“Theology is a science of mind applied to God.” – Henry Ward Beecher
Today, many working adults choose to return to school for a graduate degree, often to move up in their chosen career field. That means the need for flexible online degree options has rapidly increased in recent years. This increase in demand for online degrees is true for many Christian affiliated careers, like pastors, Church administrators, and Christian educators. For many people in these fields, a great graduate degree option is a Master’s degree in theology. As many of the schools on our ranking show, theology is often folded into degrees of other names, like Masters’ in Divinity, Ministry, or Biblical Studies. Regardless of the name, all of these programs have several things in common: a study of Christian theology, pastoral methods, and application to real world work in the Church.
For this ranking, we narrowed our focus to online degree programs because more theology students need the flexibility of an online degree. First, we gathered a list of all colleges and universities in the United States that offer Master’s degrees in Theology and narrowed our selections to the universities that offer online programs. Our results are the culmination of a multi-dimensional metric system that focused on three key qualities. First, we wanted to know whether or not the school’s tuition made it a viable choice for online theology students. Second, we looked at whether the school offered flexible options to accommodate student needs, like fast-track options or multiple specialities. And finally, we wanted to determine the academic prestige of the institutions we sampled. You can find a more thorough explanation of the methodology we used below.
- Affordability (1/3): Average out-of-state tuition per credit hour
- Flexibility (1/3): The range of flexible options in the program, including the ability to accelerate degree completion, work part-time, choose different concentrations, get credit for prior experience, and other unique degree options.
- Academic Prestige (1/3): Percentage of graduate students taking courses online and student-faculty ratio
1. Virginia Baptist College
Virginia Baptist College started in 1984 as the Berean Baptist Institute offering only graduate degrees in theology. The school sought to serve working learners by providing a Christ-focused college education. Over its first few years, VBC developed its first bachelor’s degree programs in Pastoral Studies and Christian Education and continued expanding from there. Today, VBC maintains small class sizes, even in its online courses. That means its distance education students of theology receive individualized educational attention from VBC’s committed faculty.
All of VBC’s nine online degree programs relate to its Christian mission, including master’s degrees in ministry and Christian education. One of VBC’s online degree programs is a Master’s in Biblical Studies. The program offers two tracks: a language track where theology students take courses in Greek and Hebrew, and a non-language track. Regardless of track, all Biblical Studies degree candidates take courses in theology, hermeneutics, and biblical leadership. Degree candidates also have flexible options in terms of scheduling, such as 8 week courses that helps to shorten time-to-degree.
- Master’s in Biblical Studies
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $237
- Student-faculty ratio: 8:1
2. Saint Joseph’s College
Saint Joseph’s College is a private, Catholic liberal arts school in Maine. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1912 as a women’s college, the school remains the only Catholic college in Maine. In 1970, the university because coeducational and shortly after, started its first distance education programs, which it continues to this day. Today, Saint Joseph’s continues it’s Catholic mission by forwarding Christian values of faith, excellence, integrity, community, respect, compassion, and justice. Saint Joseph’s offers traditional bachelor’s degrees, as well as, online bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Saint Joseph’s offers a variety of online degrees, one of which is a Master’s in Theology. The program focuses on several key tenets including: effective ministry, theological foundation, Catholic doctrine, and pastoral orientation. While the program includes the study of Catholic theology, Saint Joseph’s welcomes learners of all faiths into the program. The fully online degree offers three speciality areas including: advanced diaconal studies, pastoral theology, and sacred theology. In addition to offering different theological tracks, Saint Joseph’s also offers a fast-track option that lets undergraduate theology students accelerate into the Master’s of theology programs to shorten the time-to-degree.
- Master’s in Theology
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $340
- Student-faculty ratio: 12:1
3. Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary
The Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary, or BMATS, is located in Jacksonville, Texas and operated by the Baptist Missionary Association of America. Founded in 1955 from the former Jacksonville College Seminary, BMATS sought to provide undergraduate and graduate theological education for students entering Christian service and leadership roles. Today, BMATS maintains its mission in educating its 64 enrolled theology degree candidates through individualized attention and devotion to Christian scripture. Part of staying true to that mission is offering online degree options for working theology students.
