Overview of a Master’s in Theology
An online master’s degree in theology may be an excellent fit for prospective students who have a passion for learning about religion. This program helps develop a student’s leadership, public speaking, critical thinking, and creativity skills.
Theology is a more academic approach to religion, as students will study different gods, deities, and religions based on a wide variety of belief systems. A master of theology online is designed for students who may be interested in pursuing a doctorate in the future
In addition, graduates with a master’s degree in theology online can have successful careers and make a decent living in this specialty. Some potential professions for a graduate of a theology master’s program include clergy, philosophy or religion professor, and even director of religious and educational activities.
Continue reading to learn more about this online graduate degree and whether a theology master's program is the right fit for you.
Can You Get an Online Degree in Theology?
Yes, you can obtain an online master's degree in theology. However, it’s recommended that you pursue an accredited institution. Accreditation refers to a higher education institution exceeding or meeting the minimum requirements and quality standards to deliver a postsecondary program. All of the programs listed across our site are accredited. However, you can always verify accreditation with the U.S. Department of Education using their search tool.
A bachelor’s degree, SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, an essay, and official transcripts are typically the admission requirements to apply for a theology master's.
How Long Does a Masters in Theology Take?
As with most master's programs, prospective students can expect to complete an online master's theology program within two years. The programs typically require 36 credit hours, or 60 credit hours if the institution uses the quarter system. However, these reflect full-time credit hours, so it may take longer for part-time students to complete a master's of theology online program.
Is Divinity the Same as Theology?
No, these terms vary slightly. Though, many often confuse the two fields of study. Divinity focuses on practicing ministry work and references only one God. On the other hand, theology is a more academic approach to religion, as students will study different gods, deities, and religions based on a wide variety of belief systems. A master of theology online is designed for students who may be interested in pursuing a doctorate in the future, while divinity students are striving for pastoral positions after graduation. However, it is important to note that theology master's students often pursue pastoral careers as well, though it’s more popular for divinity students to do so.
Common Courses for a Theology Master’s
Online theology master's programs provide a solid foundation to improve students' knowledge and expertise of various religions. Prospective students can expect to take courses that cover a range of cultural beliefs unless they choose a program with a Christian-based curriculum.
The following are a few examples of core classes required in most theology master's programs:
This course dives into the topic of theology at a foundational level and how religions are embedded in all human cultures throughout the world. Prospective students can expect to explore various concepts of theology, including the diverse and complex roles that religion has played throughout history.
This coursework helps students better understand biblical scripture through literature, history, and scripture. At its completion, students should be able to identify principles and concepts within biblical scripture in order to understand and interpret its meaning.
The Quran continues to be an influential text across the world, as it's considered the most important and sacred text among those who practice Islam. You'll learn about the diversity of interpretations of Quranic texts in contemporary Muslim society.
In the course, students will explore the Old Testament. The historical, theological, and literary concepts of this religious scripture will be thoroughly examined. The books covered in this course include Daniel, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Genesis, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.
In this course, faculty will assign readings of Hindu sacred texts, which may include hymns, narratives, and philosophical thought. You'll learn how to academically analyze these ancient scriptures in order to provide thoughtful interpretations and insights.
Faculty may also require students to complete a research methods course and undertake a research project. Often at the master's level, students are expected to write a thesis as well.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Theology?
There are a variety of career paths for a graduate of an online master's in theology program. Whether you take the academic route or become a clergy member in the ministry, theology master's programs help students pursue those opportunities.
Below are some common theology jobs for master's of theology graduates:
Annual Median Salary: $49,720
Job Growth Rate: 1-5%
A clergy member conducts and implements some form of religious worship and can perform other religious behaviors associated with a specific denomination or faith. In addition, they may be responsible for providing moral and spiritual support to their church members. They may work outside of regular hours to host religious communities and educational events.
Annual Median Salary: $46,980
Job Growth Rate: 1-5%
Directors of religious activities and education help plan, design, and implement educational events for a specific faith or denomination. Some of their responsibilities include recruiting volunteers for events, developing programs, and marketing their activities to the public. Those in this profession should have strong public speaking, outreach, and management skills. A major drawback with this profession is that only a bachelor’s degree is required most of the time. However, a master’s degree in theology may set you apart from other candidates.
Annual Median Salary: $77,610
Job Growth Rate: 10-15%
Becoming a philosophy and religion teacher in postsecondary education may be a good fit for those interested in a teaching career. These professions teach courses covering religion, theology, and philosophy. Creativity, training, and teaching are some of the skills needed to excel in this profession.
Annual Median Salary: $63,940
Job Growth Rate: 5%
Historians are experts who analyze, research, interpret, and write about history by reviewing historical documents and sources. These professionals often examine historical periods, geographical regions, or social occurrences. People interested in this career can expect to travel frequently to conduct research.
Can I Go to Seminary Without a Degree?
It depends. Some seminaries allow those without a degree to attend, while others require at least a bachelor’s degree. Although you may have some ministry experience, not having the academic credentials to match may hinder your ability to get into a seminary. Make sure that you look at each school’s admission requirements to determine whether a bachelor’s degree is required.
Is a Theology Degree Right For Me?
A master's in theology online is an excellent way to explore religious belief systems through an academic lens. However, as with any degree, before applying to a theology master's program, it’s essential to weigh the possible pros and cons that can ultimately help you decide if this program is right for you.
Fosters critical thinking, creativity, and cultural sensitivity
For those wanting to enhance their creativity and critical thinking skills, an online master’s in theology can help develop this skill set. Much of the coursework in a theology master’s program encourages students to be innovative thinkers when interpreting religions. In addition, prospective students can expect to increase their analytical and problem-solving skills as well as their cultural awareness during the program.
An excellent foundation for a doctorate in theology or divinity
Those who obtain a master's in theology degree may go on to pursue a doctorate. For example, a Doctorate in Divinity is often required to pursue a career as a pastor. With a master’s in theology, you’ll get a more in-depth understanding of religions, such as Christianity's scripture and history.
Lower-paying career paths
If you’re looking to make a six-figure salary with a theology master’s, this program may not be the best fit for you. For example, clergy — a popular career choice for theology graduates — earn an average salary of $49,720, according to the BLS. To earn a higher annual salary with a master’s degree in theology, you may need to obtain a doctorate degree.
Underrepresentation of women
For degrees and careers in theology, there is a major gender gap. In 2019, 64.8% of master’s degrees in theology were obtained by men, as compared to 35.2% obtained by women. There are more men in theology and divinity-related professions than women. Furthermore, in many Catholic churches, women are often not placed in authoritative positions.
Possible financial strain
If you don’t have any savings, grants, or scholarships to support your higher education, an online theology degree may become a financial hardship. While the yearly tuition for a master’s degree in theology online is much cheaper than other areas, it can still be pricey for many students. So be sure to apply for as much “free money” and financial aid as you can before taking out student loans.
An online master's degree in theology may be a satisfactory path for those who want to investigate religions, or one religion in particular, on a deeper level. Prospective students can expect to take a range of courses that explore the historical concepts and literature of the Bible, and gain a better understanding of the interpretation and study of world religions. At the end of the program, students are expected to leave with enhanced knowledge and skills that allow them to excel in a theology career working in the ministry, at schools, or for research organizations.