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2023 Most Affordable Online Master of Divinity Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 12/2/2022
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An online master's in divinity provides advanced education in Christian teachings and congregational leadership. By studying divinity at the graduate level, students learn practical skills to become pastoral leaders, such as priests and ministers. The coursework involves an extensive study of the Bible and its interpretations alongside counseling and sermon preparation techniques. 

Our list of online divinity degrees at the graduate level are all derived from affordable Christian colleges. Degrees such as a master's in religious studies and a master's in theology are some alternatives for students seeking similar career outcomes.  

View our methodology for details about rankings or learn more about us. You can also check out our overall list of the most affordable online degrees for more inspiration.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Liberty University Lynchburg (VA) $5,500
# 2 #2 Clarks Summit University Clarks Summit (PA) $7,275
# 3 #3 Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary Elkhart (IN) $7,400
# 4 #4 Indiana Wesleyan University Online Marion (IN) $8,833
# 5 #5 Northwest Nazarene University Nampa (ID) $9,167
# 6 #6 Wayland Baptist University Plainview (TX) $9,432
# 7 #7 Bob Jones University Greenville (SC) $9,440
# 8 #8 Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Kansas City (MO) $9,450
# 9 #9 The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville (KY) $10,014
# 10 #10 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary New Orleans (LA) $10,036
#1
#1

Liberty University

Lynchburg (VA)
Annual Tuition: $5,500
Annual Tuition: $5,500
Annual Tuition: $5,500

Liberty University (LU) is a private, Christian university offering a Master of Divinity, which requires 75 credit hours and has 15 specializations to choose from, including Church History, Christian Apologetics, and Global Studies. Students complete this online degree in an average of two years while studying full time. LU only accepts half of applicants, and 34% of enrolled students graduate.

At LU Online, students use Canvas for their remote learning needs. This allows them to complete their degree 100% online, with some classes available in an asynchronous format. The curriculum for this degree is designed to prepare students for professional work in ministry by covering the history of the church and biblical studies. Some core classes are Biblical Foundations of Christian Leadership, Hebrew Language Tools, and Expository Teaching and Preaching. Graduates are often prepared for work in ministry leadership positions.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Average SATs: 1040 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 34,092
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 36,337
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#2
#2

Clarks Summit University

Clarks Summit (PA)
Annual Tuition: $7,275
Annual Tuition: $7,275
Annual Tuition: $7,275

Clarks Summit University (CSU) is a private, Christian institution that offers a Master of Divinity. This 100% online master's degree requires 87 credit hours, which most full-time students complete in two years. There are four tracks to choose from based on a student's experience with the Greek language. CSU's acceptance rate is 62%, with 51% of students graduating.

Schoology is CSU's primary learning management system (LMS), where students can fulfill their degree requirements virtually. The curriculum for this degree focuses on Bible studies, theology, and ministry courses while providing practical hands-on ministry experience. Core classes include Principles of Biblical Interpretations, Doctrinal Paper, and Elements of Hebrew. Graduates may explore various careers in ministry.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 238
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 235
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
#3
#3
Annual Tuition: $7,400
Annual Tuition: $7,400
Annual Tuition: $7,400

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) is a faith-based institution offering a Master of Divinity. Students must take 80 hours of course requirements, which most full-time students complete in approximately two years. There are three major options, including (1) Pastoral Ministry, (2) Chaplaincy, and (3) Christian Faith Formation.

AMBS uses Moodle as its primary LMS, and with this software, students can take most courses online, with only some required hybrid classes on campus. Through this program, students learn valuable leadership skills, explore spiritual disciplines, and study the practice of the ministry. Examples of required classes include the following: Strange New World of The Bible, Christian Theology, and Ministry in Church and World. Students must also complete a supervised ministry experience. Alumni go on to apply for roles in their respective ministries.

  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 28
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#4
#4
Annual Tuition: $8,833
Annual Tuition: $8,833
Annual Tuition: $8,833

Indiana Wesleyan University Online (IWU) is a private, faith-based university with a Master of Divinity. This remote degree requires 75 credit hours, which most students complete in two years on a full-time schedule. IWU accepts 100% of those who apply, and it still maintains a 58% graduation rate.

