Theology Distance Learning Degrees: Online Degree Program Overview

Get info about online programs in theology. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

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Essential Information

Majors with theology courses include theology and Christian religious education. Fully online theology programs can be found at every level of academia, and can either give students the necessary training for religious occupations or instruct non-ministers in basic theological subjects. Programs taught via distance learning tend to be hosted on an electronic course management system. Students may access assignments and lecture notes, take part in virtual discussions, view instructional videos and participate in chats through this online learning platform. Written course material is typically given on a CD-ROM or via e-mail. Degree programs often require a field experience or internship.

Certificate in Theology

Certificate-granting distance-learning courses are usually 4-7 weeks in length and, depending on the course, require 2-10 hours per week in study time. Some online theology certificate programs offer for-credit courses that apply to the school's Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Arts or Master of Arts in Theology.

Course Topics

Specific course topics can include the following:

  • Old Testament studies
  • New Testament studies
  • American Christianity
  • Moral theology

Associate's Degree in Theology

Colleges and universities offering an Associate of Arts in Theology, Christian Religious Education, or a related academic category typically require students to complete approximately 70 semester hours of coursework. This includes both general education and religious education courses.

Some distance-learning programs also incorporate a field experience or internship requirement prior to graduation. These experiences might include work in child development or youth ministry and take about 15 weeks, or one semester, to complete. The college may coordinate the internship remotely, but the student completes it in his or her local area.

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Bachelor's Degree in Theology

The same or very similar general education courses as those taken in an online associate's degree program in theology are taken by students pursuing their Bachelor of Arts degree. Most of the bachelor's degree programs offered through distance learning take about four years to complete. They require approximately 120 semester hours of coursework and might also mandate an internship or field experience before graduation.

Additional coursework can include advanced studies in arts and humanities, social and natural sciences, computers and mathematics, along with religious educational topics; these might include adolescent development and faith formation, administrative policies and practices, and the effective involvement of the laity beyond volunteerism.

Master's Degree in Theology

A Master of Arts in Theology distance-learning program is usually designed for individuals who are involved with parishes, dioceses agencies or social service agencies. These programs are normally about 36 credits long and require that candidates hold a baccalaureate degree prior to applying for admission.

Building on students' previous theological education and experience, most master's degree programs provide pastoral direction and real-life applications. Upon program completion, students are typically eligible for doctorate-level courses and degree programs in theology.

Doctor of Philosophy in Theology

At the Ph.D. level, theology students typically focus on methods of teaching and researching their major area of academic concentration, such as Old or New Testament, the history of global Christianity or Christian theology.

Most online theology programs require a student dissertation prior to the granting of a Ph.D. Dissertation subjects are apt to include the following:

  • Contemporary theological traditions
  • Ecumenical perspectives
  • Prominent religious movements or personalities

Distance-learning students who complete their Ph.D. in Theology will likely be expected to publish original research, exhibit facility with various teaching methods and apply methodological approaches to biblical studies.

Fully online theology degree programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. These programs can prepare students to work in religion-related occupations, such as theological education.

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