How to choose an online MA in Theology?


I am a young woman who recently graduated from a catholic college with a BA in Liberal Arts and am trying to discern what the next step is. In particular, I'm trying to figure out if I should go ahead with my most recent plan of earning an MA in Theology. I am not rolling in money, and am hesitant to become further in debt, especially as it is likely that I will get married within the next couple of years. I also would not be able to take traditional on campus classes. The reasons I am thinking of going for it are:
1) that I am very interested in learning more about my faith,
2) I feel called to try to help others grow spiritually, emotionally, and in every other respect possible
3) Even though my plans for a future career have flip-flopped back and forth between many different things, teaching, in some form or other has almost always been one of the things I am interested in
4) While I fully realize that this degree is hardly going to have me rolling in money, it will give me a better chance at a job than I currently have
5) and finally, (and yes, I realize that this is a very weak reason) I would really like to have at least a masters in something

So, what I'm hoping for is both help discovering whether or not I ought to take a Masters course and also advice as to the pros and cons of the various courses available online.
Thanks in advance for all your help!


I do not wish to pry to much into personal matters, but why would traditional on campus classes be out of the question?

As for choosing a program, I would examine what the program's foci are. Further it also depends on what you want to do with the degree. Are you looking at pastoral jobs, teaching at Catholic high schools, working in a diocesan office, or wishing to go for a PhD. in Theology?

I think it also depends on the institution offering the program as well. As far as debt goes, chances are you will have to acquire more debt to pay for a master's program. I do not know of anyone who has gotten their masters program paid entirely by the institution.


I’m currently working on my M.A. in theology and ministry from Franciscan University of Steubenville’s online program.


  1. Inexpensive compared to on-campus
  2. Can be completed at your own leisure
  3. You can listen to the lectures over and over if need be
  4. Some notes are provided


  1. You’re not in the classroom so you can’t participate in discussions or ask questions
  2. Limited courses to choose from
  3. You really have to be a self-motivator to complete the courses

This just holds for the courses I’ve been taking through Franciscan. There are other places out there that charge much more than Franciscan’s online program. There are also places where you are expected to ask questions and contribute to discussions via online discussions. There are also places where you participate in live classes through web-cam.

Do a google search for the following schools for more options:

Franciscan University of Steubenville
St. Augustine Institute (in Denver)
Holy Apostles Seminary (somewhere in Connecticut)
Catholic Distance University

Those are only a handful of what’s out there. But it’ll get you started and help you determine what sort of theology program you want to get into. :thumbsup:


I would suggest contacting your diocesan Vocations Director. Together you would maybe be able to find more focus on what you’re called to do and you’ll more quickly get to the place where you will excel most! :thumbsup:


Phillip, does Franciscan also offer a M.A. Philosophy through distance education? And, is philosophical theology one of the concentrations offered by Franciscan? I know that Holy Apostles offers a Philosophical Theology concentration, but sadly, only on campus, not online, which is what I myself am interested in (along with the M.A. Philosophy.:frowning:


Thanks for the advice, I’ll have to look into all this.

I’m working as a live-in carer during the week and so can’t leave to take classes.
I think I would be more interested in either pastoral work or teaching at a high school, although I am not sure what all is involved in pastoral work. I also like the idea of getting a Ph.D and going on to make even more of a differance, but that isn’t in the picture for the near future.

does anybody know which programs have good reputations? I know that can make a difference with respect to making your degree pay itself off…


Look into Augustine Institute


No. Franciscan only offers the M.A. in theology and ministry.


Honestly, I think that your reason #5 is the only justifiable one of the lot, and since it is very much a vanity reason, necessarily you have to chose based on what you can afford.

Reasons #1 and #2 are very important, and things you should remain focused on, but they are NOT things that require a master’s degree. Earnest self-study (perhaps guided by a spiritual director, if you can find one), informed by your BA, will get you every bit as much benefit on these goals as a postgraduate degree, probably more.

Reason #3 would only hold any weight if having an MA in Theology actually would help get you a job as a teacher. And, I suppose one must admit, it wouldn’t hurt. But landing a teaching post with no experience isn’t easy, and unless you have a clear “in” that will get you a job if only you have a master’s, I don’t see a degree actually helping you. Maybe if you were able to network and establish the right contacts in the course of your time as a student, it would, but there is no opportunity for those kinds of advantage in an online degree.

#4 is definitely untrue. You improve your job opportunities by grit, by finding a job and showing that you can do it. Added degrees may lower the defenses of some (but by no means all) recruiters, but at the end of the day experience is far more important than education, and I have frequently seen people in my career with more degrees earning less than those with fewer. And seeming ‘overeducated’ can reduce your employability.

So it’s down to reason #5, which I think has more value than you give it credit for. If having a postgraduate degree is important to you personally, if it’s how you conceive of who you are or who you ought to be, then you should pursue one. But I encourage you to think of it more as an end in itself than as a means to something: in my experience degrees very rarely open doors to employment the way their marketing says they will (and I have some very high-powered degrees).

In my opinion, then, you should view further degrees as luxury items. You’re not about summer cottages or sports cars or foreign vacations, you’re about education–good for you! But build your budget the same way you would if you were saving for any of those. Maybe that means an online degree right away; maybe that means saving and working towards a more prestigious degree at a Notre Dame or Georgetown. Decide what you want, based on what you can afford (the online experience is less than the on-campus experience, but may well be worth the difference, for your budget), and live for yourself a life worth living!


[quote="thewanderer, post:6, topic:272745"]
Thanks for the advice, I'll have to look into all this.

I'm working as a live-in carer during the week and so can't leave to take classes.
I think I would be more interested in either pastoral work or teaching at a high school, although I am not sure what all is involved in pastoral work. I also like the idea of getting a Ph.D and going on to make even more of a differance, but that isn't in the picture for the near future.

does anybody know which programs have good reputations? I know that can make a difference with respect to making your degree pay itself off...


If you are looking toward a PhD I would go the traditional route for your MA. I don't think any PhD program would accept an online degree. You would probably need an MTS and also at least three languages or more depending on what PhD program you want to go into. I do know you can get a PhD in Religious Studies at Fordham without a language and with an MA.

I think that when studying theology that classroom interaction is so important. I took two online courses postgraduate and I missed the discussions, the questioning, and other students.


I’m presently doing my MA in theological studies although all of my classes occur in traditional class time, I have several suggestions for you.

  1. Consider what you are wanting or even thinking about doing with it and then as you explore different universities, find out if their programs are directed towards your goals.
  2. Look at the types of courses you will be doing because some MA programs are more directed towards biblical studies while others are more directed towards pastoral.
  3. Look at key words such as MA in Pastoral, Counselling, Divinity because those types of courses are more likely to be related to your field. Theological in general can relate more to biblical therefore if there is a program that you are curious about, check to see if it is related to your field.
  4. Thesis or non thesis. Thesis programs means you will have about a 150 to 200 page thesis to write. Non-thesis means you will probably have some sort of project as well as a 50 page paper.
  5. Look into accreditation. Check to see if the program you desire is accredited by the catholic church. I say this because as in Quebec, just because a University is secular doesn’t mean it’s not accredited. Concordia University as well as McGill are both accredited by the Catholic church.
  6. Look into other universities outside the USA as well, Canada has some great programs that are also available.
  7. I also know that some programs such as at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, offers week long intensive courses that you can also take.

That is all for now, if you have any more questions, please message me.

Good Luck,


I have a very similar question and I don't want to derail this thread, so please hop over to the thread linked below if you have any insight. Thanks!

Graduate programs, or what is Pastoral Theology vs. Theology?


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