If you’re interested in a faith-centered online theology degree program, institutions abound in America that offer online master’s programs in religion, ministries, divinity, and more.
Some seminaries (including some on this list) and the foundations of their teachings have been around for hundreds of years–even over a thousand years. But that hasn’t stopped them from catching up to the 21st century and offering full degree programs, from the undergraduate through the doctoral levels, online.
While some life-long pastors might not have even finished high school, more and more churches and other ministry settings are expecting you to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree if you want a position of leadership. Luckily, there are hundreds of colleges, universities, and seminaries that offer a variety of quality master’s degree programs that will prepare you for a life and career in ministry. We went ahead and sifted through 200 schools to find and rank the top 50 most affordable colleges and universities with theology degree programs online.
Looking for more information regarding master’s degree programs in theology? Check out the FAQ, available career options and other specifics we’ve laid out for you at the bottom of this article.
To keep things simple and straightforward in our search and evaluation of each program, we focused on the schools’ cost and return on investment, academic quality, online support system and unique features that stand out in the crowd.
We began our research process with a general search and by consulting other reputable college ranking sites (like Best Colleges, The Princeton Review, Theology Degrees and more) to gather around 200 colleges and universities offering a graduate degree program in theology or related studies. These include Master of Divinity, Master of Ministry and various MA degree programs. We also made it a point to seek out such programs that have yet to be featured on a “Top Theology Degree Programs” ranking.
From there, we utilized the Rating and Ranking Methodology below to whittle the list down to the 50 cheapest Master’s in Theology degree programs. To find the cheapest colleges, we compared each school’s Net Price, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database. NCES describes this cost as being for “Full-time beginning undergraduate students who paid the in-state or in-district tuition rate and were awarded grant or scholarship aid from federal, state or local governments, or the institution (2016-17).” We then ranked that list using the point system below so that we could highlight those that are the most affordable while offering flexibility, quality, and accessibility.
Rating and Ranking Methodology
Tuition (as reported by the NCES)
- Net Price Below $10,000: 4 points
- Net Price Below $15,000: 3 points
- Net Price Below $18,000: 2 points
- Net Price Below $20,000: 1 point
Academic Quality of the Program
- Student-Faculty Ratio (as reported by NCES, unless otherwise noted): <10:1 (3 points), <15:1 (2 points) and <20:1 (1 point)
- ROI (as reported by Payscale’s most recent “2018 College ROI Report”): Among the top 150 schools (3 points), top 300 schools (2 points) and top 500 schools (1 point)
- Content Customizations (e.g. Minors, Concentrations, Specializations, etc.)—1 Point Each
- Format Flexibility (e.g. Hybrid/Online, Full-time/Part-Time, etc.)—1 Point Each
- Online Student Support Network—1 Point Per Item
- 1 point per University-wide and program-specific accreditors and beneficial affiliations (with a max of 10 points)
- 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us
50. Bethesda University
Online MA in Biblical Studies or Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 397
Student-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Bethesda University is a private Christian college, accredited by Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) and the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). Bethesda enrolled 407 students in the 2017-18 school year. It has a 38 percent student retention rate. Its main campus is located 30 miles south of Los Angeles, in the same city as Disneyland.
Four programs at BU are available in online formats, two of which are the MA in Biblical Studies and Master of Divinity. The 60-credit-hour MABS is a two-year professional degree program, focused on advanced biblical and theological studies. The curriculum includes 12 credit hours of practical ministry studies, as well as three credit hours in field education. The MDiv is a 96-credit-hour program that can take three years to complete. Considered the “first professional ministerial degree, it can lead to ordination. Its curriculum includes biblical, theological and practical training with 30 hours of practical ministry studies and six hours of field education.
Net Price: $18,561
49. Trinity Baptist College
Online MA in Bible
Grad Student Enrollment: 344
Student-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Founded by the Trinity Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist College is a private Christian college. It’s accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Its campus shares about 140 acres with Trinity Ministries, which is just minutes from downtown Jacksonville. With 366 total students (according to NCES) and a 64 percent retention rate, Trinity offers four graduate programs and three online degree programs. Licensed through the Commission for Independent Education, TBC Online consists of eight-week classes which students can start at any point throughout the year.
One of TBC’s two online master’s degrees, the MA in Bible offers advanced work in biblical studies and ministry application courses. This program’s 33-credit (minimum) curriculum can serve as a springboard into an MDiv program. Every online student works with a personal advisor. With your advisor’s approval, you may select up to six hours of elective credits from the MEd program. Otherwise, you’re able to choose 12 hours of credits from elective courses like:
- Contemporary Issues
- Counseling Children and Teens
- Dispensationalism and more
Net Price: $15,745
48. Lincoln Christian University
Fully-Online MA in Bible and Theology
Grad Student Enrollment: 672
Student-Faculty Ratio: 15:1 (according to Lincoln’s website)
Lincoln Christian University is a private Christian college affiliated with the Christian churches and churches of Christ. Lincoln has 712 students, an 82 percent retention rate and a 130-acre campus. It has an average class size of 13 students, as well as authorization under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant alien students. LCU is accredited by:
- the Higher Learning Commission
- the Association of Biblical Higher Education
- the Association of Theological Schools
Online students interested in the hybrid class format are able to take courses on-campus via week-long intensives.
LCU Online has students ranging in age from 22 to over 70. All of its programs are completable within two years or less while taking just one course at a time. Its online courses are asynchronous with assignment deadlines on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at midnight. Those looking for a non-seminary degree can apply to Lincoln’s MA in Bible and Theology online degree program. Its curriculum is comprised of 12 courses, completable within two years. The program culminates in a capstone paper or project. It includes courses like Interpreting the Bible and Christian Worldview Studies. Those interested in Lincoln’s MDiv programs can take up to two-thirds of its courses online, but the rest require an on-campus presence.
Net Price: $18,728
47. Bethany Global University
MA in Intercultural Ministry Studies, Leadership or Education
Grad Student Enrollment: 352
Student-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Bethany Global University is a private Christian college. All of its students, staff, and faculty are focused solely on missions. BGU has a total of 373 students located around the country and world and has a 60 percent student retention rate. BGU is interdenominational and is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). The undergraduate and graduate student experiences with BGU are incredibly different. While undergrads are required to study and live on-campus and complete the Global Internship Experience, all graduate degree programs are fully online.
BGU’s three online masters degrees consist of the following:
- MA in Intercultural Ministry Studies: This online master’s degree program is designed to provide you with a missions-minded worldview. Its curriculum borrows coursework elements from five other programs, including Leadership and Bible & Theology, to offer a well-rounded education. The 12-class Course Track is more content-based. It focused on implementing what you learn immediately in the classroom. The Thesis Track is for those looking to further their studies beyond the MA or those interested in ministering around the world.
- MA in Intercultural Ministry Leadership: Similar to the degree program above, this program is designed to train you as a leader in today’s mission movement. It also offers the two track options.
- MA in Intercultural Ministry Education: Equally similar, this online graduate degree program is designed specifically for those looking to become teachers.
Typically, you only need to log in two or three times per week. Most of your study throughout the week can be completed without an internet connection. BGU recommends enrolling in one course per term (eight weeks), enabling you to complete the program within two-and-a-half years. However, you may take on a heavier course load to finish faster. There are only two to six students per class, and they’re aged 23 to 60.
Net Price: $20,224
46. Apex School of Theology
Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 366
Student-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
The Apex School of Theology is a private, non-denominational Christian college founded in 1995 by the Apex First Baptist Church. It has a historical African-American culture. Accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, (TRACS), Apex follows an “open door admission policy.” Located in Durham’s Research Triangle, ASOT enrolls more than 800 students and has an 87 percent student retention rate. ASOT also has articulation agreements with Seminary Extension of the Southern Baptist Convention and others.
Distance education at Apex, ApexDE, offers 100 percent online degree programs, including the Master of Divinity. You can transfer up to one-third of the 90 required credits in this online master’s degree; otherwise, it can take around three years to complete. Designed to prepare you for practical ministry, the curriculum includes courses like:
- World Religion
- History of Christian Thought
- Women in Ministry
- The Soul of Black Worship: Preaching, Praying, and Singing
This program also requires at least three Field Education credits, which are acquired through an internship or supervised ministry.
Net Price: $16,558
45. Rockbridge Seminary
Online Master of Divinity and Master of Ministry Leadership
Grad Student Enrollment: 1,308
Student-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Founded in 2002, Rockbridge Seminary is an online Christian school offering four academic programs to its 1,338 students. Rockbridge is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and associated with the Association for Biblical Higher Education. The average age at graduation among Rockbridge students is 45. Providing an innovative approach to seminary education, Rockbridge focuses on advancing Christian leaders through degrees while allowing them to study and practice within their individual ministry fields. All of its programs’ curricula are designed around the five biblical purposes of the church.
With courses designed by notable authors and educators, Rockbridge offers an online MDiv program and a Master of Ministry Leadership. Applicants to either of these programs are expected to be actively serving in a local church ministry role. Both a bachelor’s degree and church endorsement are required. Due to the intensity of study, you’re allowed to take up to two courses per term. And while you don’t need to log on at any specific time, Rockbridge students are required to log onto their courses five days each week during class sessions. The MDiv is a three-year degree program designed for those interested in serving as an:
- ordained pastor
- career missionary
It requires 76 credit hours for completion, including 12 hours of electives. The MML is a two-year professional program designed with a focus on “developing servant leadership skills for local church ministry.” It requires a total of 52 credit hours, 20 of which are electives.
Net Price: $15,395 for 72 billable semester hours and all fees (not including possible financial aid because this Net Price was not reported to NCES)
44. Graceland University
Online MA in Religion
Grad Student Enrollment: 1,733
Student-Faculty Ratio: 12:1 (according to Graceland’s website)
Founded in 1895, Graceland University is a private liberal arts university with campuses in Iowa and Missouri, as well as online degree offerings. Enrolling 1,992 students with a 62 percent retention rate, Graceland is sponsored by Community of Christ. Governed by a board of trustees, Graceland is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It’s a participant in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. Online students at Graceland benefit from a 24/7 help desk and online event streaming.
Graceland’s Community of Christ Seminary offers a fully online MA in religion (MAR). This online theology degree program is 31 semester hours (10 courses) with a strong foundation in biblical studies, Christian history, and theology. You can complete this program 100 percent online, or you can attend a face-to-face session in the fourth week at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, MO. You can earn this degree through just two years of part-time study, but you have up to four years and can finish faster by transferring up to nine credits. Courses include:
- Contemporary Culture and Theologies
- a Ministry Practicum
- Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.
Net Price: $17,952
43. The Baptist College of Florida
Online MA in Christian Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 455
Student-Faculty Ratio: 8:1 (according to BCF’s website)
The Baptist College of Florida is a Christian college sponsored by the Florida Baptist Convention. It’s accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. BCF is also a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). Located in the Northwest corner of Jackson County, BCF offers online distance education or hybrid courses at one of its Distance Sites in Orlando and Jacksonville. BCF enrolls about 625 students and has a 72 percent first-time student retention rate.
