Best Online Master’s in Theology Programs

If your calling lies in the church or ministry, an online master’s in theology can help turn your faith into a fulfilling career. In a master’s in theology online program, you will immerse yourself in scripture and theological research to further expand your Christian worldview.

Most graduates with a theology master’s find employment in the church as pastors or parish leaders, but can also find gainful employment at elementary and secondary schools, and universities.

Upon completion, you will have the experience and knowledge needed to lead others and spread the word of God. Read on to learn more about the skills you will develop in an advanced program and the career opportunities that await you with an online master’s in theology degree.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN THEOLOGY PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

A master of theology is a higher degree by research, so graduates of an online program will gain advanced skills in evaluating, analyzing, and disseminating intensive research. In a master of theology online program, you can also enhance your expertise within a specific interdisciplinary area by choosing a specialization; some options include biblical and historical studies, religion and science, or global studies. After completing the program, you will be eligible for several ministry-related leadership careers requiring a graduate degree, including roles as missionaries, pastors, or postsecondary teachers.

WILL A MASTER’S IN THEOLOGY ONLINE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Master’s in theology online programs are designed to be flexible, and are ideal for working professionals, parents, or anyone else with life commitments that may prevent them from commuting to and from campus on a daily basis. Distance learning allows you to focus on your calling without uprooting your job or family; you will earn your degree from the same esteemed faculty who teach on campus, and from the comfort of your own home. If you are required to complete an internship, you are encouraged to connect with an online program coordinator to find a site that is close to your home for further convenience.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH A MASTER’S IN THEOLOGY?

Master’s in theology online graduates are set to become leaders within the church and the community. Common careers for master of theology students include positions as denominational leaders, mission services directors, and professors at postsecondary institutions, among others. A master’s degree will also set you on the academic path to earn a PhD in the field, opening the door to even more advanced roles in the church.

WHAT ARE THE BEST MASTER OF THEOLOGY ONLINE PROGRAMS?

Choosing an online master of theology program is an extremely personal decision, and only you can evaluate whether a school’s teaching approach, available specializations, and course outcomes will help you match your academic and professional goals. The following ranked list of schools is meant to serve as a starting point in your search for the best online master’s in theology programs throughout the U.S. We weigh criteria such as school graduation rates, career support services, and course offerings to determine academic excellence. Be sure to contact admission specialists at your target school to learn more about specific requirements and opportunities.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1

Urshan Graduate School of Theology

73.772/5N/AFlorissant, MO

campus-urshan-graduate-school-of-theology

UGST is the only accredited Apostolic Pentecostal graduate school in the country. The school is part of Urshan College, located in Florissant, Missouri, near St Louis. Rooted in the values of scriptural fidelity, personal integrity, cultural diversity, and scholarly collegiality, UGST is a small school with under 100 students. Students can enroll in three graduate programs: divinity, Christian ministry, and theological studies. The online master's in theology program offers both a general track and a research track intended for students who wish to pursue further graduate study. Both tracks include courses in biblical studies, practical theology, historical theology, and biblical theology. While most of the program is available entirely online, students must attend two week long periods on-campus each year, typically in January and June.

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2

Covenant Theological Seminary

73.573/5N/ASaint Louis, MO

campus-covenant-theological-seminary

Home to approximately 800 students, Covenant sits on a small campus in Creve Coeur, a suburb of St. Louis. The seminary is operated by the Presbyterian Church in America, though students are not required to be members of that denomination to attend. Covenant offers a master of arts in theological studies, a program designed for emerging Christian leaders and those looking for a deeper understanding of their faith. Students develop a variety of skills that are applicable to congregational leadership and other higher level positions inside the church. The online master's degree in theology is taught in a part-time format, which is ideal for working students; distance learners typically graduate in two years. Students must complete a final capstone project to graduate.

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3

Payne Theological Seminary

73.553/5N/AWilberforce, OH

campus-payne-theological-seminary

Payne was first incorporated in 1894 through the work of Daniel Alexander Payne, an educator and bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal church. Based in Wilberforce, Ohio, the seminary prepares African Americans and other religious leaders through an educational philosophy rooted in the ideas of liberation, reconciliation, social justice, and the dignity of humankind. Students learn to examine religion from an Afrocentric perspective designed to meet the needs of the church and the local community. The school offers an online master of divinity degree that covers four core areas of study: theology and ethics, biblical studies, historical studies, and practical ministry. Both online theology programs are accredited by the Commission on accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools. Most graduates enter the pastoral ministry, though others serve as chaplains, educators, community development practitioners, and scholars.

