Top 8 Online Doctorate in Theology Programs 2024

online doctorate in theology

For many people, religion is a fundamental part of life. If faith is important to you, then studying theology could be a pathway to a fulfilling role in ministry, religious teaching, or church leadership.

Doctoral degrees in theology open doors to influential and meaningful roles in faith-based organizations, social services, and even academia.

These degrees are known as terminal degrees, meaning they’re the highest degrees one can earn in this particular field. In this ranking, we identify the top eight online doctoral degrees in theology and ministry.

Featured Programs


Our search for the best online doctorates in theology began with a list of two dozen colleges and universities that offer this credential in the United States. After an affordability and ROI filter was applied, our editors were left with just eight programs. We then applied our site-wide graduate methodology for rating advanced degree programs. The results constitute our final ranking of the best theology doctorates in America.

#8—Regent University

Virginia Beach, Virginia

PhD in Renewal Theology


Points: 4

Tuition: $16,128

The online doctorate in theology from Regent University is one of the more versatile programs in our ranking, featuring four distinct concentrations:

  • Practical Theology
  • Church History
  • Biblical Studies
  • Theological Studies

A two-week residency is also required per semester. The program’s culminating elements include a comprehensive exam and a dissertation. Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Association of Theological Schools.


  • Versatile curriculum


  • Lower graduation rate
  • Larger class sizes

#7—Saint Leo University

St. Leo, Florida

Online Doctorate of Applied Theology


Points: 4

Tuition: $15,840

The online doctorate in theology from Saint Leo University is a rigorous 60-credit hour Doctorate of Applied Theology. Offered through the school’s College of Arts & Sciences, the degree requires 42 credit hours of coursework, a comprehensive examination, and a dissertation. Students may complete the program entirely online. St. Leo University is accredited to award doctoral degrees in theology online by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


  • High acceptance rate
  • Fully online


  • Low graduation rate
  • Larger class sizes
  • Less diverse

#6—Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, Arizona

EdD in Organizational Leadership: Christian Ministry


Points: 4

Tuition: $10,138

The online doctorate in theology from Grand Canyon University is a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Christian Ministry. This research-based terminal degree features core courses such as:

  • Christian Ministry and Culture
  • Theology of Leadership
  • Practical Considerations in Christian Ministry
  • Leading Across Cultures

Doctoral candidates must complete both a residency and a dissertation before graduation. GCU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to award doctoral degrees in theology.


  • High acceptance rate


  • Low graduation rate
  • Required residency

#5—St. Thomas University

Miami Gardens, Florida

PhD Theology and Leadership


Points: 6

Tuition: $14,850

St. Thomas University offers a comprehensive 58-credit hour doctorate in theology. This PhD in Theology and Leadership is offered fully online and features core courses such as:

  • Sacramental Theology
  • Scripture Studies for Practical Theology
  • Evangelization & Mission
  • Formation and Spirituality in Practical Theology

Enrolled students will also take courses in the Leadership track, including:

  • Business, Theology & Leadership
  • Theology of Leadership
  • Addiction & Pastoral Care

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accredited St. Thomas University to offer this online doctorate in theology.  


  • Small class sizes
  • 100% online
  • Diverse student body


  • Low graduation rate

#4—Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

Doctoral Degrees in Theology


Points: 6

Tuition: $7,740

Liberty University offers several online doctoral degree programs in theology. Students interested in pursuing this terminal credential can choose from programs such as:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Practical Theology
  • PhD in Applied Apologetics
  • PhD in Bible Exposition
  • PhD in Christian Leadership
  • Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

The theology programs are offered completely online, and courses are taught by experienced pastors and church leaders. The asynchronous nature of the programs allows for maximum convenience and flexibility. Liberty University is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


  • Maximum flexibility
  • High graduation rate
  • Diverse program selection


  • Less prestigious university

#3—Lancaster Bible College

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

PhD in Biblical Studies


Points: 7

Tuition: $10,985

Lancaster Bible College offers a cohort-based doctorate in theology. This PhD in Biblical Studies is a hybrid option that requires annual visits to campus in addition to online coursework. Once enrolled, students will take classes such as:

  • Hermeneutics & Theology
  • Advanced Biblical Research & Writing
  • Learning and Teaching: Theory and Practice
  • New Testament Backgrounds

A research dissertation is required as a capstone experience. Lancaster Bible College is accredited to award doctoral theology degrees by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Association for Biblical Higher Education.


  • Small cohort
  • High acceptance rate


  • Yearly visits to campus

#2—Oral Roberts University

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Doctor of Ministry


Points: 8

Tuition: $11,502

Oral Roberts University offers a doctoral degree in theology from its Graduate School of Theology and Ministry that can be completed in just three years. Technically a hybrid offering, half of the courses required for the program feature a 2 ½-day visit to campus for the purposes of completing a modular component. Enrolled students may concentrate their studies in one of two available specializations:

  • Church Ministries and Leadership Track
  • Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy Track with a Concentration In Moral Injury

Scholarships are available for eligible students.


  • Top-rated regional university
  • Scholarships available
  • Accelerated format


  • Larger class sizes

#1—Columbia International University

Columbia, South Carolina

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Theological Studies


Points: 8

Tuition: $10,440

Columbia International University offers an accelerated online doctoral program in theology that can be completed in as few as three years. This ATS-accredited program can be completed entirely online and features course titles such as:

  • Issues and Methods in Theological Studies
  • Theological Studies Dissertation Research and Writing
  • Principles of Teaching, Learning, and Course Design
  • Research Language Competency

Students pursuing this terminal theology degree will do so alongside the guidance of a dedicated mentor. CIU holds institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


  • Mentorship program
  • ATS-accredited
  • Small class sizes


  • Less diverse

Types of Online Doctorates in Theology

If you’re interested in earning a doctorate in theology—online or otherwise—you should know that there are many different types of programs to consider.

