Online Seminary Schools: How to Choose

Oct 24, 2019

Religious and theological education is available online at all levels, from certificates through doctoral degree, offering numerous choices for concentration areas. Read on for important considerations when selecting an online seminary school.

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There are many online seminary schools available to interested students, and therefore, students should consider the award level they wish to pursue and the formatting of a program before they make a decision. Learn more about the different degree options and a few of the available schools.

How to Select an Online Seminary School

Online seminary and theological education programs are offered at various colleges and universities throughout the country. Many are of the Judeo-Christian tradition and prepare graduates to become priests, rabbis or ministers. Other programs provide a more secular and academic religious education. Students should then consider the award level and program format.

Award Level

Various accredited program levels are offered online, from short-term certificate programs for students with an interest in the field to Ph.D. programs for students intending to devote their lives to theology. Christian studies, divinity, biblical studies and religion are possible program concentrations.

Program Format

Seminary programs are usually offered in a hybrid format that includes either one or several visits to campus for seminars or residencies. Program length usually parallels that of traditional learning, though some accelerated programs are available.

List of Common Online Seminary Programs

Online Certificate of Completion in Christian Studies

A certificate program in Christian studies can work well for students not seeking a degree but wishing to enhance their knowledge about the ministry. Classes are presented through Blackboard or another course management system. Courses include:

  • Ethics
  • Systematic theology
  • Old and New Testament survey
  • History of Christianity

Online Associate of Ministry

Some Associate's degree programs in ministry are geared towards those with prior church experience. Courses may be offered entirely online or in a hybrid format. In both cases, students might need access to multimedia applications to participate in online lectures and discussions. Course topics include:

  • Survey of biblical literature
  • Global and ethical leadership
  • Spiritual counseling
  • Foundations of Christian thought

Online Bachelor Program in Biblical Studies

In a bachelor's-level biblical studies program, students develop an understanding of Christianity and its foundations in preparation for church ministry, missions, or continued education through a graduate program. An internship to gain practical experience may be required. Online resources can include discussion boards, synchronous chat programs and a file exchange server to share information with classmates. Topics include:

  • Inductive bible study
  • Synoptic gospels
  • World faith systems
  • Spiritual leadership

Online Master of Divinity

Students in an online Master of Divinity program focus on deepening their knowledge of and facility with Christian scripture and tradition to enhance their spiritual leadership within the church. Most programs are presented in a hybrid format, with some courses or periodic residencies taking place on campus. Online courses are taught via a learning management system such as ANGEL or Blackboard, and students can converse with classmates through dialogue forums. Some schools offer concentration options, such as:

  • Family life ministry
  • Evangelism
  • Pastoral leadership
  • Teaching

Online Master of Arts in Religion

This online degree is designed for students with a personal interest in theology but who aren't intending to be a professional minister. A thesis is commonly required, and some schools provide a mentorship program to assist with coursework and evaluate student growth. Online learning is based on education systems such as Moodle or iTunes U, though many programs require some on-campus time. Students take classes in areas like:

  • Pastoral and social ethics
  • Interpreting the Hebrew Bible
  • Systematic theology
  • Global sensitivity

Online Doctor of Ministry

An online doctor of ministry degree program is geared towards students who already have a master's degree in a seminary-based field and are currently serving in full-time ministry through a church. A dissertation is required. Students participate in interactive classes, discussions and group projects online, in addition to spending at least one week on campus for in-person activities. Typical courses include:

  • Leadership life and values
  • Vision and mobilization management
  • Global outreach
  • Expository preaching of the Bible

Schools With Online Seminary Programs

Colorado Christian University has a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies that can be taken online or on-campus. The degree requires 120 credit hours and classes are 5 weeks long. Students study various theological themes in the Bible, such as sin, hope and creation.

Moody Bible Institute provides an online Master of Divinity program that requires two internships to acquire real-world experience. The program totals 90 credits and includes topics in church history, Hebrew and Greek, and professional ethics. This degree also helps to further develop students' preaching skills.

Liberty University offers a Doctor of Ministry program online that totals 33 credits and offers six specializations, including worship, pastoral counseling and discipleship. Students must complete a thesis, and although most of the courses are offered online, the program is intensive based. This means that the formatting requires some on-campus coursework.

While there are many online seminary schools and degree programs in various fields, students need to consider what award level helps push them toward future career goals, and consider any on-campus requirements for internships, practicums and coursework. Students can find online and hybrid degree programs at the certificate, associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate levels.

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