How to Choose a Masters in Theology Degree + Online Option

This article describes the masters in theology degree program, some of subjects and courses covered, and why you may want to earn this degree as a  great career move. It is will also present an online masters in theology program that you might want to consider.

What Is a Masters in Theology?

The Masters in Theology degree is the minimum degree that the Association of Theological Schools accepts for those who wish to teach theological subjects in graduate schools and seminaries. It is considered a professional degree, and there is some confusion about whether the degree is actually a masters or a post-graduate, hence, doctoral degree. Either way, the degree is considered to be of advanced standing and focuses on research. The majority of schools require that students already have a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree in order to be accepted into the program.

Various seminaries, divinity schools, and universities offer the degree, with students being able to finish it in one to two years. They may choose an advanced theological research subject, such as systematic theology, church history, or counseling. Some schools require a research thesis for completion, others have comprehensive subject exams, and others still have both. The degree is an advanced academic degree and therefore focuses on academic research. Indeed, it is classed as a terminal degree, although this will depend on the university.

Some schools, for instance, offer a Masters in Theology and Religious studies, which is not the same program. Here, the emphasis is on the different religions across the world and their belief systems, and how these are practiced across different cultures. Such programs look at religion’s philosophical foundations and how these affect cultures and social structures the world over. In these types of programs, students learn about religious practices and theological theory. Often, students complete theological training afterwards, whereas others focus more on the impact of religion on social policy, education, or politics.

The main way to differentiate between the two degree options is to look at what kind of degree is awarded. A Master of Arts or a Master of Religion is a graduate degree. The Th.M. is the terminal Master of Theology degree, while the BD (Bachelor of Divinity) is an undergraduate degree.

There has been a dramatic shift in the role of religion in modern society. The result is that there is an increased demand for people who truly understand theology and religious studies both within and outside of religious organizations. The interaction between secular and religious groups has changed drastically, which is why people who understand the different points of views and how these can live harmoniously and side by side are finding themselves increasingly more in demand. Those who have a Masters in Theology often work as educators, policy makers, and even politicians.

Furthermore, graduates of these degree programs are respected for their critical thinking abilities. They are capable of understanding complex ideas and coming up with solutions to problems that are sensitive to the theological circumstances that drive certain population groups.

Why Earn a Masters in Theology?

Because there is some complexity about what is a masters in theology and where graduates can work, it can be difficult to determine their average earnings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS)s, for instance, classifies graduates as post secondary teachers, assuming they become theological educators. The BLS has reported that these professionals have a median salary of $75,430 per year as of May 2016. That said, although it is common for graduates of a masters in theology to become teachers, others choose different lines of work. Added to this is the fact that they will usually work for churches or within the clergy. Thus, determining financial earnings can be very complex.

Meanwhile, a study has been completed in the United Kingdom about those who hold a non-terminal master’s degree in theology and religious studies. They found that most graduates earn between 20,000 and 29,999 British pounds per year, and that this is representative of salaries in the U.S. as well, when converted into dollars. Furthermore, they found that:

  • 29% work in education, which is reflected by the salary report listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • 12% work in professional, scientific, and technical roles.
  • 12% work in arts, entertainment, and recreation.
  • 11% work in public administration and defense.

Meanwhile, they also found that just over half (57%) work full time, whereas 20% are enrolled in further studies, moving on towards the Master of Theology terminal degree.

Another particular difficulty is the reason why people choose this degree. These reasons include:

  • Wanting to further the messages of a particular religion
  • Wanting to increase cohesion between the different religions that play a role within a certain culture
  • Wanting to gain a greater understanding of the conflicts caused by religion and how these can be resolved

Regardless of your personal motivation for wanting to earn this degree, it will provide you with the advanced skills and knowledge required to make a positive impact on the world around you. Obtaining a graduate degree will also set you apart as a leader and role model in your field.

Online Option for Masters in Theology

Liberty University

One option is the Master of Arts in Theological Studies offered by Liberty University. This is, therefore, NOT the terminal degree, but rather a graduate option. The program is delivered 100% online and has been created to encourage students to gain an in-depth understanding of theology, with a focus on Christianity. As a Christian university, the degree is offered with a basis in Biblical components, increasing the students’ understanding of the religion through a variety of different tools. Students are given the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in a strong theological program that they can customize with subjects that they are personally passionate about.

Graduates are known and respected for their enhanced understanding of the history of Christianity, Old and New Testament orientation, and systematic theology. The degree takes 36 credit hours to complete, which can be done fully online.

The core courses of the degree include:

  • Introduction To Apologetics
  • Survey of the History of Christianity
  • Intercultural Communication and Engagement
  • New Testament Orientation
  • Hermeneutics
  • Old Testament Orientation
  • Research, Writing, and Ministry Preparation
  • Systematic Theology

Those who graduate from the masters in theology, and particularly that offered by Liberty University, can go on to become:

  • Ministry workers
  • Christian authors
  • Pastors
  • Missionaries
  • Theologians
  • Professors


Obtaining a masters in theology is a great way to accelerate a variety of careers that all have an impact on human interaction and societies. You will be able to work in almost any type of organization, applying the perspectives you are passionate about to your work.