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A rigorous theology program prepares graduates for careers as ministers, missionaries, or educators, or to work for nonprofit organizations built on Christian principles. Theology students have traditionally studied in campus-based programs, but as online higher education opportunities expand across disciplines, online theology programs are increasingly popular. Today, thousands of distance learners pursue their spiritual and professional callings remotely.

What Are the Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Theology Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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Rank School Location
1 University of Northwestern-St Paul Saint Paul, MN
2 Moody Bible Institute Chicago, IL
3 St. Thomas University Miami Gardens, FL
4 Johnson University Knoxville, TN
5 Anderson University Anderson, SC
6 Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach, FL
7 Franciscan University of Steubenville Steubenville, OH
8 Oral Roberts University Tulsa, OK
9 Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Kansas City
10 Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI

Many accredited colleges now offer comprehensive online bachelor's in theology degrees. These schools allow students to pursue degrees at their own pace — a convenience for anyone who must work full time to pay for school or provide childcare. Online programs are usually more affordable because distance learners save on commuting and living expenses, and often pay lower tuition rates.

It's important to consider that the cheapest online theology programs may not always be the best. Quality curricula from accredited, reputable schools offer far more benefits than degrees from colleges that charge low tuition rates but provide low-quality education. Fortunately, several affordable and reputable options exist for students seeking online degrees in theology.

The table below can help you decide which colleges would offer the best programs at the most affordable prices. We calculate our "college affordability score" based on a comprehensive list of online universities offering attractive educational programs in theology, biblical studies, and ministry, plus financial assistance and financial aid packages. These schools boast low tuition rates and tend to help students graduate with little or no college-related debt.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2021 Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Theology Programs

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Rank School Location Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of Northwestern-St Paul

Saint Paul, MN Graduation Rate: 63%

UNW's bachelor of arts in biblical and theological studies program is available online. The curriculum features 16 credits of elementary and intermediate Greek, as well as coursework covering topics like Second Temple Judaism, biblical customs and geography, and a seminar in biblical customs.

The university also offers a dual-enrollment program where students can earn their bachelor's and a master of arts in theological studies in five years. Students complete 14 master's-level credits during their undergraduate program and then take 22 credits during one year of graduate study; this master's program can also be completed online.

Minnesota residents are eligible to earn college credits through the PSEO program while satisfying high school requirements. UNW also offers learners the opportunity to receive up to six credits via free test-out exams in Old and New Testament history and literature.

UNW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $410 per credit
Credit Requirements: 125 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: ACT, CLT, or SAT optional

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

2

Moody Bible Institute

Chicago, IL Graduation Rate: 58%

Students at Moody can choose between two concentrations in the school's bachelor of science in theological studies program: Christian thought or spiritual formation. Online students who complete this 120-credit program typically take 12-13 credits per semester and graduate in five years.

Program highlights include classes in interpreting scripture, Christian anthropology and hamartiology, self and social identity in Christianity, and the theological task and bibliology. The program teaches students to utilize critical thinking to discern truths in the Bible through past and present theological studies. With these tools, students will be equipped with the knowledge and practical skills needed to communicate theology in personal and professional settings.

Moody is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Science in Theological Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $360 per credit
Credit Requirements: 120 credits
Program Length: 5 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

3

St. Thomas University

Miami Gardens, FL Graduation Rate: 44%

STU's online bachelor of arts in religious studies program caters to adult learners who already hold an associate degree (or equivalent coursework). The curriculum is designed with input from the Catholic diocese of Florida. Coursework introduces major religions of the world with an emphasis on the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students also investigate Christian moral decision-making.

These programs prepare students for careers as youth workers and teachers of scripture. Additionally, many learners opt to continue their education and pursue graduate studies.

STU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $795 per credit
Credit Requirements: 120 credits total (including transfer credits)
Program Length: 2-3 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

4

Johnson University

Knoxville, TN Graduation Rate: 63%

The online bachelor's in ministry leadership offered by JUTN prepares students to pursue roles as ministers and other leadership positions in church and parachurch organizations. Students interested in this degree can pursue a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science.

Learners complete a total of 120 credits, including 27 credits dedicated to the Bible and theology and 30 credits dedicated to the ministry leadership major. Coursework covers topics like pastoral counseling, advanced biblical teaching and preaching, and leading effective churches. Participants also complete a ministry leadership internship.

JUTN is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Ministry Leadership; Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $470 per credit
Credit Requirements: 120 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: ACT, CLT, or SAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

5

Anderson University

Anderson, SC Graduation Rate: 59%

Based in South Carolina, AU offers an online bachelor of Christian studies. The program features a 21-credit Christian studies core, 30 credits of Christian studies electives, 36 credits of general education courses, and 33 credits of general electives. Faculty deliver online classes in eight-week segments.

