The study of religion is called Theology. This largely Christian education inspects how culture and people express religion and their faith in it. Theologians examine and study the different religions all around the globe and how these religions have an impact on society. Theologians are responsible for debating and thinking about God’s nature. Online theology degree programs prepare students for careers in ministry-related organizations, in the local church, or imparting religious education in Christian schools. An online master in theology program will sharpen one’s theology, critical thinking, and ministry in an intellectual community of scholars and students. An online theology degree is recommended to those who wish to deeply learn about spiritual truths and help others apply these truths to live a desired life. Many opportunities in various capacities and contexts will be open to such students.
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Many seminars, universities, and top theology schools offer the online learning of theology. When it comes to a graduate degree in biblical and theological studies, it is best to choose an option that suits one’s personal preference and long-term goals. Based on the program quality, tuition, graduation rates, and program reputation, OMC has made a table of the best online master for theological studies:
Most master’s programs are getting very expensive in the United States, and a theological studies degree is no exception. Consequently, when choosing an online master in theology, affordability becomes a big factor. OMC experts have gone through dozens of programs from across the country, and created a list of the most affordable online programs in theology:
An online master in theology is generally offered as a fully online program – in which classes are completely online, or a hybrid program – in which there are online classes coupled with a few in-person sessions. In both cases, however, all theological schools that offer theology master’s programs will expect their online learners to complete a research project, or capstone project, towards the end of their graduate degrees.
Online Master in Theology – Degree Types
In general, a theology degree includes studying religious practices, ideas, faith, belief systems, and theories about the original universe from a religious perspective. There are two types of theology degrees – the Master of Arts (MA) in Theology and the Master of Theology (MTH).
The MA in Theology, also known as Master of Arts in Theology, is a graduate-level study of theology with a profound understanding of various religious aspects in theology. These programs allow students to study religious missions and religious life identity and try to answer the various problems plaguing the world.
MTH Theology, also known as Master of Theology, is the commonly offered degree type. These programs are very similar to a Master of Arts in Theology, covering the same aspects of the subject. MTH Degrees allow students to study human existence via engaging in the traditions and teachings of the religion. This degree is closer to what can be termed a ‘Christian education’ when compared to the Master of Arts degree.
Specializations in Masters in Theology
There are many religions in the world, and most religions have several denominations. Each religion and denomination have different theological practices, rituals, and theories. And these various fields become diverse, based on the region from which these religions and denominations have evolved. This widens the scope of theological studies, which has consequently resulted in a variety of specializations in theology online master’s degree programs. Here are some of the most widely available specializations in theology that universities offer degrees for:
The online ministry degree allows students to work with people across the world, directly. The program includes core courses tailored to ministry, and foundational lessons in ethics, pastoral ministry, poetry, grief counseling, etc.
This specialization is related to conflict resolution based on faith. Theology students will get an opportunity to learn conflict studies, restorative justice, trauma healing, interfaith dialogue, etc.
The Biblical Studies degree will lead to spending more time studying God’s words and getting equipped to serve in a ministry effectively. Students with this degree can expect workplaces that interpret the Bible by developing biblical thinking and applying it to real-life situations.
The Music Ministry is the study of music, faith, and spiritual passion. This specialization teaches students about using music as a factor to inspire others to the service of God and healing.
The online Catholic Theology degree offers theological education to students who dream of serving Catholic societies and churches.
The Church History degree program includes studying the church’s history right from the early days to the modern day. In most cases, this degree requires a thesis and research on a particular topic about religious figures, liturgical dramas, etc.
Divinity studies teach students about God and Divinity through ministry and theology. This degree prepares students for careers as a preacher or minister.
This program is for students who wish to become missionaries and go overseas to spread the word of God.
Curriculum and Skills Gained in Masters in Theology
An online master’s in theology covers a wide variety of courses. These theology courses provide an in-depth understanding of various religious belief systems, faith-based perspectives of the world and its citizens, and spiritual formation. Online courses in theology also improve skills in the areas of critical thinking, abstract reasoning, writing, logical analysis, and more. While the curriculum in an online master’s in theology can differ from university to university, here are a few courses graduate students can come across in master’s in theology online programs:
Theology and Spirituality in Contemporary Engagement
This course teaches students about the changes in spirituality over the centuries and its relationship with theology. It addresses the historical separation of spirituality and theology.
Studies in Liturgy and Worship
This course allows students to engage with the interrelationship of theology and worship. It digs deep into the world of worship, and how it is used as ‘primary theological action.’
Advanced Biblical Exegesis
This course dives into a detailed exegesis of the Bible in the original language. Students will also attempt to translate passages to understand their original intent, and will also inspect various texts, literature, and historical or other critical issues, using relevant approaches.
Philosophy of Religious History
This course sheds light on developments in past historical methods in religions, from classical Greece to current times.
