four choices of emphases: Christian Leadership, Pastoral Ministry, Urban Ministry, and Youth Ministry. Each program focuses on biblical and theological knowledge, the application of that knowledge, and the development of character and integrity.
The program consists of curriculum totaling 38 credits and is designed to take 18 months to complete. According to the University, 71% of students succeed in completing the degree within this time frame.
17. Loyola University -- New Orleans
Loyola Institute for Ministry offers two master's degrees: the Master of Pastoral Studies (M.P.S.) and the Master of Religious Education (M.R.E.). Loyola has been successfully offering its distance program for over 25 years, making it uniquely mature in an otherwise young industry.
Each degree aims to develop the student's theological and ministerial competency through a careful combination of academic study, theological reflection on ministerial practice, and the student's personal experiences as a person of faith. The M.P.S. degree is a 36-credit program designed for the lay minister. In addition to the core curriculum, students select a focus area relevant to their ministry. Involving similar requirements, the M.R.E. is aimed towards those individuals working in religious education.
According to Loyola's website, online students can expect high-quality content and equivalent opportunities as students who take the same courses on-campus. The program uses the popular Blackboard learning platform to conduct its web-based teaching and learning experiences.
18. Marquette University
Marquette's M.A. in Christian Doctrine is especially designed for those students who seek a better understanding and appreciation of their faith. According to the university's website, Marquette's goal is “to graduate students who are transformed by their education and will transform the world in which they live.” Based upon a Catholic, Jesuit tradition, the program is generally acquainted with students of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant religious doctrines and practices.
Marquette offers its degree 100% online, though students may also take classes on campus if they wish to do so. Of the 30 total hours it takes to complete the degree, 21 of those hours must be taken from the core courses, while the remaining nine (3 classes) come from each of the principal theological disciplines: biblical, historical, and systematic. After completing all course work, students are then required to write a comprehensive paper.
Marquette has a strong reputation for strong theological education, and this reputation is only growing now that Marquette offers the enhanced accessibility of its online program. Though there are a number of convenient options to choose from, note that most online classes have required log-in times.
19. Ohio Christian University
Ohio Christian University offers a Master of Arts in Ministry, specifically designed for those who are employed as pastors in their church or those who wish to be.
The M.A. is comprised of eight core classes, and four specialized classes in each of Practical Theology, Pastoral Care, and Counseling. All courses are taught with a special emphasis on training and enhancing students' ministry skills. By the time students graduate, they are solidly grounded in the Bible, theology, and historical thought and context of the church.
Ohio Christian's M.A. in Ministry can be completely entirely online. Additionally, Ohio Christian's program is associated with Wesley Biblical Seminary, where some students choose to complete their Ministry Division program.
20. Regent University
Regent University consistently ranks among the top online programs, and their master's in theology online degrees are no different. Of Regent's seven offered Master's degrees, five (English Bible, Christian Doctrine & History, New Testament, Old Testament, and Biblical Interpretation/Pre-Doctoral Studies) can be obtained entirely online with no residential requirements. Regent also offers a variety fully online Master of Divinity degrees.
All five of these degrees are composed of 60 credit hours and follow the same general core curriculum. Students choose their final degree based upon their choice of concentration. These courses offer the same content as their residential versions, but use Blackboard for class discussions and as a portal for live sessions of classes.
Personalized attention, referred to as “leadership development,” is one of Regent's five core values, and Regent prides itself on keeping online class sizes small and faculty accessible. According to Regent's website, online Regent students will receive guidance and mentorship from a top-quality virtual classroom.