Studying online at BCF means not having to deal with out-of-state tuition or synchronous courses. This affordable college offers a fully-online MA degree program in Christian studies. This online master’s degree requires 30 total hours for completion. It has two concentration options: Biblical Studies or Christian Ministry. The curriculum is designed to provide you with the advanced skills and knowledge to:
- interpret and deliver Christian messaging
- lead churches
- conduct various Christian ministries
Because of the research intensity of this program, all grad students are required to take Introduction to Graduate Research in their first semester. Finally, it concludes with either a thesis or the Comprehensive Examination.
Net Price: $10,564
42. Northwest Nazarene University
Online Master of Divinity and Online MA programs in Pastoral Ministry, Spiritual Formation, Missional Leadership or Youth, Children & Family Ministry
Grad Student Enrollment: 2,111
Student-Faculty Ratio: 17:1 (in graduate courses, according to NNU)
Northwest Nazarene University is a private, nonprofit Christian college with two campuses in Idaho and online education. Enrolling over 8,000 students (not including its high school concurrent credit program), NNU has a 79 percent retention rate. It’s one of the eight American liberal arts colleges affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene. However, more than half of its students belong to a variety of different Christian denominations and other religions. Some indicate no religious affiliation. NNU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, as well as multiple specialized accrediting agencies. For instance, its Graduate Theological Online Education program is currently a candidate member in The Association of Theological Schools (ATS).
NNU Online offers a variety of fully online degree programs at all levels, including all of the graduate-level programs from the School of Theology and Christian Ministries. Online students studying religion can benefit from resources like the online library and recorded Chapel services. The online master’s degree programs in theology are as follows:
- Master of Divinity: Consisting of 75 semester hours, this online MDiv can be completed within 50 months if you take just one course at a time without studying through most summers. It is a cohort-based program with 12-20 students and no on-campus requirements. Of its total credit requirements, 32 credits can go to one of three specialized interest tracks in Missional Leadership, Spiritual Formation or Youth, Children & Family Ministry. All three tracks have been validated by Nazarene Clergy Services as meeting the educational requirements for ordination.
- MA in Missional Leadership: This 36-credit online master’s degree explores the theory and practice of Christian leadership, specifically outside of the church. Within the program, you’ll develop a mentor relationship with someone in your own ministry setting.
- MA in Spiritual Formation: This 36-credit curriculum focuses on the history, philosophy, theology and practical spirituality in the Christian tradition. You can complete this degree in 21 months without studying through the summer term. It also requires you to have a ministry mentor.
- MA in Pastoral Ministry: Similarly to the others above, you’ll work with a local ministry mentor through this 40-credit program, which is designed to train you for vocational Christian ministry. You’ll take courses like Philosophical Foundations of Ministry, Pastoral Leadership and Congregational Education & Formation.
- MA in Youth, Children & Family Ministry: This online MA is 36 credits with a focus on training you for a vocational ministry role at Christian schools, camps or other positions like youth pastor. Completable within 21 months, you’ll be required to participate in a local ministry mentor relationship.
Net Price: $20,559
41. Ave Maria University
Ave Maria, FL
Online MA in Theology
Grad Student Enrollment: 1,177 (online graduate students)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Ave Maria University is a private Catholic liberal arts university in Southwest Florida, established according to the guidelines of the Code of Canon Law. Governed by a board of trustees, Ave Maria enrolled 1,079 total students in Spring 2019 and has a 68 percent first-time student retention rate. The 1,000-acre campus is home to 40+ clubs and organizations and centers like the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal, created to foster the renewal of Catholic theology. It’s accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Ave Maria offers a number of online master’s programs and undergraduate degrees which are taught by the same faculty as the on-campus courses. Its online learning platform offers six start dates throughout the year and a number of resources like exclusive online tutoring and a full eLibrary.
Ave Maria’s 48-credit online theology degree program is an MA in theology, which will prepare you to teach in a Catholic institution or pursue your PhD. This program accepts up to eight transfer credits and can take around two years to complete. In the 12-course curriculum, you have the option of choosing between the thesis course or another theology elective, in addition to the eight other elective credits. There is no application fee, and official GRE scores are accepted, but optional (and Ave Maria offers a GRE reduction certificate discount). Courses include:
- Fundamental Moral Theology
- Theological Latin
- Catholic Bioethics.
Net Price: $19,783
40. Cornerstone University
Grand Rapids, MI
Online MA in Ministry Leadership or MA in Biblical Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 1,998 between the seminary and adult/graduate studies programs
Student-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Cornerstone University is a private, non-denominational Christian college with two seminaries. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and other specialized agencies. Governed by a board of trustees, Cornerstone has two satellite campus locations in Lansing and Kalamazoo. Its main campus is located just five minutes from downtown Grand Rapids. With a 77 percent retention rate, Cornerstone enrolls 3,156 total students.
Online students at Cornerstone benefit from:
- 24/7 online support
- an online writing lab
- tutoring for all of their classes
Plus, this university provides textbooks and other learning resources in formats accessible by mobile devices. A typical online class operates in a cohort of 12 to 15 full-time students, who take one five- to eight-week course at a time. Cornerstone offers two online theology degree programs:
- an MA in Ministry Leadership
- an MA in Biblical Studies
The MAML is a 36-credit program designed to further prepare you for ministry service through:
- a curricular foundation in biblical study
- theological education
- advanced ministry training
It can be completed in two to four years. The MABS is also 36 credits, designed to deepen your knowledge of the Bible. Professors in this program have lived and studied in Israel and are published authors in the field. Cornerstone’s main application is free, and both programs only require a 2.5 GPA.
Net Price: $20,475
39. Campbellsville University
Master of Theology Online
Grad Student Enrollment: 12,381 (Spring 2019)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is a private Baptist university. It’s open to all denominations and offers a wide variety of online degree programs (27 online master’s programs). It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and seven other program-specific accrediting agencies. Governed by a board of trustees, CU includes nine off-campus centers and instructional sites across Kentucky and in California. CU enrolls 12,209 total students (2019) from 51 countries and 43 states, as well as a 66 percent retention rate.
The 30-credit online master’s in theology curriculum is designed to teach advanced skills for biblical and theological studies, ministry and leadership. Each course is eight weeks long. The estimated program completion time is two years. Three 18-credit emphasis areas are available to further personalize the program in:
- biblical studies
- pastoral leadership
- theological studies
Within the program’s 10 courses, you’ll study subjects like:
- Gospel and Postmodernism
- Pre-Reformation History of the Church
- Ethics of Christian Faith
Campbellsville accepts up to 12 transfer credits, welcomes those utilizing the GI Bill and it’s a member of the Yellow Ribbon Program. To apply, you must:
- have 18 undergraduate hours in Christian studies, a master’s degree or applicable graduate courses
- submit your GRE scores if you’re GPA is below 3.0
- submit a recommendation from a ministry mentor and one academician
- interview with the School of Theology’s dean and more.
Net Price: $17,788
38. Grand Canyon University
Master of Divinity or MA in Christian Leadership
Grad Student Enrollment: 96,211
Student-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
Grand Canyon University is a nonprofit, private Christian university. With 83,284 total students, GCU is the largest Christian University in the world. It has a 66 percent student retention rate. It’s accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and despite country-wide rising tuition costs, GCU has frozen its tuition for 11 years. Its scenic campus has seen almost $1 billion in investments within the last decade. It has been building additional locations, allowing more of the tens of thousands of online students to attend hybrid format courses.
Offered through the Grand Canyon Theological Seminary (the College of Theology’s graduate school), the MDiv online requires 82 total credits for completion. It offers eight-week courses online and evening classes on-campus. This intensive program of study follows a pastorally oriented curriculum. It requires three week-long residencies throughout the program, as well as supervised ministry experiences.
It also offers an online MA in Christian Leadership. This is designed for those who want to enter leadership positions in the church, the parachurch, ministry or other related settings. In this 38-credit program, you’ll explore leadership and management practices alongside biblical principles and theological knowledge. The curriculum includes ministry field experiences and courses like:
- Leading Through Crisis, Conflict and Change
- Biblical Foundations of Christian Leadership
- Practical Theology
Both programs accept up to 12 transfer credits and allow for hybrid learning options, which can be taken at any of the multiple extension locations. Online students benefit from:
- online library resources
- helpful calendar reminders.
Net Price: $21,332
37. Wayland Baptist University
Online Master of Christian Ministry or Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 4,084
Student-Faculty Ratio: 6:1 on WBU’s external campus (according to the school’s site)
Founded in 1908, Wayland Baptist University is a private Baptist college comprised of 14 campuses across Texas, five other states, in Kenya and on 21 military installations. It’s affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. WBU has a 42 percent student retention rate and a Payscale ROI ranking of 494. WBU enrolls 5,100 students and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It participates in the National Council for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). Wayland began offering fully-online graduate degrees in 2006, and now has an average online graduate class of 12 students.
WBU Online offers four 11-week terms per year. New students can transfer in with up to 12 credit hours for prior work experience. Online students can watch weekly chapel live and can work toward one of the School of Religion and Philosophy’s online master’s programs in Christian ministry and divinity. The MCM is designed to teach you biblical and theoretical perspectives on leadership. Its curriculum focuses on the School’s practical graduate courses. Out of the 43 required credit hours, 15 are electives. Twelve of those could be dedicated to a specialization in Religious Education, Bible or Christian Ministry. Designed as the standard professional degree for individuals entering Christian ministry, the MDiv is available online or in a hybrid format. Its 81-hour curriculum will prepare you for effective ministry in the 21st century. It includes nine hours of electives. You may transfer up to half of this program’s requirements, and applicants with an undergraduate history in Christian ministry will be granted advanced standing.
Net Price: $24,882
36. Shiloh University
Online Master of Divinity or MA in Theological Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 42
Student-Faculty Ratio: 2:1
Founded in 2006, Shiloh University is a nonprofit fully online Christian university. It offers only online courses with no residency requirements. Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), Shiloh is also an approved SARA Institution. Among its 100 students, the average student age is 49. Shiloh has an 81 percent continuation rate. Shiloh is governed by a board of trustees, an academic council, and an advisory board. Shiloh operates on three 15-week academic trimesters each year with weekly asynchronous discussion forums for student-student interaction.
Shiloh’s only two master’s degree programs are the Master of Divinity and the MA in Theological Studies. The 74-unit MDiv is expected to take four years to complete, while the 36-unit MATS takes about two years to complete. The MDiv offers professional and theological graduate training with a curriculum designed as the prerequisite for a Doctor of Ministry program. It offers 15 units of electives in areas like ministerial studies and languages. It requires you to document 400 hours of ministry experience through your final Mentored Ministry course. Upon completing the MDiv, if you have a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), you can combine it with your degree to become a board-certified chaplain. The MATS is more focused on practical theology across a variety of Christian disciplines, allowing you to transition from lay to professional ministry. This online college does not offer career placement support, but it does provide its distance students with:
- advising assistance
- an online orientation
- an e-Library
- four graduate certificate programs
- and a Writing Center
Net Price: At $190 per credit hour, the total program cost including textbooks for MATS: $8,040, and $16,460 for the Master of Divinity. (This does not include financial aid because it was not reported to NCES)
35. Beulah Heights University
Online MA in Religious Studies or Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 399
Student-Faculty Ratio: 6:1
One of the oldest Christian universities in the Southeast, Beulah Heights University was founded in 1918 in the Protestant Christian tradition. Nestled in the historical Grant Park area of metropolitan Atlanta, this college is private and nonprofit. With 534 students, Beulah Heights has an 86 percent retention rate. It has four campus locations in addition to its online offerings. It is directed by a four-member board and accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and the Association for Biblical Higher Education. It’s also approved by or a member of a number of other affiliations like the National Association of Evangelicals Commission of Higher Education.