IWU students who opt for remote learning use the Brightspace LMS, where they can study online. The curriculum for this degree combines biblical, theological, and historical studies via core classes — such as Pastor, Church, and World; Global Christian History; and Pastoral Theology. Students also need to complete a final integration capstone project. Most graduates go on to become pastors.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 6,185
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,637
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#5
#5
Annual Tuition: $9,167
Annual Tuition: $9,167
Annual Tuition: $9,167

Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) is a private, Christian university offering an online Master of Divinity - Missional Leadership. This graduate degree program requires 75 credits, which most students finish in two years if they study full time. NNU's acceptance rate is 77%, and 61% graduate.

At NNU, students use Canvas for their remote coursework, which they complete entirely online. The curriculum for their divinity master's program is focused partly on developing mission leadership, while the second part centers around core ministry-related courses. Some examples of required classes include Old Testament Interpretation, Personal Development Lab, and History of Christianity. Students may join the ministry upon graduation.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1190
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 287
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 393
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: NWCCU
#6
#6
Annual Tuition: $9,432
Annual Tuition: $9,432
Annual Tuition: $9,432

Wayland Baptist University (WBU) is a private, Baptist university with a Master of Divinity - Biblical Languages. This online program requires students to complete at least 72 hours of coursework. Typically, this is achieved in around two years if students maintain a full-time schedule throughout the course of their studies. While 81% of students are accepted into WBU, only 45% graduate with their degrees.

Students at WBU use Blackboard for their remote classwork. With this LMS software, students can study an online curriculum that provides them with an understanding of the Christian ministry through practical training and spiritual development. Required foundational courses include Church History, Spiritual Formation, and Christian Theology. A practicum is also required, which takes place under the guidance of a skilled supervisor. Finally, alumni can pursue positions in the ministry of their choosing.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Average SATs: 880 -1060
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 670
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 604
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#7
#7

Bob Jones University

Greenville (SC)
Annual Tuition: $9,440
Annual Tuition: $9,440
Annual Tuition: $9,440

Bob Jones University (BJU) is a private university offering a Master of Divinity that requires at least 72 credit hours. When studying full time, students can graduate in around two years. BJU accepts all applicants to the school, with 63% of enrolled students graduating.

Canvas is the primary LMS for remote students at BJU, allowing them to study completely online. The core curriculum for this divinity program heavily emphasizes biblical language translation and practical skills related to creating sermons. Required classes include Homiletics, Methods of Greek Exegesis, and Systematic Theology. There is a broad range of concentrations to choose from, including Biblical Counseling and Global Missions, among others. This fully online degree helps place students in a position to apply for leadership roles in the church after graduation.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 150
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 106
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#8
#8
Annual Tuition: $9,450
Annual Tuition: $9,450
Annual Tuition: $9,450

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) is a private, Baptist institution with a Master of Divinity. Students must complete at least 72 credits, which most can achieve in two years while studying full time. MBTS's acceptance rate is 97%, while 38% of students graduate with their degrees.

Online Connect is an LMS created by MBTS for remote students. The curriculum is designed to prepare distance learners for ordination by increasing their understanding of the Bible and Theology and providing historical perspectives. Some core classes include Elementary Hebrew, History of Christianity, and Christian Ethics. It's important to note that female students are not permitted to take certain preaching-related courses; instead, they are offered a different set of teaching courses. A number of concentrations are offered as well, such as Women's Ministry and Biblical Counseling. A leadership practicum is also required. Graduates may explore roles as pastors, associate pastors, and evangelists.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 300
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 803
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
#9
#9
Annual Tuition: $10,014
Annual Tuition: $10,014
Annual Tuition: $10,014

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) is a private, faith-based institution offering a Master of Divinity. This program requires 88 credit hours, which most students can complete in two years on a full-time study schedule. In addition, there are 14 concentrations available for online students, including Christian Ministry, Worship Leadership, and Biblical Counseling. While SBTS accepts 77% of applicants to enroll, 42% end up graduating.

SBTS students use Moodle for its fully online courses. This divinity program looks at biblical and theological studies along with skillset development to prepare students for ministry. Core classes may vary based on a student's chosen emphasis, but some examples include Introduction to Church History, Christian Apologetics, and Christian Leadership. Alumni often enter some form of ministry work upon graduation.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 63%
  • Average SATs: 1028 -1250
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 63
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 544
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
#10
#10
Annual Tuition: $10,036
Annual Tuition: $10,036
Annual Tuition: $10,036

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) is a private, faith-based institution with a Master of Divinity requiring a minimum of 84 credit hours. In general, full-time students can complete this program in two years. NOBTS accepts 100% of applicants, while 37% of enrolled students earn degrees.

