2021 Best Online Doctor of Divinity (DDiv) Programs

Ready to start your journey?

If you’re committed to ministry and theology, then you may be curious about the opportunity to earn a Doctor of Divinity online.

Best Online Doctor of Divinity (DDiv) Programs

A DDiv is an honorary degree rather than something you can go to college for, but that doesn’t mean that a ministry doctorate isn’t an option for you. A variety of doctoral degrees are available for students who want to enhance their knowledge of divinity studies.

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As you learn more about doctorate options, you may discover that increasing your education enables you to improve your ministry skills and increase your leadership opportunities.

Doctor of Divinity Online Programs

Doctor of Divinity Online Programs

A divinity school is a department of a college or a university. The studies in that department are likely to focus on religion, theology, and ministry.

A seminary is a similar institution. Unlike a divinity school, which is typically connected to a larger university, a seminary may be a standalone establishment. Like a divinity school, though, a seminary awards degrees related to matters of faith.

You may be able to earn a doctoral degree from either a divinity school or a seminary. Because the topic of your studies will be related to matters of the divine, you may assume that you’d be earning a Doctor of Divinity. In most instances, though, that won’t be the case.

Rather, a Doctor of Divinity, also known as a DDiv, is an honorary doctoral degree. Higher education institutions confer it on people who they consider worthy of the title. It’s an award for making significant contributions to the field of ministry.

After taking classes and completing projects at a divinity school or a seminary, you could earn a different type of doctoral degree. Common options include:

Often, types of degrees are often available through online college programs. You may take courses in biblical languages, systematic theology, scriptural exegesis, organizational leadership, pastoral care, and effective preaching. Your studies may be rooted in a particular denominational tradition or follow a more ecumenical approach.

As part of your doctoral process, you might complete an original research project. Then, you may write a dissertation based on your research. As a doctoral candidate, you’d work with a faculty advisor throughout the process. At the end of the project, you’d be responsible for defending it before a panel of experts.

Some divinity school students continue in service to local churches. Others become denominational leaders or the heads of nonprofit organizations. Those with PhDs or professional doctorates may also teach college classes, serve as college administrators, write books, and undertake research projects.

Online Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

Online Doctor of Ministry

Leaders in local churches and parachurch organizations may benefit from Doctor of Ministry degrees. This program is designed to enhance the professional abilities of those currently serving in ministry leadership contexts.

DMin students typically take courses related to leadership skills, spiritual practices, mentorship, and preaching. They also study research methods and prepare to complete a capstone doctoral project, which may be carried out in their current ministry setting.

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Concentration options can include family ministry, spiritual formation, and chaplaincy. Some DMin graduates become church pastors, chaplains, nonprofit directors, and denominational leaders.

Online Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership (EdD)

Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership

Religious leaders who teach others may benefit from a Doctor of Education degree with an emphasis on Christian faith practices.

In this program, you can develop a theologically informed understanding of teaching, learning, and leading. You can also take courses on ethics, spiritual development, and team management. EdD programs typically include research training and a dissertation or a doctoral project.

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Some programs offer concentrations, such as online ministry or Christian discipleship. This degree program may be appropriate for church leaders, such as youth or discipleship ministers. It can also benefit education professionals, such as administrators of Christian schools.

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Bible Exposition (PhD)

Doctor of Philosophy in Bible Exposition

The goal of exposition is to thoroughly study and understand the meaning of biblical texts. This PhD equips students with advanced skills for properly interpreting Scripture.

You might begin your studies with a foundational course on hermeneutics, which is the discipline of Bible interpretation. You can also take classes on various sections of the Bible, such as prophets or epistles.

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Research-focused courses help you get ready to write your dissertation. PhD graduates can work as practitioners or academics. They may lead ministries, teach college courses, and author books.

Online PhD in Theology

Online PhD in Theology

The study of God and religious doctrine is known as theology. Students in theology PhD programs explore biblical teachings and belief systems.