The MA in Religious Studies can be earned at the main campus, online or at the Marietta campus. This program requires nine courses for graduation in subjects like:
- History of Christian Thought
- Systematic Theology
The 90-credit-hour Master of Divinity offers a curriculum with an optional hybrid Chaplaincy Track/Certificate, as well as:
- 17 core courses
- two language courses
- four Bible/theology courses
- four leadership courses
- and three elective courses
Online courses are available in a 15-week format (same as on-campus), and all programs are available in a hybrid format for those able to get on-campus. Applicants don’t need the GRE/GMAT unless your undergraduate GPA is below a 3.0. Finally, distance learning students have access to resources like one-on-one writing assistance and full library/GALILEO access.
Net Price: $11,824 **Editor’s Note: One point was added as a result of us receiving more information post publishing; so while the ranking cannot change, BHU’s value is higher than we originally thought.
34. South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary
Deerfield Beach, FL
MA in Biblical Studies or Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 310
Student-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary is a private, nonprofit Christian college with a non-denominational focus, small class sizes and a tuition discount for senior pastors. A short drive from Hillsboro Beach, SFBC is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and recognized by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). SFBC enrolls 546 students, and it has a 67 percent first-time student retention rate. Governed by a board of directors, SFBC offers most of its degree programs on-campus and in a fully-online format with online academic advising, as well as “counsel and prayerful support.”
The two online master’s programs at SFBC are the Master of Divinity and MA in Biblical Studies. Both degrees can be completed 100 percent online or on-campus. Neither require the GRE for admission. The online MDiv is 90 credit hours and provides students with an in-depth background of biblical and theological studies, as well as practical ministry skills. You do not need an undergraduate background in religion. You can personalize your master’s program by choosing specialization options in:
- New Testament Exegesis and Theology
Also available through SFBC’s online seminary, the online MA is comprised of 36 credit hours of education that will help further your ministry skills. Completable within two years, this biblical studies degree includes courses like:
- Writing Research Papers Across the Curriculum
- Church History
- Systematic Theology
Net Price: $16,487
33. Criswell College
Online MA in Christian Studies and MA in Christian Leadership
Grad Student Enrollment: 226
Student-Faculty Ratio: 8:1 (according to the school’s website)
Criswell College is a divinity school and Christian liberal arts college affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Adjacent to Downtown Dallas, Criswell’s campus is in Old East Dallas. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Criswell has 264 students and a 92 percent student retention rate. As a Christ-centered university, every undergraduate student is required to take 42 hours of coursework in Bible, theology, and ministry. Plus, all full-time students complete 16 (minimum) hours of service each semester in a local church, ministry or nonprofit organization. Through online learning at Criswell, each student is assigned an academic advisor. They also have access to Criswell’s chapel messages online.
Criswell’s only two fully online degrees are the MA programs in Christian studies and
Christian leadership. Both offer eight-week courses, as opposed to the 16-week on-campus courses. They include online asynchronous class discussions and supplemental devotional materials. The MACS introduces students to the core tenets of faith to prepare you for work in general Christian ministry. The MACL is more hands-on. It offers training in leadership, administration and conflict management alongside the biblical core courses. In this online master’s degree program, you can choose from two specializations: Spiritual Leadership or Educational Leadership. The required 36 hours for both of these programs can be completed online, on-campus or in a hybrid format.
Net Price: $14,137
32. Amridge University
Online MS in Christian Ministry, Master of Divinity, MS in Ministerial Leadership or an MA in New Testament or Old Testament
Grad Student Enrollment: 833 (according to NCES)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Founded in 1967, Amridge University is a private, nonprofit college with a Christian heritage. It offers all distance learning programs from the associate’s through the doctoral levels. Amridge was one of the 15 participants that the U.S. Department of Education chose to pilot distance education in America. It’s been offering online education since 1993. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Amridge enrolls 675 students (NCES). It has a 67 percent student retention rate.
Among Amridge’s 35+ online degree programs, its Turner School of Theology offers the following:
- MS in Christian Ministry: Completable within four semesters, this 36-credit online MS offers 12 elective credits and a curriculum designed to prepare you for careers like minister of education and chaplain. Most programs on this list require a 3.0 GPA to graduate, but this MS only requires a 2.0 GPA. However, you need a 3.0 if you’re looking to continue your studies).
- MA in New Testament Studies: Within four semesters, this 36-credit program will allow you to become proficient in the Greek language, as well as scholarly biblical research and writing. Nine of the credits are electives.
- MA in Old Testament Studies: Very similar to the program above, this 36-credit online degree also has an emphasis on scholarly biblical research and writing, but it will teach students to become proficient with the Hebrew language.
- MS in Ministerial Leadership: This professional-level degree offers a practitioner’s approach to biblical studies. It takes five semesters to complete its 39 semester hours, and it only requires a 2.0 GPA for graduation.
- Master of Divinity: This 78-credit program prepares and morally/spiritually mentors you for professions in ministry and advanced doctoral studies. It takes three years to complete. It can include an optional six-credit Advanced Bible Placement for those with an academic background in religion.
- MDiv in Ministerial Leadership: By completing this 75- to 90-credit program, you’ll be able to conduct your ministry “at the highest level of professional competence.” It can take about three years to complete. Students with an undergraduate background in religious studies are eligible for a 15-credit Advanced Bible Placement.
All of these degree programs are available for full- and part-time study. They’re open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in any field. Students in the MS in Christian ministry can transfer up to 15 credits. Online students can benefit from live online Chapel services, as well as free podcasts. Amridge also has a Laptop Program, through which students can get a Chromebook with free Office 365 software for just $375.
Net Price: $3,905
31. Kentucky Christian University
Online MA in Religion, MA in Christian Leadership or MA in Biblical Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 725 (31 within the Keeran School of Bible and Ministry programs)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 11:1 (according to the school’s website)
Kentucky Christian University is a private, nonprofit Christian college with 500 students and a 56 percent student retention rate. The most affordable private university in Kentucky, KCU doesn’t offer different in- versus out-of-state tuition. Plus, every admitted student receives an academic scholarship of some kind. KCU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and it has an Online Learning program. Online learners can utilize the databases and catalogs of KCU’s Young Library. You can also check out books to be delivered to your home, or request emails of photocopied articles.
The Keeran School of Bible & Ministry offers three online master’s programs, all of which are cohort-based. The online theology degree programs are as follows:
- MA in Religion: This 36-credit MAR program is designed for those interested in further study or serving in lay leadership or church ministry. Ending in a portfolio project, this curriculum includes courses like World Christianity, Contemporary Preaching Styles and Systematic Theology.
- MA in Christian Leadership: The 36-credit MACL is designed to equip you for quality leadership in the Church. For core courses, you’re required to complete 18 credits, but then you can choose from five 15-credit concentration options in subjects like Missional Studies, Family Ministry and Preaching. This curriculum culminates in a thesis.
- MA in Biblical Studies: Also 36 credit hours, the MABS is designed to prepare you for Christian leadership and service in the church. You will delve in the Bible’s original linguistic, grammatical and historical contexts. You can also choose from three 15-hour program options in New Testament, Old Testament and Theological Studies.
Net Price: $19,136
30. Missouri Baptist University
St. Louis, MO
Online MA in Christian Ministry
Grad Student Enrollment: 5,309
Student-Faculty Ratio: 15:1 (according to MBU’s website)
Missouri Baptist University is a private, evangelical Christian college with a 66-acre main campus in West St. Louis County. It has 10 regional learning centers and online education. MBU enrolls 5,571 total students, has a 59 percent student retention rate. It’s accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. An institutional participant in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, MBU Online offers:
- programs specifically designed for easy transfer
- no extra fees
- prior learning assessment for credit
- accelerated degree program options
- start dates every eight weeks
- career-based curriculum
- asynchronous classes with online resources
- and professors you can Skype with or call
Among the seven fully online graduate degree programs at MBU is its online MA in Christian Ministry. Consisting of 39 total credit hours, this program’s curriculum includes a three-hour project or internship and a 12-hour online emphasis in pastoral studies. Other concentration options are available on-campus in areas like biblical counseling and urban ministries. This online theology degree is designed to advance current pastors, career missionaries and laymen both practically and theologically. Estimated completion time is two years.
Net Price: $20,481
29. North Greenville University
Online MA in Christian Ministry or Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: About 2,426 (according to NCES)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
North Greenville University is a private Baptist college associated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, NGU enrolls more than 2,500 students (NCES). It has a 70 percent first-time student retention rate. NGU offers an “authentic Christian environment” on its scenic main campus, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains just 20 miles from Greenville, SC. It also includes a sister campus in Greer. It’s a member of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities.
NGU offers online undergraduate and adult learning, as well as online MA in Christian Ministry and Master of Divinity programs through its Graduate School of Christian Ministry. Online learning at NGU includes eight-week courses. You’ll have a dedicated advisor and technical support through every step of your academic career. Both programs offer full- and part-time learning in on-campus, online and hybrid formats. It has rolling admissions and five start dates per year. Neither require any previous ministry experience nor a GMAT score. In addition to the typical employer and personal references, this program requires a minister reference in your application. The MACM program includes:
- 36 credit hours, completable within 18 months
- Training in classical theological and biblical disciplines, as well as in applied disciplines like evangelism, missions, discipleship and spiritual formation
- Three different tracks/concentrations: Church Growth and Revitalization, Discipleship and Spiritual Formation, and Missions and Evangelism
- Six core courses + one final capstone course, supplemented with five elective courses
And the online MDiv program includes:
- 75 credit hours, completable within 36 months
- A concentration in Pastoral Ministry, in addition to the three listed above
- Curriculum designed to train you for the broadest range of Christian ministry positions, to include military chaplains
- Seven core courses, four to five courses within each ministry area and a final Integration Project
All faculty members in the School are experienced ministers with doctoral degrees. Plus, online students can benefit from the campus’ Chapel Live Stream, Chapel App and Soundcloud profile.
Net Price: $19,124
28. Shasta Bible College and Graduate School
Online Master of Divinity or MA in Christian Ministries
Grad Student Enrollment: 41
Student-Faculty Ratio: 5:1
Shasta Bible College and Graduate School is a private, nonprofit Baptist college accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. It enrolls 72 students with a 100 percent student retention rate. Shasta also holds membership in the Association of Christian Schools International and is governed by a board of trustees. Its 55-acre campus is located three miles from downtown Redding,
Shasta’s distance education operates on the same 15-week semester as its on-campus courses, with an additional week for final exams. Online learning includes Korean offerings and asynchronous programs like the Master of Divinity and MA in Christian Ministries. The 36-credit MACM prepares you to work in a church, private school or other Christian organization. It may require 24 prerequisite credits for those who don’t have an undergraduate background in religion or theology. It also includes the following concentration options:
- Bible Exposition
- Biblical Interpretation
- Biblical Studies
- Pastoral Ministry
The online MDiv requires a total of 96 credits for graduation and includes the following concentration options:
- Pastoral and General Ministries
- Biblical Counseling and Christian Family
- Military Chaplaincy Traditional
- Military Chaplaincy Basic
Net Price: $17,545
27. Grace College and Theological Seminary
Winona Lake, IN
Online MA in Ministry Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 1,957
Student-Faculty Ratio: 20:1 (according to Grace’s website)
Grace College and Theological Seminary is an evangelical Christian “community of higher education,” affiliated with the Charis Fellowship. It enrolls 2,029 students and has an 84 percent retention rate. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Grace’s 180-acre campus is located in a resort town with views of Winona Lake. Grace is also an active member of the Association of Christian Schools and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. The Grace Theological Seminary is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. When applying to Grace, you can expect a quick turnaround because it offers two-week application decisions.