NOLA2U and Blackboard are the main LMS platforms used by NOBTS students, allowing them to study completely online and asynchronously. The curriculum for the master's in divinity program is centered around biblical, theological, and historical studies. With various specializations to choose from, such as Ministry to Women and Christian Education, students may experience different curriculum outcomes. Some core classes include Theological and Historical Studies, Applied Ministry Studies, and Biblical Studies. Career outcomes may also vary depending on the specialization, but graduates can expect to pursue positions in the ministry.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 29%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 157
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 414
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Online Master's of Divinity Degree: A Brief Overview

An M.Div is considered a professional degree for Christian clergy, and many denominations require ministers to earn one before they're even ordained. The requirements for ordination differ by denomination, so be sure to ask your church about the necessary qualifications.

To be considered for an M.Div, applicants must fulfill some basic requirements. For example, applicants must have a bachelor's degree. This undergraduate degree can generally be in any subject because most programs don’t require prerequisite courses. However, prospective students should verify their program’s requirements before applying. Applicants should also be prepared to prove their membership in a faith community. Admissions officers will usually only admit students who are members of a particular denomination.

Online learning enables students to attend to personal responsibilities while studying at convenient times. Some colleges offer affordable online programs with recorded lectures and opportunities for students to participate in asynchronous discussions. This curriculum includes an internship or supervised ministry experience under a church leader’s guidance. Even if a program offers fully online coursework, field experience will usually be in person at a site near the student's location. Overall, most online M.Div. programs require 72-90 credit hours and take 2-3 years of full-time study to complete. If a part-time schedule is preferred, students can expect to complete their master’s degree in 3-4 years.

Master's in Divinity Quick Facts
  • Admissions officers will usually only admit students who are members of a particular denomination.

What Is the Difference Between a Master’s of Divinity and a Master’s of Theology?

An M.Div. is designed for those who want to be ministers or priests, whereas a master's in theology is intended for those who want a career outside the ministry. Therefore, an M.Div. program often includes courses in organizational leadership, administration, and public speaking in addition to theological studies. Meanwhile, a master’s in theology — which is often a Master of Arts degree — may help graduates earn jobs in a range of fields including pastoral counseling or even academia.

Both master’s degrees can serve as stepping-stones toward a doctoral program. The terminal degree for M.Div alumni is a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.), while theology graduates may eventually achieve a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.). A D.Min. can help clergy qualify for higher pastoral leadership positions, while a Th.D. may be necessary for a tenure-track professor.


Common Courses in a Master’s of Divinity Program

Graduate divinity programs often differ based on a school’s denomination. However, most master's degrees have several courses in common to ensure that future ministers and priests understand the history and practices of their respective churches. A few of these common courses are listed below.

  • Introduction to Hebrew: Online learners can choose to study a major language of Christian scripture. Professors introduce ancient Hebrew's alphabet, syntax, and vocabulary, along with contested interpretations of key passages. Interested students may choose to specialize in this language and take further sequenced courses.
  • History of Theology: This course covers the development of Christian thought, from early writers to the present. Students learn about the Great Schism and Protestant Reformation, which split Christianity into three major traditions over 500 years. Faculty often conclude the course by discussing contemporary theologians and current debates in the field.
  • Marital Counseling: Students learn to combine practices from marriage and family therapy with their church's doctrine. Depending on the denomination, an approach that avoids divorce may be emphasized. Faculty may also outline a framework for premarital counseling required by many churches.
  • New Testament Interpretation: Students closely examine the Christian Bible’s most recent books, especially their relevance to current theology and doctrine. Students learn the history of hermeneutics, or biblical interpretation, so they can apply this skill to their reading technique. Faculty may discuss questions of authorship alongside books’ historical context.
  • Old Testament Interpretation: This course introduces the Christian Bible’s oldest texts. Professors discuss the historical context of these books, their collection process, and their interpretations throughout the centuries. Students might also learn the latest textual and archaeological research relevant to the Old Testament.
  • Preaching: Future clergy of all denominations take this course to learn how to conceptualize, write, and deliver engaging sermons by drawing on effective rhetorical practices. The faculty illustrate the importance of drawing lessons from weekly scripture readings to illuminate moral and religious dilemmas in the lives of churchgoers. Often, students must deliver several practice sermons to the class.
  • Strategic Planning and Leadership: Drawing on organizational theory and strategic leadership practices, this class is intended to mold future clergy into successful leaders. Students learn to articulate their faith community's mission, so they can develop effective policies. Topics may include budgeting, strategic communications, and efficient organizational structure.