For this degree, you may study hermeneutics and apologetics. Other courses can encourage the exploration of topics like miraculous healings or the inerrancy of Scripture. Research is a key focus of this program, and all PhD students are required to write and defend a dissertation.

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The concentration options for this program could include New Testament studies or ecclesiastical history. Some theology PhD graduates work as clergy, parachurch ministry leaders, professors, and researchers.

In addition to on-campus programs, a growing number of universities also offer theology degrees online, which may allow you to continue working while earning your credentials.

Divinity Careers & Salaries

Divinity Careers & Salaries

You might be interested in doctoral studies so that you can further your ability to serve in a local faith community. Earning a doctorate may help you guide parishioners and faithfully interpret sacred texts.

Doctoral studies could build on your years of service and enhance your congregational work. Holding a doctorate also helps some ministry professionals transition into academia. With this degree, you might have the opportunity to teach religion or ministry classes at a community college, a four-year school, or a university.

As a professor, there may be time for you to research and write as well. Professionals with doctorates may author books, pen magazine articles, or conduct surveys on the beliefs and faith practices of various demographics. These jobs are often done in partnership with a university or through a different organization.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clergy members make a median annual salary of $51,940.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $185,950
Postsecondary Education Administrators $97,500
Postsecondary Philosophy and Religion Teachers $76,160
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Writers and Authors $67,120
Survey Researchers $59,870
Clergy $51,940
Marriage and Family Therapists $51,340
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $47,660
Religious Workers — Other $33,530

Some college professors end up taking leadership roles in higher education. College administrators include deans, provosts, and chief academic officers. A divinity degree may be especially valued at a religious college that prepares students for ministry roles.

Not all ministry takes place in churches and on college campuses. A doctorate could also help prepare you for leadership in the nonprofit world. Examples include being the director of a community agency or the chief officer of a nonprofit ministry organization.

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In addition, a divinity degree may pair well with a counseling job. To work as a mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist, you’d also be required to meet licensure standards for your state.

Divinity Doctorate Curriculum & Courses

Divinity Doctorate Curriculum

The sample curriculum below may provide an idea of the type of classes you’d take for a divinity school doctorate, such as a PhD in Divinity or Biblical Studies.

  • Biblical Hermeneutics: Learning how to properly interpret sacred texts will serve as a key foundation for your divinity studies.
  • Change Leadership: You can learn to guide churches and other organizations through transitions.
  • Hebrew Exegetical Practices: As you grow in your knowledge of the Hebrew language, you’ll also increase your understanding of Old Testament texts.
  • Ministerial Ethics: This class should encourage you to lead and serve with integrity.
  • Miracles: This course may explore both biblical and modern miracles and their role in theological practice.
  • Pastoral Counseling: When people turn to you for guidance, you can draw on the principles learned in this counseling overview.
  • Personal Ministry Growth: This course will prepare you to keep growing in spirituality and leadership even as you guide others.
  • Spiritual Formation: You’ll learn how to lead people toward spiritual growth practices.
  • Structure of the Greek Language: This advanced course will improve your fluency in biblical Greek.
  • Worship Theology and Philosophy: During your time in this course, you’ll do a deep dive into the theory of worship.

A school’s curriculum can vary greatly based on the type of degree and whether a research project is involved.

D.Div. Admissions Requirements

D.Div. Admissions

Enrolling in a divinity-related doctoral program requires going through an admissions process. Your application may include materials like those listed below.

  • GRE or GMAT scores (if required by your college). A growing number of schools are no longer requiring standardized test scores.
  • Letters of recommendation. You might obtain letters of recommendation from professional colleagues, church leaders, and congregation members.
  • Master’s degree. To apply for a doctorate program, it’s often required to first hold a master’s degree in the field. You can then send in corresponding transcripts to show your courses and grades.
  • Resume. You may be required to send in a resume that shows several years of experience in professional ministry settings.

Your college may have other requirements as well, such as essays and interviews.

