Most Affordable Online Theology Programs of 2022
Explore the nation's best online bachelor's in theology programs. These degrees can prepare you for seminary training, graduate school, and church careers.
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.
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.
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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.
2022 Most Affordable Online Theology Programs
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Bachelor's in Theology Program Questions
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
|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)|
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.
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 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*
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*
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.
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