Credentials: PhD Versus DMin

Generally speaking, there are two distinct types of doctoral degree programs in the field of theology—the PhD in Theology and the Doctor of Ministry (DMin). These degrees are similar in terms of curriculum but may differ in several other ways. Perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing between these two credentials is your intended career goals. Those students who want to advance their leadership positions within a church or other faith-based organization should consider the Doctor of Ministry degree. Conversely, those who wish to obtain positions as professors or researchers in theology should opt for the PhD program.

Students who elect the PhD in Theology should be prepared for a longer period of study. While the Doctor of Ministry credential can be earned in 2-3 years, the PhD program could require 4 years or more. Furthermore, a DMin is more likely to be offered fully online. Online PhD in Theology programs often require visits to campus each semester or on a yearly basis.

Note that it is also possible to earn an EdD in organizational leadership degree with a concentration in theology or ministry like the program from Grand Canyon University featured in this ranking.

Modality: Online Versus Hybrid Programs, Synchronous Versus Asynchronous

You can still get a traditional doctorate in theology on campus, but if you wish to take advantage of the flexibility of distance learning, there are several options. For example, you can choose a fully online program for maximum convenience or a hybrid program if you wish to enhance your virtual studies. Within these categories, there are additional options. For instance, you can opt to study synchronously and attend online sessions in real-time. Conversely, an asynchronous schedule allows you to study and complete assignments according to your own schedule.

Curriculum Details for Online Theology Doctorates

Before selecting the right online theology doctorate for you, you’ll want to look at the curriculum details for each of the programs you’re considering. While there are some standard elements for this type of degree, each program is unique.

For example, one program may feature a prescribed curriculum—meaning you’ll be told which courses to take and when—while another may offer customizations within the curriculum guidelines. The latter program might allow you to concentrate your studies in a particular sub-field of theology, for instance, or choose from elective classes that interest you. Below, we list some examples of concentrations and core classes you can expect to see when searching for an online doctorate in theology.

 Sample Concentrations for Online Theology Doctorates

  • Church Ministries and Leadership
  • Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy
  • Biblical Studies
  • Theological Studies
  • Church History
  • Practical Theology

Sample Core Courses for Theology Doctorates Online

  • Issues and Methods in Practical Theology
  • Bibliology
  • Research Methods and Teaching in Christian Higher Education
  • Communication and Spiritual Guidance
  • Ministry Research and Analysis
  • Theology of Leadership
  • Advanced Biblical Research and Writing
  • Evangelization and Mission


Typically, doctoral programs in theology are research-based and require a dissertation. A dissertation is a scholarly paper that documents a student’s extensive research in an area of academic study. While most programs require a dissertation as a culminating element at the end of the doctoral program, some allow students to work on the paper over the course of their studies.

Accreditation for Online Doctoral Programs in Theology

Accreditation is important when looking for any theology doctorate, but it can be especially crucial when selecting an online program. That’s because these programs can be particularly vulnerable to scams, including illegitimate degree programs from so-called “zombie colleges”.

To avoid becoming a victim of fraud, it’s important to do your due diligence. You can check for programmatic and institutional accreditation at the National Center for Education Statistics website. While institutional accreditation is a must, you can consider programmatic accreditation as an extra layer of credibility. Many of the best doctoral programs in theology are accredited by The Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

Frequently-Asked Questions About Online Doctorate in Theology Programs

Pursuing a doctoral degree is a serious endeavor. You’re bound to have some questions prior to committing to a Phd or DMin program. Below, our editors field some of the most common questions prospective students have prior to enrollment. Keep in mind that the information here is general in nature and not intended to replace advice from an admissions counselor.

Q: Can I earn my doctorate in theology completely online?

A: Yes. Many of the schools in our ranking offer fully online doctorates in theology. Others require minimal campus visits, making these programs hybrid options.

Q: How much is tuition for a doctoral program in theology?

A: Tuition can vary widely from one school to the next. While conducting research for this ranking, our editors identified programs for less than $8,000 per year as well as those that cost more than $25,000 annually. Scholarships and other forms of financial aid may help students pay for these expenses.

Career Questions for Doctoral Degrees in Theology

Careers in theology are usually driven by a desire to make a difference in the world, not by dreams of prosperity. Still, it’s a good idea to know what your job prospects will be upon graduation from a doctoral degree program in this field.

Q: What can I do with a PhD in theology?

A: Graduates of PhD in theology programs typically work as clergy members or as postsecondary teachers in academia. Other leadership positions may be available in faith-based organizations, non-profits, and even the private sector.

Q: Where will I work with a doctorate in theology?

A: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most clergy members work for churches, home healthcare organizations, hospitals, social service organizations, and psychiatric and substance use facilities. Professors of religion and philosophy often teach at four-year universities and colleges.

Q: How much money will I earn with a theology doctorate?

A: Pay depends largely on the organization that employs you as well as the geographic region where you work. Still, PayScale reports that individuals with a PhD in Theology make $90,000 per year on average. Those with a DMin credential tend to make significantly less, with an average salary of $74,000.

Q: Which theology schools have the highest return on investment?

A: The schools in our ranking of top doctorates in theology with the highest return on investment, according to, are Grand Canyon University, Saint Leo University, and Regent University, respectively.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • National Center for Education Statistics