Online Theology Degree Overview & Career Information
Public and private colleges and universities, as well as seminaries, typically offer higher education degrees and certificates in theology. An online bachelor's degree in theology takes approximately four years to complete. Undergraduate students must complete their college’s core education requirements and required theology courses to earn their degrees.
Universities, seminaries, and some colleges offer online master’s degrees in theology. A master’s degree in theology may take two years to complete. Students typically undertake in-depth study on various aspects of Christianity and learn to produce scholarly writings and research. To learn more about online master's programs in theology, see our master's overview which includes a list of the best programs.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Theology
Students will need to complete approximately 120 academic credits to earn a bachelor’s degree in theology, depending on whether the college or university uses a semester or quarter system. In addition to general studies courses, theology students will take a wide range of religious studies courses such as Themes in the Hebrew Bible Faith, Reason and the Religious Sense, and Jesus Christ in History and Faith. Some undergraduate theology programs give online students the option to earn credit from an internship completed in their community.
Prospective undergraduate students wishing to earn an online bachelor’s degree in theology typically must have a high school diploma or GED. Some colleges and universities require undergraduate applicants to submit standardized test scores, such as SAT or ACT scores, as well as academic transcripts. Online theology degree programs designed for working adults may require applicants to include resumes along with their applications. Letters of recommendation and personal essays also may be required to gain admission. Private Christian colleges and universities typically offer a bachelor's theology degree, as do theological seminaries.
Earning an online bachelor’s degree in theology may prepare students for careers as Christian school teachers or administrators. Graduates may also become ministers, pastors, writers, journalists, or nonprofit administrators. Graduates of undergraduate theology programs who have knowledge of world languages may find work as Bible translators.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Theology Degree
There are a few types of accreditation individuals should keep in mind when choosing an online theology degree. The first is regional accreditation, which means that an outside, independent agency has evaluated a school as a whole and determined that it meets certain quality standards. Regional accreditation is necessary for student to receive federal financial aid and graduate schools may not accept students with an undergraduate degree from a non-accredited school.
Another type of accreditation is programmatic accreditation. This means that an organization specializing in a certain subject area has assessed a school's program and determined that it meets quality standards. The Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting (ATS) is the main accrediting body for theology programs. Students should be aware that some schools that offer online theology certificates and degrees purposely choose not to seek accreditation because they offer rigorous coursework but use non-traditional curriculum delivery methods. Ultimately, students should carefully consider their future plans and financial needs when choosing online theology schools.
Colleges and universities that have accredited online theology programs typically adjust their programs to meet ATS’s rigorous accreditation standards. In general, this means that accredited theology programs may offer higher-quality coursework. Some employers may consider graduates of accredited online theology programs to be better prepared to handle the challenges of their jobs. As such, in some cases, having a theology degree from such a program may give students an advantage over other job candidates.
Careers in Theology
While many theology certificate and degree holders pursue careers as clergy members, the versatile degree qualifies graduates for a wide range of jobs. Education, social work, public service, and media are a few of the fields in which theology degree and certificate holders can find job opportunities. Those with higher education in theology may also find jobs as non-profit organization leaders.
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