Accreditation

Doctor of Divinity accreditation

The most respected doctoral degrees are issued by schools that hold regional accreditation. This shows that a college is recognized as an educational authority both in the ministry world and beyond.

When getting a divinity or theology degree, it’s beneficial to make regional accreditation a priority. That way, if you decide to switch programs, you’ll have a better chance of being able to transfer your credits to another college.

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Also, regionally accredited degrees garner greater respect. Whether you’re looking for a job with a college, a church, or a nonprofit organization, hiring committees will likely put more faith in an accredited degree.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Doctor of Divinity financial aid

Going to school for a doctorate in ministry or theology is a noble goal, and financial aid opportunities can help qualifying students manage the amount of money they’ll owe for tuition.

To apply for financial aid, you can start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Government grants and loans can be used at accredited colleges. For graduate students, loans are more common than grants. Both state and federal funding may be available.

Scholarships and fellowships can also cover a portion of your costs. Your religious denomination may offer these programs, and other organizations provide college funds, too.

Sometimes, scholarships are available through your college. Universities may also provide stipends to doctoral students who work as teaching or research assistants. Your church or another employer may help you pay for school as well.

What Is a Doctor of Divinity?

What Is a Doctor of Divinity

A Doctor of Divinity (D.Div.) is an honorary degree that is conferred upon select professionals who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to ministry and theology.

In other words, a doctorate in divinity isn’t a degree that you receive after taking a set course of college classes and completing a dissertation. It’s a rather prestigious award, but it won’t necessarily help you secure professional or academic positions.

There are related degrees that can fill that role, though. If you want to study divinity at the doctoral level, a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) or a Doctor of Theology (ThD) might be a good fit.

Is a Doctor of Divinity a Real Degree?

Doctor of Divinity Degree

A Doctor of Divinity is an honorary degree. People don’t get it by enrolling in classes and writing dissertations. Rather, colleges decide to bestow this award on people whom they feel have earned the title.

In other words, while you can use the “doctor” title if you receive a DDiv, you can’t simply go out and earn this particular degree. A similar degree for which you can go to college is a Doctor of Ministry.

If you’re interested in becoming a doctor but are not in a position to qualify for an automatic DDiv, you might look into earning a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) instead.

What Can You Do with a Doctorate in Divinity?

Doctorate in Divinity careers

A Doctor of Divinity or related degree will show that you have extensive experience and reliable knowledge in the field of theology and ministry.

One common job for ministry leaders is to work as clergy members in local churches or serve in denominational leadership. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most clergy members earn between $28,410 and $89,510 annually.

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Professionals who hold doctorates may also teach at universities. They often act as religion professors or school administrators. For some graduates, the doctorate title helps them launch writing careers. Authors in this field may write books on theology or ministry topics.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctor of Divinity Degree Online?

A DDiv is an honorary degree that you can receive after years of dedicated religious service and leadership. It’s up to the granting institution to determine when you’re ready to receive this honor.

So, it’s not typically an option for students to earn a Doctor of Divinity degree online. While you may not find many online Doctor of Divinity programs, there are many related doctorates in ministry and theology offered online.

Doctor of Divinity Degree Online

In general, doctoral degrees take 3 to 5 years to complete. A portion of that time will be dedicated to classroom study. The majority of your doctoral process, though, may be spent completing your dissertation or final project.

On the other hand, programs without dissertation requirements can be less time-consuming. Non-dissertation programs can generally be completed in just 3 years with full-time study.

What’s the Difference Between a PhD vs. Doctorate in Divinity Degree?

If you’re interested in a doctoral degree in theology or ministry, you can choose to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a professional doctorate.

PhD Doctorate
  • Focuses on academia and research
  • Suitable for those interested in being professors or researchers
  • Usually requires a dissertation
  • Focuses on practical applications for professional practice
  • For those interested in being ministers or other practitioners in the field
  • May have the option for a doctoral project other than a dissertation

Some PhD holders do work in local churches, and some people with doctorates do teach college classes.

Is a Doctor of Divinity Worth It?

