Master of Theology Degree Definition
A Master of Theology (Th.M. or M.Th.) is an advanced theological research degree, usually in the study of Christian theology, though the study of other religions is also called theology. This degree is offered by universities, divinity schools, and seminaries. Theology degrees can also be granted under the titles Master of Arts or Master of Theological Studies. This is one of the first graduate theological degrees in basic programs oriented toward general theological studies. Its main purpose is to provide understanding in theological disciplines and is intended as the basis for further graduate study or for other educational purposes.
The Th.M. can take from one to two years, and usually focuses in an area of specialized advanced studies in theological research. Usually a Master of Theology degree is designed as an advanced academic degree with an emphasis on academic research. It is also the minimum educational credential for teaching theological subjects in accredited schools, is the first professional degree of the pastoral profession in the United States, and is usually earned after the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or some other equivalent 3-year graduate study in theology. After completing the degree the graduate is prepared to be a pastor, priest, or professional minister, as well as a number of secular positions.
Not all Master of Theology degrees are the same, as there are many schools of different faith and educational paths. You will need to closely consider this when applying to different programs, as well as grants and scholarships. No matter your faith there are bound to be options that suit your beliefs and theological background. There are specializations within all Th.M. degrees, including studies in scripture, pastoral theology, Hebrew, liturgical studies, canonic law, philosophy, Christian leadership, discipleship ministries, evangelism and church planting, intercultural studies, marketplace chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, urban ministry, youth ministry, worship studies, and more.
Like all master’s degrees, it’s important to go to an accredited Master of Theology program. The Association of Theology Schools (ATS) has a Commission on Accrediting that would be a good resource to look into when searching for graduate theology degree programs.
Why Obtain a Master of Theology Degree?
Many people who enter the pastoral career consider it a calling rather than a simple occupational choice. That does not mean you must view it this way though. If you have a strong Christian faith, or are just interested in religions in general, and you feel that ministry could be the right manifestation of your faith, then this type of degree could be a logical choice for you. If you have any interest in becoming more than just a member in the church, this degree could help you obtain that higher position.
Sometimes people want to enter into the church setting to make changes. Sometimes it’s to reawaken faith and teach a way of living. Others wish to motivate people to show their faith to the world through every living action and word. Other people want to join the church to preserve the old ways and to keep the traditions alive. Overall though, you enter a career in the church because you have a desire to help people find their faith and become closer to a higher power. It’s faith that provokes someone to obtain a Master of Theology degree.
What are career options for a Master of Theology Degree?
As mentioned before, there are many specializations within the Masters of Theology degree. These specializations can lead you to many different career paths, both in ministry as local religious institutions, denominational boards and institutions that seek chaplains and ministers for their businesses, as well as some secular organizations. Some of the top jobs you can gain through a Th.M. include:
- Adult Ministry: Local religious institutions seek people who can lead their adult ministries, whether that be young adult or seniors. Specializations that can help with these types of jobs include counseling, as well as volunteer activities and internships.
- Church Manager: This is an organizational job that involved handling both staff and church members as you coordinate church activities and needs. A specialization in business can help within this career.
- Church Planter: This is the process of developing a new church and buildling a church fellowship. It’s a job that falls under the mission work category and is good if you’re energetic, organized, and brave.
- Disaster Ministries: This job would be good to those feeling called to help people in dire-need because of natural or man-made catastrophes and disasters.
- Institutional/Military Chaplain: People within this position serve a wide range of specialized settings, therefore whatever your specialization or theology belief is in, you can find these sorts of position depending on the institutions hiring standards.
- Internet Ministry: There are a wide range of Internet options in how you can reach out to others. These options often include social media, social networking, and blogs, and you must have good writing, time management, and organizational skills to be a part of this field.
- Leisure Ministries: Many retreat centers, such as golf courses, cruise ships, and state parts, seek our ministry expertise for different areas of work. This kind of work can vary significantly, and can get involved in mission work, creating congregations, as well as expanding your own previous congregation.
- Metropolitan Ministries: Seeking managers and program directors to help with urban homeless, illiterate, and the poor are duties of a metropolitan church leader.
- Minister Officiate: This is the work of being a minister for wedding, funerals, and other special services. Some entrepreneurs start businesses specializing in only this.
- Missionary Outreach: A masters in theology allows you to manage or direct a missionary service, no matter the direction. Missionary services include evangelism, literacy, as well as social justice and economic development. You would have different duties and purpose depending on the type of outreach program and their own personal beliefs and mission purpose.
Religious or Secular Vocational Paths
- Administrator: This could be a church administrator, business administrator, educational administrator, or law or government administrator. Just because your masters is in theology doesn’t mean your specialization in administrating couldn’t be useful in many different career paths. Also, secular organizations are sometimes looking for administrators with a religious background for certain purposes. Additionally, a camp administrator is a common option for Th.M. graduates.
- Advocacy: Advancing the needs of certain individuals or groups is an immense need everywhere, and with a Th.M. you can do support your passions by becoming an advocate from a policy role position.
- Community Development: This can be both a religious and secular role, and it leads to engaging community members in learning, understanding, and caring about issues within a community.
- Counseling: This again can be both secular or religious, and can be done in a variety of different settings and specializations.
- Crisis Services: There are a variety of careers within a crisis service, including crisis intervention or management, and involves helping with emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral distress or problems.
- Family Life Center Management: Helping families through change, such as death, marriage, divorce, and adoption, is the main purpose of family life center management. Usually you need a background in counseling and psychology to obtain this job.
- Financial Counseling: This career helps individuals with their financial management, and often requires knowledge in finances. This can be a career obtained in both secular and religious organizations.
- Program Director: A Th.M. can teach you skills in organization, research, and planning that you can use in a variety of different program director positions, in a wide range of settings.
- Public Relations: PR professionals advocate for their employer or organization, either within one organization or with a variety of different clients. This can be in a religious settings, such as a church, religious organization, missionary service, or in other non-church locations.
- Research: Often Th.M. graduates pursue a career within a religious research field, perhaps writing a book or working for religious archives.
- Teaching: With a masters you can teach grades K-12 and in some vocational or private religious schools. Teaching also includes counseling and administration/management positions.
- Vocational Training: Through gaining your Th.M., you receive training in how to give individuals the information you know to help them decide their own career paths.
- Writing: Critical thinking and writing are a large component of Th.M. degree programs. Transferring these analytical and communication skills into journalism or writing is often a career path master of theology graduates take.
Average Salary with Masters of Theology Degree
Usually people looking to acquire a Masters of Theology aren’t doing it for the monetary value of it. Even so, there are some monetary benefits to getting a Masters in Theology. The average salary definitely depends on the position you would get within a church or Christian organization, but it can be certain that your salary will be higher than what it would with just an undergraduate religion degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics quotes the mean annual salary of clergy overall as $48,490.
Considering a Master of Theology degree, and the careers it can open up, involves a few more dimensions than some college or job searches. Your faith, which may be deeply tied to your emotional life, may be strongly connected to your choice of school and work. Consulting with someone whose faith and opinion you trust may be a good choice in this situation. If you have a mentor at your church, or feel comfortable approaching your pastor for guidance, they may steer you in the right direction. If you’ve already decided, and know what you want to do, you can explore some of the accredited program listings below to find a program that can give you the theological degree you want.