Online Theology Degree


Curious as to whether or not anyone is familiar with reputable Catholic institutions that may offer undergraduate studies in Theology. Many only offer graduate studies via online courses. My situation does not allow for me to be a full time student on campus or to leave the town that I live in.

The only college so far that I have come across with the option of doing so is St. Joseph’s College.
The University of Notre Dame has a program called STEP, but I know little about it.



I have a theology degree but I did not get it online.
I don’t know much about what is offered but I will just put a plug in for online degrees. They are more common and given the right technology are just as good if not better than physical classes. They are the future.

However you must make sure it is accredited and reputable.


Apologies, I know this is unresponsive to your question, but…

Someone should put on the table the idea that you can learn more about Christianity in a soup kitchen than you can in a college.

If you’re sincerely interested in theology, you might start your own self education by carefully considering the relationship between the talking of the talk, and the walking of the walk. You don’t really need to read a lot of books to do this, you can conduct the investigation yourself in your own life.


I got my Master’s maybe around 2004? 2005? Even then, about half the people in my program (SLIS) were professionals who juggled online school with a day job.

My biggest problems with it, being fresh from a traditional four-year university, were that it didn’t feel “real”. Few of my professors had good syllabi— they had copypasta that they used from semester to semester, and didn’t bother attaching dates to things, so you had to hunt around in ten different places to make sure you didn’t miss a major project. Because you didn’t have that before-class conversation with your peers, either… “Hey, how’s that project that’s due Thursday coming along?” Also, my last semester of undergrad, I signed up for 21 hours’ worth of classes, and although it was tough, I did just fine. Normally, I carried around 16-18 hours. So I signed up for 12 hours for my Master’s, and had no clue why I was struggling so much. It wasn’t until I visited someone at their house for a group project that I saw their logon screen… and they only had one or two classes. It turned out that 9 hours was considered full-time for Master’s work. So, yeah, there’s a learning curve for being an online student, and a lot of it depends on the individual professors.

I know some people who really enjoyed Franciscan University at Steubenville, although they actually relocated to attend on-campus. But here’s a thread you might read. Like most Master’s programs, it’s simpler if you’re coming from a theological background, of course— otherwise, they’ll throw you into a few undergraduate classes to bring you up to speed and give you the necessary foundation to do Master’s-level work.


Which doesn’t help if you wish to pursue a career in theology…,


Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT offers a fully online bachelor’s program for either theology or philosophy, or both. I’m currently getting my degree through them, it’s very affordable, accredited, and used by more than one Diocese for seminary formation, though they also have non-seminary students like me. Trent Horn of Catholic Answers is pursuing his philosophy degree through Holy Apostles, and Patrick Madrid is one of the professors. I highly recommend it.


I would only recommend the following undergraduate online Theology degrees from colleges which are on the Newman Society list of REcommended Colleges or on the National Catholic Register’s list of colleges.

Catholic Distance University (with this option, you would take your humanities, science and electives at a community college or another local college)

Desales University

Holy Apostles College & Seminary

You can also take these courses at home which will provide college credit at Holy Apostles, Catholic Distance and others.

International Dominican University (affiliated with Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas)

Maryvale Institute

God Bless


This made me laugh.
That’s like saying you want to make your first million in the Peace Corps. :smiley:

Sorry, LOL

I’ll second Franciscan, St. Leo, and Dayton .Many others.
Have fun! Catholic theology is a wonderful and fascinating thing . :thumbsup:


My advice is don’t. Unless you plan to pursue a priestly or religious vocation, any degree in theology is high cost and low return, as, last I checked, no one makes their bread-and-butter primarily as a theologian. I’m not saying don’t study theology, but it’s best to do it on your own time and with your expendable cash. Spend the money you would spend on that on a degree or a trades certificate that will make you more employable and thus pay for itself.


Theologians do. For example, professors. That aside, in my personal opinion, if your primary reason for getting a degree is for money, that ought to be your second or third degree, because a person’s primary concern in life should be truth, not money.

I’m not saying don’t study theology, but it’s best to do it on your own time and with your expendable cash.

Formal study of theology is better than “hobby theology” just as formal study of medicine is better than hobbying around with first aid articles on wikipedia. You wouldn’t tell a doctor that it’s best to study his practice on his own time and leave the formal studies alone, would you? No, because being a good doctor requires formal study. Well, theology is even more difficult than medicine, not to mention more important, so why recommend only doing it as a hobby? (Not that you’re recommending that – just in general).



Dayton doesn’t offer an undergraduate theology degree. They only have a Religious Studies BA, and doesn’t offer it online.

St. Leo University only offers an undergraduate degree in “Religion,” not theology.

God Bless


And how is a degree in theology necessary for a pursuit of truth? Do you really think it advisable that this young fellow should take out a mortgage thinking he’ll be one of the few hundred or so people able to make a living teaching theology in the US (presuming he is American)? I work in academia, and part of the problem we see there is many people going on to get advanced degrees, especially in liberal arts or humanities, thinking they can work as professors, but not enough chairs and no way to endow more. Thus, academia is now a buyer’s market as far as employment goes. The tenure-track position is dying out, and adjunct professors (three-fourths of the faculty now) are paid starvation wages on precarious contracts while trying and often failing to pay off their educational debt.