Degree Cost and Funding an Online Master's of Divinity

Tuition rates for the most affordable colleges with online M.Div. degrees range from $5,500-$17,820, with a median rate of $12,168. To reduce the amount students will owe after graduation, they should rely on grants, scholarships, work-study funding, and other gift aid before taking out student loans. When considering a loan, most students prefer to rely on federal loans — rather than private lenders — because they offer fixed interest rates, flexible repayment plans, and loan forgiveness options. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application to the largest funding pools: federal/state grants, loans, work-study programs, and many university-based scholarships. Our FAFSA guide walks students through the application process.

While online students are generally eligible for the same financial aid as campus-based students, some scholarships or grants may be limited to those who attend in person. To verify whether a student qualifies for aid, students should check all eligibility requirements before applying. For example, financial aid is usually restricted to students who enroll in a regionally or nationally accredited college. Also, some financial aid may only be available to students who enroll full-time or are considered state residents for tuition purposes.

To help reduce tuition and fees, graduate students applying for an online master's degree in divinity should apply for all available financial aid. There are four sources of financial aid: the federal government, state governments, universities, and private sources such as non-profit organizations, churches, or businesses.

Where To Look for Additional Funding

M.Div students have access to many additional funding options through faith-based associations. Some awards are available to all M.Div students, while others target specific groups, such as those preparing for a career in ministry or women preparing for missionary work. Below are some available scholarship opportunities.

  • Unitarian Universalist Association Scholarships: This award is open to students enrolled in a Master of Divinity degree who plan to become Unitarian Universalist ministers. Other eligibility requirements and award amounts vary by scholarship.
  • The Presbyterian Study Grant: This grant awards up to $6,000 to support Master of Divinity students who are active members of the Presbyterian Church. To be considered, students must be enrolled full-time at a seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), and they must also demonstrate financial need. A loan-forgiveness program is also offered for part-time and temporary pastors of small congregations and newer worship communities.
  • The Disciples Home Mission Scholarships: The Disciples Home Mission coordinates a range of scholarships available to members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) enrolled in an ATS-accredited school in preparation for ministry in the Christian Church. Award amounts and eligibility requirements vary, but students must demonstrate financial need and be pursuing a Master of Divinity or equivalent program.
  • Student Ministry Scholarship: The International Order of The King's Daughters and Sons awards $1,000 to Master of Divinity students enrolled in ATS-accredited schools in the U.S. and Canada. Students must be enrolled full-time and have at least a B grade average.
  • The Howard Olds Scholarship: The Brentwood United Methodist Church Foundation awards a $6,000 scholarship to active members of the United Methodist Church in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Students pursuing their M.Div at an accredited university are eligible to apply, but they must demonstrate active church membership for at least five years prior to applying in a Southeastern state.

It's helpful to discuss financial assistance with a school’s financial aid office. They can let students know whether the aid received can be used at that school, and they can also find out if other scholarships are available based on a student’s program and career goals.


For additional information, students can check out our resources about paying for a college degree, which include details about popular college savings plans, the student debt crisis, and more.


Is an Online Master's of Divinity Worth It?

While many master's degrees require only 30-48 credit hours, the average M.Div degree can take up to 90 credit hours, making it more time-consuming and expensive than other degrees. Therefore, it's natural to wonder if this degree is worth the investment. If you feel called to become an ordained clergy member, the satisfaction of pursuing your vocation will likely be worth the effort.

Opting to earn your degree online gives you greater flexibility in your schedule and allows you to choose from a broader range of programs — some more affordable than others — without relocating. However, the opportunity to interact with others of the same faith while pursuing an M.Div. may be an important component of your experience.

If you feel called to become an ordained clergy member, the satisfaction of pursuing your vocation will likely be worth the effort.

There are numerous opportunities to provide pastoral care without this degree. For example, some denominations have never required a master's degree, and over the last decade, additional churches have begun to reconsider their stance on this requirement. In addition, some churches have loosened their educational requirements for clergy, often using alternative titles, such as "lay clergy." Check with the governing body of your denomination to determine your options for church service and the associated educational requirements.

The projected salary and job security related to this occupation may be additional factors that affect your decision to pursue an M.Div. Clergy's wages are nearly $10,000 higher than the average rate for U.S. jobs, which is $41,950 a year. However, the field's projected job growth is about half the U.S. average of 8%. It is worth noting that the need for clergy members differs by denomination — for example, the number of Catholic priests has declined significantly in recent years.

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