Best Master of Divinity (MDiv) Online Degree Programs

Prepare for a professional career in ministry and other church leadership roles by earning your Master of Divinity degree online from a top college, university, or seminary.

The Master of Divinity (MDiv) is the most popular professional theological degree offered at seminaries and other postsecondary religious schools in the U.S. It’s also the most common graduate-level degree in the pastoral profession. An MDiv degree from a top college, university, or seminary is the most effective means for obtaining the essential knowledge and skills for successful leadership both within and outside the church.

You can now earn a quality, fully accredited MDiv through the convenience and affordability of an online program. This guide provides the information necessary to help you locate and be admitted to the right online program, succeed in your academic studies, find funding for your MDiv online program, and much more.

College Spotlights: Best Online MDiv Programs in 2021

Three of the best MDiv online programs currently offered are spotlighted below. Factors considered include affordability, program comprehensiveness, study convenience and flexibility, access to quality support services, and proper accreditation. These spotlights give a good idea of what to look for in a program and preview our full ranking of online programs arriving later this year.

Denver Seminary

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Denver Seminary, an Evangelical Christian institution located in Littleton, Colorado, offers its Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree in a fully-online format with no in-person residential components. The program’s 79-credit hour curriculum consists of 60 credits of core bible and theology courses in subjects like the Old and New Testaments, Greek and Hebrew languages, Christian history, apologetics, expository preaching, and ministry leadership. The curriculum also has 19 credits of elective coursework.

The current per-credit cost for the online MDiv program is $625. Through donations from school benefactors, MDiv students on average pay approximately 37% of tuition costs. Additionally, advanced standing and transfer credits for approved previous undergraduate and graduate coursework may be applied to reduce credit requirements and program costs. Students can start their programs in the fall, spring, or summer semesters and complete them in four years.

Denver Seminary is accredited by the HLC North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and both the Seminary and its MDiv program are accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

Liberty University

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Maximum study flexibility and the availability of tons of specialization options distinguish evangelical Christian Liberty University’s online Master of Divinity (MDiv) program. Core topics covered include the Old and New Testaments, evangelism, apologetics, and discipleship ministries. Students round out their curriculums with coursework in one of 17 specialization tracks, including theology, church history, global studies, biblical languages, leadership, and church ministries in the digital age.

The 75-credit hour (for most specializations) program is 100% online and completed in as little as two years. With approval, students may fulfill up to 50% of credit requirements with previously earned coursework. Part-time MDiv students pay a per-credit tuition rate (currently $395), while full-time students carrying between seven and 15 credits enjoy a discounted tuition block-rate (currently $2,750). Discounted tuition rates are available to active duty members with additional discounts for veterans employed as first responders.

Liberty University is institutionally accredited by the HLC Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and its MDiv degree is programmatically accredited by the ATS.

Loyola University Chicago

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The Master’s of Science in Applied Nutrition and Dietetics online program at Logan University consists of 40 credits. The curriculum is in line with the Future Education Model, which requires Registered Dietitian Nutritionists to possess a master’s degree by 2024. As a result, the curriculum consists of two primary components.

First, there’s the coursework, which students can complete fully online. It consists of classes such as:

  • Health Education Concepts and Theories
  • Health Policy
  • Survey of Sustainable Food Systems
  • Nutritional Assessment of Athletes

Second, there are the supervised experiential learning (SEL) experiences. This will help students meet the practice requirements to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Students can complete the SEL requirements in the St. Louis area. Upon completing the entire curriculum, students will be eligible to sit for the registration exam to become Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.

Advantages of Earning an Online Master’s in Divinity

Earning an online MDiv degree is the best way to launch a career in ministerial leadership. However, given the substantial investment of effort and money, it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if pursuing an MDiv is worth it. The answer depends on individual career goals and current circumstances. Nevertheless, there are many important benefits of pursuing an MDiv degree online, including the following.

  1. Depth and breadth of subject matter

    MDiv students require advanced coursework in theology, leadership, and other essential subjects to prepare for roles as fully-ordained ministers. They also need a comprehensive curriculum preparing them for a range of religious and non-secular careers. Online MDiv programs give both.

  2. The spiritual factor

    MDiv programs provide students with many opportunities for spiritual growth that can richly impact their ministries. Many MDiv students also pursue degrees to add faith-based perspectives to secular careers in business, counseling, education, and almost any other profession, something that quality MDiv online programs also provide.

  3. Study flexibility and convenience

    Study convenience is the key advantage to distance learning, but it’s particularly important for MDiv students current serving in churches. Online MDiv programs understand this and provide maximum flexibility in both curriculum formats (full-time and part-time) and overall program lengths.

