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Online Master’s Programs in Divinity

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Updated on: 01/31/2019

A career in ministry, apologetics or church outreach is one of passion and a foundation in biblical studies. An online master’s program in divinity is ideal for both existing spiritual or religious leaders or individuals who are looking to enter ministry for the first time. An online master’s degree in divinity provides flexibility to study from anywhere and at your own pace and equips students with the knowledge and tools for long-term careers in public ministry. Learn which online divinity programs offer the best combination of affordability and quality theological education, and explore the coursework and career potential for students intending to become ministers, scholars and leaders after earning an online master’s in divinity.

What Can I Learn in an Online Divinity Master’s Program?

A staple in any online divinity master’s program is teaching the skills to minister or be involved in ministries for churches or organizations in your community or around the world. Online master’s programs in divinity offer advanced theological training where students will be exposed to religious inquiry and scriptural study. This program prepares students spiritually and educationally for leadership, ministry and service by teaching investigative faith skills as well as various religions and ideologies from all over the world.

There are different types of master’s level degrees in divinity and theology, and it’s important to understand which is right for your career aspirations before enrollment.

  • Master of Arts, Divinity (MA) – A professional or academic degree program that offers paths to either professional work in ministry or religious leadership, or a career as an educator or professor.
  • Master of Divinity (MDiv) – Offered for those seeking a professional degree to work in a more definitive pastoral, ministry or religious leadership position.

Students may choose a general ministry program track or a more specialized track to prepare for ministry leadership or doctoral studies. Generally, an online master’s in divinity will take two to three years to complete. Professors and acclaimed theologians may be on staff impart knowledge and guidance in Christian ethics, preaching and apologetics.

Students will learn skills they can take into public ministry, including:

  • How to interpret Scripture
  • Tools for engaging in ministry or empowering other leaders for ministry
  • Development of practical ministry skills

What common courses are offered in a master’s in divinity program?

The courses offered for online master’s programs in divinity vary from school to school, but core coursework in biblical languages, history, theology, scripture and practical ministry skills is customary across the board. These classes prepare students to face the challenges and responsibilities in modern Christianity as teachers, spiritual leaders, administrators and counselors.

Christian Theology

During this course, students will be introduced to Christian theology through a study of scripture and church history. Emphasis will be placed on Christian doctrines of revelation, creation, Christ and humanity.

Pastoral Counseling

This course provides the skills and knowledge needed to become effective pastors while ministering to persons in need. Students will be equipped to provide counsel in a variety of contexts adhering to modern day issues and needs.

Teaching for Ministry

Learn how to study the process of teaching when intended for ministry in this course. Learn how teaching relates to the Bible and the purpose and importance of Christian discipleship in a variety of educational contexts.

History of the Church

During this course, students will become aware of the church’s history from the apostolic age to the present day, while placing special emphasis on key preachers and leaders, missions, themes of spiritual formation and renewal movements.

Ethics and Christian Ministry

A study of biblical ethics as applied to modern day issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, government, marriage, race relations, worldly amusements and more. This course helps students to understand how to face ethical challenges in modern times.

What exams or projects should I expect?

At the completion of your master’s program in divinity, there could be different knowledge measurement requirements to prepare for. A university may mandate a ministry internship in the local community, where students are asked to engage in a supervised ministry experience or work with a mentor as a practical ministry project.

Students may also be required to develop a personal statement of calling and vocational identity at the completion of the program.

What specializations are available in a master’s in divinity program?

When choosing a master’s program in divinity, students can often choose between generalized study or one specific area of focus that reflects their career goals or specific ministry needs. Specializations by religion or desired position within ministry are available, and each specialization offers an in-depth experience and provides foundational biblical studies to meet field-specific needs.

Biblical Studies

A specialization in biblical studies will equip divinity students for a career in the church and ministry. Applicable to a variety of positions, students will be provided with an in-depth study of the historical and theological context of the Bible.

Chaplaincy

In this specialization, master’s students will explore all the theological and cultural issues relevant to chaplaincy and ministering to diverse audiences by studying the scripture, biblical leadership principles and doctrines.

Christian Apologetics

Christian apologetics prepares divinity students for the questions raised by congregations about the veracity of Christianity. This specialization will equip you with the knowledge and skills to explain and reinforce Christian theological beliefs through the study of apologetics.

Pastoral Counseling

Be prepared to receive a strong foundation in the psychological theories and counseling techniques necessary to uphold the Christian faith in a pastoral counseling specialization. Students will learn the necessary techniques for providing Godly advisement through theology, premarital and marital counseling, and spirituality.

Christian Ministries

This specialization is designed to prepare students for the growing need for ministry leaders in the church. In this program, students seeking specialized training will gain a strong understanding of biblical leadership principles.

Youth Ministry

Learn the biblical foundation necessary for a future in youth ministry in this specialization. Learn techniques to help enhance your understanding of theology in ministry and leadership and how to lead in a youth environment.

What Can I do with a Master’s in Divinity Degree?

