Earning a Master's in Theology Online

What You'll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue an Online Theology Master's Degree?

Students looking for careers in theology or religious studies can prepare themselves with a master's in theology online. According to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for high school teachers and postsecondary teachers — two common career options for graduates of an online master's of theology — is expected to grow over the course of the next decade. Degree holders can also pursue careers in ministry, pastoral care, chaplaincy, or the clergy.

Earning a master's in theology online may better accommodate your needs than a traditional on-campus degree. Students with significant family or professional obligations benefit from scheduling flexibility, reduced tuition costs or fees, and the convenience of completing coursework when it suits their schedule. In addition, earning a master of theology online degree can prepare graduates for a rewarding career working with people and their faith in a variety of contexts.

Employment Outlook for Online Theology Master's Graduates

Master's in Theology Salary

The following tables outline the highest-paying states for theology graduates and the expected salaries for these professionals at different points in their careers. While states with major cities like California and Massachusetts offer the most positions to theology graduates, jobs in Rhode Island and New Hampshire offer the highest salary potential. Utah is also on the list, due in part to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints making the state its home. Salary potential follows expected trends in other career fields; professionals in theology earn higher median annual salaries as they progress in their careers and gain more experience.

Top Paying States for Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
Rhode Island 130 $102,950
New Hampshire 110 $93,640
California 1,630 $92,600
Utah 170 $89,560
Massachusetts 730 $89,120
United States 22,920 $78,790

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Senior Pastors

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $50,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $52,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $57,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $65,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in Theology Careers

Graduates of an online master of theology can pursue a variety of careers in teaching, ministry, chaplaincy, and pastoral care. To thrive professionally, these individuals must enjoy working with people and maintain a strong connection to their faith. Many career paths in theology feature atypical work schedules, and professionals are usually required to work significant hours on nights and/or weekends. Below we highlight five possible career paths in theology.

High School Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $59,170

Projected Growth Rate: 8%

High school teachers plan and teach lessons, grade assignments, and interact with parents and students. Unlike their counterparts in lower grade levels, high school teachers typically focus on one particular subject area such as math, English, or music.

Chaplain

Annual Median Salary: $48,038

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Chaplains work in hospitals or health care centers and provide religious counsel, guidance, and services to patients or soldiers. They must possess excellent one-on-one people skills and feel comfortable providing trauma-informed services to people in difficult situations.

Pastoral Care Head

Annual Median Salary: $58,537

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Heads of pastoral care are responsible for the spiritual well-being of a group of people within an organization. They typically work in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools, and hospitals. This position often performs similar duties to a chaplain.

Senior Pastor

Annual Median Salary: $57,841

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

As the top pastor at a church, senior pastors lead spiritual services and pastoral care for all members of the church. They also typically manage a church's administrative duties and needs. Most senior pastors hold a master's in theology or master's of divinity.

Postsecondary Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $76,000

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Postsecondary teachers typically work in colleges or seminaries and focus on one particular subject. They may plan and teach courses, conduct original research in the field, and serve on student and faculty committees. Postsecondary teachers must hold the minimum of a master's degree, though many positions expect candidates to possess a doctorate.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Theology Program?

Students can expect the curriculum for an online master's in theology program to vary according to the program and institution. The following section details some of the foundational courses in a typical master's in theology online curriculum, along with relevant certifications that graduates may pursue.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Theology

Moral Theology

This course takes a survey approach to moral theology, and examines what makes Christian morality unique. Possible topics include natural law, morals, how conscience develops, and decision-making. The course may touch on more advanced topics such as bioethics, environmental ethics, or social ethics.

Church History

This survey course covers notable historical developments in the history of the Christian church, and provides students with a foundational understanding of church ministry and spirituality. The course typically spans history from the early to the contemporary era, with a special focus on the medieval era and the Reformation.

Systematic Theology

This course explores the communal experience of the Christian faith. Students consider theological theory and practice, and ponder questions about some of the faith's oldest questions and traditions. Learners may also learn to apply these issues to their practice as a pastor and their own theological work.

Old Testament

This survey course introduces the major theological themes and questions covered in the Old Testament. Typically, the course contextualizes this material within cultural, historical, and social elements, and gives students a deeper understanding of how to apply ancient teachings to a contemporary setting.

New Testament

As with the Old Testament course, this class provides students with a survey of major theological issues covered in the New Testament. Students learn about cultural, historical, and social contexts that shaped the material and discuss its application to practical and ministerial settings in current times.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Theology Prepares For

  • Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising: Designed for up-and-coming religious leaders, the Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising introduces students to the ins-and-outs and best practices of raising money for their church. This four-day intensive session typically includes clergy, laity, and development professionals at churches.

  • Evangelical Free Church of America Credential: This credential is awarded to future ministers who hold a belief in the church's practices and doctrine. Candidates complete a designated set of courses and pass an examination by the EFCA council.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Current students and graduates of a master's of theology online can join professional organizations to receive networking opportunities, professional development, and access to jobs boards. Theological professional organizations also provide individuals the opportunity to find community with like-minded individuals.

Some of the top theology-related professional organizations are listed below, along with five additional resources for theology students.

  • Christian Community Development Association: The CCDA helps professionals engage in their Christian community with continuing education through an online institute, an annual conference, and several social justice initiatives.

  • American Academy of Religion: The AAR is one of the largest professional religious organizations in the world. Members connect with one another at their annual conference, and receive access to publications, research, and a jobs board.

  • Academy of Homiletics: The Academy of Homiletics maintains a smaller membership group of around 400 individuals. The Academy offers an annual conference and access to books in the field.

  • Association of Youth Ministry Educators: AYME develops the next generation of youth ministers and leaders. Members receive access to its journal and an invitation to its annual conference.

  • Catholic Biblical Association of America: The Catholic Biblical Association of America publishes a large quantity of research, including New and Old Testament abstracts. Members also gain access to a member directory and various meetups.