What You’ll Learn in an Online MDiv Program

MDiv curriculums offer depth and breadth of religious study, starting with coursework in several foundational theological, ministerial, and leadership subjects. Descriptions of five MDiv core courses are below. Along with these foundational subjects, students complete coursework in one or more specialized areas of study either through a specialization track or elective classes. In addition, some online MDiv students complete studies with a scholarly thesis or capstone project. This often includes a finished ministerial portfolio containing work, professor comments, and other materials assessing a student’s progress.

Popular Courses

  • Biblical Languages

    Biblical languages is an introductory course that provides essential vocabulary and grammar skills in Hebrew and Greek for reading and understanding the original writers of the Old and New Testaments in their own languages. Emphasis is on key theological themes, morphology, and the use of linguistic tools in the translation and interpretation of select Bible passages.

  • Christian and Church History

    This course overviews Christianity and the Christian church’s theological and institutional development from the time of Christ to the present day. Topics include the political, cultural, and geographic factors influencing Christian history; major Christian thinkers and their perspectives on Christian leadership; major church writings and their impact on history; and how a clear understanding of the past guides church leaders in resolving present-day challenges.

  • Hermeneutics

    An introduction to biblical hermeneutics, this course focuses on the mission of God and the church’s role in it. Emphasis is on biblical interpretation in historical and current theological, philosophical, ecclesiastical, social, and cultural contexts. Students demonstrate an understanding of key terminology, historical movements, and figures within hermeneutics.

  • Ministerial Ethics

    Incumbent for all ministry and church leaders, ministerial ethics emphasizes discernment of right from wrong within ministerial and personal conduct for maintaining and modeling ethical integrity. This course examines foundational biblical ethics and their application to potential dangers within ministry leadership.

  • Systematic Theology

    A foundational course for the study of theology, this course covers the history of biblical theology; the nature of revelation; creation; God, Christ, and the Spirit; sin and salvation, and the Christian church. Students learn to identify the various areas of study, pivotal players, and seminal works of literature within the broader theological field.

Specialization and Concentration Options

Several online MDiv programs allow tailoring of studies to a particular personal or professional interest within the broader divinity field. The number of specialization/concentration options offered varies significantly among programs, from two or three to as many as a dozen or more. If a program doesn’t offer specialization tracks, you may still be able to focus your studies through electives and/or thesis or a capstone project topic.

Below are five examples of specialization options currently offered by one or more online MDiv programs.

  • Biblical Studies

    Through advanced engagement with biblical literature, students specializing in biblical studies take on careers in many church settings, including pastor, Christian educator, Christian school administrator, and Sunday school administrator. Topics include biblical theology, the historical contexts of scripture, biblical hermeneutics, bible storytelling, and narrative preaching.

  • Intercultural Studies

    The intercultural studies specialization provides the practical knowledge and skills needed for effective intercultural ministry work, both globally and in diverse communities within the U.S. Graduates demonstrate cultural competency and an appreciation of other faith traditions, allowing them to engage other cultures meaningful ways.

  • Ministry Leadership

    This specialization combines biblical and theological coursework with practical training in leadership and management to prepare graduates for ministerial administration positions in a range of church and organizational settings. Topics include communication and leadership, conflict resolution, pastoral counseling, strategic planning, professional ethics, and management and administration of Christian ministry.

  • Pastoral Counseling

    The pastoral counseling specialization is for students interested in helping individuals, couples, and families deal with difficult life issues by employing psychological theory and counseling techniques from a biblical perspective. Topics include counseling theories and practices, human growth and lifespan development, crisis counseling, marriage and family counseling, multicultural issues in counseling, and human sexuality.

  • Chaplaincy

    The chaplaincy specialization prepares graduates to provide professional chaplain services to individuals and communities with varying faith backgrounds or no religious affiliation in settings that include hospitals, hospices, mental health facilities, college campuses, prisons, the military, and as part of disaster relief efforts.

Accreditation Standards for Online MDiv Programs

Accreditation determines which MDiv programs and the schools offering them meet minimum academic standards. Proper accreditation is a fundamental prerequisite for any MDiv online program. It’s assurance the degree is of a quality and worth your time, effort, and money.

There are two basic forms of accreditation. The first, programmatic accreditation, concerns the vetting of individual degree programs. The primary organization for accrediting MDiv programs in the U.S. is The Association of Theological Schools (ATS). Most, but not all, online MDIV programs in the U.S. are ATS-accredited. The second form of accreditation, institutional accreditation, concerns the vetting of postsecondary institutions as a whole. Institutional accreditation of U.S. postsecondary schools is administered by several Department of Education approved regional and national accrediting agencies, including the ATS. All the schools in this guide are institutionally accredited by either the ATS, one of seven DOE-approved regional accrediting agencies, or both.

You can find current accreditation status information, in most cases, on school or MDiv program webpages. Accreditation status can also be checked at these Department of Education and ATS websites.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in Divinity

Below are five common ministry-related careers (both church-affiliated and interdenominational) for MDiv graduates along with their current salary figures. Keep in mind that you can also apply the knowledge and skills gained in an MDiv online program to a range of secular jobs within private businesses and non-profit organizations, education, counseling, and many other professional fields. Career opportunities for MDiv graduates exist anywhere with a need for faith-based understanding and leadership.