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4

Luther Rice College & Seminary

72.883/580%Lithonia, GA

campus_luther_rice_college

Founded in Florida in 1962, Luther Rice moved to its current location just outside of Atlanta in 1991. The school has featured some element of distance education since its inception, and all degree programs are now offered online. Luther Rice strives to offer affordable, accessible education to Christian students, and its tuition was lower than 90% of private, four-year colleges last year. Luther Rice has allowed students to earn their master's in theology online for more than 12 years, and 96% of program graduates describe their educational experience as “satisfactory.” The school offers online graduate programs in apologetics, biblical counseling, Christian studies, and leadership and ministry, along with a master of divinity.

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5

Bethany Theological Seminary

72.453/5N/ARichmond, IN

campus-bethany-theological-seminary

Bethany is the official seminary of the Church of the Brethren, a historic peace church formed through the ideals of Anabaptism and Pietism. The seminary offers an online master of divinity degree that prepares graduates for church positions requiring ordination, including evangelism, chaplaincy, ecclesiastical ministries, and pastoral ministry. Students must complete one third of their course requirements on campus; the rest can be finished online. The school also offers weekend intensive courses to help students fit school around their work schedule. A major part of the Bethany's master of theology online program is ministry formation, an experience-based process that requires students to participate in a ministry placement and reflect on the intersection of practice and learning.

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6

Jewish Theological Seminary of America

72.155/5N/ANew York, NY

Based in New York City, JTS has been a center of conservative Jewish education for more than 130 years, training students for positions as rabbis, cantors, lay leaders, educators, and scholars. JTS has offered online education since 1996, allowing students around the world to earn credits toward a master's of theology online. Students at JTS can earn an online MA in Jewish education, with an emphasis in either educational leadership or pedagogy and teaching. The curriculum focuses on core areas of Hebrew, Jewish studies, and education, along with specialized elective courses. Most classes can be completed entirely online, though JTS does require students to take four courses on campus, usually fulfilled through the seminary's month-long summer sessions program.

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7

Dallas Theological Seminary

71.833/5N/ADallas, TX

An evangelical theological seminary based in Dallas, DTS also operates extension campuses in eight locations throughout the United States and around the world, serving more than 2,000 students. DTS's online master's in theology degree program boasts a diverse student body composed of students from more than 70 different Christian denominations. The seminary offers two fully online degrees: a master of biblical and theological studies and a master of arts in Christian studies. The school also offers an MA in Christian leadership in a hybrid format that includes primarily online courses, along with a 12-hour ministry residency and one required weeklong intensive course on campus. Some courses in the online program allow students to join campus classes remotely via video conferencing technology.

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8

Luther Seminary

71.443/5N/ASaint Paul, MN

The largest Lutheran seminary in the country, Luther serves nearly 600 students from its campus in St. Paul. Though the school is operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it also accepts students of other denominations into its master of theology online program. Luther offers two online degrees: a master of divinity and a master of arts in children, youth, and family ministry. The CYF degree offers a blend of theology, Christian theory, and leadership, all aimed at building deeper connections with young people. The master of divinity offers several concentrations, including Old Testament, New Testament, and congregational missional leadership. The degree combines online courses with two, two-week intensive campus sessions each school year.

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9

Pentecostal Theological Seminary

71.293/5N/ACleveland, TN

Established in 1975, PTS is part of the Church of God, a Pentecostal denomination, though the seminary accepts Christians from other backgrounds as well. PTS is based in Cleveland, Tennessee, the headquarters of the Church of God. The seminary offers a range of online master's in theology degrees. Distance learners can earn a master of divinity, master of theological studies with a specialization in pentecostal theology, and a master of theological studies. The master of divinity is offered in a hybrid format that combines hands-on experience and campus intensive courses with an online curriculum; the other two degrees are offered entirely online.