This course enables students to use their creativity to develop coherent, meaningful, and appropriate expressions of insights, that are derived theologically.
Some other examples of common core courses in a theology online program are:
Biblical And Theological Studies
Accreditation for Online Masters in Theology
Accreditation is the most important factor when it comes to selecting an institution for a master’s program. Accredited institutions provide quality education, and most employers also prefer a degree from an accredited institution. Accredited master’s in theology programs confirm the high-quality standards of education, faculty, curriculum, etc. The main accreditation body for degrees in theology is The Association of Theological Schools (ATS). More than 270 schools that offer the theology degree program are accredited by the ATS in the US and Canada. Read the Accreditation Guide to know more about accreditation and its importance.
Timeline for graduation from Masters in Theology
Another important factor to consider before enrolling in an online program in theology, such as the Master of Arts in Theology or the Master of Theology, is knowing how long it takes to graduate from the program. The typical timeline needed to graduate from these programs depend on several factors – specialization, full-time or part-time studies, credits per semester, university restrictions on timelines (if any), etc. With these in mind, it is quite common for a Master of Arts in theology, a 48-credit course, to be completed in two years. The Master of theology (MTH degree) can also be finished in 2 years. However, some programs can take up to 3 years to complete.
Online Masters in Theology Admission Requirements
The admission requirements for an online master in theology vary by university. Some universities want students to have previous theology experience, while others want them to report a test score from standardized tests like the GRE or GMAT. Since a master’s in theology is a graduate-level program, most universities have some common admission requirements, such as:
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college might be required. Many schools prefer a student with a theology undergraduate degree. However, they can waive that requirement for students with a bachelor’s degree, who have demonstrated high-level interest in theology.
Many universities want a minimum GPA from an undergraduate program. While the minimum GPA requirement can be different for various programs, the widely accepted minimum GPA for a master’s in theology is 2.5.
The GRE or GMAT scores are usually not a requirement for a master’s in theology. But it is always advisable to check the university’s requirements.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of Recommendation from past mentors, professions, or people of influence in the student’s life.
Although rarely sought, a declaration of religious affiliation may be required.
Free Online Master in Theology
Many online students are interested in finding out a master in theology that may be free of cost. Unfortunately, there are no free programs available online, and certainly no accredited ones. However, there exist many individual free online courses from previous years’ master’s programs. While these free courses will not award a degree or a certificate, they will help students gain the knowledge and understanding of what they would face if they enroll in a master of theology online program. Some such courses are:
Religion and Conflict Transformation: This course introduces theology at a global level. It practices conflict transformation based on faith and will prepare students with fundamental conflict analysis tools in communities, families, systems of oppression, and organizations, and enable students to become leaders.
Master of Biblical Theology: The International Seminary of Distance Education in Theology (ISDET) provides a free online master in theology. While this program is not accredited, ISDET makes a strong case about why accreditation is not required for theology programs. It is recommended for students to read more about the program and understand ISDET’s case about accreditations.
Bachelor of Christian Ministry: In this program, students will learn the basics of theology, apologetics, and the Bible study required to run a ministry. This free online ministry degree might help students with spiritual formation, to become successful Ministers.
Master of Christian Divinity: This is a free master’s in theology online which provides fundamental knowledge of theology and apologetics, and gives a broader perspective to students. This course also provides a broad knowledge of ministry subjects.
How to Pay for Online Master’s in Theology
Higher education keeps getting expensive every year. The average tuition expenses at private national universities have increased leaps and bounds over the years. Given these rising costs, how to pay for an online master’s in theology program becomes an important question. Here are some of the various ways through which online students can fund the online masters in theology program:
FAFSA is the foremost step in getting any financial aid. Students need to fill the FAFSA application and doing so could make them eligible for financial aid.
Many students approach banks and credit unions for student loans to fund their higher education. Some students also apply for government or public student loans.
Scholarships are another way to help fund an online master in theology. Most scholarships are merit-based financial assistance to students, which do not need to be paid back. There are many scholarships for students pursuing a master’s in theology online. Here are a few:
Mary E. Bivins Foundation Religious Scholarship Program: This is a scholarship program for students pursuing a degree to work as Christian ministers. The scholarship provides around $2,500 for each semester for undergraduate students and $3,500 to pursue graduate-level studies. Master of Theology Students can apply for this scholarship.
Reverend Robert E. And Gladys Ernst Scholarship: This scholarship program offers around $1,000 to $1,500 annually. The scholarship is provided to pastors in Ohio, who are pursuing graduate-level degrees in ministry. Master of Theology Students can apply for this scholarship.
Grants & Fellowships
Grants and fellowships are another way students pursuing a Master of Theology can fund their education. Grants are usually awarded to students based on financial need, and not necessarily merit. Fellowships are usually research-based jobs for which students get paid. Several grants & fellowships are available for students pursuing a master’s in theology online. Here is one such fellowship:
Fund for Theological Education: This program provides a fellowship for students pursuing their masters in the faith-based field. This organization has supplied more than 7000 fellowships. Master of Theology Students can apply for this fellowship.
