At its root, theology seeks to answer vital questions about life, the cosmos, and the human condition. An online associate degree in theology can help you answer these questions and prepare you for a career as a clergy member, religious director, or religious studies teacher. The degree also allows you to pursue career paths outside theology. Graduates from online theology degree programs can go on to become social workers, organization directors, and social and community managers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of community and social service occupations is projected to grow by 10% in the period between 2014 and 2024, adding a total of about 257,700 jobs. If you have an interest in religious studies, now is a good time to take advantage of the projected job growth in this field.
Online Associate in Theology at a Glance
|Time to Complete||Two years are typically required for a full-time student.|
|Credit Hours||30 credit hours per year for an average full-time student.|
|Accreditation||Aside from national or regional accreditation, check that a program is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting.|
|Additional Info||Some programs require students to complete a preaching or leadership practicum prior to graduation.|
Grace College of Divinity
|Value Score 8.17||
Located in rural Fayetteville, North Carolina, Grace College of Divinity is relatively new, founded in 2000 on the campus of the rapidly-expanding Manna Church. One of the online bible college’s flagship programs is its affordable associate of divinity degree. Grace’s online theology degree requires completing 60 credit hours, which typically takes two years. First-year studies include survey courses in the Old and New Testaments, in addition to church history and effective communication. Second-year coursework is more advanced, including studies in systematic theology and the writings of John.
The curriculum spans three categories: biblical studies, theology, and practical ministry. Students must also complete a “Leadership in Action” requirement to illustrate job-related capabilities. All applicants should have a diploma or GED, submit an essay, and complete a GCD application. GCD accepts transfer credits on a case-by-case basis.
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Nazarene Bible College
|Value Score 8.14||
Located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs, Nazarene Bible College caters primarily to adult, Christian learners: 80% of the student population is married, their median age is 38 years old, and 75% are of the Nazarene faith. With no on-campus housing, NBC has celebrated distance education, including its associate of arts in ministry degree. NBC’s online theology degree prepares graduates for careers as lay workers in churches and other Christ-centered organizations. Students can achieve ordination by completing 11 more courses at NBC.
The curriculum consists of 64 semester hours. Twenty-eight hours comprise a general education core, and another nine make up a biblical and theological core. The remaining 27 hours are completed with one of four concentrations: church ministries, Christian educational ministries, early education, or Hispanic pastoral ministries. Students must complete at least 32 hours -- and half the final 32 hours -- through NBC coursework. The rest may be transferred from another accredited institution.
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The Baptist College of Florida
|Value Score 7.50||
A well-established Bible college located in Graceville, The Baptist College of Florida began in 1943 as an institution mainly focused on teaching Baptist ministers. Since then, the school has expanded to include an associate of divinity program. The program requires completing 66 credits, and includes general education, biblical/theological foundation, divinity, and elective coursework. Major courses include studies in pastoral leadership, Old and New Testament backgrounds, and leading a church in Evangelism, in addition to a preaching practicum.
Students earning their online theology degree at BCF have two choices: completing their coursework online or at distance sites in Jacksonville or Orlando. In addition to standard application forms, each applicant to BCF must seek out a personal recommendation and a recommendation from their church and pastor. All BCF online students pay in-state tuition.
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Piedmont International University
|Value Score 7.34||
Located along Tobacco Road in downtown Winston-Salem, N.C., Piedmont International University changed its name from Piedmont Baptist College to reflect a broader scope. That expansion has included growth in programs, one of which -- an online associate of arts Bible degree -- is one of the top theological degrees of its kind. The program’s curriculum consists of 64 credits -- two years of full-time study or four years part-time. The first-year coursework includes studies in the Old Testament and Christian ethics. The second-year includes studies in Bible doctrine and biblical interpretation.
All applicants should have a high school diploma or GED and an ACT score of at least 17 or an SAT score of at least 1230. All online courses are delivered via Blackboard, and use both synchronous and asynchronous learning. The program also utilizes multiple teaching methods, including the integrated, flipped, and traditional classrooms.
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Gods Bible School and College
|Value Score 7.18||
If you are seeking multiple options in pursuing an online theology degree, consider God’s Bible School and College in Cincinnati. GBS offers two associate degrees in theology: an associate of arts program in Bible and theology, and an associate of applied science program in ministerial education.
The Bible and theology program requires the completion of 60 credits, including 14 in biblical studies, 17 in theology, and three in church history. The program requires about two years to complete, and graduates go on to either work as Bible teachers, missionaries, or pastoral counselors. They may also continue their education in master’s and Ph.D programs. The ministerial education requires completing 68 credits, and is more of a pre-professional program. Students complete a nine-credit preaching practicum, preparing them to continue towards becoming ministers in a BA program. The AAS in ministerial program includes nine specialty tracks, including pastoral counseling as well as youth and urban ministries.
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|Value Score 6.05||
With a flagship campus in Knoxville, Tenn., a satellite campus in Kissimmee, Fla., and plenty of distance learning programs, Johnson University has a wide reach for a small, private university. Johnson University was founded in 1893 and is one of the more established Bible colleges in the country. The school continues in the Christian tradition, offering an online associate degree in biblical studies that can be completed as either an associate of arts or science. Either way, the curriculum combines general education coursework with biblical and theological studies, including courses in the Old and New Testaments, and the fundamentals of Christian faith. Each student must also complete a one-year foreign language study.
Applicants to Johnson must have a high school diploma or GED, submit ACT/SAT scores, and an essay detailing their Christian commitment. Graduates are prepared to continue their biblical studies in a bachelor’s degree setting, perhaps earning an additional online theology degree.
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|Value Score 5.88||
Located just outside of Seattle in Kirkland -- the home of Costco -- Northwest University has operated as a Christian liberal arts school since 1934. The school’s associate in ministry leadership program is designed for students interested in becoming ministers without the time to commit to a four-year theology degree online. The program combines broad biblical and theological coursework with hands-on ministry studies. Graduates are prepared to enter Northwest University’s bachelor of arts in ministry leadership program or to continue their ministerial studies elsewhere.
The associate degree requires students to complete 60 credits. Applicants should have earned a minimum high school GPA of 2.3. Students with a high school GPA of 2.0 may be admitted on academic probation. The SAT and ACT are recommended, but not required for acceptance.
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Ohio Christian University
|Value Score 5.78||
Ohio Christian University was founded in 1948 as Circleville Bible College and is currently affiliated with the Churches of Christ. OCU has experienced rapid growth in enrollment over the last few years, extending to the school’s associate of arts in Christian ministry with a concentration in biblical studies program. The program aims to provide students with a solid biblical foundation for their lives. Coursework includes studies in Pauline Epistles, the New Testament, the Pentateuch, and acts of the Apostles. Full-time students can complete the program in as little as two years.
The program utilizes asynchronous learning, which allows students to access their coursework, complete their assignments, and earn their online theology degrees at their convenience. The only requirement for acceptance is proof of a high school diploma or GED. There are many ways to finance an OCU education, as the school accepts employer assistance and reimbursements and offers a military discount.
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|Value Score 5.48||
Affiliated with the Church of God in Lake Wales, Florida’s Warner University operates a distance education department with online programs tailored for working adults. You must be at least 23 years old or already working to attend online courses. Warner’s associate in Christian ministry program is noteworthy. The program is asynchronous and accelerated -- students can finish their online theology degrees in as few as 12 or as many as 24 months -- and students take two courses every eight weeks.
Warner’s generous credits policy encourages students to transfer prior credit to their program to accelerate progress toward a degree. Warner’s policy is to award every single regionally accredited transfer credit that each student submits. In addition to the age requirement, all applicants to Warner should have a minimum high school GPA of 2.0.
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Epic Bible College
|Value Score 4.66||
Originally founded in 1974 as Trinity School of the Bible, this Sacramento school has rebranded as EPIC Bible College, focusing on the belief that God is the source of truth. This central tenet pervades all of EPIC’s online theology degrees, including its many associate degree options. The school offers associate degrees in Christian and ministerial studies, and in the latter, students can choose between nine emphases, including student ministry, worship arts, biblical counseling, and biblical studies. Each program features hands-on Bible training; the Bible is the central text in nearly every course. All faculty members are currently practicing ministers.
All students who apply to EPIC must be of the Christian faith, or have experienced a defined Christian conversion experience. All transfer students are encouraged to apply to EPIC, regardless of transfer credits.
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What Can I Do With a Associate in Theology Degree?
Most graduates with an online theology degree may gravitate toward positions in the clergy or as teachers of religious studies. However, these studies may be only one part of your educational journey before you switch gears to secular teaching or social and community management. These careers all attract compassionate people who are highly motivated to make a difference in their communities.
Social workers identify underserved individuals and populations and provide therapy or other resources to ensure that clients’ needs are met. The minimum degree for social workers is a bachelor’s or master’s degree; however, an associate degree in theology online program can help students lay the foundation for further study.
Projected Growth Rate 12%
High School Teacher
High school teachers provide students with the academic and life skills needed to transition to college or the workforce. Teachers need at least a bachelor’s degree to work in this field, but an associate degree can be an excellent way to transition to a four-year program.
Projected Growth Rate 6%
Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers work in their local areas to pinpoint deficiencies in existing resources and organize community members to service unmet needs. These professionals generally have bachelor’s degrees, though an associate degree can be a good starting point.
Projected Growth Rate 10%
Transferring to a Four-year Theology Program
While many graduates of theology degree online programs find that an associate-level education is sufficient to meet their career goals, others may choose to further their education and pursue a bachelor’s degree. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree has a number of benefits. For example, the starting median salaries for bachelor’s degree holders is over 20% higher than the starting median salaries for associate degree holders, according to PayScale.
Since a two-year degree can fulfill many of the general education requirements of a bachelor’s degree, you may find that earning an undergraduate degree is much more affordable when the first two years are completed as an associate degree. Transferring credits is usually a seamless process as many public four-year institutions have matriculation agreements with local community colleges.
In addition, a two-year associate degree may be appealing to some students as a way of sampling a degree subject without committing to four years of study. A shorter program can give you time to decide which four-year degree is right for you.
What Will I Learn in My Associate in Theology Program?
- Introduction to Theology An introductory theology course teaches students about various religious doctrines and how they answer practical and philosophical questions. For example, this course can help you construct a biblical worldview as a compass for guiding everyday decisions.
- Old Testament This course introduces students to the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, and helps them understand the context in which it was written. By learning the history of the text, students learn to put biblical teachings in their proper frame of reference.
- New Testament This course introduces students to the content and historical context of the New Testament and the life of Christ, along with some of the debates that have surrounded their interpretation.
- Biblical Interpretation This course details the ways in which biblical interpretation has changed over time based on the evolution of religious doctrine and the influence of culture.
- Systematic Theology A systematic theology course offers an overview of areas such as bibliology, ecclesiology, and eschatology, which can help students identify a specific area of theology that most appeals to them.
Employment Outlook for Associate in Theology Graduates
Associate in Theology Salary
Graduates who have earned an online theology degree may or may not have the luxury of choice when it comes to the region where they can secure employment. For those who do have the flexibility to move around, however, the following chart lists the top 5 highest paying states for workers in religious professions.
Accreditation for Online Associate in Theology Degrees
Checking that a school or program is properly accredited is an important part of the college application process. Accreditation is a way of ensuring you receive the quality education you deserve. There are two types of accreditation you should look out for: regional and national. National accreditation typically applies to trade and vocational schools and may not apply standards as rigorous as those imposed by regional accreditation bodies.
Along with the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversees national and regional accrediting bodies in the United States. To verify that your school is accredited, you can check CHEA’s database of accredited schools and programs. There are also independent accrediting bodies that evaluate programs in specific disciplines, such as education or medicine. Students earning their theological degrees online should check for their school’s accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting.
Financing Your Online Associate in Theology Program
Finding an affordable theology degree online program can be difficult. Programs vary in cost, but students who are in need of financial aid should explore their options thoroughly, regardless of the type of institution they choose to attend. An important first step is completing the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA), which determines your eligibility for federal scholarships, grants, work-study awards, and loans. Both traditional and distance learners can take advantage of these options. There are also many private scholarships available, several of which are listed below.
Scholarships for Online Theology Associate Degrees
George and Lynna Gene Cook Scholarship $600
Scholarship Deadline: March 15
Eligibility Requirements: Student must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Preference is given to members of the First Church of God Congregation.
Marguerite Young Endowment Fund Amount varies
Scholarship Deadline: March 31
Eligibility Requirements: Student must be enrolled full-time at an accredited college or university and working toward a theology degree.
Ann Crawford Alexander Memorial Scholarship $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: April 1
Eligibility Requirements: Student must be a graduating senior or high school graduate in the Lexington, Nebraska area with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.
John and Florence Goll Scholarship Amount varies
Scholarship Deadline: February 15
Eligibility Requirements: Student must have a demonstrated connection with the First Congregational Church in Saginaw, Michigan and maintain a 2.5 minimum GPA.
American Baptist Financial Aid Program Amount varies
Scholarship Deadline: May 31
Eligibility Requirements: Student must have held active membership in an American Baptist church for at least a year prior to applying, and must maintain a GPA of 2.75 or above.