Online PhD in Theology

Online doctorate programs in Theology provide instruction in religious texts and spirituality to prepare individuals for careers in either faith-based settings such as churches or in social service, academic and community professions. The Theology PhD degree, sometimes called a Doctor in Ministry or a PhD in a more specific realm of theology, promotes an enhanced understanding of sacred texts, increases awareness of contemporary issues within religious institutions and develops leadership skills. Moreover, doctoral candidates learn ways in which their studies and personal faith can be applied to effect positive change, thereby creating connections with communities and diverse groups of people. Individuals enrolled in online doctoral programs in Theology should be interested in engaging in research and writing that demonstrates their comprehension of the subject matter through their contributions to religious organizations and academic institutions. Online doctorate degrees in theology require students to possess a master's degree—usually a Master of Divinity—from an accredited institution. Prospective doctoral candidates can possess master's degrees in disciplines such as religion, theology or philosophy. Candidates must also either be competent or acquire competency in the use of languages in which primary texts and sources are written, and some programs mandate proficiency in an ancient language such as either Hebrew or Greek within the first year of study.

About Online PhD Programs in Theology

Online doctoral programs in Theology are usually more interactive than traditional courses. Doctoral candidates are expected to participate in weekly discussion boards, group projects, study scholarly readings, and write lengthy papers. In addition to course work, theology PhD or Doctorate in Ministry candidates must conduct in-depth research within their area of interest and write a dissertation reporting the findings and discussing future implications. The curriculum in online doctoral Theology programs usually consists of core courses, research courses, electives and dissertation course requirements. Some doctoral programs, such as the Doctor of Ministry online program at Liberty University, offer specializations with an additional requirement of seminars such as evangelism and church growth; expository and evangelistic preaching; pastoral counseling; pastoral leadership and management; and worship studies.

Year One:

  • Creative Ministry Uses for the Computer. This course at Liberty University is an introductory computer usage course focusing on the applications of computers for word processing, financial management, pastoral care, sermon preparations and evangelism.
  • Growth and Development of the Contemporary Minister. This extensive testing course will help students develop their own growth profile and how it relates to their ministry.
  • Twenty-First Century Techniques and Tools for the Revitalization of the Church. This course focuses on current trends and emerging forms of ministry, finally asking the student to evaluate his present ministry and its potential for future development.

Year Two:

  • Spiritual and Religious Issues in Counseling. Taking an in-depth look at the developmental dimensions of counseling, this course explores the relationship between families and God, stages of human development over a lifespan, and personal inspiration.
  • Action Research in Education. This research course initiates, provokes and reflects on the consequences of change within a range of settings across business, education and behavioral science disciplines.
  • Family Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Strategies and practices of constructive mediation and conflict resolution for pastors are explored including problem solving, communication skills and behavioral theories.

Year Three:

  • Non-Western Helping and Healing. Covering a variety of healing techniques across historical, religious, philosophical and social traditions, students focus on interpersonal problem solving, mediation, and personal growth methods of helping others.
  • Addictions Counseling. From a variety of vantage points and perspectives, different approaches to alcohol and addiction counseling are examined as well as the recovery process, twelve-step programs and professional and ethical issues.
  • Brief Psychotherapies. Behavioral and psychological therapies are examined as well as the theoretical models that underlie psychotherapy treatments.

Degrees must be completed within 7 years. Liberty University online students are required to take a graduate writing assessment course. Doctoral candidates must also pass comprehensive examinations, maintain a 3.0 grade point average and complete a dissertation.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Theology

Earning a doctoral degree in Theology is the highest level of education one can pursue in a classically revered and well-respected profession. Because a master's degree in a theology-related field is required for admission into most online doctoral programs in Theology, the student has the benefit of increasing his or her knowledge of religious studies. With this degree, doctoral graduates can pursue a plethora of careers in a wide range of disciplines, especially within the church itself. Doctoral students can focus their studies in Old or New Testament studies, church history, historical theology, Christian ethics, philosophy of religion and practical theology. Earning a doctoral degree online also shows a willingness to adapt and possibly develop church organizations and institutions into a more contemporary mindset. While this is valuable in some circles, it is important to note that more traditional theologists may frown upon earning a degree through distance learning. Similarly, there are a number of unaccredited theological schools and seminaries offering degrees over the internet. For this reason, it is especially important to research online PhD programs before you decide. One way to make sure a program is legitimate is by making sure the institution is accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

Application & Admission Requirements

Prospective doctoral candidates must have a master's degree in a related field in order to be admitted into an online Theology PhD program. To be considered for acceptance in Liberty University's online Doctor of Ministry program, applicants must send a completed application, official sealed post secondary transcripts, and two letters of recommendation from colleagues within the ministry. Students must also possess a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited institution. Most online theology PhD programs will also require that applicants submit a detailed résumé or professional vita as well as a statement of purpose. Prospective candidates should also have a current church or place of ministry to carry out projects as well as a signed endorsement from the church or organization permitting use.

Career Options & Job Market

Top online PhD programs in Theology facilitate a graduate's transition into a choice of careers ranging from religious professions (pastor, rabbi and church minister) to academic roles such as a historian or professor. Moreover, the online PhD in Theology can prepare individuals to enter careers in the social sector, such as counselors and leaders of nonprofit organizations. Individuals with accredited online PhD degrees in Theology are also prepared to become practitioners such as clergy members, marriage and family counselors, director of religious activities and education, historians, or college and university professors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages for practitioners in these professions range from $40,770 to $67,610 a year. Graduates of online doctoral programs in Theology are also equipped with a thorough understanding of Biblical doctrine that can translate to careers within religious institutions as well as within workplaces like hospitals, correctional facilities, museums, and within the military.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Part-time online tuition for the doctoral program at Liberty University is currently $508. For full-time online students, current tuition is $468 per credit hour. Different rates apply for different semesters, and there are technology fees as well. Liberty University students are eligible for grants and scholarships that are exclusively for online students. Theological organizations, such as The Fund for Theological Education as well as churches are another avenue to explore when looking for divinity school funding.

  • CMT Scholarship. Offered by Liberty University Online's Center for Ministry Training (CMT), this scholarship is only valid for students pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry and pays 100% of the recipient's tuition.
  • Fund for Theological Education Dissertation Fellowship. For African American doctoral students, this fellowship is awarded to students in the final writing stage of their dissertation. Fellows receive a stipend of $20,000 and as a condition of the reward, the recipient's institution provides a full-tuition scholarship.
  • Fund for Theological Education North American Doctoral Fellowship. Students from underrepresented ethnic groups are eligible for this fellowship which awards a stipend ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 and networking support to recipients.

Essential Advice

  • Weigh your options and do the research. You'll need to know for sure whether an additional degree will increase your earning potential more than a bachelor's or master's degree in a similar field would.
  • Try to obtain a scholarship, fellowship or grant. Studying at a PhD level is costly, and you may not be able to predict how many years it will take you to complete it.
  • Talk to current doctoral candidates and graduates about course load, time management, what admission materials they submitted, and so on. This is the best way to learn if the program is right for you.
  • Check the school's credentials. Once you find a program, make sure it is accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.