A participant in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, Grace offers quality postsecondary distance education with three start dates each year. Its online MA in Ministry Studies is comprised of 36 credit hours (12 courses) with three concentration options:
- Camp Administration
- Women’s Leadership Studies
With eight-week courses, the program is completable within two years. Courses include Principles and Practice of Prayer, as well as Ministry and Cultural Diversity. Grace doesn’t have a limit for the number of eligible transfer credit hours from schools accredited by agencies recognized by the CHEA. However, you need to take at least half of the program’s courses. Online students benefit from Grace’s Online Writing Lab and free tutoring.
Net Price: $21,131
26. Veritas Baptist College
Online Master of Ministry, Master of Biblical Studies or Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 225
Student-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Veritas Baptist College, formerly Virginia Baptist College, is a Christian college accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Operating under a board of directors, VBC enrolls 218 total students and has a 33 percent retention rate. For every degree program available, VBC offers 100 percent online distance learning. It utilizes resources like Adobe Connect, which allows students to access courses real-time from laptops of mobile devices anywhere in the world.
All of VBC’s master’s degree programs are available in fully-online formats for both part- and full-time enrollment. Those interested in a non-degree program can choose from one of the six one-year graduate certificates available in subjects like:
- pastoral leadership
Otherwise, the four online master’s programs offer eight-week class modules and are as follows:
- Master of Ministry: The MMin is a 30-credit program designed to provide advanced Bible training with 12 core credits, nine elective credits and a nine-credit concentration. This program is completable within two years. You can choose a concentration in Pastoral Studies, Church Ministries, Biblical Counseling, Missions and Cross-Cultural Studies or Bible/Theology.
- Master of Biblical Studies: Another advanced Bible program, this 60-credit online theology degree comes with two concentration options: the Language Track and the Non-Language Track. The non-language track includes 18 elective credits. The language track has six elective credits and 12 language credits in Greek and Hebrew. This one can also be finished within two years.
- Master of Divinity: The 90-credit MDiv is a professional program, offering extensive training to prepare you for ministry work. Among the core courses, you’ll take Dispensationalism, Biblical Leadership in the 21st Century and Ministry Finance and Business Management. This program will take at least three years to complete.
Net Price: $16,777
25. Bryan College
MA in Christian Ministry
Grad Student Enrollment: 1,447
Student-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Bryan College is a Christian liberal arts college with a 128-acre hilltop main campus at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Enrolling 932 students, Bryan has a 68 percent student retention rate. It’s accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Bryan has additional specialized accreditation and membership with the Association for Christians in Student Development, Association of Christian Schools International and more. Governed by a board of trustees, Bryan offers a unique deal. If you complete your bachelor’s degree program online or on-campus with a 3.5 GPA, you can complete a master’s degree for free.
The Master’s in Christian Ministry is one of three online graduate degree programs available at Bryan. This online theology degree’s curriculum offers a broad understanding of Christian ministry, including biblical, theological and practical applications. It requires 36 credit hours for graduation. The format is in nine-week accelerated classes. It offers specialization options in administration and Bible education, and you may take up to two courses at a time. There are seven start dates during the year. The full program is completable within 14 months.
Net Price: $16,650
24. Freed-Hardeman University
Online Master of Divinity or an online MA in Ministry, New Testament or Old Testament
Grad Student Enrollment: 2,117
Student-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Founded in 1869, Freed-Hardeman University is a private Christian college, affiliated with the churches of Christ. Enrolling 1,904 students from 33 states and 20 foreign countries, FHU has an 80 percent retention rate. It’s accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. FHU operates online education, a main campus and two other campuses in Dickson and Memphis.
Distance education graduate students at FHU have the choice of watching the class in real time or viewing the recording later. Online students can benefit from resources like live-streamed chapel services and online student support. You can choose from any of the following programs offered through the Graduate School of Theology:
- Master of Divinity: This online MDiv requires 87 credit hours, and is designed for those who wish to teach in Christian education. Within those credit requirements is a six-hour internship. If you earn a 3.0 within your first 24 credit hours, you’ll qualify for thesis writing. You can choose from optional 15-hour emphasis areas in Old or New Testament, Biblical Languages, Apologetics, Ministry, Missions or Church History.
- MA in Ministry: This online master’s degree requires 48 semester hours, including six hours internship. It’s designed for students who want advanced study in the work of a pulpit minister. You can choose from three 15-hour areas of emphasis (or none at all) in Preaching, Missions or Leadership.
- MA in Old Testament: This online theology degree also requires 48 hours, but the internship is replaced with a six-hour thesis. Through this program, you will learn the “linguistic, historical, exegetical and hermeneutical tools necessary to understand the Old Testament in its original context.” It includes practical applications along with rigorous research and writing.
- MA in New Testament: Similar to the degree program above, the MANT includes a six-hour thesis in its 48 required hours. You can utilize 12 of these hours for electives. You’ll learn Greek as opposed to Hebrew (Old Testament).
Net Price: $16,760
23. Faith International University
Online MA in Theological Studies, Master of Divinity or MA in Leadership Ministry
Grad Student Enrollment: 230
Student-Faculty Ratio: 9:1 (according to the school’s website)
Faith International University & Faith Seminary is an evangelical Christian college that functions as an interdenominational educational institution. It is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges & Schools and authorized by the Washington Student Achievement Council. Enrolling 400 students who represent 40+ different denominations, FIU has a 63 percent retention rate. Its campus is in a residential area of northwest Tacoma, 40 miles south of Seattle. Uniquely, FIU offers a Lutheran Track, four Lutheran courses online at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Among its academic offerings, FIU has a Chinese Division, Korean Division, and Distance Education. Through its online learning, FIU offers five online master’s degree programs, including:
- MA in Theological Studies: This online MATS is a 72-hour program for those looking to serve a church or church ministry. By taking 28 of those credit hours in one of the two areas, New Testament or Apologetics, you can earn a concentration. Otherwise, you’ll follow the Interdisciplinary track, which is 100 percent online. You’re only required to have a 2.7 undergraduate GPA to apply.
- Master of Divinity: This online MDiv program is 136 credit hours. It’s designed for those looking to become a pastor, chaplain, missionary or other full-time Christian minister. The standard academic prerequisite for this program is an accredited bachelor’s degree with a 3.0+ GPA. Plus, military chaplain applicants can transfer up to 28 credits toward this program.
- MA in Leadership Ministry: The interdisciplinary MALM curriculum is 72 credit hours, offering well-rounded biblical, theological and practical lessons around the Christian faith. In this online master’s degree, you can choose one of three 28-hour concentrations in Global Leadership, Christian Counseling or Life Coaching.
- MA Christian Counseling (MACC) and an MA in Christian Education (MACE)
FIU also has a Life Coach International Institute, through which students can earn various levels of International Coaching Federation (ICF) certification via a webinar and face-to-face instruction.
Net Price: $16,217
22. St. Mary’s University
San Antonio, TX
Online Master of Theology
Grad Student Enrollment: 419
Student-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Founded in 1852, St. Mary’s University is a Marianist liberal arts college and the oldest Catholic university in Texas. It’s located on a 135-acre campus in San Antonio’s West Side. St. Mary’s has the Fair Trade University certification and accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This may be a private college, but the median family income of a St. Mary’s student is only $61,600. Governed by a board of trustees, this university offers a Four-Year Pledge so that students can finish their degrees without tuition costs changing each year. It enrolls 3,649 students and has a 73 percent student retention rate.
At St. Mary’s, you can get an online master’s in theology degree, but it does include a component that must be completed on-campus. This online master’s degree program, offered through the Theology Department, is real-time and synchronous, allowing online students to keep up with those on-campus. The curriculum of 36 semester hours is designed for working adults with part-time evening courses and prepares students for doctoral studies. In this program, you can choose whether to write a thesis or not. You must apply for “candidacy” after completing nine credits. You also must complete the General Examination toward the end of the program to prove that you’ve learned enough for graduation. You will take courses like:
- Law of Moses
- The Interpretation of the History of Israel
- Christian Medical Ethics
Net Price: $17,806
21. Newman University
Online Master of Theological Studies or MA in Theology
Grad Student Enrollment: 3,205
Student-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Newman University is a private Catholic liberal arts college and a sponsored ministry of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, United States Region. In addition to its main campus, Newman includes outreach sites in:
- Southeast Kansas
- Western Kansas
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
With 3,378 enrolled students, Newman has an 80 percent retention rate and a 692 ROI ranking from Payscale. Within 12 months of commencement, 94 percent of Newman students are either employed or in graduate schools. Newman is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Among its four online master’s programs, you can choose from two online theology degree programs: the Master of Theological Studies or the MA in Theology. The MTS is designed for those already working in catechetical ministry in a Roman Catholic context. It will prepare you for teaching in Catholic schools, chaplaincy and more. Its curriculum has a solid grounding in the Catholic theological tradition. The MAT has more rigorous requirements, and it’s designed to prepare you to become a teacher of theology or enter into a doctoral program. Unlike the MTS, completion of the MAT requires a thesis, comprehensive exam, and foreign language courses. Both of these programs:
- operate as a cohort
- have been endorsed by the Catholic Dioceses of Wichita, Dodge City and Salina
- consist of 10 courses/30 credit hours
- are completable through two eight-week-long courses per semester
- include optional intensive on-campus weekend instruction at the start of each course
- are taught by Catholic professors that have the mandatum from the Bishop of Wichita
- offer a study option in Rome
Net Price: $16,533
20. University of The Cumberlands
Online MA in Christian Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 16,966
Student-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
The University of The Cumberlands is a private Southern Baptist college with a 62 percent first-time student retention rate and broad-based liberal arts programs. One hundred percent of UC’s 11,696 students are involved in service programs, and 99 percent receive financial aid. Governed by a board of trustees, UC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Located in a town with a population smaller than that of the university, UC offers small class sizes and an online class management system that allows for interactions and collaborations like a real-world classroom environment.
The online master’s in biblical studies is a one-year program, offering online students unique benefits like networking interactions with esteemed guest speakers through web conferencing and mentorships from pastors and Christian leaders. Within the 30-hour (10 course) curriculum, you’ll have the opportunity to complete a ministry project and choose from six 6-hour concentration tracks:
- Biblical Studies
- Christian Education
- Church Planting
- Youth Ministry
- Pastoral Ministry
Courses are eight weeks long. Admissions requirements include (but aren’t limited to) GRE or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores and a reference letter from an ordained minister. The online courses are primarily asynchronous, allowing you to complete your degree at your own pace. This program will accept a maximum of nine transfer credit hours.
