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Online Theology Schools: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online theology school. Read on to get an overview of the program options, credit hour requirements, and common topics offered for the field of study.

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Students can find several graduate-level degree programs in theology from institutions throughout the country. Explore a few of the school and degree options, as well as learn about some considerations for selecting a school.

How to Select an Online Theology School

Several key points are there to bear in mind when choosing among online theological schools. Online theology schools offer master's degrees and doctorates in a range of theological and ministerial topics. Most online theology programs are offered by private, religious-affiliated schools. Students will want to consider the school's affiliation and residency requirements before choosing a school.

Residency Requirements

All of the accredited theology schools that offer online programs have residency requirements, meaning that some of the coursework can be done online, but students must also attend required residential intensives or courses on campus. The schedule and length of these residential intensives varies between schools. On-campus requirements can range from one week per year to three weeks in the summer or three days every three months.

Church Affiliation

There are many multi-denominational and non-denominational theology schools. However, there are also denominational-specific schools for students that prefer direct church support and affiliation.

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List of Online Theology Degrees

Online Master of Arts in Practical Theology

An online master's degree in practical theology is generally a 60-credit hour program, with up to 30 credit hours that can be earned online. Some programs allow students to also choose a concentration such as church and ministry, worship and renewal or interdisciplinary studies. The core curriculum includes courses in:

  • Bible hermeneutics
  • Spiritual formation foundations
  • Biblical discipleship
  • Practical ministry

Online Master of Arts in Youth Ministry Leadership

Students can earn a master's degree in youth ministry leadership online with 42 credit hours; in some cases a research project is also required. Students study topics involving history of youth ministry, relational youth evangelism and biblical theology. Other topics may include:

  • Systematic theology
  • Assessment strategies
  • Youth issues in crises
  • Spiritual formation and mentoring

Online Master of Divinity

A Master of Divinity degree is the most commonly required degree for those seeking ordination. Depending on the program, an online Master of Divinity degree requires about 90 credit hours to complete. Foundational coursework engages the student in personal theological reflection and may include biblical interpretation, pastoral care and pulpit ministry.

Master of Divinity programs may offer concentrations in biblical interpretation, Christian education, youth ministries and practical theology. Some schools also offer additional tracks of study such as:

  • Worship and renewal
  • Church history and ministry
  • Biblical studies
  • Christian apologetics

Online Doctor of Ministry

Online Doctor of Ministry programs require approximately 36-credit hours and a dissertation to graduate. Programs investigate leading spiritual formation, a spiritual leader's life and values, and mobilization and management of the church. Some programs also offer concentrations in:

  • Church administration
  • Contemporary evangelism
  • Community transformation
  • Clinical pastoral education
  • Ministry leadership coaching

Schools With Online Programs in Theology

Moody Bible Institute offers students an online Master of Divinity program that is taught by several published faculty members. Students can study topics like church history, biblical theology, the Hebrew language and more. The program requires two internships where students can gain real world experience.

An online Master of Arts in Theology program is available from Saint Joseph's College that focuses on the Roman Catholic doctrine. The program offers three specializations and a fast-track option for current undergraduate students. Students can specialize in pastoral theology, sacred theology or advanced diaconal studies, which is designed for ordained deacons.

Bethel University offers a Doctor of Ministry with six different areas of concentration. One concentration, transformational leadership, is offered completely online while the other five are online, but require one- to two-week 'intensives' a year on campus.

Students interested in pursuing an online graduate degree in theology can find several master's and doctorate programs available from different schools. Students should consider religious affiliation, specializations and on-campus requirements when choosing a program.

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