One of BMATS’ online degree options at the graduate level is a Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology. The program is specifically designed for students who want to enter several supportive roles within churches, including: associate pastor, church administration, lay leader, and Bible teacher. With those career options in mind, BMATS offers several focus areas in the degree such as Biblical Studies, Theological Studies, and Pastoral Studies. In addition to taking courses in theological history and applied theology, degree candidates also take courses in the New and Old Testament, and church history. Regardless of chosen focus area, all theology students complete the degree program by taking a comprehensive exam.
- Master’s in Pastoral Theology
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $220
- Student-faculty ratio: 4:1
4. Ohio Christian University
Ohio Christian University is a private college, affiliated with the Churches of Christ in Christian Union. Originally, the school was founded in 1948 as Mount of Praise Bible College and located at the site of Churches of Christ annual revival meetings. The school underwent several name changes in its history, including the most recent change in 2006. Today, OCU continues to serve its 3,300 students in a range of degree options, including online degree programs.
One of OCU’s several graduate online degrees includes a Master’s in Ministry. Like may of OCU’s online degree programs, the Ministry degree offers flexible formats, grounded in real-world experience. The Master’s in Ministry program offers 2 concentrations: Practical Theology and Pastoral Care. Both programs focus on building student knowledge of the Bible, theology, and church history, in addition to electives relevant to each concentration. OCU also offers a dual degree option for the Master’s in Ministry with their fully online MBA program. That means theology students can further specialize in the type of theological profession they wish to enter.
- Master’s in Ministry
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $330
- Student-faculty ratio: 11:1
5. Luther Rice College & Seminary
Founded in 1962, Luther Rice College & Seminary is a private Christian college in metro-Atlanta. The school draws its name from Luther Rice, an education, missionary, and clergyman from the early 1800s. Today, the school has about 1,400 theology students and offers bachelor, masters, and doctoral degrees in leadership, counseling, apologetics, Christian worldview, Christian studies, and Christian ministry. Originally designed to meet the needs of pastors and other church leaders who could not quite their jobs to enroll in seminary, today, Luther Rice continues that tradition through their 100% online degree programs.
Luther Rice offers 8 fully online religion related degree programs. One of these programs is a Master’s in Ministry. The 100% online program is designed specifically for ministers and church leaders to expand their knowledge on biblical and theological studies, as well as the variety of church-related ministries available. The Master’s in Ministry degree includes courses on the Old and New Testament, marriage and family counseling, systematic theology, and evangelism. Luther Rice offers several flexible options that allow degree candidates to complete the program in as little as a year and a half or as long as two years. That means theology students can design the online program that works best for their busy schedules.
- Master’s in Ministry
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $242
- Student-faculty ratio: 31:1
6. Bethesda University of California
Bethesda University of California is a Christian university in Anaheim. Founded in 1976, to education leaders with a firm grasp of Christian missions. Today, Bethesda offers several degree programs including education, business administration, music, religion, ministry, and divinity. Part of fulfilling its Christian mission, includes offering online degree programs for students who need the flexibility of an online course schedule, but still want an educational experience that integrates their faith with learning.
One of Bethesda’s online graduate degree programs is a Master’s of Divinity. Designed as a three year program, the Master’s of Divinity balances biblical, theological, and practical training in order to prepare prospective ministers for their positions in the Church. Degree candidates are required to take courses in 4 key groupings: biblical studies, theology and historical studies, practical ministry studies, and field education. Through those 4 groupings, theology students will take language classes like Greek and Hebrew, cover topics like hermeneutics church history, and systematic theology, and get real-world experience in supervised ministry in the topics of worship, pastoral leadership, and educational ministry.
- Master’s of Divinity
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $251
- Student-faculty ratio: 8:1
7. Grand Canyon University
Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a for-profit Christian university in Phoenix. GCU was initially established as a non-profit school that sought to provide a faith-based education to local Baptist students, who otherwise had to travel to Texas or Oklahoma for a similarly Christian-affiliated college experience. Since becoming for-profit in 2004, GCU has seen a lot of growth with enrollment increasing by over 16,000 in 9 short years. With that kind of growth, also comes increased revenue to improve the educational experiences of its learners and the surrounding community.