Net Price: $16,340
19. Saint Leo University
Saint Leo, FL
MA in Theology Online
Grad Student Enrollment: 10,912
Student-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Established in 1889, Saint Leo University is a private, nonprofit liberal arts university founded in the Roman Catholic faith. Its main campus is located just 30 miles north of Tampa. Saint Leo also includes 35 Education Centers across seven states. It is the oldest Catholic college in Florida, enrolling almost 15,000 students from all 50 states and 80+ countries. It has a 72 percent retention rate and a military heritage (with about one-third of its student body being in the military). It’s accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Admissions are rolling at Saint Leo. Its online programs have six start dates throughout each year.
For its online students, Saint Leo offers worldwide student support services like career planning, academic advising and a virtually connected, active, student life. One of its 36 online master’s programs, the MA in theology is designed for nontraditional graduate students, lay ministers, and candidates to the diaconate. This 36-credit program includes a hybrid option with on-campus classes scheduled for one Saturday each month. The program is taught from the Catholic perspective, but it includes diverse perspectives throughout the learning process. Courses include:
- History of Catholic-Jewish Relations
- Management/Human Resources for Ministry
- Catholicism and the World’s Religions
Applicants are expected to have a 3.0 GPA in an accredited bachelor’s or master’s program. You’re also expected to submit one recommendation from a supervisor or pastor, an $80 application fee and a statement of professional goals.
Net Price: $19,843
18. Luther Rice College & Seminary
MA in Ministry, Christian Studies or Apologetics and Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: About 782
Student-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Luther Rice College & Seminary is a private nonprofit Southern Baptist college with 1,336 students from 44 states and 13 countries. Headquartered in Metro Atlanta, the only degree program at Luther Rice that has a residency requirement is the doctor of ministry. Otherwise, every degree program can be taken fully online. The College & Seminary is a member of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. It’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education. It has a 66.3 percent student retention rate, according to its website. It offers free, non-credit, self-paced short courses that provide biblical teaching through its Project FOCUS.
The online graduate degrees at Luther Rice can be accelerated for completion in 18 to 24 months through eight-week terms (or you can choose 15- and 11-week terms). If you’re an online student, you can download over 1 million electronic library resources 24/7. You can also take advantage of student success advising and placement support. The online master’s degree programs can be completed fully online or in a hybrid format. You can choose from the following:
- MA in Ministry: This 36-hour program allows up to six transfer credits and is designed “with the minister and church leader in mind.” The curriculum includes biblical and theological studies, as well as courses like Marriage and Family Counseling, Preparing an Expository Message and Systematic Theology.
- MA in Christian Studies: Similar to above, this 36-hour program teaches biblical and theological studies so that you can learn to skillfully interpret God’s Word. This program includes a practicum for hands-on learning and courses like New and OId Testament electives.
- Master of Divinity: This 90-hour program is biblically sound and designed to prepare you for a lifetime of ministry with a broad base of knowledge. You’re able to transfer in up to 45 credits. You can choose from two tracks: Open Electives or Biblical Languages.
- MA in Apologetics: Another 36-hour online theology degree, this program will teach you about the issues related to the rational and biblical defense of the Christian faith. You’ll utilize research, teaching and service to learn how to proclaim and defend the historic doctrines of Christianity. The university prides itself on its Apologetics program offerings. You can also earn credit by attending Luther Rice’ Apologetics Conference.
Net Price: $18,019
17. Heritage Christian University
Online Master of Ministry, Master of Divinity or Master of the Arts
Grad Student Enrollment: 86 (according to NCES)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 6:1
Heritage Christian University is a private, nonprofit bible college governed by a board of directors and affiliated with the churches of Christ. It offers Bible degree programs that are evangelistically focused, with an emphasis on real-world ministry. Located on a 67-acre campus in Alabama, Heritage enrolls 89 students (NCES) with a 100 percent retention rate. Heritage is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education. It’s a member of National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. Its distance education is curated mostly through digitally recorded courses and supplemental materials, but the programs are the same as those on campus. Students seeking a graduate degree are expected to make on-campus appearances for an introductory week, final exams and graduation exercises.
All three of the graduate degree programs at Heritage are available online. The 36-hour Master of Ministry trains students for more effective ministry specialization options in:
- Biblical Studies
- History of Biblical Interpretation and Theology
- Homiletics and Ministerial Care
- Ministerial Counseling
The MMin can be tailored via choosing both a major and minor. It has 12 credit hours of electives. Initiated in 2011, the 75-credit-hour Master of Divinity is a professional program designed to prepare you for congregation leadership. Through a partnership with the Ezell Institute for Biblical Research, MDiv students are “equipped to work in churches with limited resources.” This program’s curriculum includes research and a concluding practicum. It also has four major divisions that allow for some personalizing wiggle room. Finally, the 36-hour online master of the arts program prepares students for serious biblical study in Greek and/or Hebrew. This program also includes a lot of research, but it concludes with a thesis.
Net Price: $8,680
16. Harding University
Master of Ministry Online
Grad Student Enrollment: 4,879
Student-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Harding University is a private Christian college. It’s the largest private university in Arkansas with 5,122 total enrolled students and an 83 percent retention rate. Harding offers more than 100 areas of study. Students come from all 50 states, as well as 50 different nations and territories. Harding is affiliated with the churches of Christ. It’s accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and 16 other specialized accreditors like the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools. It’s also an approved SARA institution in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements for its distance education. Harding’s main campus is located 50 miles northeast of Little Rock. It also operates four remote campuses in Arkansas and Tennessee, as well as seven international campuses in countries like France and Greece.
At Harding, you have two avenues for completing an online theology degree as a graduate student. Harding’s College of Bible & Ministry offers a fully-online Master of Ministry, which is a 36-hour, non-thesis degree program. It’s designed to provide professional and non-professional ministers with advanced knowledge and ministerial skills. Harding offers five MMin-specific scholarships. For a mostly online master’s degree program, you may choose to go through the Harding School of Theology to obtain one of the following through a hybrid learning format:
- Master of Arts: This 48-hour online MA degree is designed to prepare you for teaching and further research in your chosen concentration area of:
- New or Old Testament
- Historical Theology
- Systematic Theology
This program places an emphasis on scholarly research and requires you to complete two courses (six hours) on campus.
- MA in Christian Ministry: Also requiring 48 total credit hours and six hours of on-campus courses, the MACM is designed to prepare you for a leadership role in specialized ministry or a church setting. A Greek language track is available.
- Master of Divinity: The MDiv is 78 total hours. Its curriculum is focused on spiritual growth, research tools and methodology. It requires three on-campus courses (nine hours), and it includes supervised, real-world ministry experience.
Net Price: $19,578
15. Maranatha Baptist University and Seminary
Online MA in Bible, Hybrid Master of Divinity or Hybrid MA in Biblical Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 985 according to NCES (Maranatha declined to provide us with enrollment information)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 11:1 (according to MBU)
Maranatha Baptist University and Seminary is a private Baptist university and seminary. It enrolled 1,414 total students in 2017-18 from 48 states, 18 countries, and two territories. With a 71 percent student retention rate (according to the school), MBU requires every student to complete a core of Bible courses as a part of their degree programs. MBU is governed by a board of trustees. It’s accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has a membership with the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries. Comprised of seven schools and colleges, MBU’s online master’s programs in religion are delivered through the Maranatha Baptist Seminary.
MBU offers 14 full degree programs completely online, as well as over 200 online courses through eight-, 12- and 16-week class sessions (12 per year). Students interested in a hybrid format of both online and on-campus studies can utilize MBU’s course modules. Those interested in a more structured online learning experience will benefit from MBU’s virtual learning, where you can join a module or semester-long residential course real-time from home. The following online master’s degree programs are available through the seminary:
- MA in Bible: You can transfer up to 12 credits toward this 33-semester-hour master in Bible. It can be completed via a hybrid format or on-campus. This theology degree’s curriculum consists mostly of biblical and theological courses with opportunities to choose practical electives. Class examples are Holy Land Tour, Baptist History and Principles of Bible Study and Teaching.
- MA in Biblical Studies: This online theology degree is also 33 semester hours. It will prepare you to become a Bible teacher, pastor, assistant, youth pastor, missionary or evangelist. In addition to biblical studies and theological courses, this curriculum emphasizes biblical languages. It also accepts up to 12 transfer credits and includes courses like Theology of Prayer and Worship, Baptist Polity and Hebrew Grammar.
- Master of Divinity: This MDiv requires 96 semester hours and is designed to prepare you for a career as a pastor or other church leadership positions. Its curriculum is approved for chaplain training by the Department of Defense. It offers specialization options in biblical counseling, biblical languages, intercultural studies, New Testament, Old Testament, theology and pastoral theology. It will accept up to 48 transfer credit hours.
Net Price: $19,399
14. Fresno Pacific University
Online MA in Ministry, Leadership & Culture
Grad Student Enrollment: 4,300
Student-Faculty Ratio: 11:1 (according to Fresno’s website)
Founded by the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Fresno Pacific University is a nonprofit, independent Christian college. It has 4,212 students and a 79 percent retention rate. In addition to its main campus, Fresno has regional campuses in:
- North Fresno
Fresno is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission and the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools. Fresno also has the highest four-year graduation rate in the region. It’s among the nation’s top 10 Hispanic Serving Institutions for highest Hispanic graduation rates.
Fresno’s fully online degree completion and graduate program offerings include two options from its Anabaptist Online Biblical Seminary:
- a certificate in Mennonite Brethren Studies
- the MA in Ministry, Leadership & Culture
Designed mostly for pastors actively engaged in ministry, this online theology degree is a three-year program, requiring 48 units. In this program, you’ll get assigned a coach or spiritual director, and you’re required to:
- serve in your local church 10 hours per week
- attend weekly 90-minute synchronous discussions via video conferences
- go on four one-week retreats in North America
- create your own cross-cultural experience prior to graduating.
Net Price: $19,298
13. Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary
MA in Religion Online or MA in Pastoral Theology Online
Grad Student Enrollment: About 151
Student-Faculty Ratio: 3:1
The Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary is a higher education institution, owned and operated by the Baptist Missionary Association of America. BMA Seminary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and by The Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Governed by a board of trustees, BMA also has multiple ministry and educational partners. BMATS has 150 students, an 80 percent retention rate and the cheapest tuition among all ATS-accredited seminaries. This seminary also offers scholarships for missionaries, free non-degree courses, and training in Disciple Making.
The Online Seminary offers degree programs from the associate’s through the master’s levels, including an MA in Religion and an MA in Pastoral Theology. BMA’s online courses take the same amount of time as its on-campus classes. They’re on the same schedule, but they aren’t time-sensitive (with the exception of live video components). For either of these two online master’s degree programs, you can transfer up to 18 credit hours. Both programs are two years in length and require the completion of 36 semester hours. The MAPT curriculum combines biblical studies with theological and pastoral studies, offering a broad academic study of church ministry. This program prepares you for positions like:
- Bible teacher
- lay leader
- associate pastor
The MAR combines historical studies with biblical and theological studies, preparing you for careers as an educator, theologian or church historian.
