Online Theology Degrees

A theology degree will give you the skills you need to critically analyze religious texts, engage with important contemporary spiritual themes, and lead religious communities and organizations. In an online theology program, you can pursue your calling and study the history of Christianity, systematic theology, moral theology, and much more. After graduation, you’ll be ready to serve as a clergy member, religious leader, or postsecondary educator.

Around the country, churches and organizations are looking for new leaders in their community. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that positions within the clergy will grow by approximately 6% between 2014 and 2024, and that the job market for educators in the field will rise 9% during the same period. Salaries for many religious professions range from about $40,000 to more than $60,000 annually.

If you feel dedicated to serving others or if you enjoy helping individuals and communities find spiritual fulfillment, an online theology degree may be the right fit for you. Read on to learn more about earning an online theology degree, including costs, courses, majors, and job options for distance learners.

Meet our expert

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Elaine Bayless Theology

“I researched several schools for my Masters of Divinity degree…I was looking for a program that wouldn’t lock me into one particular Christian denomination.”

Online Theology Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $16,722 9.64% 2 years $44,000 $40,000 N/A
Bachelor's $18,452 8.3% 4 years $36,041 $45,000 4.5%
Master's $19,464 6.34% 2 years $54,326 $55,000 2.7%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Most occupations that require a theology degree also require an education beyond an associate degree. Unless you want to work in postsecondary education, most theology jobs don’t require a doctoral degree.

Choosing Your Theology Careers

Average Theology Salaries

$28,750
$38,780
$44,250

Religious Workers

Salary: $28,750
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
5% 55,900 Bachelor's N/A

Religious workers generally fulfill support positions in a spiritual community. Examples of this profession include deacons, missionaries, or nuns. Religious workers embrace a variety of roles and generally support the work of the clergy or spiritual directors. They might help lead worship services or manage outreach programs. Religious workers should have a high emotional intelligence, be able to speak publicly, and exhibit a passion for social and spiritual service.

Directors; religious activities and education

Salary: $38,780
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
4% 131,900 Bachelor's N/A

The directors of religious activities and education manage religious education programs for specific spiritual groups. Additionally, these professionals might be required to provide counseling services related to health, relationship, or spiritual problems. Directors of religious education should be skilled in developing interpersonal relationships, speaking publicly, drafting work schedules, thinking creatively, managing educational structures and programs, and teaching both in group settings and one-on-one. Often, this occupation involves plenty of freedom and unstructured work time.

Clergy

Salary: $44,250
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
6% 244,200 Bachelor's N/A

Members of the clergy lead religious and spiritual worship services, provide religious and spiritual direction for individuals involved with religious communities, and often provide some form of moral or ethical guidance. Specific titles for clergy members include priest, pastor, minister, rabbi, and more. Usually, members of the clergy are skilled public speakers, excellent listeners, perceptive of the emotions of others, and devoted to social service.

Online Theology Degree in Action

Elaine Bayless Theology

Elaine Bayless is an empowerment coach, Reiki master, and writer in Raleigh, NC. In addition to her education and training in counseling, coaching, and spiritual development, she has personally dealt with anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, and postpartum depression. As a recovering people pleaser and former perfectionist, she is passionate about helping others find freedom and joy in life.

Why did you pursue theology coursework online?

I researched several schools for my Masters of Divinity degree. I didn’t want to relocate to attend school and I was looking for a program that wouldn’t lock me into one particular Christian denomination. The online program I found satisfied all my needs. In addition, I did move unexpectedly, so being enrolled in an online degree program was very convenient! A final factor was my desire to continue working while attending school.

What were the biggest advantages to studying online?

The flexibility of online coursework is truly the biggest advantage. I did have weekly and some mid-week deadlines, but I was free to set my own schedule as to when I would study and research. Another great advantage was the diversity of the classes. I was interacting with students of different races, with different economic situations, from different time zones, and even several foreign students. I have attended three other universities in my life, and none of them had such a diverse student body.

What challenges or obstacles did you face when taking online coursework?

My degree required me to learn both ancient Greek and ancient Hebrew. Trying to learn how to read and write Greek without any in-person interaction was hugely challenging. It was so difficult, in fact, that I chose to take Hebrew at a local university and transfer my credits. Another challenge was interaction with other students. We used message boards for discussions, and while everyone had to post by the middle of the week, it was challenging to maintain several conversations asynchronously.

How did the online format help prepare you for your career?

Working online gave me a lot of experience expressing my thoughts in writing. It also trained me to deal with challenges and conflicts online through writing only. Working online also greatly improved my time management skills because I had no external structure forcing me to meet deadlines.