AU also offers its bachelor of Christian studies degree through an accelerated adult studies program designed for working adults and nontraditional students. Midcareer adults, financially independent students working full time, and those with at least five years of life experience beyond high school qualify for the accelerated adult studies program.

AU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Christian Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $390 per credit
Credit Requirements: 120-121 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.0 minimum for transfer credit
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

6

Palm Beach Atlantic University

West Palm Beach, FL Graduation Rate: 53%

PBA's School of Ministry offers an online or evening hybrid bachelor of arts in Christian studies. The program encompasses 120 credits, including 45 general education credits, 33-39 elective credits, 24 major-specific elective credits, and 18 Christian studies core credits. The eight-week course format provides flexibility for students with busy schedules.

The institution emphasizes exposure to multicultural environments, integrating Christian values with professional services, critical thinking and real-world experiences, and scriptural study. Students who earn a Christian studies degree prepare for careers related to counseling, teaching, and writing/editing.

PBA is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $460 per credit
Credit Requirements: 120 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online or hybrid

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: ACT, CLT, or SAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

7

Franciscan University of Steubenville

Steubenville, OH Graduation Rate: 77%

Franciscan's online bachelor of arts in theology degree features 36 credits of theological study coursework, in addition to general education classes, general electives, and major-based electives. This Catholic institution focuses on scripture and sacred tradition in accordance with the teachings of the magisterium, paying particular attention to sacred scripture, systematic theology, and moral theology.

Degree coursework includes foundations of Catholicism, principles of biblical study, foreign language study, and theology of the church. All students must complete either a senior thesis or a coordinating seminar as part of their graduation requirements. The institution offers many associated minors, which students can use to specialize their education.

Franciscan is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Theology
School Status: Private
Tuition: $525 per credit
Credit Requirements: 120 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: ACT, CLT, or SAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

8

Oral Roberts University

Tulsa, OK Graduation Rate: 57%

ORU's online bachelor of arts in historical and philosophical theology consists of 124 credits. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA to graduate, and faculty deliver classes through seven-week terms.

The program focuses on the historical development of Christian theology and the interactions between philosophy and theology. Courses include philosophy of religion, history of Christianity, and major religions of the world. Learners also complete a research seminar, a research practicum, and an intercultural field exposure. Potential career fields include ministry work, pastoral studies, and teaching.

ORU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Historical and Philosophical Theology
School Status: Private
Tuition: $410 per credit
Credit Requirements: 124 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

9

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Kansas City Graduation Rate: 10%

Midwestern offers a bachelor of arts in Christian ministry degree through Spurgeon College. The degree encompasses 120 credits, blending general education, Bible, Christian ministry, and elective classes.

Course highlights include world religions, global missions, introduction to ethics, and church administration. Potential career paths for graduates include pastors, educators, staff members, and missionaries. Applicants must demonstrate a clear commitment to Christian leadership as part of the application process. Students who live near the college's campus in Kansas City, Missouri, also have the option of taking some classes on campus for a blended learning experience.

Midwestern is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry
School Status: Private
Tuition: $365 per credit (verified Southern Baptist students); $399 per credit (all other students)
Credit Requirements: 120 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

10

Concordia University-Wisconsin

Mequon, WI Graduation Rate: 59%

CUW, which is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, offers an online bachelor of arts in theology. To earn their degree, students must complete a total of 126 credits. Major course requirements include a survey of Christian thought, religion in America today, and biblical theology. Learners also complete a church ministries internship, gaining first-hand experience in a professional church setting.

The curriculum focuses on the written word through the study of scripture and its teachings. The program is intended for students preparing for certification as professional church workers, including directors of church ministries or Lutheran school teachers.

CUW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Theology
School Status: Private
Tuition: $526 per credit
Credit Requirements: 126 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum preferred
Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT scores required for applicants with a GPA under 3.0

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Theology Program?

Requirements for online and campus-based religion degrees vary widely across institutions, but most programs offer coursework in biblical studies, theological history, and principles of ministry. Some feature specialized courses in areas such as pastoral counseling, youth ministry, and interracial and gender-inclusive faith communities. This section provides an idea of what to expect from a bachelor's program in the religion field.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Bachelor's in Theology

Ministry Administration and Leadership

This concentration provides knowledge and applications needed to serve faith communities. Coursework might include nonprofit business principles, best practices in ministry administration, church governance, homiletics and expository preaching, church planting, and revival strategies. Some programs emphasize the development of interpersonal skills for the creation of inclusive ministries, addressing gender, race, youth, disabilities, and other special needs.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Church ministers and assistants, youth ministers, directors of religious education, missionary, and evangelization leaders

