In the U.S., students interested in religious studies or a career in the ministry have many online options, including the Master of Divinity degree. The M.Div. is generally a three-to-five-year, 90-semester-hour program focusing on biblical studies, church history, ministry theology and practice, counseling and canon law. The degree is usually required by religious organizations for those interested in becoming licensed and ordained as a pastor or priest or entering a Ph.D. program. Throughout the states, dozens of accredited schools offer this degree either partially or entirely online.
Liberty and Regent Divinity Schools in Virginia
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University's Baptist Theological Seminary offers 14 different online Master of Divinity degree concentrations. The school prepares students for professional work in Christian ministry and provides an in-depth focus on biblical leadership principles and methods. The program also offers military students an avenue to complete service requirements in order to become military chaplains. In addition to online work, Liberty's seminary requires "intensives," which are one- and two-week residential sessions throughout the program. In Virginia Beach, Regent University's Master of Divinity program features eight concentrations leading to the ministry, including the "History of Christianity," in a 72-credit-hour program, with 24 credits required in residency.
Two Masters in Divinity Programs in the South
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, offers a hybrid program where approximately half of the degree can be earned online and the other half in residency. In contrast, students enrolled in the M.Div. degree program at Luther Rice University and Seminary in Lithonia, Georgia, can earn their degree entirely online. The school accepts transfer credits up to half of the required credit hours, similar to most other theology schools.
Two Master of Divinity Programs in Michigan
Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, is affiliated with the Reformed Church of America, but welcomes students from other Christian backgrounds. Its Master in Divinity degree encompasses a five-year program of 96 credit hours. The online program is combined with two two-week residencies each year in January and May. The school is fully accredited. Nearby in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Calvin Theological Seminary is also affiliated with the Reformed Church of America and has been in existence for 136 years. It offers an accredited hybrid program where a typical semester involves four to five weeks online, then eight days on campus, followed by an additional six to seven weeks online.
Gospel-based Western Seminary in California has campuses in Portland, Sacramento and San Jose. Its 90-credit program can be completed in as few as three years. The hybrid program involves 60 online credits and 30 in residence. Seminary students at ILIFF School of Theology in Denver earn the M.Div. degree in as few as three years and up to a maximum of ten years, with one third of credits earned in residency. Online students begin in September with a one-week orientation on campus. After this, students convene on the school's campus three to four times a year for approximately 15 days annually in addition to their online work. Although many agencies accredit theology schools, ILIFF notes that a primary one, the Association of Theological Schools, does not accredit the Master of Divinity degree if it is earned completely online. There needs to be a balance between online and residential work to fulfill the association's requirements.
Tonda Bian is an education specialist. She has Bachelor's and Masters degrees both specializing in education and English. She also has an EJD in law--research and writing. Her career has included teaching in three colleges and working as a researcher, writer and editor for more than 20 years.