Online Theology Degrees

Associate

Most occupations in theology require at least a bachelor’s degree, but some choose to earn an associate theology degree first. An associate online theology degree is an ideal option for students who plan to complete a bachelor’s theology degree, but who first want to acquire important foundational knowledge in the field. Associate degree students generally take introductory theology classes. After graduating, they can work in the church, youth ministry, or even the nonprofit sector, and can expect a mid-career salary of about $40,000 annually. An associate degree in theology can generally be completed in two years of full-time study.

Sample Courses
Study of the Old/New Testament, Religious Fundamentals, and Biblical Interpretation. In some cases, students might also study prominent Biblical languages, such as Greek or Hebrew.
Common Majors
Theology, religion, ministry.
Potential Jobs
Missionary, assistant pastor, church planter, and more.
Average Income
Average income can be difficult to determine for those holding an associate theology degree, as the BLS has limited data on religious workers outside of the clergy. However, it’s estimated that all religious workers other than the clergy earn an average of $28,750 annually.
Employment Prospects
For 2014-2024, experts estimate a 5% job increase for religious workers.

Bachelor’s

A bachelor’s theology degree provides students with a more specialized, in-depth knowledge of theological studies, focusing on topics such as history, education, and ministry. Additionally, a bachelor’s degree will provide the minimum academic qualifications required for those who wish to enter the clergy and other prominent jobs in the field. A bachelor’s theology degree online will qualify students to become church leaders, including ministers, priests, or rabbis, although some denominations require a master’s degree to be ordained. Additionally, individuals with a bachelor’s degree in theology can expect mid-career salaries of about $45,000 annually. A bachelor’s online theology degree generally takes four years to complete and has an average total tuition cost of $18,452.

Sample Courses
Biblical Languages, History of Christianity/The Church, Biblical Interpretation/Theology, and Christian Leadership.
Common Majors
Biblical and theological studies, Christian studies, theology, Christian ministry, and more.
Potential Jobs
Director of religious activities and education, pastor, minister, priest, chaplain, and more.
Average Income
$44,250 annually for members of the clergy, $38,780 annually for directors of religious activities and education.
Employment Prospects
For 2014-2024, experts estimate a 6% increase for members of the clergy and a 4% increase for directors of religious activities and education.

Master’s

A master’s online theology degree is an advanced degree that not only provides a foundational knowledge of Christian or religious culture, scholarship, and history, but will also teach students to think critically. Additionally, because certain denominations of Christianity require a master’s theology degree for ordination, completing master’s-level education will dramatically strengthen your prospects for employment. With a master’s theology degree, you can work as a member of the clergy, such as a priest, minister, or rabbi, and can expect a mid-career salary of about $55,000 annually. Generally, master’s programs take two years to complete and cost about $20,000.

Sample Courses
History of Christianity, Biblical Interpretation, and World Religions. Students will also often study Biblical languages, including Greek and Hebrew.
Common Majors
Divinity, biblical studies, theology, theological studies, ministry.
Potential Jobs
Director of religious activities and education, priest, pastor, rector, minister, and more.
Average Income
$44,250 annually for members of the clergy, $38,780 annually for directors of religious activities and education.
Employment Prospects
For 2014-2024, experts estimate a 6% increase for members of the clergy, and a 4% increase for directors of religious activities and education.

The Top 5 Online Theology Master's Degrees

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost
1

Dallas Theological Seminary

Dallas
  • annually: $14,250
2

Calvin Theological Seminary

Grand Rapids
  • annually: $14,619
3

Columbia International University

Columbia
  • annually: $19,480
4

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

New Orleans
  • annually: $6,660
5

Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

Springfield
  • : $

See full rankings

Doctorate

A doctorate is the highest degree available to students of theology. A doctoral theology program often involves a more rigorous application process, and usually requires in-depth, independent research on a particular theological topic. In that case, a doctoral theology degree provides students with advanced training and is ideal for those who want to pursue a career in academia by teaching theology at a seminary or college. Additionally, a doctoral theology degree online gives graduates a competitive edge for careers in the clergy. Typically, doctoral programs take between three to five years to complete, and total tuition costs range from $20,000 to $35,000.

Sample Courses
Christian Ministry and Culture, Christian Leadership, Christian Ethics, and Research Methods. Usually, students will also complete a dissertation, which involves in-depth, focused research on a particular theological topic or issue.
Common Majors
Doctor of education (with an emphasis in theology or religion), doctor of ministry, or doctor of philosophy (with an emphasis in theological studies).
Potential Jobs
Theology professor, pastor, priest, director of religious activities and education, and more.
Average Income
$63,000 annually for postsecondary educators (college professors), $44,250 annually for members of the clergy, $38,780 annually for directors of religious activities and education.
Employment Prospects
For 2014-2024, experts estimate a 9% increase for postsecondary educators (college professors), a 6% increase for members of the clergy, and a 4% increase for directors of religious activities and education. These increases are about average.