Pastoral Ministry and Counseling

Students in this concentration learn counseling techniques and mental health training to provide psychological therapy, emotional support, and spiritual guidance to individuals in a variety of settings, from church congregations to religious-affiliated agencies. Most pastoral ministers have a bachelor's in theology, and many continue their education at the master's level in psychology or counseling and obtain state licensure.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Youth minister, marriage and family counselor, addictions counselor, spiritual adviser

Religious Education

A concentration in religious education prepares students to design and administer church education programs for adults and children, plus religion curriculum used in elementary through high school levels in church-sponsored schools. Coursework focuses on biblical, catechetical, and other types of instruction aligned with the beliefs of a particular faith or denomination.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Director of church religious education; elementary, middle, or high school teacher of religious education; church-sponsored private school administrator

Example Courses for an Online Bachelor's in Theology

Each school imposes its own religion degree requirements, which reflect the specific tenants of the faith-based institution and its program goals. In general, programs consist of foundational core courses, followed by major requirements and electives (like those listed below) in areas such as biblical studies, church history, theological ethics, ministry leadership, and pastoral counseling.

  • Biblical Studies in the Old and New Testament

    A gateway class for undergraduates in the major, this course presents an overview of the message and context of the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. Students acquire biblical hermeneutics skills and learn to analyze biblical language and text, synthesize biblical knowledge, and integrate principles into contemporary applications.

  • Church History

    This course provides historical and theological training for future church leaders, ministers, and educators. It explores the history of Christianity and the church both in the United States and globally, with a special emphasis on non-Western traditions. Students examine various theological developments and major social movements that have shaped the church over time.

  • Apologetics

    This introductory course, designed for students interested in ministry roles or who intend to pursue graduate work, presents the basic ideas of apologetics, the relationship between reason and faith, the apologetic method, major world views, and challenges to Christian faith. Themes include religious pluralism, atheism, biblical inaccuracy, and postmodern perspectives on religion.

  • Introduction to Ministry

    Students in this course learn about the responsibilities and challenges in contemporary church ministry. They analyze leadership principles, administrative procedures, organizational and managerial practices, counseling, and ethics. Course content addresses practical considerations such as the management of staff, volunteers, and finances, and the upkeep of buildings and grounds along with the worship and pastoral needs of congregants.

  • Pastoral Counseling

    Students integrate and apply theological and psychological principles of pastoral counseling and care, using case studies in several areas including bereavement support, marriage and family counseling, and ministries designed for youth and other special populations. This course appeals to students seeking positions in pastoral ministry and provides the academic foundation for graduate studies and licensure in counseling.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Theology?

Online undergraduate theology degrees offer a manageable alternative to traditional campus-based programs. Most programs require approximately 120 credits; students who enroll full-time complete the degree in four years or less. Some schools offer accelerated programs, which take two years or less to finish with continuous full-time enrollment. Online students, who often have to juggle work or family responsibilities, sometimes choose to take one or two classes per term, lengthening how long it takes to complete the degree.

Before enrolling in any online program, consider its course delivery format and how course delivery may affect degree length. Many schools offer self-paced, asynchronous courses, which give students flexibility to progress through the program at their own speed. Some schools use cohort-learning models, which place each new class of students into groups. These cohorts take all their courses together at fixed times in sequence through the program.

What Kinds of Schools Offer an Online Bachelor's in Theology?

Christian colleges generally adhere to a Christian orientation, employing faculty who espouse a Christian worldview. They offer a variety of undergraduate liberal arts and sciences programs similar to those offered in secular schools, along with religious studies courses. Whether nondenominational or church-sponsored, these schools attract students who prefer environments that promote Christian values.

In contrast to Christian colleges, Bible colleges feature a narrower focus of undergraduate degrees with significant emphases on biblical studies and theology. They offer undergraduate education in areas like Bible studies, pastoral ministry, and Christian education, sometimes along with other academic and professional majors. Students seeking online biblical studies degrees at Bible colleges usually intend to enter the ministry, do missionary work, or assume other church leadership roles, though some graduates opt for nonreligious careers. Many Bible colleges receive accreditation from the Association for Biblical Higher Education, along with regional or national accreditation. Seminaries receive sponsorship from a parent denomination and offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in religious studies and theology. Students enrolled in online seminary schools intend to fill leadership and educational positions with denomination-affiliated institutions. Many seminary schools receive accreditation from agencies affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education.

How Much Does an Online Bachelor's in Theology Cost?

The cost of earning a religion degree online differs considerably by school. Tuition ranges from just over $10,000 annually to almost $80,000, with wide variations between public institutions and private schools. Most schools charge higher tuition rates for out-of-state students, though some online programs offer flat tuition rates for all students regardless of state residency. Some programs provide discounted tuition for students who take full course loads each term. Students should always consider "hidden costs" in addition to tuition; online programs often charge technology fees that do not apply to on-campus students. Some programs require students to travel to campus a few times each year for workshops.

Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Theology Degrees

Accredited schools undergo an extensive evaluation of academic standards and financial practices by an outside agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Most colleges seek out either national or regional accreditation. Technical, vocational, and for-profit schools usually acquire national accreditation, and often offer less rigorous admissions requirements and relatively inexpensive tuition. Regional accreditation, the most popular and prestigious designation, requires higher professional and academic standards. A school's accreditation status determines credit transferability and eligibility for federal financial aid.

Many schools offering theology-related degrees hold regional accreditation, and some seek out additional specialized accreditation for their specific programs. For example, Bible schools may acquire programmatic accreditation from the Association of Biblical Higher Education. Seminary schools offering graduate programs usually seek accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools.

Two major organizations oversee the accreditation review process for U.S. colleges and universities. The ED establishes national educational policy and administers federal financial aid programs. CHEA coordinates postsecondary accreditation and advocates for the self-regulation of 3,000 member institutions. Both regional and national accreditation associations, plus some programmatic accreditors, receive approval from the ED or CHEA to ensure they adhere to standard regulatory criteria. The accreditation review considers several variables, including curriculum quality, faculty reputation, student services, and financial stability. Students considering any online religion or theology degree should always confirm a school's accreditation status by checking the ED and CHEA websites.

Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Theology Graduates

Bachelor's in Theology Salary
Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level (1-4 Years of Experience) Median Salary for Mid-Career (5-9 Years of Experience) Median Salary for Late-Career (More Than 20 Years of Experience)
Youth Minister $35,987* $35,000* $39,000* $40,000*
Church Administrator $39,493* $39,000* $39,000* $42,000*
Chaplain $49,671* $46,000* $51,000* $53,000*
Minister $50,356* $41,000* $48,000* $60,000*

Source: PayScale

An online undergraduate theology degree leads to many career paths in ministry, church leadership, and other service and administrative roles. Salary ranges vary by geographical location, size of the employing organization, and specific job requirements, with the highest salaries reserved for those with the most experience. While graduates of religious studies or theology programs often seek positions in church ministry, others may choose to serve as chaplains in settings like hospitals or the military. Many graduates enter administrative occupations, overseeing development and programming for churches and social agencies. This table illustrates expected salaries by experience level for various ministry and supervisory roles.

Bachelor's in Theology Careers

An online theology degree enables students to connect their religious values to a surprisingly wide array of careers. In addition to the most common employment paths in church leadership and ministry, graduates may pursue vocational and professional interests in nonprofit, nondenominational, and secular settings as pastoral counselors, chaplains, educators, and administrators. A bachelor's also serves as a stepping stone to advanced graduate-level study and licensure in counseling or other helping professions.

Hospital Chaplain

Chaplains offer appropriate spiritual guidance, emotional support, and counseling to patients, families, and caregivers as requested. Large hospitals often employ several chaplains representing multiple religious faiths. Most chaplains hold at least a bachelor's degree in theology or divinity studies, and previously served in a clerical role or as a counselor.

Median Annual Salary: $51,015*

Clergy

Clergy are individuals who conduct worship services and perform spiritual functions related to the beliefs and practices of a religious faith. Clergy lead congregations, preside over services, direct educational programs and other activities, and provide guidance and support. Many religious organizations require clergy members to have earned at least a bachelor's degree in ministry or a theology-related field.

Median Annual Salary: $50,800*

Pastoral Counselor

These faith-based mental health professionals integrate religious beliefs into therapy and counseling applications. They assist individuals dealing with personal challenges, including depression, substance abuse, mental illness, and behavioral disorders. Prospective pastoral counselors usually obtain a bachelor's degree in theology or a related field before pursuing licensing and further graduate training in psychology, counseling, or pastoral care.

Median Annual Salary: $44,630*

Director of Religious Activity and Education

Responsibilities for religious directors include the design and implementation of religious-based programming. Religious organizations often prefer to employ directors with a bachelor's degree in ministry, Bible studies, or a related area, plus experience working with diverse groups.

Median Annual Salary: $40,810*

Youth Pastor

These pastors administer youth ministries within a religious organization or church-affiliated social agency, conducting programs for young people from preschool through college. They counsel, conduct meetings and study groups, and engage young people in community outreach and mission work. Many youth pastors hold at least a bachelor's degree, and some hold counseling licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $38,054*

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale

Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Theology Program

Anyone planning to enroll in a bachelor's program, whether campus-based or online, should complete and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn more about grants, low-interest loans, and other sources of government funding. In addition to federal, state and college-specific financial aid, many faith-based organizations and nonprofit foundations offer scholarships and grants specifically geared toward students pursuing religion-related college degrees or careers in ministry or community service.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but plenty of overlooked financing options can help reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA marks a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process, plus answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, plus the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs offer a flexible, affordable option to single parents interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.