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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Theology

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Theology

Value
The best online master’s degree in theology for flexibility is University of Northwestern – St. Paul, a private Christian university which offers an online Master of Arts in Theological Studies. According to the college’s website, students looking to enter a graduate program with valuable end results and return on investment (ROI) would be wise to choose University of Northwestern – St. Paul, which provides a foundation for educational advancement and professional development for lay ministers, vocational ministers, and teachers. To its credit, NWC boasts a multitude of accreditations and affiliations, and received six “course of the year” (COTY) awards for distance curriculum.

Flexibility
University of Northwestern – St. Paul’s online master’s degree in theological studies wins the award for best flexibility. NWC features highly flexible and customizable degree programs, offering a variety of degrees and certificates that can be obtained online-only, on-site-only, or in blended format, utilizing both learning environments. NWC’s online Master of Arts in Theological Studies also gives students the opportunity to narrow their focus to a deeper area of study — Bible Exposition, Biblical Studies, or Theology — and the dedicated web page gives extensive information about how to tailor this online degree to each student’s needs.

Career Support
Graduate students obtaining an online master’s degree in theology at the University of Dallas have many resources available to them, to help guide their career after completing their degree. According to the Career Services page, students can research potential employers, find internships, explore post-graduation education and service opportunities, and even link externally to the UD “CareerLink” network, which connects students and employers through shared job information. For all this, the University of Dallas wins the award for best online master’s degree in theology for career support.

Financial Support

Regent University wins the award for best financial support for its online master’s degree in theology, even though it offers only a partially online M.A. in Practical Theology (students pursuing this degree through Regent’s School of Divinity must take supplemental on-campus courses, as well, to satisfy degree requirements). For all RU students, the renowned financial aid support system is one of the school’s most notable attributes. On the Regent financial aid website , students are guided smoothly through the process of applying for financial aid at Regent, and can also easily access information about loans, estimate cost calculations, and see sample budgets. The Online Education Database reported that 93% of students at Regent were currently receiving some form of financial aid.

Technology Support
The award for best online master’s degree in theology for technology support goes to the University of Dallas. Since UD offers a master’s degree in theological studies that can be obtained completely online, the IT department understands the necessity in making every possible web resource available to its online students. Through UDallas’ Academic Information Services webpage, students have clear and easy access to all-things-IT, including “ResNet,” an extension of the Ethernet student communication tool, which provides one dedicated network connection to each student at UD, and “UD HotSpot,” the university’s own wireless network. The home page for Academic Information Services also includes accessible contact information for the tech support team, as well as software and equipment recommendations for students and faculty.

Student Engagement
Regent University encourages all students to actively engage in their academic community, even when they’re pursuing an online degree in a virtual classroom. Although Regent University offers only a partially online M.A. in Practical Theology — students pursuing this degree through Regent’s School of Divinity must take supplemental on-campus courses, as well, to satisfy degree requirements — Regent was ranked 24th on U.S. News and World Report’s list for student engagement and accreditation among the top online degree programs. RU has dedicated an entire department, the Office of Community Life, to promote student engagement and provide leadership to students. For its many institution-wide efforts, Regent University wins the award for best online master’s degree in theology for student engagement.

Disability Support
University of Northwestern – St. Paul wins the award for best online master’s degree in theology for disability support. NWC’s website features an extensive list of resources for students with disabilities on its Disability Services page, dedicated to providing information about requesting assistance and special services. Here, students can learn about the services available, including support from the many student centers at NWC — the tutoring (“ALPHA”) center, the CLT (culture, language, and transition) Center, the Support Services Team, and the Passport to Success Program.

Library and Research Support
University of Northwestern – St. Paul wins the award for best online master’s degree in theology for library and research support, for the many exceptional services offered on University of Northwestern – St. Paul’s library website. Since the university library is a member of Cooperating Libraries in Consortium (CLIC) along with seven other private colleges in Minnesota, students have access to the combined collections of the CLIC — more than 1.5 million items — and can also access more than 60 field-related databases, and request e-books, online. College Prowler gave University of Northwestern – St. Paul a high score for best library services, on its list of top-ranking universities.

Learning Support
The award for best online master’s degree in theology for learning support goes to the University of Dallas. UD was given a score of 60%, and the university ranked 95th on U.S. News & World Report‘s list of the best Student Services and Technology among top online graduate business programs. On UDallas.edu’s Graduate Online Education page, students can find a wealth of information, including what to expect from their online courses, and how an online education can benefit their course work, and they can even watch a sample video lecture.

