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Rankings

9 Best Online Doctor of Theology

Written by College Cliffs Team At CollegeCliffs.com, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: February 23, 2024, Reading time: 16 minutes

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Those already working in religious positions are best suited for online Doctorates in Theology programs, a postgraduate degree that will help professionals obtain higher positions and often better wages.

Theology graduates with a doctoral degree have practical and intellectual skills that impact all facets of life, including volunteer work, employment opportunities, and family growth.

Online doctoral programs in Theology lead to various positions in teaching, mission organizations, Christian enterprises, the not-for-profit sector, and social agencies.

Online-Doctorate-in-Theology-fact

The Lowdown

An Online Doctorate in Theology program follows the same curriculum and provides students with the same academic rigor as their on-campus peers. Doctoral students in Theology receive training in ministry and professional and spiritual development.

In the context of religious thinking, academics will continue to hone their leadership, writing, analytical, and communication skills. Programs vary, but common subjects covered in the curriculum include systematic theology, history, philosophy, culture, research methods, and the interpretation of religious texts.

Methodology

To ensure students’ success, each Theology doctorate on our list possesses the following features:

For more details on our ranking process, please read our Methodology.

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top 9 Online Doctorate in Theology

Regent University

Regent-University

Doctor of Philosophy in Renewal Theology

Regent University is one of the top private Christian universities that are Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges-accredited. The PhD in Renewal Theology degree program at Regent, accredited by the ATS, is a 60-credit hour doctorate that can be completed online with a low on-campus required residency. Students engage with critical theological issues and examine historical and contemporary perspectives on the Holy Spirit’s role in Christian life and ministry.

Core courses of the program explore various topics, including Advanced Hermeneutics, Advanced Cosmogony and Anthropology, and Renewal Theology. In addition to the required residency and core and research courses, students must also choose a concentration to meet the required credit hours of the doctoral program. Four concentrations are currently available:

Students will conclude the program with a substantial original research project in the form of a dissertation.

Interested applicants must hold a master’s degree in a related subject accredited by the ATS, the SACSCOC, or CHEA. Additional admission requirements include:


Liberty University

Liberty-University

Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology

Liberty University is a SACSCOC-accredited private Baptist university that offers one of the best online Ph.D. in Practical Theology degrees. Theology students must complete 51 credit hours to earn the degree, which can typically be finished in 3 years of full-time study through 8-week courses.

The curriculum applies theological concepts to actual ministry issues and obstacles, preparing students for leadership positions in academic institutions, churches, and other relevant organizations.

Students who plan on enrolling at Liberty can expect to study ministry courses that align with 21st-century religious practice. Students will start by completing foundational courses and progress to specialized research and dissertation writing/defense courses to prepare for the program’s final part, the dissertation. Featured courses of the program include:

US-based students must have a master’s degree from a regionally or nationally accredited higher learning institution with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Additional admission requirements include:

International applicants will undergo a special evaluation process to determine their master’s degree credibility.


Columbia International University

Columbia-International-University

Doctor of Philosophy in Theological Studies

Professionals employed in religious contexts can consider Columbia International University’s fully online PhD in Theological Studies accredited by the SACSCOC and ATS. Online students can also expect to pay lower tuition fees than other doctoral degrees.

The program moves in cohorts and offers several interactive seminars that give students chances for cooperation, intellectual dialogue, and the fostering of enduring relationships. Students will collaborate with a mentor with similar interests and experience to offer guidance and support.

The program offers two concentrations:

As a research-focused doctoral program, students should expect to undergo rigorous training that prepares them for conducting advanced-level research founded on the authority of Scripture. Students’ original research will be shared with a large audience through written and spoken presentations.

Interested applicants must submit their application, official transcripts, research proposal, and two academic references. Your master’s degree must be earned from an accredited institution with a minimum of 3.5 GPA on all graduate-level coursework. Prerequisites of the program include four semesters of either/both biblical languages.


Saint Leo University

Saint-Leo-University

Doctorate in Applied Theology

Students looking for a flexible option for a doctorate in theology can consider Saint Leo University’s 4-year online Doctor of Applied Theology accredited by the SACSCOC Hermeneutics and Theological Method.

Identical to its on-campus program, students will have demanding academic training to engage them in theological techniques, contexts, ideas, and practices. Moreover, the program will also focus on developing students’ study, writing, and communication abilities to prepare them for real-world applications.

SLU’s Applied Theology doctorate will require students to complete 60 credit hours and study courses to advance their abilities to lead 21st-century churches. Graduates will be able to show their deep understanding of Applied Theology principles and practices, and how they’ll use theoretical knowledge in ministerial, academic, and other professional contexts.

While students are not required to do original research, they’ll receive the unique opportunity of working in practical theology research with world-renowned faculty and university researchers.

Applicants must have a master’s in theology degree or another related field, a 3.5 or higher GPA, two recommendation letters, a resume or CV, a statement of professional goals, a writing sample, official transcripts, and four years of relevant work experience with proof.