Net Price: $3,535 ($220.00 per semester hour)
12. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC
Fully-Online Master of Divinity, MA in Christian Studies, MA in Christian Ministry or MA in Church Planting
Grad Student Enrollment: 3,164
Student-Faculty Ratio: 27:1
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is a private, nonprofit Christian college of the Southern Baptist Convention. It has 3,400+ students and an 81 percent retention rate. SEBTS is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Accrediting of The Association of Theological Schools. To make hybrid class formats more accessible, SEBTS has several extension centers in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
SEBTS’s flagship program, the Master of Divinity, is just one of four online theology degree programs available through the online seminary. They are as follows:
- MDiv: This 81-hour program is designed to prepare you, through practical and academic training, for a lifetime of ministerial service. It offers four tracks: the Advanced MDiv, Christian Ministry, Missiology, North American Church Planting, and Preaching and Pastoral Ministry. The school suggests that online students pursue the Christian Ministry focus because of its large number of elective hours.
- MA in Christian Studies: The 39-hour MACS program offers a “graduate-level introduction to the theological disciplines.” It is meant for general education purposes, or as a stepping stone to further studies.
- MA in Church Planting: This is a specialized, 37-hour degree program that’s made possible through the school’s partnership with denominational missions sending agencies. It includes field ministry, practicum and mentored internship components.
- MA in Christian Ministry: The MACM is 49 hours, designed to prepare you for serving on local church staff, in another ministry organization or in non-senior pastoral roles. This program requires the completion of some EQUIP courses, classes done in partnership with a local church.
Online courses at SEBTS are 16 weeks (11 in the summer) and may include some live sessions. Enrolling as a full-time student will allow you to complete one of these programs in two to four years. Plus, those interested in hybrid courses may take advantage of January-term classes, four different summer sessions and one-week intensives throughout the fall and spring semesters. Online religion degree students can benefit at SEBTS from its initiatives and centers like The Global Theological Initiative and the Center for Great Commission Studies. Online learners can also take part in a variety of events and chapel services through the school’s live stream.
Net Price: $13,077
11. Iliff School of Theology
Master of Divinity, MA in Pastoral and Spiritual Care or Master of Theological Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 227
Student-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
At the Iliff School of Theology, most of the 296 students come from The United Methodist Church, but 30+ other denominations and faith traditions are represented within the student body. Founded in 1892, this graduate theological school has an eight-acre campus next to the University of Denver. Its curriculum places emphasis on peace, justice, and ethics. One of 13 United Methodist theological schools in America, Iliff is accredited by:
- the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- the Association of Theological Schools
- the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools
Iliff has an 82 percent retention rate (2015-16), an Office of Professional Formation (seminary career center) and both hybrid and online courses that offer the following:
- Intentionally limited online class sizes
- Asynchronous learning
- Text discussion and blog posts
- Video and audio lectures
- Slide presentations
- Video conversations
- Live and recorded presentations and more
Iliff offers five degree programs that can be completed through part- or full-time enrollment. Three of those programs — the Master of Divinity, the Master of Theological Studies or the Master of Pastoral and Spiritual Care– can be pursued concurrently with the University of Denver’s Master of Social Work degree program. Iliff works with the variety of denominations in its student body by providing detailed information on how to become ordained by choosing the right programs and courses for each specific sect. The three online master’s programs in religion are:
- MDiv: This three-year program offers a professional and academic study of religion and theology, meeting the standard prerequisite for ordained ministry. Of the 120 credits, 52 are electives, and courses include Preacher as Self: Cultivating an Authentic Voice, Feminist Theology and Media, Religion, and Culture. The hybrid version of this program requires three two- to five-day visits to campus. It also offers six concentration options in subjects like Black Religious Studies and Gender and Sexuality.
- MTS: This two-year, 72-credit online theology degree is an interdisciplinary program, offering a broad curriculum for those interested in preparing for a doctoral degree. The program includes 56 course credits that are your choice. It culminates in a four-credit interdisciplinary thesis. Those with an MDiv from another accredited institution can complete this program within just 40 credits. Courses include Religion and Film, Comparative Mysticism and Theological Anthropology. You can also choose from the six concentrations in this program.
- MAPSC: This professional master’s degree program requires 80 credits that are completable within two years and include eight credits in clinical pastoral education. This curriculum is designed for those interested in providing professional spiritual care “with sensitivity, openness and respect.” It includes courses specific to military chaplaincy like War: Moral and Pastoral Perspectives, Impact of War on Pastoral Care of Families and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Net Price: $19,824/year (Not including financial aid because it wasn’t reported to NCES)
10. Columbia International University
Online Master of Divinity, MA in Theological Studies, MA in Ministry Studies, MA in Muslim Studies, MA in Chaplaincy or MA in Bible Exposition
Grad Student Enrollment: 1,649
Student-Faculty Ratio: 14:1 (according to CIU’s website)
Columbia International University is a multi-denominational Christian college with 1,011 students, 90 percent of whom receive some financial aid via grants and scholarships. CIU has a 73 percent student retention rate. It has accreditation from SACS, the Association for Biblical Higher Learning and the Association for Theological Schools. With small class sizes (average of 20 students), CIU offers personalized attention through its online degree programs, in addition to online resources like the library, bookstore, and Academic Success Center.
CIU’s online master’s degree programs don’t require official class times or campus visits, but they do cover a variety of subjects within the online theology degree realm. In addition to the numerous postgraduate and master level certificates online, CIU offers the following graduate degree programs:
- Master of Divinity: This 78-credit-hour program includes a high level of research and hands-on learning opportunities built into the curriculum. Completable within three years, it comes with the choice of the following eight concentration options:
- Bible Exposition
- Care and Counseling
- Ministry Studies
- Missiological Studies
- Muslim Studies
- Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL)
- Young Ministry Leadership
- MA in Theological Studies: This online MATS program is 36 semester hours and completable within one-and-a-half to two years. Its curriculum is interdisciplinary and offers two different track options to students depending on your previous studies in theology.
- MA in Ministry Studies: The MAMS is grounded in biblical, ministry and leadership principles, but it’s tailorable to your specific needs and interests. Its 36 credits are completable within three year. It also offers a shorter track option for those with background credits in Bible or theology.
- MA in Muslim Studies: It takes about one-and-a-half to two years to complete the required 45 credits of this unique online religious studies degree. Its curriculum can prepare you to become an advocate for peace or an employee of an international organization. Example courses include Acts to Revelation: God’s People Proclaiming Redemption Globally and Gospels: God’s Means of Providing Redemption.
- MA in Chaplaincy: For a more direct career route, this online master of the arts prepares you to become a chaplain in the areas of sports, healthcare, corporate, disaster relief and more. You can complete its 36 credits within three years.
- MA in Bible Exposition: This online degree in religion is designed for those who want to read, analyze and interpret the Bible. Completable within three or fewer years, its 48-credit curriculum prepares you to teach or preach as a member of church staff or a para-church ministry.
Net Price: $18,242
9. Piedmont International University
Online MA in Ministry (Programa em Português), MA in Biblical Studies (Maestría de Estudios Bíblicos) or a Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 668
Student-Faculty Ratio: 12:1 (according to Piedmont’s website)
Piedmont International University is a private bible college and graduate school accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). Piedmont enrolled 716 students in Spring 2018 and has a 63 percent student retention rate. Piedmont operates seven schools, including:
- the School of Bible and Theology
- the School of Ministry
- the Temple Baptist Seminary
Through a 2004 merger with Spurgeon Baptist Bible College in Florida, Piedmont was able to open its Spurgeon School of Online Education.
Online courses and degree programs are available in seven-week sessions with six enrollment dates throughout the year and 15 or fewer students per class. Through Blackboard, Piedmont offers unique distance learning formats, like the “integrated class”, which allows online students to log in and participate with the class lectures as they’re being taught on campus. It also offers the “flipped class,” where online students watch video lectures but join with the professor to do their homework and receive help. In short, Piedmont offers three online master’s degree programs:
- MA in Ministry: This 30-hour online MA in ministry comes in a few different formats, but it’s mainly designed for those in ministry who desire to enhance their skills and knowledge of the Bible. This program is also available in Portuguese or as a combined five-year bachelor/master’s degree. Additionally, Piedmont partners with churches (possibly one local to you) to offer an “e4-12” version of this program, which greatly discounts the tuition to $99 per credit hour. Completable through part-time study within three-and-a-half years, this program only requires a 2.0 undergraduate GPA for admission.
- MA in Biblical Studies: This 57-hour online theology degree is also available in multiple formats: Spanish (Maestría de Estudios Bíblicos), with a non-language track or with a language. This curriculum is designed for those interested in teaching at the college and university level, or those just looking to advance their preaching. Both tracks include six elective credits, but the language track replaces some of the biblical studies credits with biblical language courses to prepare you for a language-based PhD. You need a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA for admission.
- Master of Divinity: This online MDiv is 72 credit hours and also offers language and non-language tracks. Designed to prepare you for chaplaincy, pastor positions or other leadership positions in Christian ministries, this curriculum also includes six 12-hour track options:
- Pastoral Studies
- Local Church Ministry
- Language Tools
- Military Chaplaincy
- Hospital Chaplaincy
- and Law Enforcement Chaplaincy
Net Price: $13,375
8. Clarks Summit University and Baptist Bible Seminary
Clarks Summit, PA
Online MA with a Concentration in Bible, Master of Arts (Seminary), Master of Ministry and Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 771 (178 in the Seminary)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Clarks Summit University is a private Christian college with a campus located near both New York City and Philadelphia. With an Independent Baptist denomination, Clarks Summit enrolls almost 1,000 students from 40 states and 21 countries. It has a 64 percent student retention rate. The University and Seminary receives accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and The Association for Biblical Higher Education.
CSU Online offers five eight-week asynchronous class sessions per year. Its online master’s degree programs can be completed within two years. Online students benefit from resources like:
- the online writing center
- assigned advisors
- software discounts
The online master of arts degree program is just 30 credits with a concentration option in Bible. The Baptist Bible Seminary offers three additional online master’s programs:
- Master of Arts: The Seminary’s online MA is “theologically saturated” and practical. it offers seven different concentration options in subjects like Theological Studies or Biblical Languages. It requires 30 credit hours for graduation, give or take depending on your chosen concentration.
- Master of Ministry: This 30-credit MMin is practical and designed for those actively engaged and experienced in ministry. Offered completely online, on-campus or in a hybrid format, it can be completed in one year of full-time study.
- Master of Divinity: This online MDiv requires 94 credits. Its curriculum balances a core of biblical and ministry courses with specialty courses and hands-on experience. You can choose from these concentration tracks:
- general ministry
- pastoral ministry
- church planting
You can also choose between completing an 18-credit hour, one-year paid pastoral internship or an integrative ministry project.
Net Price: $16,980
7. United Theological Seminary
Online Master of Theological Studies, Hybrid Master of Ministry, Hybrid MA in Christian Ministries and Hybrid Master of Divinity
Grad Student Enrollment: 415 (according to NCES)
Student-Faculty Ratio: 32:1
United Theological Seminary is a United Methodist seminary founded in 1871 by the Wright brothers’ father. It’s one of America’s 13 United Methodist Church seminaries, but it welcomes students of all religious backgrounds. It’s accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission. United is governed by a board of trustees. The master’s degree programs have an 86 percent retention rate (2017-18). The school enrolls 421 students (NCES) from 38 different states and 14 nations. United is also home to The Hispanic Christian Academy, which offers a three-year Course of Ministry program taught online in Spanish and English.