Faculty Credentials
At the University of Dallas, the faculty bring not only their expertise, but also the duty of serving a higher calling, to the spiritual and academic learning experience. According to the UDallas website, of the 127 full-time faculty at UD, approximately 90% hold a doctorate degree, or the highest available, in their respective field. U.S. News & World Report notes that UD has an average student retention rate of over 80%, indicating students are pleased with their experiences at UD, and also labels university faculty “superb.” For all this, the University of Dallas wins the award for best online master’s degree in theology for faculty credentials.

Faculty Accessibility
Regent University wins the award for best online master’s degree in theology for faculty accessibility, even though the university offers only a partially online M.A. in Practical Theology, since students will receive guidance and mentorship within a virtual classroom. Included in an abbreviated section of the university’s School of Divinity sub-site, called “Distinctives of the School”, Regent.edu lists “Leadership Development” as one of its five core values. The faculty is especially focused on providing dedicated leadership and personalized attention at Regent University. To ensure faculty accessibility, Regent prides itself on keeping class sizes small, with an average of 18 students, so that teachers can help inspire a one-on-one learning experience.

Alumni Engagement
University of Northwestern – St. Paul wins the award for best online master’s degree in theology for alumni engagement because of its community-minded Alumni Relations department, established to provide alumni with a variety of tech-savvy ways to stay connected with other University of Northwestern – St. Paul alums . NWC’s alumni site features Alumni Council representatives’ direct contact information, current news and events, and a sign-up sheet for the alumni newsletter. There is even information on how to nominate an alumnus for a Northwestern Award, and order customized University of Northwestern – St. Paul license plates, right on the landing page.

New Online Student Orientation
Regent University wins the award for best online master’s degree in theology for its new online student orientation resources. Regent.edu’s Graduate Program Preview is a unique feature for students on-campus, with a focus on gaining personal one-on-one time with faculty. For distance learners, RU provides online students with 24-hour access to the extensive Student Development Resources database, designed to guide students through online training for everything from academics to spiritual awareness.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Theology

A master’s degree in theology presents students with the opportunity to acquire in-depth knowledge in a specific theological discipline. They can also develop the necessary skills to understand, critically analyze, and teach theological principles to an audience, whether it be a congregation or classroom.

It usually takes about one to two years for full-time students to complete a master’s degree in theology. A student seeking this degree must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, although some applicants may have already completed a Master of Divinity or related master’s degree.

Class Curriculum

Since a master’s in theology allows students to hone in on one theological subject that interests them, course work can vary. Classes also depend on if a student is pursuing the thesis or non-thesis track. However, students may be required to take the following:

  • Theological Preaching. The purpose of this course is to teach students how the church educates the world. Students learn the goals, principles, and leadership techniques utilized by the church as well as how its agencies are organized.
  • Church History. Sometimes broken into two or more semesters, this course takes students from the beginning of Christianity to the church as it is today. By analyzing its history, students can study the impact Christianity has had on the world.
  • New Testament. In this course, students survey the books that make up the New Testament in their historical context, as well as the importance and implications of their primary themes. They may also study its criticisms and learn how to analyze and understand the New Testament from a modern perspective.

Required course work entails research, reading, and writing. Students will read extended sections of the New and Old Testament in their original languages as well as publications that depict differing perspectives on church teachings. Course work also requires students to demonstrate the ability to critically analyze those readings in written, and sometimes verbal, form.

Some degree programs require the completion of an internship, which allows students to learn firsthand from pastors and engage in church activities. Many degree programs require a thesis, wherein students develop, argue, and defend a position relating to their area of concentration.

Building a Career

Graduates of a master’s degree program in theology may go on to a doctoral degree program in theology, or look to enter or advance within a ministerial career, providing spiritual guidance and instruction to their congregations. Clergy earned an estimated median yearly salary of $44,140 in May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Students who wish to develop the skills necessary to teach theology at an advanced level may also enroll in this program, as a master’s is the standard degree requirement recognized by the Association of Theological Schools to teach theology in accredited educational institutions. Postsecondary philosophy and religion teachers earned an estimated median salary of $65,100 in May 2011, according to the BLS. Ultimately, however, salary statistics are not guarantees of potential wages, which are dependent on a variety of factors, including where you live, the economy, and your experience.

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