Most Affordable Online Associate in Theology Programs 2021

October 6, 2021

reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Most Affordable Online Associate in Theology Programs 2021

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Theology investigates the nature of divinity and examines how people enact relationships with the transcendent through religious practice. Individuals attracted to this field often feel driven to deepen their own faith and provide spiritual guidance to others. 

Many theology graduates pursue careers in the clergy or other religious vocations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clergy members earn a median annual salary of $50,400. Graduates with an associate in theology also frequently work in administrative services, social services, and education.

This guide ranks the best online theology associate degrees. It also covers other important information for prospective students, such as common courses and scholarship opportunities for theology students.

Choosing the Right Theology Program

true Q. What is the highest degree in theology?

Ph.D. and Th.D. degrees are the highest theology degrees. These equivalent doctoral credentials represent terminal degrees in the field.

true Q. How long does it take to get a degree in theology?

An associate degree in theology typically requires two years of full-time study. By transferring credits, associate degree-holders can often earn a four-year bachelor's degree sooner.

true Q. Do you need a college degree to be a pastor?

While hiring criteria vary by church, clergy members typically need a college degree in theology or a related field. Many congregations seek master's-educated clergy candidates.

true Q. What are the qualifications for a pastor?

In addition to formal theological education, pastors must receive ordination through their religious tradition. They need strong interpersonal skills, writing and public speaking proficiencies, and scriptural knowledge.

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Why Get a Degree in Theology?

Associate in theology programs encourage spiritual growth while laying a foundation for employment and further study. The following list outlines several benefits of earning an associate in theology degree.

A theology associate degree offers a cost-effective way to fulfill lower-division bachelor's requirements. Many schools design associate-level programs to seamlessly transfer to baccalaureate programs. Theology programs train students for careers in ministry, religious education, and church administration. These programs also develop broadly applicable communication and critical thinking skills. Theology students grapple with essential philosophical questions. Readings and discussions encourage students to reflect deeply on the human experience, religious belief, and the nature of the divine, often leading to personal growth. Many associate in theology programs serve enrollees of multiple denominational backgrounds. Exposure to different theological viewpoints can help broaden students' understanding of religious experiences. A degree in theology can lead to careers that make a positive impact. As religious leaders, educators, and counselors, theology graduates help others lead spiritually and emotionally fulfilling lives.

Courses in Theology

In contrast to religious studies programs, which use social science frameworks to analyze religions from the outside, theology programs take a faith-based learning approach. Typically housed in religiously affiliated institutions, these programs emphasize specific spiritual traditions, although they may incorporate comparative religion coursework.

Associate in theology students develop skills in spoken and written communication, biblical interpretation, and Christian leadership. Degree candidates may also complete a practicum in a church setting.

Courses vary by program, but the following list outlines courses commonly found in theology associate programs.

Certifications and Licensure for Theology

While certification is not always required for vocations open to theology majors, these credentials can help aspiring religious professionals develop their skills and demonstrate commitment to their field.

The American Institute of Health Care Professionals administers this certification for clergy members, mental health providers, social service workers, and healthcare professionals. Candidates must complete at least 330 lecture and study hours in a Christian counseling program and 330 hours in the AIHCP's continuing education program. The United Methodist Church offers certifications in 12 areas, including youth ministry, music ministry, and evangelism. The church maintains certification tracks for professionals, undergraduates, and paraprofessionals. Candidates in all three tracks must enroll in approved training programs, demonstrate commitment to the Methodist Church, and pass a psychological assessment and background check. The Association of Christian Schools International certifies teachers and administrators planning to work in Christian schools, which may not require state licensure. The organization offers various certification levels, including credentials in early, elementary, secondary, and specialist education. Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree or higher and complete specified Christian education coursework.

Scholarships for Theology Students

Scholarships can help learners lower their out-of-pocket educational expenses while minimizing student loan debt. Numerous organizations sponsor scholarships for students in all majors, including theology associate degree candidates. The following list highlights a few of the many funding opportunities open to students earning a degree in theology.

Scholarships for Theology Students
Scholarship Amount Who Can Apply

United Church of Christ Ministry Education Scholarships

Varies The UCC sponsors several scholarships for students pursuing careers as ministers. Most awards require UCC membership, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and commitment to serve in a UCC church after graduation.

United Methodist Church General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Scholarships

Varies The UMC administers numerous church member scholarships with varying eligibility criteria. The David W. Self scholarship, for example, awards high school seniors pursuing church-related careers.

Young Christian Leaders Scholarship

$1,000 These scholarships support high school seniors and undergraduates from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrate active church membership.

Most Affordable Online Associate in Theology Programs 2021

Southeastern University View School Profile Lakeland, FL Unconfirmed

Southeastern University, located in Lakeland, Florida, offers an associate in ministerial leadership that facilitates spiritual development and teaches leadership principles.

The 62-credit program teaches students about basic Christian theology. Enrollees learn how to deliver an effective sermon. The program also covers general education topics from a practical Christian perspective. Topics include English, psychology, math, and science courses. Graduates often work as associate pastors, youth pastors, and Bible study leaders.

As of August 2021, Southeastern University charges $390 per credit for online undergraduate courses. Learners must also pay a $150 general student fee and a $150 technology fee. Southeastern University maintains accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Franciscan University of Steubenville View School Profile Steubenville, OH Unconfirmed

Franciscan University of Steubenville offers an online associate in theology. The 60-credit program prepares learners to continue their education with a bachelor's degree in theology. However, some graduates pursue bachelor's degrees in different subjects, like education, law, or public service. Graduates can seamlessly transfer to many of the school's bachelor's programs.

Applicants must hold a minimum 2.4 GPA. They also need a minimum ACT score of 21 or SAT score of 1,000. The Franciscan University of Steubenville holds accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

Concordia University-Wisconsin View School Profile Mequon, WI Unconfirmed

Concordia University features an online associate of arts in theological studies. The 63-credit program examines the history of Christianity. Courses cover topics like the Old and New Testaments and how to communicate Bible messages. Students also examine practical theology in terms of teaching and worship. Graduates often work as church workers or lay leaders.

The online associate in theology program requires extensive research. This research prepares graduates to succeed in research-intensive bachelor's programs. Concordia University maintains accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

Johnson University View School Profile Knoxville, TN Unconfirmed

Located in Knoxville, Tennessee, Johnson University offers an affordable online associate in theology. The program requires one year of foreign language study. Currently, the school provides New Testament Greek for Translators online.

The program examines exegetical methods and Christian faith fundamentals. Students also explore similarities and differences between the Old and New Testaments. Graduates often pursue careers in ministry. But many students choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in congregational ministry from the school.

Johnson University holds accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school is affiliated with the Independent Christian Church of the Restoration Movement. But students of any denomination can attend.

Ohio Christian University View School Profile Circleville, OH Unconfirmed

A private Christian university in Circleville, Christian University offers an online associate of arts in Christian ministry. The online program features five-week courses. Students learn how to communicate the Christian gospel in various contexts. The program includes courses on topics like the principles of worship. Another class explores evangelism and discipleship. Students also investigate Christian theology.

Ohio Christian University holds regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission. The school maintains affiliation with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. But students from any denomination can attend the school.

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