Doctor of Divinity

Yes, a Doctor of Divinity is worth it for many students. Going to divinity school or seminary can help you become a more capable religious leader.

Your studies may also contribute to your own faith growth. For religious people, clergy members can have a lifelong influence. This occupation is expected to grow 4% over the next ten years (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

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Faith leaders may have job opportunities in houses of worship, denominations, colleges, healthcare organizations or social agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for community and social service managers are growing at a 17% rate.

Universities Offering Online Doctor of Ministry Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Boston University

Boston University campus

Boston University offers a 3 year, low residency Doctor of Ministry degree program. It includes both online learning and intensive on-campus classes.

The online classes are designed to allow students to engage in real time with discussions and live chats. Students are expected to complete a Directed Study Project during the final year of the program.

Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Emory University

Emory University campus

Emory University offers a Doctor of Ministry program designed for experienced ministers. It consists of 32 credit hours taken over three years.

Students can take the courses online, but do need to come to campus four times throughout the program. There are two tracks to choose from: Church Leadership and Community Witness and Biblical Interpretation and Proclamation.

Emory University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

George Fox University

George Fox University campus

George Fox University offers an online Doctor of Ministry program with two tracks: Leadership and Spiritual Formation and Semiotics, Church, and Culture.

The program is designed with a flexible, online format that includes some face-to-face experiences. Students in the program must complete a project that addresses a real-world ministry need or problem.

George Fox University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University offers a Doctor of Ministry program that is 100% online. Courses are 8 weeks long, and the degree takes an average of 2 years to complete. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools. Liberty does not require a Master of Divinity in order to apply, though they do offer a Master of Divinity online.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Northeastern Seminary

Northeastern Seminary campus

Northeastern Seminary offers a Doctor of Ministry online program with residencies at Northeastern’s campus in Rochester, New York. The program requires the completion of 34 credits and can usually be completed in 3 years. Applicants should have prior theological education and three years of professional experience in ministry.

Northeastern Seminary is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Oral Roberts University

Oral Roberts University campus

Oral Roberts University offers a Doctor of Ministry degree program in which half the classes are online and the other half use a blended format. The program is designed to allow students to continue working while completing the degree. There are two tracks within the program: Church Ministries and Leadership and Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy.

Oral Roberts University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

South University

South University campus

South University offers an online Doctor of Ministry program that is designed to enrich students’ personal, intellectual, and professional growth. The program is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Courses are fully online, and each one is 10 weeks long. Students usually finish in 3 years.

South University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Southeastern University

Southeastern University campus

Southeastern University’s Doctor of Ministry degree program is designed to provide an accommodating format for those who work full time in ministry. It requires the completion of 36 credit hours and can usually be finished in 3 years. Courses include Theory and Practice of Ministry, Contextual Engagement, and The Leader and Organizational Health.

Southeastern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary campus

The Doctor of Ministry program at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is designed with the intent to equip leaders and strengthen churches.

Three concentrations are available in a fully online format: Applied Theology, Christian Ministry, and Global Missions. Students can typically complete the degree in 3 years without leaving their ministerial positions.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Trinity International University

Trinity International University campus

Trinity International University’s Doctor of Ministry program is research-based, academically rigorous, and committed to gospel fidelity.

It uses a 4 year hybrid learning model. On-campus elements are available in both the United States and Korea. Applicants should have a Master of Divinity or related degree and at least 3 years of full-time ministry experience.

Trinity International University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Doctor of Divinity Degree Online

doctoral degree in divinity online

By studying for a doctoral degree at a divinity school, you can grow in your knowledge of scripture, faith, theology, and ministry practice. You can develop invaluable skills for leading others, encouraging spiritual development, interpreting sacred texts, and spearheading community initiatives.

Many students earn doctoral degrees in divinity through online courses. Studying online can allow current clergy members to continue serving their congregations while also increasing their education. You can start by exploring accredited online universities to find the divinity doctorate that matches your faith and career goals.

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Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.