The skills learned from an online master’s program in divinity can be applied to occupations in both the professional and academic world. From biblical knowledge of scripture and theology to practical ministry skills, the coursework prepares students to serve in congregational capacities, on campus, in emerging ministry, on international missions, for social justice, in non-profit work, or in a Christian education setting. Check out a few potential career opportunities earning an online master’s in divinity can open up:

Senior Pastor

A Senior Pastor leads the congregation in spiritual guidance with the ability to lead several services throughout the week. Pastors must have strong writing or speech skills, a strong command of scriptural and biblical knowledge, as well as the ability to interpret information to their congregation. They often lead worship services and prayer.

Chaplain

A Chaplain is typically employed by hospitals, healthcare facilities, military operations and sometimes corporate settings. They are responsible for providing religious counseling and comfort for the patients or people that they work with, providing spiritual help to people of all cultures and beliefs.

Church Counselor

A Church Counselor can provide guidance rooted in biblical faith. The duties of a church counselor are to integrate their faith into the counseling process, helping members of the congregation with emotional, spiritual and physical needs.

Youth Pastor

A Youth Pastor is responsible for the development and implementation of a youth ministry, under the guidance of the Senior Pastor. They work with youth of all ages from kindergarten through high school and college and are responsible for leading weekly meetings, youth bible study and activities.

Social Worker

A master’s degree in divinity can prepare you to work as a social worker by providing a career for those wishing to combine their love of theology with a heart to do social work. Many joint degree programs are available.

Professional Organizations

There are many professional Christian organization dedicated to helping students seeking to further their career success. They offer networking opportunities, educational workshops, certifications and resources to members.

The American Association of Christian Counselors

The goal of AACC is to assist Christian counselors, pastors and other church members with attending to the modern-day needs and issues of those within the church and without. AACC helps members faithfully serve others by providing educational materials and psychological insights to help increase spiritual maturity.

Christian Business Network

A membership with CBN offers access to a network of like-minded individuals seeking to prosper in their professions while serving the church and the community. CBN provides resources, networking opportunities and other services to help members fulfill their callings.

Christian Association for Psychological Studies

For those seeking to serve as a Christian educator, counselor, social worker or psychologist, a membership with CAPS will provide a network of support. Get the latest developments in the counseling and behavioral sciences and learn how to integrate these into the Christian faith.

Association of Biblical Counselors

ABC seeks to encourage all believers by equipping them with a robust biblical worldview to apply the relevance of the Gospel to matters that arise within counseling. ABC offers training and certification to help build a stronger foundation of knowledge around Scripture.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Divinity?

Since an online master’s in divinity degree can have so many different specializations, there are a wide number of careers open to degree-holders after grad school. The chart below shows a range of salaries currently earned by degree holders. However, some positions may require additional training, experience, or certification in addition to the divinity master’s degree and the salaries listed below may not reflect the average rate for your area.

Career Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Clergy, Pastoral, Ministry $25,430 $47,100 $80,060 +8%
Religion Professors $37,070 $69,590 $129,490 +15%
Social and Community Service Managers $39,730 $64,100 $109,990 +18%
Marriage and Family Therapist $31,390 $48,790 $81,760 +23%

Source: BLS, 2019

Graduating with a master’s degree in divinity can open more doors to those looking to serve or lead in ministry. Average salary statistics pulled from workers around the U.S. show those with a pastoral ministry certification earn less than those who have earned a master’s in divinity for similar work. The Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that individuals with a master’s degree in theology or religious vocations earn an average of $51,000, compared to the earnings of $43,000 with only a bachelor’s degree.

Online Master’s in Divinity Program Accreditation

Accreditation is a mark of assurance for students, signaling that the quality of an online divinity master’s program is aligned with industry standards and regulations. Students can take pride in knowing they’re receiving an academically challenging and high-quality education rooted in a biblical view. Regional accrediting agencies, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, are the highest accreditation possible for colleges and universities. Other theological accrediting agencies, like the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools, make sure that the biblical knowledge students are receiving is grounded in scripture and a solid foundation for religious leadership.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Divinity Degree

Students earning a master’s in divinity degree may need financial support while earning their degree. There are many different options available to help students fund their master’s in divinity degree. A few options for divinity students are listed below.

  • School-Based Scholarships

    Many universities and colleges offer campus-specific financial aid, especially those solely dedicated to training ministers. Check with each university’s religious department to check for available financial aid.

  • Church Sponsorships

    Some prospective divinity students may find that their local church or religious organization offers sponsorships or scholarships to help pay for the cost of a degree. Local church organizations can also provide relief by supporting students with funding opportunities.

  • Scholarships

    There are many scholarships and grants available to those studying religion and theology in an online university, such as the Reverend Robert E. and Gladys Ernst Scholarship and the Mary E. Bivins Foundation Religious Scholarship Program. The Fund for Theological Education also grants fellowships for faith-based learning and has supplied over 7000 fellowships in the last 60 years.