Associate Pastor

Associate pastors support senior and executive pastors, most often those with larger congregations, to fulfill a church’s vision and goals. Typical job duties include assisting in the planning and executing of worship services, caring for the spiritual needs of individual congregation members, and acting as a liaison between senior clergy and lay liturgy groups within the congregation. Most associate pastors must be ordained ministers within their organization’s faith or denomination.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$32,000

$49,000

$68,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Chaplain

Chaplains are non-denominational spiritual leaders, providing comfort and counseling services to believers of every faith and non-believers alike. They’re sometimes described as brokers between the sacred and the secular for hospital patients and their loved ones, students, prisoners, and military service members. They are also often employed by charitable organizations as community ministers outside of regular congregational settings.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$38,000

$51,000

$70,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Director of Youth and College Ministries

The youth or college ministry director is another entry-level position for MDiv graduates, especially those passionate about working with children and young adults. Youth and college ministry directors plan and oversee all youth programs and activities for a church or denomination-affiliated college to promote the healthy spiritual growth of tomorrow’s faith and community leaders.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$31,000

$42,000

$60,000

Source: PayScale, 2019

Executive Director, Non-Profit Organization

The executive director of a non-profit organization is like a private corporation’s CEO. Duties include developing and carrying out organizational and funding strategies; organizational budgeting; recruiting, training, and supervising staff; collaborating with their organization’s board of directors; and ensuring that non-profit operations adhere to all applicable laws, regulations, and ethical standards.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$40,000

$68,000

$127,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Executive Pastor

A relatively new job title, executive pastors are fully ordained ministers working as both the spiritual and business leaders in larger church organizations. They’re the supervising link between clergy, church staff, and congregation members. The executive pastor helps create and develop a religious institution’s mission and oversees all aspects of church functions and activities in service of that mission.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$40,000

$65,000

$94,000

Source: PayScale, 2021

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in Divinity

For most students, paying for college means drawing from several funding sources, including scholarships and grants, employer tuition assistance programs, assistantships and fellowships, work study opportunities, and their bank account. The most common source of financial aid is the student loan, and the most common source of student loans is the federal government. Find out about specific funding opportunities for your online divinity master’s program by contacting your school’s financial aid office. Also, learn more about various financial aid resources mentioned here through our financial aid page.

What Your Online Master’s in Divinity Could Cost

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

Eastern University

78

$528

$41,184

Wesley Seminary

75

$510

$38,250

Western Seminary

40

$610

$50,020

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Master of Divinity Programs

What are the admissions requirements for online MDiv programs?

Admissions requirements for online MDiv programs differ among schools. However, there are several common admission requirements for most online MDiv programs.

  • Previously-earned degree: All programs require a baccalaureate degree from a regionally-accredited U.S. college or university (or international equivalent) with a given minimum cumulative GPA (2.5 to 3.0 is common). Some schools accept students with degrees from schools institutionally accredited by denomination-affiliated organizations like the Association for Biblical Higher Education. In most cases, the major subject of the degree does not matter.
  • Official transcripts: Applicants must submit official transcripts for their baccalaureate degree program and other completed college-level coursework.
  • GRE/MAT test scores: Most online MDiv programs do not require graduate entrance exam (GRE or MAT) scores. Some require GRE/MAT scores for applicants with cumulative undergraduate GPAs below the stated minimum.
  • Personal statement: A personally-written statement that includes autobiographical information and declarations of faith and ministry purpose.
  • Letters of recommendation: One or more letters of recommendation with at least one from the applicant’s pastor or other denominational supervisor.
  • Proof of English proficiency: International students may need to provide proof of English language proficiency, most often in the form of TOEFL scores.

How long will it take to finish my master’s degree in divinity?

Online MDiv programs provide substantial study flexibility that allows fitting studies into already busy work and life schedules. Among these features are generous program lengths. MDiv online accelerated programs, like Campbellsville University’s and Liberty University’s, can be completed in as little as two years. Part-time programs, like Saint Joseph College of Maine’s, allow seven years or longer. All programs do have a maximum time limit for degree completion, though, so check your program’s timeline before signing up.

Can I earn my master’s in divinity 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

Whether you complete your online MDiv degree requirements completely online or not depends on your particular program. Most online MDiv programs feature 100% online curriculums, meaning students do not have to visit their school’s campus. Some programs, like the Loyola University Chicago program requiring one on-campus course and Lexington Theological Seminary’s MDiv program with some short-term on-campus residencies, do have on-campus requirements. Other schools, Wesley Seminary the Moody Bible Institute, offer MDiv online students the option of completing a portion of coursework in-person.