Key to GCU’s growth is the expansion of its online degree options. Through GCU’s College of Theology, degree candidates can choose between several fully online degrees including an online Master’s in Divinity. With flexible options like frequent start dates and 8 week courses, students can shorten their time-to-degree and designed a degree schedule that works best for their busy lives. The Master’s in Divinity program is specifically designed with pastorally oriented curriculum that emphasizes the gospel, the church, and the kingdom of God. As such, GCU students take courses in theology, church history, Greek and Hebrew, and the Gospels. GCU’s Divinity program also offers a residency concentration designed around weeklong conference-style residencies that immerse theology students in educational settings with colleagues, missionaries, and church leaders.
- Master’s in Divinity
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $355
- Student-faculty ratio: 19:1
8. Crown College
Crown College is a private Christian college in the Minneapolis-St.Paul metro area. The school is affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Crown College started in 1916 with just 4 students and quickly developed into a school for ministry and missionary preparation. Today the school continues to offer individualized, Christ-centered education to 1,300 students. That includes offering a number of degrees fully online for its adult and graduate theology degree candidates.
One of Crown College’s online degree options includes a Master’s of Divinity. The degree program is designed to prepare students with a variety of ministry leadership skills, as well as a biblical and theological understanding. Many degree candidates go on to careers as senior or executive pastors, pastoral counselors, chaplains, theological educators, or leaders in faith-based organizations. In addition to the flexibility available through online coursework, learners can further specialize their degree by choosing from 10 different concentrations. With those kinds of options, degree candidates can be sure that their education will meet their career needs. In addition to concentration options like theological studies, intercultural ministries, and international Christian education, theology students can also complete a dual degree program by pairing their Master’s of Divinity with Master’s programs in Christian Studies and Ministry Leadership.
- Master’s of Divinity
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $415
- Student-faculty ratio: 17:1
9. Liberty University
Founded in 1971 as Lynchburg Baptist College, Liberty University is a private, Christian university in Virginia. In all of its degree programs, Liberty follows its core mission of promoting a Christian academic community that emphasizes both the intellectual and spiritual development of its students. Today, Liberty is the largest evangelical Christian university in the world with more than 15,000 students at its Virginia campus and over 100,000 students through its online programs. Liberty’s online programs range from the Associates level to the Doctorate and offer flexible options like either 8 or 16-week courses.
One of Liberty’s many online programs is a Master’s of Theology. In this 100% online program, degree candidates are introduced to innovative biblical, ethical, and historical training as related to ministry and education. Master’s in Theology degree candidates are required to choose a cognate, or focus area, that range from biblical studies to Christian apologetics, to global studies, and theology. Each focus area contains specific curriculum designed to meet the student’s educational needs, as well as different career paths. With that kind of specialization, theology students can be sure they are pursuing the education they need for the career they want.
- Master’s of Theology
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $380
- Student-faculty ratio: 19:1
10. University of the Cumberlands
Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands is a private, religion based college. Founded in 1889 by eastern Kentucky Baptist churches, the school was initially formed to provide a site of higher education within the Kentucky mountains. Since then, University of the Cumberlands has continued to be affiliated with the Baptist Church and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Today, the University of the Cumberlands enrolls around 6,000 students in a variety of degree programs, both on campus and online.
One of Cumberlands’ online degree programs includes a Master’s in Christian Studies. The one year program emphasizes practical application of the Bible, theology, and contemporary religious culture. Cumberland designed its Master’s in Christian Studies program around the flexible needs of online learners through its short time-to-degree curriculum, while offering innovative teaching methods like including video guest lectures from some of the most influential Christian leaders in the nation. In addition to taking classes on the Old and New Testament, Christian theology, pastoral ministry, and Christian leadership, degree candidates also consider relevant case studies and interactive discussions. That means theology students at Cumberland have the flexibility of online degree programs while maintaining the benefits of face-to-face classrooms.
- Master’s in Christian Studies
- Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per credit hour: $315
- Student-faculty ratio: 17:1