That’s bad enough if you’re teaching English, which is a mandatory subject at every institute of higher education, but Catholic theology, a subject taught at only a handful of institutions? The odds of getting a tenure-track position at one of these are less than the odds of becoming a federal appeals court judge. I admire the spirit of those who want to study theology in more depth, but it would be remiss of me not to speak of the reality of the situation so they don’t harbour any illusions about their professional options thereafter. So I tell all the liberal-arts students I advise at my job, and I think this would be doubly important for those wanting to enter a field in which the only real employment possible is academia. Take it from an insider.


Yeah, I’ve never used mine. But one may be required to teach or hold some positions at the diocese level, or even some parish positions.
Might help for a deaconate as well…


Does the STEP program offer any degrees? I was looking at that program a few months ago and it seems to only offer certificates.


yeah, but Catholic Theology is a little different.

Someone with a Catholic Theology degree doesn’t have just academia to work in. They can work for a parish, diocese, or one of many Catholic Apostolates. Also of DREs, etc are getting old.

I would argue that the number of lay, Catholic Theologians ready to replace the Baby Boomers is pretty small.

Plus, there are a number of growing online Catholic education institutes that are growing and looking for teachers.

In addition, I would wager that the demand for Catholic theologians from programs known to be faithful to the magisterium (like the ones I listed in a previous post) are becoming more in demand.

NOTE: Anyone getting a degree in theology should not be looking to have an cushy job or get rich easily. All of the GOOD catholic theology professors I know travel the country (if not the English speaking world) giving talks, being part of fellowships, and even teaching at more than one institution at the same time. They also write books, etc.

God Bless


That’s true, agreed, credentials will be required for a theology career.

However, the other side of the coin is that, imho, one can’t be a real theologian if one turns it in to a business, ie. a career. If one joins either academia or the clergy one’s inquiry will be limited by the group consensus of those organizations. If one strays too far from that group consensus then one’s reputation and thus career will be put in jeopardy, a strong incentive to limit one’s inquiry within safe boundaries.

I would agree that this limitation will not be a problem for some, perhaps many, but it is a real issue for anyone dedicated to following their inquiry where ever it may lead. Here’s a concrete example. There was a time in Catholic history when invading the holy land with armies was an important part of the group consensus. If a theologian of that time had argued too strongly against that consensus, he would likely soon find himself without a job, or in those times, perhaps without a head.

The situation is obviously far less dramatic in our times, but the basic equation remains in place, stay within the group consensus or be rejected by the group. If one is an amateur theologian then being rejected by the group is mostly an inconvenience. If one is is a professional theologian then being rejected by the group can mean you lose your home, your savings, have to yank your kids out of college etc.

So a young person considering a theology career is in a challenging position. They basically have to decide how correct the prevailing theological group consensus is, before they have studied theology to any significant degree. There are of course good arguments on all sides of the question, which doesn’t make the decision any easier.

Before a young person assumes that authority figures in academia and the clergy know what they are doing, a young person might consider such facts as…

  1. The churches in Catholicism’s European homeland are emptying out, people are wandering away in substantial numbers.

  2. The Church is experiencing a significant shortage of priests.

  3. Catholic vs. Catholic ideological conflict tends to dominate the Catholic web.

  4. Scandals of various types have undermined public respect for Catholic institutions.

This is not to say that Catholicism is dying or that the academic and clerical group consensus have nothing of value to offer. But such unpleasant facts should cause a young person to question whether they can make a truly useful contribution from within the walls of academia or the clergy. Maybe they can, or maybe not, I’m arguing only that it’s worth considering from the beginning.


Postscript: There’s an excellent blog by Catholic academics at Although there is very little dialog on that site, it may be possible to obtain private advice from working theologians you learn about there. I don’t really know, but it might be worth a try.


My apologies brothers and sisters for the late response to this thread as I have not made time to sit at the computer since it was posted.

I should have stated from the start that I am entertaining the thought of a theology degree with the hope of someday joining the diaconate. Of course I will come to that decision through much prayer.

As of right now, I am only contemplating all of this and am looking at my options. To my limited understanding, to chose the vocation of a deacon requires no theology degree but I cannot foresee any reason why it would not aid the position.

With that being said, I currently am very comfortable where I work and I have a young family thus making relocating or commuting to a reputable college very difficult.

I do appreciate all of the replies!

God Bless,


In that case talk to your diocese’ vocation department and do what they advise. Going rouge can be unhelpful and expensive.

If you are interested in the diaconate ( permanent) talk to the people that handle that, not us!


I would talk to your Vocations office then in order to potentially save money.

If you have a bachelor’s degree, then when studying in the Seminary for the Diaconate, you typically have the opportunity to receive a Master of Divinity degree. And some seminaries also allow a Deacon candidate to take a few more courses to receive a Master in Theology.

So see what the degree options are for the Diaconate first.

But, if money isn’t an issue… you can check out the AA and BA degree options I provided you; all of which are in line with the magisterium.

BTW - remember, if you are NOT currently married, you cannot get married after becoming a Deacon. So if you plan to marry, get married before becoming a Deacon.

God Bless

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