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10

Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary

71.262/571.43%Jacksonville, TX

BMA is operated by the Baptist Missionary Association of America, and the school has offered seminary education since 1955. Based in Jacksonville, Texas, BMA cultivates a Christ-centered approach to both discipleship and preaching. The seminary offers several options for students interested in earning a master's of theology online, including a master of divinity and MA programs in pastoral theology, religion, and church ministries. The programs in religion and pastoral theology are offered entirely online, while the master of divinity and church ministries degrees require intensive campus classes a few times throughout the school year. BMA strives to make education affordable and accessible for students, and the Baptist Missionary Association funds a percentage of each student's tuition. Students who require additional funding can also apply for need-based scholarships.

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11

Wesley Biblical Seminary

71.163/5N/AJackson, MS

Rooted in the Methodist traditions of the American South, Wesley was established in 1974 as an interdenominational seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. The school's values emphasize the importance of scripture, holiness, transformation, personhood, scholarship, stewardship, and passion, and the school's Christian faith is rooted in the Wesleyan tradition. Wesley began offering online education in 2004, and it's distance education program now serves students from around the world. Wesley's online master's in theology features a curriculum grounded in biblical studies and theological studies, along with supplementary courses in philosophy, ministry, formational studies, and Greek. While students can complete most courses at their own pace, they must take Greek language lessons in real time using video conferencing technology.

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12

Nazarene Theological Seminary

70.973/5N/AKansas City, MO

Affiliated with the Church of Nazarene, NTS is based in Kansas City, Missouri, the former home of the denomination. The school serves a student body of more than 300, and allows students from around the country to earn their master's in theology online. NTS offers a master of divinity degree with an optional track in ordination. The curriculum covers scripture, church history, theology, philosophy, and ministry. Students in the MDiv program can earn most of their credits online, with required face-to-face courses available either at Nazarene's main campus or at five other extension sites in states around the country, including Oklahoma, Ohio, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and California. These face-to-face courses allow students to meet and collaborate with other peers in the program.

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13

Calvin Theological Seminary

70.913/5N/AGrand Rapids, MI

CTS is associated with the Protestant Christian Reformed Church, as well Calvin College, a liberal arts school. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the seminary is internationally renowned, and nearly half of the student body comes from outside the United States. For students interested in earning their master's in theology online, CTS offers multiple online programs, including master's programs in divinity and theological studies. Distance learners are required to visit campus twice per year for weeklong intensive sessions, usually at some time during the fall and spring semesters. With part-time courses, students can typically complete the theological studies program within three years and the master of divinity within five.

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14

Interdenominational Theological Center

70.793/5N/AAtlanta, GA

The Interdenominational Theological Center is the largest African American theological school in the country. The ITC is comprised of six denominational seminaries brought together to encourage progressive, ecumenical African American theology. Representing Baptists, United Methodists, African Methodist Episcopalians, Christian Methodist Episcopalians, and the Church of God in Christ, ITC accepts students from other denominations through its Ecumenical Fellowship program. The school sits on a 10-acre campus in the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of historically black colleges. The ITC also offers an online master's in divinity program that prepares graduates for ordained ministry positions. The online program offers a combination of asynchronous courses and hybrid courses that allow online students to participate in live campus classes through chat and video conferencing.

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15

Gratz College

70.423/5N/AMelrose Park, PA

Established in 1985, Gratz is the oldest independent college for Jewish studies in the United States. Intended to train the next generation of Jewish educators and community leaders, the school is a popular choice for students interested in earning a master's in theology online. Gratz operates out of a suburban campus in Melrose Park, Pennsylvania, though most students earn their degree online. The college offers an MA in education degree that allows students to concentrate in one of four areas: creativity and technology, dimensions in identity, early childhood education, and integrated curriculum.

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16

Columbia International University

70.293/547.09%Columbia, SC

Located in Columbia, South Carolina, CIU is a major Christian higher education institution with an enrollment of more than 1,100 students. The school is multi-denominational, and offers a liberal arts education rooted in Christian traditions and values. The school's online master's degree in theology offers two curriculum options: one for students with no previous credits in theology or biblical studies and one for students with at least 30 credits in those areas. The program teaches students how to interpret biblical texts and explain biblical doctrine, and prepares graduates for positions as educators, church staff members, assistant or associate pastors, campus ministry professionals, or ministry members.