United offers one fully online master’s in religion degree program. It also offers three hybrid master’s degree programs and a unique version of distance learning called Live Interactive Virtual Education (LIVE) courses. Through LIVE, online/distance students can attend on-campus courses remotely via a webcam during the regular class schedule. Otherwise, you can learn asynchronously online and with week-long on-campus “intensives.” The four online and hybrid master’s degree programs are:
- Master of Theological Studies: This 48-semester-hour MTS degree program offers 16 courses, completable in as few as three years. United’s only fully online master’s degree program will help you prepare for ordained ministry or leadership as a lay professional. Seven of its courses are electives. It can be taken online, on-campus or as a combination of the two. It includes the option of two focus areas in Church History and Theology or Biblical Studies.
- Master of Divinity: This 78-credit MDiv is a hybrid degree program with four (or more) intensive weeks on-campus and a completion time of three to four years. Among the program’s 26 required courses, seven are electives. You can choose from concentrations in preaching, church planting, Wesleyan and Methodist studies and more. Its residency requirements may differ depending on your denomination, but you only need a 2.5 GPA and a bachelor’s degree to apply.
- MA in Christian Ministries: The MACM is 45 semester hours with as few as two intensive weeks on-campus and a total completion time of two to three years. This 15-course curriculum is designed to prepare you for leadership and service to the Church. It includes six elective courses and the choice of seven different concentrations. Courses include:
- Methods of Interreligious and Intercultural Encounter
- Foundations for Church Renewal
- Preparing to Preach.
- Master of Ministry: The 36-credit MMin includes 12 courses to prepare you for either ministry or United’s doctoral program in ministry. The curriculum covers broad work in theology, biblical studies and the arts of ministry. It includes two elective courses.
Net Price: $7,625 tuition/fees ($15,250 per year for the MDiv and $13,900 (tuition and fees) for all other master’s degree students, according to the university)
6. Lee University
Online MA in Ministry Studies
Grad Student Enrollment: 5,189
Student-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Lee University is a private, Christian liberal arts college, historically affiliated with the Church of God. It’s accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, among others. Lee is the fifth-largest university in enrollment among the members of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Lee is home to 5,386 students and has an 81 percent retention rate. In Lee’s School of Religion, 100 percent of graduate students receive automatic scholarships. Online students have access to advisors and amenities like chapel service downloads.
Lee’s online master’s in ministry studies is mainly governed by a committee in the School of Religion’s Department of Christian Ministries. It teaches you to understand the social and psychological contexts of the people to whom you’ll minister in addition to foundational theory. Its curriculum includes 18 credit hours in general ministry courses, three credits in electives and 15-credit specializations in:
- youth and family ministry studies
- leadership studies
- worship studies.
If your accredited bachelor’s degree is not in religion, theology, Bible or ministry, you’ll have to take an additional 12 hours of “leveling courses.” These are also available online. Applicants must also interview with the school either on the phone or in-person. You must complete this degree within six years. However, you may take up to nine credits on campus if you’re interested in the hybrid format. Up to six credits are transferable, and a final project or internship is required for graduation.
Net Price: $16,949
5. Indiana Wesleyan University (Wesley Seminary)
Online Master of Practical Theology (also Maestría en Teología Práctica), Master of Divinity (also Maestría en Divinidad) or an MA in Ministry (also Maestría en Ministerio)
Grad Student Enrollment: 3,165
Student-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Indiana Wesleyan University is a private, nonprofit Christian liberal arts college affiliated with The Wesleyan Church. Between its 345-acre residential campus and online offerings, IWU is home to 13,802 students. It has a 78 percent student retention rate. It is the largest member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. IWU’s students represent 80+ Christian denominations and 10 different countries. Its adult education program began in 1985. Today it offers 90+ online degree programs at seven different levels. It’s accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the Association of Theological Schools and more. IWU is also affiliated with entities like the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
The Wesley Seminary was established as the first seminary of The Wesleyan Church. It offers the following online master’s programs:
- Master of Divinity/Maestría en Divinidad: This 75-credit-hour program includes:
- six core “praxis” courses
- four foundational courses
- two intensive onsite courses
- 15 hours of elective credits
The elective courses can come from one of eight specialization options in subjects like intercultural studies or church revitalization. You can take them in one-, eight- or 16-week formats. Uniquely, this online MDiv requires that students work at least 10 hours a week with a local church, ministry or chaplaincy position in some way. This program accepts up to 27 hours of transfer credit.
- MA in Ministry/Maestría en Ministerio: This 36-hour online MA program has a highly practical cohort design. It consists of 18 credits of core courses and 18 credits of elective courses. You can also receive one of the eight specializations in this program by taking the specific electives.
- Master of Practical Theology/Maestría en Teología Práctica: This 72-hour program is designed as a bridge for those planning to move forward into the Doctorate of Ministry. It’s helpful for those who have at least 30 credits of relevant graduate studies to earn an MDiv equivalency. The curriculum is split into 18 credits of Wesley’s MDiv program and 18 additional credits in
- biblical studies
- church history and ministry.
The programas en Español are only available online, but the other three offer a hybrid format option with both online and on-campus course opportunities. To apply, students are expected to submit a reference from a pastor or denominational supervisor, as well as a Church Endorsement Form (MDiv and MPT). Online students benefit from a host of accessible online library resources and assignment of personal academic advisors.
Net Price: $21,619
4. Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach, VA
Online Master of Theology, MA in Practical Theology (Hybrid), Master of Theological Studies (Hybrid), Master of Divinity (Hybrid), MA in Church Leadership and MA in Christian Spirituality & Formation
Grad Student Enrollment: 10,365
Student-Faculty Ratio: 29:1 (according to Regent’s website; graduate student-faculty ratio is 16:1)
Regent University is a private Christian research university located on 70 beautiful acres near the beach. It’s accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Regent enrolls 10,400+ students who represent 88 different countries. Regent has additional accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools and others. It also has a 78 percent first-time student retention rate. In 2017, Regent was ranked as the No. 1 Military Friendly School among Large Private Institutions by Military Friendly®. It even has a Center for Student Happiness.
Through online learning, Regent offers fully online or blended 8- and 15-week course options. You’re allowed to transfer up to 90 credits. In addition to two certificates of graduate studies, you can choose from six master’s degrees in religion at Regent:
- Master of Theology: This online master of theology (ThM) is 24 credit hours and completable in just one year without any residency requirements. The curriculum is designed to advance your ministry impact or prepare you to move forward with a doctoral program. To specialize your degree, you can choose from four concentrations in:
- Biblical Studies
- Christian Theology
- Church History
- Practical Theology.
- MA in Practical Theology: This online master’s degree program “equips you to lead in a specialized ministry setting” through a firm foundation in Christian theology, hermeneutics and more. It’s 48 total credits, and it includes five concentration options:
- Church & Ministry
- Interdisciplinary Studies
- Marketplace Ministry
- Missiology and Worship & Media.
- Master of Theological Studies: This 48-hour online theology degree prepares you for theological research, writing and teaching. Its five concentration options are:
- Biblical Languages
- Biblical Studies
- Christian Theology
- Church History
- Master of Divinity: Regent’s 72-credit MDiv incorporates elements from both the MTS and MAPT to prepare you for a career in full-time ministry, as well as ordination or ministry licensure. This online graduate degree program comes with a whopping 13 concentration options in subjects like:
- Cyber Theology
- Marketplace Ministry
- Worship & Media
At the end, you’ll select a capstone experience, which can be a thesis, portfolio or clinical pastoral education.
- MA in Church Leadership: This program offers a biblical education that’s grounded in organizational leadership to teach you to drive organizational success in a variety of ministry settings. The curriculum requires 33 credit hours. It includes unique courses like:
- Not-for-Profit & Faith-Based Organizations Fundraising Development
- Leadership Coaching: Transformations and Ministry Administration.
- MA in Christian Spirituality & Formation: The 36 credit hours of this master’s degree can be completed fully-online or in a hybrid format. The curriculum is designed to teach you the dynamics involved with spiritual formation and discipleship at both individual and corporate levels.
Net Price: $15,062
3. Holy Apostles College and Seminary
MA in Theology
Grad Student Enrollment: 603
Student-Faculty Ratio: 6:1
Holy Apostles College and Seminary is a coeducational Roman Catholic college open to students of all denominations. It operates on a trimester academic calendar and enrolls about 525 students. While Holy Apostles has a 40-acre campus located between Hartford and New Haven, the majority of its students study online. It’s accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education and the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). Holy Apostles has a mission to “cultivate lay, consecrated and ordained Catholic leaders for the purpose of evangelization” in every profession and walk in life.
Holy Apostles offers philosophically-based online degree programs year-round (24/365 Online Campus). This means you can earn your graduate degree online in as little as 1.3 years, or you can take your time (up to six years). Each of its three online master’s degree programs require 36 total credits; they are the MA in Philosophy, the MA in Theology and the MA in Pastoral Studies. Additionally, Holy Apostles offers post-master’s certificates in the same three subjects. The MAT offers a broad curriculum designed to prepare you for ministry, teaching or post-master’s study. It has eight concentration options:
- Dogmatic Theology
- General Studies
- Moral Theology
- Sacred Scripture
- Thomistic Studies
The MAPS is a professional program designed to prepare you to serve in ministries and lay leadership within parish settings. This program also has concentration options in:
- Marriage and Family Studies
- Pastoral Counseling
- Spiritual Direction
- Youth & Young Adult Ministry
- Catechetical Ministry
- General Studies
Each of the master’s programs require a Summative Evaluation, which includes a comprehensive exam and a professional paper, covering your specific discipline. Online students benefit from resources like the Online Writing Lab and quality faculty members, who adhere to the teachings of the Magisterium.
Net Price: $9,100
2. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Kansas City, MO
Online Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies or MA in Christian Education
Grad Student Enrollment: 3,038
Student-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is one of the six official seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention. Located just minutes from downtown Kansas City, MBTS has a 220-acre wooded campus. It has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. With 2,239 students, MBTS has a 40 percent retention rate. This seminary also offers four international degrees and a large variety of online resources for its faith-focused students, such as:
- Five different podcasts
- An active publication called For The Church
- Chapel service live-streams
- A variety of other videos, articles and online-accessible resources.
OnlineYou has been specifically designed for online students engaged in ministry. It includes the following unique features:
- Contextualized training
- Online Connect, where, in every online course, Midwestern gives you three options for applying your academics to the local church context
- Symposiums throughout the year, where online students can meet on campus to engage as a group
- Seven start dates throughout the year and eight-week terms
- Practicums, where students participate in ministry with a local field supervisor
- MDiv: Designed for those who anticipate ordination, this program can also prepare you for doctoral training or seminary-level teaching. It includes 10 different concentration options in subjects like:
- Women’s Ministry
- International Church Planting
- MTS: This program is 45 credit hours and includes eight emphasis options in subjects like Leadership, Church Revitalization and Missions. Its curriculum offers a basic understanding of theological disciplines for general education purposes or further study.
