The choice to study theology often speaks to an individual’s higher calling, whether that may mean serving in a church or deepening their own understanding of their faith. Graduates with degrees in theological studies or related disciplines have a wide range of careers available to them, ones that extend far beyond those associated with religious professions.
When you’re planning the next steps in your academic journey, there are lots of things to consider: Will a theology degree help you achieve your career goals? Depending on the type of job you land, will the expected salary be enough? Does your desired career require additional schooling, for which you’ll need to earn and save money?
While financial security is important for most working professionals, money is not usually the primary motivation for earning a theology degree. That said, it helps to know all the facts before making big decisions about your future. Read on to find out what you can expect to make with a theology master’s degree.
What Can You Do With a Theology Master’s Degree?
According to College Factual, theology and related areas of study ranked as the 25th most popular major in the 2019–2020 academic year. However, since a theological studies degree does not necessarily lead to a specific career, this ranking has little bearing on the rate at which theology graduates are hired into relevant positions.
In part, this is because theology programs can help students develop a wide range of skills that apply to myriad professions — critical thinking, research and analysis, written and oral communication, public speaking, and knowledge of world religions are just some of the skills theological studies program graduates can develop.
Those who wish to pursue religious careers are encouraged or required (depending on their career goals) to earn a Master of Divinity (MDiv) or Master of Ministry (MMin). Pastors, ministers, and any other ordained clergy members must hold an MDiv and be ordained following graduation.
Other religious and faith-adjacent careers that don’t require an MDiv include:
- Chaplain (hospital, military, law enforcement, etc.)
- Youth or community ministry
- Religious educator
- Theology professor
- Diocesan catechetical leader
- Religious programming director
- Church administrator
- Music or liturgical director
Some of these professions require a master’s degree, while others only require a bachelor’s. It must be noted, however, that some of the careers pursued by theology degree holders require additional schooling or certification beyond an MTS degree.
Theology Master’s Degree Salary Potential
Because career options with this type of degree are so varied, MTS degree holders can expect to earn anywhere from under $20,000 to over $150,000. Some professions may not even come with a salary; they may provide a stipend or be volunteer-based. Therefore, it’s difficult to give average salary expectations for those who hold an MTS degree, but most degree holders will experience an increase in earnings by mid-career.
How Much Can You Make With a Theology Master’s Degree?
Salary ranges will vary based on specific position, location, employer, level of experience, and year. That said, the following chart provides the estimated salaries theological studies graduates can expect in their respective fields.
|Professor of Theology||$40,000–$70,000|
|Religious studies teacher||$35,000–$60,000|
|Diocesan catechetical leader||$30,000–$60,000|
|Religious programming director||$40,000–$100,000|
|Music or liturgical director||$20,000–$45,000|
|Foreign aid worker||$35,000–$90,000|
|K–12 teacher (secular)||$20,000–$60,000|
|Foreign Service Officer||$50,000–$150,000|
How to Tell If a Theology Master’s Degree Is Right For You
Your choice of the ideal master’s degree program is dependent on many factors. In addition to finding a program that aligns with your religious beliefs, prospective theology students need to consider:
Style of degree: Theological studies programs can provide either professional or academic tracks. A professional MTS program prepares graduates to enter the workforce, while an academic MTS program prioritizes the theoretical and intellectual aspects of theology and prepares graduates for further study (such as a PhD).
Career goals: Will your chosen degree program get you where you need to be professionally? If you’re unsure, talk to professionals who have the types of jobs you want and ask how they got there.
Career options: Similarly, you’ll want to be sure there are plenty of potential careers available for graduates with this type of degree. Talk to professionals and program faculty about what hiring trends they’re seeing in the field.
Skills development: Are there certain skills you’d like to hone, such as research, analysis, philosophical debating, or public speaking? Or would you primarily like to gain a deeper understanding of a particular faith tradition? An MTS degree will help you achieve all of the above. However, if you’d like to counsel others, practice law, or become ordained, additional schooling is required.
Financial aid: Graduate school is an investment of time and money, and many students seek scholarships or other forms of aid. Be sure to research any financial aid options that are specific to your desired program. Aid aside, online degrees are often a lower-cost option, so students can save money while paying for school or applying to jobs.
Prior experience: Requirements are not standard for MTS programs, but applications may state a preference for experience with philosophical studies, an active church membership, and a good relationship with clergy members who can speak to your commitment and fitness for a theological studies program. A familiarity with the relevant theological system is also recommended.
Personal values: Theology is the study of religious thought and tradition as seen through the lens of a particular faith. Most theological studies programs adhere to a specific denomination or charism, such as Franciscan Catholicism or Methodism, or so it’s important to consider whether your values align with those embraced in the curriculum.
Access to faculty advisors/mentors: Small class sizes in smaller programs give students more chances to connect one-on-one with faculty members. Even if you’re considering a larger master’s degree program, faculty who strive to make themselves available for meetings and discussion outside of class are a major asset to students. Faculty can help with students’ job searches, internships, placements, recommendations, alumni testimonials, and more.
See overview: University of San Diego – Master of Theological Studies
Program accessibility: Do you have the availability to take classes full-time, or are you a working professional who needs a part-time schedule? Online master’s degree programs are an excellent option for those with full lives, and provide opportunities for those who may not live near an applicable program. The 100% online MTS program at the University of San Diego offers a flexible, part-time course schedule and can be completed in two years or less.
FAQs: Master of Theological Studies Salary Potential
Q. How much can I make with a Master of Theological Studies?
Career options with an MTS degree are extremely varied, with compensation ranging anywhere from unpaid volunteer work to over $150,000 a year. Therefore, it’s difficult to give average salary expectations for those who hold an MTS degree, but most degree holders will experience an increase in earnings by mid-career.
Q. How much does a theology degree cost?
Program tuition is dependent on factors like the size of the school, location, length of program, and more. However, part-time and/or online programs are typically both convenient and economical options for working professionals who wish to save a little money while in school. As an example, the 100% online Master of Theological Studies – Franciscan Theology program at USD costs $28,800 before potential financial aid.
Q. How do I find the right theology program for my career goals?
Consider what you’d like to do professionally, then connect with people currently in those careers and ask them about the academic track that helped them get there. If you’re leaning toward one theological studies program over another, talk to faculty and alumni to see if the program helps students reach their career goals.
Q. What can I do with a Master of Theological Studies?
Graduates with an MTS degree go on to teach, participate in community ministry, counsel others, assist in their parish, or apply their degree to any number of secular professions. Graduates are able to apply their degree skills to careers that involve critical thinking, empathy and compassion, communication skills, a love of people, and opportunities to make a meaningful difference in the world.