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17

Bethel Seminary

70.222/5N/ASan Diego, CA

One of the 15 largest seminaries in the United States, Bethel has campus locations in both San Diego and St. Paul. The school also boasts a robust distance education program. The seminary promotes biblical and theological foundation, leadership strength, and spiritual character, and accepts students from all denominations. Bethel offers several options for students interested in earning a master of theology online, including degrees in theological studies, Christian thought, and divinity. Students in the theological studies program gain a deeper understanding of scripture and the interpretive discipline needed to illuminate the Bible. The Christian thought program gives students a cultural and social understanding of theology, while the master of divinity program prepares graduates for positions as preachers, pastors, or chaplains.

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18

Phoenix Seminary

69.952/5N/APhoenix, AZ

An interdenominational Protestant seminary, Phoenix offers several options for students interested in an online master's in theology. Phoenix offers a master of arts in biblical and theological studies entirely online, and most of the master of divinity and master of arts in ministry can be completed remotely as well. Students in all tracks take core courses in biblical literature, character development, intercultural studies, and theology, along with specialized courses in their area of concentration. Online courses at Phoenix follow a standard 15-week semester format aligned with the campus calendar during the fall and spring semesters, along with an intensive 10-week schedule during the summer. Online students at Phoenix are also assigned a “personal librarian” to help with research and library resources. They are available through email, on the phone, and on video conferencing.

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19

Bethesda University of California

69.922/586.96%Anaheim, CA

One of 13 seminaries in the U.S. affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Iliff also maintains close connections with other denominations, and the school is home to students from more than 30 faith traditions. The online master's in theology at Iliff is actually a hybrid master of divinity degree that includes mostly online courses. Divided into five thematically structured sequences, the degree covers historical and contemporary perspectives on Christianity, including the relationship between theology and moral practice. Students in the program are required to attend courses in Denver three times each school year, for one week long intensive session in the fall and two shorter sessions in the winter and spring. The Divinity program at Iliff can be completed in just three years, though students have up to a decade to complete it part-time.

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20

Iliff School of Theology

68.593/5N/ADenver, CO

Associated with the Mennonite Church, AMBS is an accredited seminary founded in 1958 in Elkhart, Indiana. The school is based in the Anabaptist tradition, emphasizing the intersection of denominational faith with wider Christian values. Distance learners at AMBS use the school's MDiv Connect program, which allows them to earn their degree through primarily online courses. The program is ideal for students who are interested in transitioning into the ministry or those want to bring a Christian-oriented leadership perspective into their current career. Students are required to visit campus for two week-long intensive sessions throughout the school year. The online master's in theology can typically be completed with three years of study.

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21

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

67.873/5N/AElkhart, IN

Associated with the Mennonite Church, AMBS is an accredited seminary founded in 1958 in Elkhart, Indiana. The school is based in the Anabaptist tradition, emphasizing the intersection of denominational faith with wider Christian values. Distance learners at AMBS use the school's MDiv Connect program, which allows them to earn their degree through primarily online courses. The program is ideal for students who are interested in transitioning into the ministry or those want to bring a Christian-oriented leadership perspective into their current career. Students are required to visit campus for two week-long intensive sessions throughout the school year. The online master's in theology can typically be completed with three years of study.

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22

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

67.553/550.15%Louisville, KY

The oldest seminary affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, SBTS was founded in 1859 and moved to its current campus in Louisville in 1877. Students interested in an online master's in theology can take advantage of half priced tuition at SBTS, if they are part of a Southern Baptist Church. The seminary offers two fully online degrees: a master of divinity and a master of arts in theological studies. The divinity program prepares students for professional ministry positions, while the theological studies degree helps distance learners deepen their understanding of Christianity and the Bible. Students can earn credit for either degree through SBTS's Global Campus, which gives them several options for completing courses, including online classes, locally supervised ministry apprenticeship programs, and intensive campus courses held in between semesters. Online students also have access to many campus resources, including academic advising, the writing center, and library services.

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23

Apex School of Theology

65.602/5N/ADurham, NC

Apex was founded in 1995 in Durham, North Carolina, with the mission of providing theological education grounded in the African American experience. The school prepares future religious leaders for service in churches, ministries, and communities, emphasizing personal responsibility in a civic, social, and religious context. For students interested in an online master's degree in theology, Apex is one of only a few independent theological schools to offer distance education. Students in the school's master of divinity program study Christian thought from a historical, cultural, and ministerial perspective, preparing them for leadership positions in the church. Courses cover everything from Christian ethics and theology to church administration and biblical languages.