Calvary University

Calvary-University

Doctor of Philosophy in Bible and Theology

Calvary University is an HLC-accredited institution that offers one of the top PhD in Theology programs online. Calvary’s 4-year online Ph.D. in Bible and Theology is a doctorate that builds on students’ master-level Biblical knowledge and aims to produce experts who can advance and articulate biblical worldview scholarship. Graduates can work in various religious contexts as researchers, teachers, and leaders. This online program helps students advance their abilities in the academic and spiritual aspects.

Students can choose between the 60- and 78-credit hour curriculum. Advanced courses will cover hermeneutics, modern theological issues, systematic theology, historical theology, and studies of the Old and New Testaments.

While allowing students to focus on their areas of interest, the curriculum is structured to give students a strong foundation in biblical and theological subjects. In close collaboration with their faculty supervisors, students will choose a research topic, perform in-depth academic research, and write a dissertation that advances their knowledge of the Bible and theology.

A master’s degree in Bible, theology, or a closely related topic from an accredited university is required of prospective candidates for the Ph.D. in Bible and Theology at Calvary University. Academic records, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and proof of one’s dedication to and belief in Christianity are also needed for admission.


Northwestern Theological Seminary

Northwestern-Theological-Seminary

Doctor of Theology in Theology

Accredited by the IACEA-International Association for Christian Educational Accountability, Northwestern Theological Seminary is one of the best theological schools. NTS offers an online Doctor of Theology in Theology designed to increase students’ knowledge and competence in theological studies.

This doctoral program offers advanced theological education and research possibilities that prepare students for academic work, teaching, ministry leadership, and other fields where advanced theological instruction is beneficial.

Northwestern Theological Seminary’s ThD covers a wide range of classic and modern theological themes in Theology, including:

Students must have a master’s degree in theology or any related field and submit their official transcripts along with proof or documentation of their belief in Christianity. 


Colorado Theological Seminary

Colorado-Theological-Seminary

Doctor of Theology in Christian Counseling

Colorado Theological Seminary, an Affiliate institution of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, is one of the top providers of degree programs related to faith and religion. The online Doctor of Theology in Christian Counseling at CTS is designed to provide advanced education and training in Christian counseling theory and practice.

The curriculum prepares online learners for leadership positions in Christian counseling ministries, counseling practice, teaching, and research. Colorado Theological Seminary’s ThD in Christian Counseling program offers a curriculum incorporating Christian ideas and values into counseling practices.

Coursework covers counseling theories, techniques, marital and family therapy, crisis intervention, human development, and ethical considerations in counseling. The curriculum is structured to give students a solid grounding in Christian counseling while also letting them explore particular areas of interest.

The program requires applicants to have a Master’s in Counseling or a closely related discipline from an accredited university. Academic records, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose are few other additional requirements.


Master’s International University of Divinity

Masters-International-University-of-Divinity

Doctor of Theology

Master’s International University of Divinity is known for offering various cooperative degree programs, which combine courses from two universities into a single primary program of study. Graduates of these programs may occasionally receive credentials from both universities.

One of its top online programs is the Doctor of Theology, which covers a comprehensive range of theological topics. Thanks to its flexible asynchronous delivery format, students can complete the program at their own pace.

Students must complete 44 credit hours to earn the degree, which includes courses in the New and Old Testament, Systematic Theology, and the Christian Doctrine. The curriculum is one of the most updated curricula in theology, offering various current theological practices and issues that Christian leaders deal with within contemporary Christianity. Students have the option to further customize their degrees by choosing electives.

Applicants must have an MDiv or MTh degree or the equivalent to qualify for the program.


St Thomas University

St-Thomas-University

Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Leadership

The SACSCOC-accredited St Thomas University offers an online Ph.D. in Theology and Leadership program that can be completed through a 100% online learning environment. This program requires students to complete 58 credit hours, which includes core courses, electives, research, and dissertations.

The degree strongly emphasizes fusing leadership ideas with theology studies, preparing students to approach complex societal issues from a religious standpoint.

Theological courses include:

Leadership courses explore topics in:

Application requirements include a master’s degree or higher in theology, religious studies, divinity, or any related field from an accredited institution. All attempted graduate-level coursework should reflect a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Supplemental requirements include curriculum Vitae with references, writing samples, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.


What You’ll Learn in Online Theology Doctorates

Integration of Faith and Learning: Students are encouraged to combine their religious beliefs and intellectual interests throughout the degree, developing a comprehensive understanding of theology that will benefit their personal and professional lives.

Biblical Exegesis: To comprehend and interpret biblical texts correctly, one must learn biblical exegesis. Advanced courses on biblical hermeneutics, biblical languages, and the interpretation of the scriptures in their historical and literary settings are frequently offered in online doctoral programs in theology.

Ethics and Morality: From a theological standpoint, the study of theological ethics analyzes moral standards, values, and ethical conundrums. Students study ethical theories and their consequences for moral judgment in various situations.

Advanced Theological Studies: Biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, ethics, and other specific theological subjects are frequently studied in-depth in online theology doctorate programs. Theological frameworks, historical contexts, and difficult theological concepts are all explored by students.