- MACE: A professional degree, this online master’s program is designed to prepare you for disciple making ministries. It provides a foundation for entrance into advanced education degree programs. It includes courses like:
- Age Group Ministry
- Church Administration
- Issues in Christian Education
Net Price: $19,012
1. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
New Orleans, LA
Online Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies (also available in Spanish) or an MA in Theology, Biblical Studies, Apologetics, Christian Education, Discipleship, Missiology, Pastoral Ministry or Theology
Grad Student Enrollment: 2,593
Student-Faculty Ratio: 11:1
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is a private Christian college. It was the first institution created as a direct act of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2017-18 it enrolled 3,734 total students who come from 39 states and 39 countries. NOBTS is located on a 70-acre tree-covered campus. It has over 20 extension centers in the southeastern U.S. Among master’s students, there’s a 44 percent retention rate. It’s a member of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. NOBTS is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools. Here, students will benefit from the more than 10 research and ministry institutes and centers, like the Global Missions Center and the Caskey Center for Church Excellence.
NOBTS Online Learning, where graduate degrees are cheaper than the undergraduate programs, comes in three formats:
- Standard Online: Asynchronous, semester-long courses that are fully-online
- NOLA2U: Weekly scheduled (synchronous) live-streamed lecture broadcasts from campus, in which distance students can interact
- NOLA2U-Flex: You can choose between the NOLA2U format or viewing the recorded lecture at a later time in the week so that you can keep up when your schedule works against synchronous learning
This affordable Christian college offers 10 different online master’s in theology degree programs. They are:
- MDiv: The seminary’s flagship degree program, this 84- to 105-credit-hour MDiv will prepare you to serve in the widest variety of ministerial callings. It can be combined with other on-campus courses. This program comes with 24 specialization options! Examples include:
- the Mentoring Track
- Islamic studies
- Marriage and Family Counseling
- Master of Theological Studies: Also available in Spanish, this MTS is 49 hours and doesn’t require a thesis. The curriculum is designed to teach you general theological knowledge with five credit hours in worship leadership.
- MA in Biblical Studies: This online master’s degree can require 52 to 55 credit hours and requires a thesis at the end. It is meant for students preparing to teach, research or write in the fields of biblical studies.
- MA in Theology: This 57-hour program is designed similarly to the MA in biblical studies, just with a theological context. You can combine your online courses in this program with semester-length, hybrid and weeklong workshop classes.
- MA in Apologetics: This 50-hour degree is designed as a stepping stone into a PhD program. However, not every course in this program is currently available online. This program’s faculty urges its students to earn six hours of course credit by attending the January Defend conference, which features some of the nation’s top Apologists.
- MA in Christian Education: This is a 60-hour online master’s in religion. It’s designed to prepare you for work in educational ministries.
- MA in Discipleship: Only 36 hours, this MA also prepares you for educational ministry jobs.
- MA in Missiology: Requiring 49 credits, this is designed to prepare you for work in missions agencies. The curriculum can be applied to those already engaged in mission work. Those with prior seminary studies can put those toward this program’s credit requirements.
- MA in Pastoral Ministry: This online master of the arts can be 36 or 37 hours. It’s designed to prepare you to become a full- or part-time pastor or ministerial staff member of a local church.
Net Price: $15,244
More on Getting a Master’s in Theology/Religious Studies
Defining the Degree: Master’s in Theology/Religious Studies
The majority of theology degree programs in America (and on this list) have a Christian affiliation. However, plenty of other universities offer non-denominational religious studies and online theology degree programs that are based on a variety of faiths and positions in:
- a church
- the military
- healthcare organizations
- nonprofit organizations
Regardless, if you feel a calling to service or have a strong personal relationship to your faith, you may want to consider one of the inexpensive online master’s programs in theology listed above.
According to the Association of Theological Schools, a Master of Theology is an “advanced program oriented toward theological research and teaching.” This program can operate as a path to:
- a stepping stone into a PhD program of theology/religion
- scholarly enhancement of practical ministry
- a teaching degree
- a way for those already practicing ministry to gain specialized training in a specific ministerial function
These degrees can be obtained at a college, university or seminary.
An online master’s degree in theology, religion, divinity, ministry, etc. may consist of heavy research and writing, as well as a thesis, comprehensive exams and/or practical application of learned ministry skills and knowledge. You can earn a theology degree at the graduate level completely online, on-campus or in a hybrid format of both distance and face-to-face learning. These programs can come with a variety of different titles, but they mostly surround ministerial education, religious history and carrying one’s faith/traditions into contemporary life. These kinds of graduate programs can result in any of the following degrees:
- Master of Theology (and Master of Theological Studies)
- MA in Theological Studies
- Master of Divinity
- Master of Ministry
- MA in Religion or Religious Studies (also World Religions)
- MA in Ministry Studies (also Intercultural Ministry Studies)
- MA in Bible or Biblical Studies
- MA in Pastoral Studies
- MA in Christian Ministry or Christian Studies
- MA in Muslim Studies
- MA in Jewish Studies
- MA in Pastoral (or Church) Leadership
- MA in New (or Old) Testament
- MA in Church Planting and more
Most Frequently Searched Graduate Programs in Theology/Religious Studies
- Durham University: In the UK, Durham University offers an oft-searched MA in Theology and Religion program, which has a curriculum focused on progressing to doctoral research or leading to a career in teaching.
- Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven: Another highly searched program is the Master of Theology and Religious Studies at KU Leuven in Belgium. This program has a Catholic affiliation. Its curriculum is described as being “situated in the present and yet ever conscious of the future.”
- Ateneo de Manila University: Located in the Philippines, this school offers two different MA programs in theological studies.
- Trinity College Dublin: This master in theology degree program is located in Ireland, and consequently has its roots in Christianity.
FAQ Concerning Theology/Religious Studies Graduate Degree Programs
1. Who should get a master’s degree in theology or religion?
Anyone with interest in the religions of the world, or those looking to enter faith-centered careers should consider getting a master’s degree in religion or theology. Even if you already work in a church or ministry setting, you should consider one of the above online master’s degrees because it will allow you to further your knowledge and advance your position in your occupation.
2. What can I do with a graduate degree in theology?
After completing an inexpensive online master’s degree in theology, you’ll be able to enter or advance in a career as a:
- leader within a church or nonprofit organization
- teacher at a variety of levels, including college
- researcher or writer
- chaplain in the military, law enforcement or healthcare settings
- social worker
- counselor and more
3. How long does it take to get a master’s in theology?
Many schools offer one-year graduate certificate programs online in religion, theology and related studies. Otherwise, an MA in theology might take fewer than 24 months to complete, while a Master in Divinity might take a minimum of three years to complete. Because most online programs cater to working adults, many online theology degree programs require students to take just one course at a time. Those courses, however, are typically accelerated compared to the same on-campus classes.
4. What is the difference between a Master’s of Divinity and a Master’s of Theology?
The “gold standard for church leaders,” a Master of Divinity is considered the main avenue for ordained ministry and for general pastoral and religious leadership responsibilities in congregations and other settings. MDiv’s, even those online, typically require practical experience before graduation, like a mentorship with a local minister. A Master of Theology is considered more of an advanced research degree that leads to further study, teaching or other religion-affiliated positions. Often, the master of theology requires about half or one-third of the credits that an MDiv requires. So if an online college offers both degrees, you may be able to earn one with the other.
5. How do I choose which theology degree program is best for me?
Because most of the online theology degree program curricula focus on specific denominations, you’ll want to look at schools affiliated with the community or traditions that you’d like to base your career around, even if you don’t plan to become ordained. You’ll then need to decide whether you do want to become an ordained minister (MDiv), or whether you want a specialized focus in your studies, like church planting or biblical studies.
6. Should I choose a university, Bible college or a seminary for my studies?
If you’re without a bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to consider a Bible college because it confers Bible or ministry-focused undergraduate degree programs. These can typically transfer very smoothly into a master’s degree in theology. An average university with a master’s degree in theology might be less denominational with more generalized specialization offerings. Seminaries may or may not be non-denominational, but they are almost always affiliated with one specific religion. Still, seminaries may provide the most theology-focused curriculum of the three options.
7. How much does an online master’s degree in theology cost?
We do our best to find you the cheapest colleges. The lowest net cost on this list is Heritage Christian University, which has a Net Price of just $6,362. Still, online master’s degree programs are more expensive than undergraduate programs. Some of them can run over $500 per credit for programs that require as many as 90 credits for graduation. This isn’t including fees, books or any additional costs. Luckily, most of the programs on this list have net prices less than $20,000. Some online theology degree programs even offer deals through partnering with churches that can bring the per-credit cost down to $99.
8. If a college that I want to attend is affiliated with a specific religion, do I have to have experience with that denomination to get accepted?
Every school, especially private schools, comes with its own set of rules, but the answer to this is typically no.
9. Do I need to have an undergraduate degree in religion or a related subject to get into a master of theology degree program?
Nope! Some schools may require you to take a few extra credits to supplement your background knowledge. However, many students choose to have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject so that they can be more well-rounded within their ministry position. Howeverr, many of the theology degrees listed above do require that you submit a recommendation letter from your local church leader to gain admission to the program.
10. Will I have to complete a thesis for an online theology degree program?
Not always! Plenty of the above programs are non-thesis. Instead, they focus more on practical training and hands-on ministry experiences.
Available Concentrations within Theology/Religious Studies Grad Programs
It’s almost more rare to find a master’s degree in theology and related subjects that doesn’t have at least one concentration option. Finding and choosing a good program with a concentration that interests you could completely revamp your career and allow you to retrain your focus on something you’re passionate about. Thanks to the available variety of concentrations out there, not every program of this type has to lead to a career in pastoral ministry or Bible teaching. All of the following concentrations are mentioned at least once in the ranking above:
- Church Growth and Revitalization
- Discipleship and Spiritual Formation
- Missions and Evangelism
- Pastoral Ministry
- Children, Youth & Family Ministry
- Church Planting & Multiplication (also International Church Planting)
- Intercultural Studies
- Worship Arts
- Church History and Theology
- Biblical Studies/Interpretation
- Wesleyan and Methodist studies
- Pastoral Care
- Holy Spirit and Renewal
- New or Old Testament
- Global Leadership
- Christian Counseling or Life Coaching
- Biblical Languages
- Women’s Ministry
- Missiological Studies
- Muslim Studies
- Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL)
- Young Ministry Leadership
Master’s in Theology/Religious Studies Career Questions
Q: What is the job outlook for faith-based careers?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of community and social service occupations — which includes religious workers — is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, and that’s faster than average.
Q: What are typical employers of those with an online theology degree?
- Military branches (chaplaincy)
- National and local government agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Emergency and other relief services
- Charities and nonprofits
- Social services and counseling
- Churches and parachurch organizations
- Media companies
- Legal firms and more
Q: What can I expect to make after graduating with a master’s in theology?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for community and social service occupations was $43,840 in May 2017. If you’re looking to use this degree to become a professor, you can expect a median pay of $76,000. Otherwise, the education occupations’ median annual wage was $48,740 in May 2017.
According to The Princeton Review, “Religious leaders such as Catholic priests, rabbis, and Protestant ministers, usually make between $15,000 to $20,000, but are often provided with housing and have most daily living expenses covered.”
Q: Can I balance an online theology degree program with a full-time job?
Of course! Most of these online master’s programs cater to the working adult. Typically, you’ll only be expected to work through one or two classes at a time asynchronously, meaning, without having to be on a tight class schedule. Some programs don’t even require you to log in regularly as long as you’re meeting the due dates set by your professors. Non-denominational and Christian colleges and universities are incredibly understanding of the fact that many online students are also balancing work and families. Some of these schools will even grant you credit toward your online theology degree for the real-world work experience you’ve had.
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