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24

United Theological Seminary

65.103/5N/ADayton, OH

UTS is a United Methodist seminary located in Trotwood, Ohio, just outside of Dayton. Founded in 1871, United Methodist is now one of the fastest growing seminaries in the country, currently serving a student body of over 400 through on-campus and online courses. For students pursuing a master's in theology online, UTS offers a theological studies program, with concentrations available in history of Christianity, systematic theology, and Wesleyan-Methodist studies. All tracks give students a deeper understanding of the Bible, church history, and theology, along with advanced interpretive methods for the academic study of Christianity. The program includes core theology courses along with a colloquy seminar, specialized concentration courses, and a final project. Students can graduate within two years.

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25

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

64.642/5N/AWake Forest, NC

SEBTS was founded in 1950 in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to meet the educational needs of the Southern Baptist Convention on the East Coast. A center of theological education in the region, the seminary in a popular choice for Baptist students looking to earn their master's of theology online. The school's online programs include master's degrees in divinity and theological studies. Online M.Div. students can concentrate in more than a dozen specific areas, from Christian ethics to international church planning, though most online students are encouraged to take the Christian ministry emphasis due to its high number of elective courses and a greater curricular flexibility. The theological studies degree is focused on international and cross-cultural exchange, and trains students to become ministerial leaders around the world.

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Ministerial and theological work is not for everyone. Students blessed with the belief, patience and grace for religious training are a rare breed, and prospective theological students should understand and evaluate the rigors of studying in an advanced program before pursuing an online Master’s in Theology.

For those called to theology, both the classwork and the career opportunities that await after graduation are incredibly rewarding. Students can expect to deepen their understanding of Christian principles and the Bible. The programs listed above provide exposure to the world’s most influential religious texts, while renowned faculty train students to become experts in religious history and cross-cultural ethics. Those programs prepare you for a career in religious-based academia or for life in the ministry, and the school will offer insight into the challenges inherent in providing religious counsel in the modern world. Students also emerge from school prepared to integrate scripture with modern technology in either academia or the church.

Most graduates with a theology master’s find employment in the church as pastors or parish leaders. Beyond religious organizations, theology degree-holders often find gainful employment within educational institutions, including elementary and secondary schools, colleges, universities and professional learning facilities. Though master’s degree-holders are typically eligible for teaching jobs at churches and schools, most colleges require theology professors to hold a doctorate.

Obtaining a Bachelor’s in theology may help you qualify for an entry-level job, though most theological careers require at least a master’s degree. Fortunately, fulfilling positions are increasingly in demand for postsecondary graduates: the BLS projects an employment growth of 8.9% among religious workers between 2012 and 2022 and reports an annual mean wage of $34,700 as of May 2014 for professionals in this occupation, an increase from a reported $31,600 in 2011.

While the coursework in any postsecondary program will challenge people of all backgrounds, the online format facilitates efficient instruction while providing sufficient resources for students to succeed. Distance learners have as much access to world-class faculty and a variety of theological subfields as residential students, and the online format is ideal for working professionals to strengthen their bond with Christ without disrupting their professional and familial responsibilities. If a career and a life in theology is your true calling, earning your diploma from one of the best master’s degree in theology programs online is the perfect way to get started.

Best Online Master's in Theology Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
2 Luther Rice College & Seminary Lithonia, GA
3 Southwestern Assemblies of God Universities Waxahachie, TX
4 Hope International University Fullerton, CA
5 Columbia International University Columbia, SC
6 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
7 Dallas Theological Seminary Dallas, TX
8 Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, IL
9 Nazarene Theological Seminary Kansas City, MO
10 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY
11 Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary Jacksonville, TX
12 Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, IN
13 Kentucky Christian University Grayson, KY
14 Apex School of Theology Durham, NC
15 Concordia University - Chicago River Forest, IL
16 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, MN
17 Baptist Bible College & Seminary of Pennsylvania Clarks Summit, PA
18 Cornerstone University Grand Rapids, MI
19 Missouri Baptist University Saint Louis, MO
20 Southeastern University Lakeland, FL
21 Loyola University - New Orleans New Orleans, LA
22 Heritage Christian University Florence, AL
23 Virginia Baptist College Fredericksburg, VA
24 Bethesda University of California Anaheim, CA
25 South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary Deerfield Beach, FL