Online College for Religious Studies

Students with backgrounds in religious studies may go on to work in a number of religious vocations, including ordained positions such as pastors, priests or chaplains, as well as lay positions such as deacons, youth and children's ministries or lay leaders. Online degrees in religious studies may also open up a whole avenue of career choices in both public and private sectors. Faith-based organizations in the U.S. and abroad may look to employ students who have earned degrees in religious studies. Additionally, the U.S. government might seek individuals who have familiarity with different world religions, particularly if they also have comprehensive skills in a relevant foreign language. Still other job opportunities may be available in media, international business, and other fields where religious expertise can prove useful. Some students who earn online degrees in religious studies elect to use their degree as a platform to enter a teaching career, while others to continue seek deeper training at a seminary, theological college or divinity school.

What to Expect From Online Programs in Religious Studies

Religious studies programs, whether taken at a traditional college campus or through online programs, provide students with the opportunity for scholarly study of various world religions and disciplines. Undergraduate programs typically cover the major world religions and their impacts on society, with a focus on religious history and traditions. Graduate programs, on the other hand, tend to drill down into study of a particular religion, such as Islamic studies, Christianity, or they cover broader topics such as theology or philosophy of religion.

Undergraduate degrees in religious studies provide students with a foundation for understanding the basis of the many different world religions, their traditions and how they shape peoples' personal views of the world. Course content focuses on topics such as:

  • Religion and Society
  • Religion and History
  • Comparative Religion
  • Judaic Studies

Courses may be taught from professors working across a wide variety of college departments, including anthropology, history, sociology, economics, politics and English. Many of these courses can be taken online as well, as they don't require a lab or group-study component. Through the coursework, students develop a deeper understanding of how religion works as a cornerstone of human history.

Career Outlook for Graduates With Degrees in Religious Studies

Joining the clergy or becoming a college professor are two possible career paths for those with online degrees in religious studies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clergymen and women earned a median national annual salary of $44,060 in May 2012. The top 10 percent took home up to $77,000 annually, while the bottom 10 percent earned up to $22,370 per year (bls.gov/oes, 2013). In addition, the BLS predicts 18 percent national job growth for clergy between 2010 and 2020, slightly better than the average occupational rate (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

Religious organizations employed more than half all clergy workers in the U.S., the BLS reports, and it can be concluded that religious organizations can be expected to drive a largest portion of future job growth in this sector. Medical and surgical hospitals, however, also employed several thousand clergy workers, the BLS reports.

Those who wish to share their mastery of religion with others as college teachers can expect a faster-than-average national growth rate of 17 percent from 2010 and 2020 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). Philosophy and religion teachers at the postsecondary level earned a median national annual wage of $64,990 in May 2012, with the highest 10 percent making up to $116,070 and the lowest 10 percent making up to $33,690 (bls.gov/oes, 2013).


  1. "Clergy," May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 29, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes212011.htm
  2. "Clergy," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/About/Data-for-Occupations-Not-Covered-in-Detail.htm#communityandsocailserviceoccupations
  3. "Philosophy and Religion Teachers," May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 29, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251126.htm
  4. "Postsecondary Teachers," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm

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