There are many other financial aid options for students who are pursuing their master’s in theology online. Read the Best Financial Aid Guide for more information on funding higher education.
FAQs about Theology Masters Programs
Q: Can I go to seminary right after high school?
A: Every seminary has its unique setup, and it depends on the seminar one chooses. It is possible to join a few seminaries at the age of 18, and there are others – like the southern baptist theological seminary – that one can pursue along with an online master’s in theology.
Q: What is a theology major?
A: A theology major is the study of religion essential to becoming a leader within the religious community. A theology major has two career paths – academic and theological career. Theological studies with programs such as the online master of arts in theology, or a master of theology, will put an individual on track to pursue either of the paths.
Q: Where can I study theology online?
A: Many accredited universities offer online theology degrees, such as the online Master of Arts in Theology or online Master’s in Theology programs, for students interested in developing a deeper knowledge of Christian ministry and biblical studies. The best colleges for these theology programs are listed in this guide.
Q: How many credits do Theological degrees provide?
A: Typically, theology programs provide 48 credits, which are made up of courses like Historical and Systematic Theology, Biblical Studies, Ethics, Christian Apologetics, Language Study, Comparative theology, etc.
Q: What is the best online theology school?
A: Several accredited schools, colleges, and universities provide the best masters in theology online program. A comprehensive list is provided in this guide.
Careers and Salary Outlook for Theology Masters Graduates
Getting a master’s degree in any field will enhance careers and provide upward mobility. Graduating from a master’s in theology, however, is slightly different, as theology is a very diverse field with specific organizations hiring theology graduates based on specific requirements. That said, theology students who earn a master’s degree can involve themselves in the local church, biblical languages, catholic secondary school teaching, Christian theology, biblical theology, religious education, or church planting, and also go on to become religion teachers. Here is a table that shows various examples of career titles that graduates from an online master’s in theology can expect to have:
Pastors are responsible for leading the congregation at a Christian Church, in assemblies, prayers, and spiritual guidance. Pastors also lead worship services and are expected to have a deep understanding of theology, along with good oratory skills.
Large organizations usually hire chaplains to lead prayer services. Chaplains provide religious comfort and counseling to patients, as well as to their families.
Youth ministers are responsible for working with preteens and teens in religious environments, like churches, to deepen their spiritual knowledge. Youth Ministers also improve the youth’s creativity by administering creative assignments using religion as the background.
Certifications and Licensing for Theology Masters Graduates
Getting a master’s degree in theology helps students gain a deeper knowledge of the subject. However, some organizations might require licensing and certifications alongside a degree, to hire a graduate. Here are a few such certifications for theology students:
Board Certified ChaplainThe Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc (BCCI) offers a certification course for students entering any Chaplaincy type. While these certifications are not mandatory, students will gain an advanced understanding of Chaplaincy by going through these certifications.
Ordained MinisterBecoming a clergy is the most common profession for students pursuing a master’s in theology. But to be part of a church, students do not necessarily qualify to perform all Church duties. Most denominations require that the Church clergy be ordained ministers to perform and administer religious rituals, for which this certification is required.
Additional Resources for Theology Professionals
An online master’s degree in theology provides a great platform for students to improve their understanding of theology, enhance their credentials, and improve their overall standing in the field of theology. However, theology is a field that is more of an art rather than an empirically driven science. And theologists expand their knowledge and deep understanding of issues in this complex field by debating extensively with their peers. Theologists must work in a black box environment where interpretation is the key. All of this can happen if Theologists network with others in the same field or attend conferences, follow journals, etc. As theology degree holders, it is essential that graduates and students also start doing the same to expand their knowledge. There are many resources available for students, some of which are:
Christian Classical Ethereal Library (CCEL): This is one of the best and largest Christian spiritual and theological works online. This library contains a wide range of electronic texts, right from the early theologians to authors of the 19th century.
Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA): This is a site that consists of several historical documents of churches – confessions, creed, catechisms, etc. CRTA provides sound biblical resources online, for the improvement of people who have faith in life and God.
Society of Biblical Literature: This is one of the largest and oldest societies dedicated to researching the Bible. It is an international society that offers intellectual growth, mutual support, and professional development through various facilities provided by this organization.
Association of Youth Ministry Educators: This is a professional organization meant for people who teach youth ministry at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The organization encourages youth ministry educators to contact each other and create a friendly and insightful atmosphere.
WOCATI: World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions: WOCATI is a global platform that facilitates networking and dialogue between regional associations of theology schools. They also serve as a learning community that helps students explore new mutual enrichment models, and infer contextual exchange between different theological theories worldwide.
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