Church History: Students investigate the evolution of Christian doctrines, ecclesiastical movements, and historical occurrences that have influenced theological developments. Knowing about church history will help you better understand different Christian churches’ theological practices and beliefs.

Practical Theology: Courses on practical theology, which examine the application of theological ideas in actual ministry and community situations, may be included in online theology doctoral programs. This could include instruction in pastoral care, ministry leadership, worship, and social justice.

Contextual Theology: Contextual theology, which examines how historical, social, and cultural settings influence theology, is the focus of several programs. This enables students to comprehend how theology is relevant and used in various international contexts.

Teaching and Academic Skills: Online theology doctoral programs may include courses on pedagogy, teaching strategies, and academic presenting abilities for individuals interested in academic careers.

Research Methodology: Research skills are stressed in theology doctoral programs. Students gain knowledge of how to read and evaluate theological literature as well as how to engage with theological texts critically. Research methodology equips students to make substantial and original contributions to the theological community.

Dissertation Research and Writing: Conducting original research and writing a doctoral dissertation are key components of online theology postgraduate programs. The dissertation should offer fresh perspectives on theology while showcasing the student’s aptitude for academic inquiry and critical thought.

Career Options for Doctorate in Theology Graduates

Holders of a Doctorate in Theology have acquired advanced knowledge and expertise in theological studies and related disciplines. This opens up various career options, depending on their specific area of specialization and interests. 

Academic Professor/Researcher

Many people who earn a Ph.D. in theology go on to work as professors or researchers at colleges, universities, or seminaries. They instruct students in studying theology, the Bible, church history, ethics, and other relevant topics. They might also conduct research, write academic publications and articles, and give back to the academic community.

Theological Consultant/Advisor

Doctoral degree holders can also work as advisors or consultants for churches, synagogues, or nonprofit entities. They are crucial in helping individuals and organizations navigate complex theological issues, interpret religious texts, and make informed decisions based on theological principles. 

Pastoral Leadership

Graduates can continue as pastors or religious leaders in churches or other religious organizations. Their advanced theological knowledge can help them provide in-depth sermons, lead congregations in theological discussions, and offer spiritual guidance to their communities.

Counseling and Pastoral Care

Some Ph.D. theologians opt to serve as counselors or chaplains due to their in-depth knowledge of theology and spirituality. To anyone facing personal or spiritual difficulties, whether individuals, families, or communities, they provide pastoral care, spiritual direction, and counseling services.

Religious Education Director

Some theologians who hold doctoral degrees concentrate on encouraging interfaith conversation and community engagement. They support social justice campaigns and aim to promote mutual respect, tolerance, and cooperation among many faith communities.

Christian Publishing and Media

Some PhD holders may work in Christian publishing, creating books, articles, and theological materials for academic and lay audiences using their theological expertise. Additionally, they could contribute to Christian media outlets by offering opinions or research on religious subjects.

Nonprofit or NGO Leadership

Theology doctoral holders can serve in leadership roles or contribute to NGOs with a religious or humanitarian orientation. They might work on programs for social justice, global outreach, or community development.

Church Administration and Denominational Leadership

Some theologians who earn their Ph.D. go into church administration or denominational leadership. They supervise administrative operations, control spending, and give the denomination doctrinal guidance.

Difference Between the Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Theology

Emphasis:

The DMin is a professional doctorate emphasizing leadership and practical ministry within a religious setting. It is intended for those already involved in ministry and who wish to improve their leadership potential, practical skills, and comprehension of current ministry difficulties.

The ThD, on the other hand, is a doctoral academic degree that emphasizes cutting-edge theological study and scholarship. It is intended for those who want to pursue professions in teaching, research, or theological studies while also engaging in rigorous academic study.

Educational Focus:

Leadership, pastoral care, preaching, counseling, church administration, and other topics with a practical ministry focus are frequently covered in DMin programs. The curriculum is frequently modified to fit the student’s unique ministry situation. On the other hand, advanced courses in theology, biblical studies, historical theology, hermeneutics, ethics, and other specific theological disciplines are frequently included in ThD programs. 

Career Preparation:

Graduates of the DMin program are prepared for leadership responsibilities in pastoral care, senior ministry positions, denominational leadership, and other jobs requiring both effective leadership and practical ministry abilities. The degree is very practical and designed to handle actual ministry difficulties in the real world. 

ThD holders frequently work as professors, researchers, scholars, or consultants in universities, seminaries, research institutions, or leadership roles within religious organizations. The goal of the degree is to advance theoretic study and knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a PhD and a ThD?

A Ph.D. focuses on theological studies within broader academic disciplines and may include interdisciplinary research. A ThD focuses specifically on theological studies and related religious fields. 

How long does it take to earn an online Doctorate in Theology?

Coursework for online theology doctorates generally lasts two years, while its dissertation lasts a year. The average completion time for this type of doctorate is 2.5-7 years. 

Is the Doctorate in Theology offered 100% online?

Due to technological advancements, students can complete any degree 100% online. Most online programs would still offer students optional on-campus intensives.

Summary Points


Additional Information: