Theology graduate programs study the concept and nature of the divine, often taking a philosophical or critical approach in doing so. Overall, they seek to understand concepts like god, the soul, and other metaphysical concepts important to many religious traditions. While they’re often offered by schools of divinity, seminaries, and universities affiliated with a religious tradition, some theology programs may also be available through secular institutions. Students may earn theology degrees from masters to doctorate, and they might do so online, on campus, or in blended formats. The approaches taken by different programs may vary, depending on the nature of the school offering the program, the goals of that program, the faculty, and other factors.
Theology graduate programs are often interdisciplinary, incorporating skills and knowledge from subjects like history, philosophy, literature, ethics, and sometimes even psychology. In most cases, theology graduate programs are academic in nature, using scholarship to hone a greater understanding of the divine and our relationship to that idea. Programs like this might focus on philosophy scholarship, biblical criticism, rhetoric, and other skills related to performing and writing new theology research. That said, some programs may also be practice-oriented, designed to support religious careers like ministry, education, or in clergy.
Theology and religious studies are often confused. However, while they can be seen as two sides of the same coin, each field takes a distinct approach to understanding religious belief and the concepts that drive it.
In some cases, graduate programs may choose to combine aspects of both fields into a single program, particularly in programs focused on a single religious tradition. That said, religious studies programs are somewhat more likely to take a more removed or secular approach to scholarship, compared to theology.
In many cases, theology and divinity are used interchangeably to describe theology graduate programs. However, that’s not the case across the board. When they’re not used synonymously—for example, if a school offers both theology and divinity programs—the term “divinity” usually describes a more practice-based program. This may involve developing fluency with theology concepts, and learning to help others understand religious belief or theological concepts. Divinity graduate programs along these lines might look at the roles and responsibilities of members of clergy, in religious ministry, or religious education.
Theology programs may be available at the masters and doctoral levels, including graduate certificates. A variety of specific degree options might be available within each level, each one taking a slightly different approach to the subject matter. Below, please find a short guide to different types of theology graduate programs that might be available.
Masters in theology programs are fairly diverse. While they all center on the study of the divine, and are open to applicants who have previously earned a bachelors degree, the specifics on how they frame their study could vary considerably. For example, while some programs may be open to candidates holding any degree or with any religious background, others might require affiliation with a specific religious tradition (e.g. being a practicing Catholic, or adhering to a certain Protestant tradition), or even having a bachelor's degree in religion. Let's look at some of the degrees you could earn in theology masters programs.
As with masters programs, theology doctoral programs may offer an array of degree options, each one tailored for a specific need. Some of these degree types may be more commonly offered within (or exclusive to) certain religious traditions. The prerequisites to enroll may also vary. However, students might expect to need scholarly research experience, a related masters degree, and potentially a theology-adjacent career.
Theology graduate certificate programs are non-degree programs focused on specific issues, topics, or skill sets within theology. They’re often offered as masters certificates; however, post-masters and doctoral certificates may also be available. Some example topics include theology education, Catholic canon law, biblical and theological studies, and more. These programs are typically concise, consisting of a fraction of the courses required by a degree program at a comparable level.
Theology graduate programs may be offered in several different formats, each designed to meet the needs of different types of students. Some of the options you might consider, as well as a few of their benefits, are listed below.
Start searching for theology graduate programs by browsing the sponsored program listings here. If you would like to narrow your search more, use the menu to select your preferred program type and/or format. If you find a program you think you might be interested in, click on the name to read more, request information, or get in touch with them!