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Online Colleges for Religious Studies

Religious studies programs can provide students with a deeper understanding of how various world religions, traditions and disciplines have worked as cornerstones of human history and how they continue to influence modern society around the globe. Undergraduate programs typically cover major world religions, while graduate programs tend to either drill down into a particular religion, such as Islamic studies or Christianity, or cover broader topics, such as theology or philosophy of religion. Students who have earned an online associate, bachelor's, master's or even doctoral degree in religious studies may go on to work in a number of religious vocations, from ordained positions such as pastors, priests or chaplains, to lay positions such as deacons, youth and children's ministries or lay leaders.

Best Online Colleges for Religious Studies

Our list of the top five colleges for religious studies was designed to help students select an institution that potentially meets their educational expectations. We considered a wide range of data to compile our list of best colleges to earn online religious studies degrees. Our main source of data was the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This data helped us create an overview of the best online bachelor's degree programs in religious studies from all U.S. colleges. You can read more about the methodology we used to create this list below.

1

Faith International University & Seminary

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$7,845
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
6
Accredited
School Type
4-year

Faith International University is a bible-centered evangelical college located in the urban port city of Tacoma. The university's Bachelor of Arts in religion program is designed to prepare students for work in Christian ministry, but it's also for students who want to complete their general education requirements while exploring religious and biblical studies. The B.A. program requires 180 total credit hours to complete. The program breakdown is as follows:

  • Orientation 5 hours
  • General education 55 hours
  • Social sciences 20 hours
  • Natural sciences 15 hours
  • Bible and ministry 55 hours
  • Religion 45 hours
  • Electives 20 hours

Faith International University also offers four master's degree programs in religious studies, as well as a doctoral program for students who wish to further their education past the undergraduate level. Faith International University heads our list of the top five schools for online religious studies degrees based on its cost of in-state tuition, an 80 percent graduation rate in 2015, and its open admissions policy, guaranteeing enrollment to students who are interested in applying.

Accreditation:

  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools

Location:

3504 N. Pearl St. Tacoma,
Wash. 98407-0186
Go to School Website 
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2

Virginia University of Lynchburg

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$7,880
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
7
Accredited
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1886, Virginia University of Lynchburg is a historically black college located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The university offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies degree, as well as a master's degree in divinity. Students enrolled in the undergraduate program study topics such as church history, the spread of Christianity throughout Africa, Christian doctrine, black theology, and more general religious coursework such as survey of Old and New Testament and world religion. Students who wish to enroll at Virginia University of Lynchburg must have earned a grade-point average of at least 2.0 in high school and scored a minimum of 530 on their Standard Achievement Test. VUL places second on our list due to a combination of noteworthy factors, including cost of in-state tuition, open admissions and number of undergraduate religion degrees awarded by the university in 2015.

Accreditation:

  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools

Location:

2058 Garfield Ave.
Lynchburg Virg. 24501
Go to School Website 
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3

Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$4,858
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
18
Accredited
School Type
4-year

The Bachelor of Science or Arts in religion degree from Eastern New Mexico University is geared toward students who wish to begin careers in ministry or increase their spiritual and theological knowledge. Either degree path requires 120 total credit hours to complete, including a minimum of 38 credit hours in general education and 34 credit hours of study in religion courses. The program examines many major world religions, with a particular focus on Judeo-Christian traditions, and offers a variety of courses to explore, including study in archaeology, church history, religious philosophy and sociology, and ministry. Minor options include study in Greek, Hebrew and other biblical languages. Eastern New Mexico University was the leader out of 19 schools for lowest cost of in-state tuition.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

ENMU Station 2, 1500 S. Ave. K,
Portales, NM 88130
Go to School Website 
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4

Gardner-Webb University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$28,280
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
27
Accredited
School Type
4-year

Gardner-Webb University is a private Christian university with deep Baptist-related traditions. Gardner-Webb University's online Bachelor of Science degree in religious studies helps students develop and hone their skills in Christian theology and history, biblical studies, ministry and spiritual formation. Students with a minimum of 48 transferable credit hours from an accredited college can complete their bachelor's degree at GWU. The B.S. in religion degree requires a minimum of 36 credit hours in the program major, and at least 18 credit hours must be completed at Gardner-Webb University. The university also offers campus-based B.A. degrees in biblical studies, discipleship and youth discipleship studies, philosophy and theology, world religions and missiology. GWU lands in the fourth spot in our list of best online colleges for religious studies degrees due to a combination of favorable rankings in cost of in-state tuition, graduation rate and religion degrees awarded by the university in 2015.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Location:

110 S. Main St. Boiling Springs,
NC 28017-0997
Go to School Website 
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5

Campbell University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$28,820
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
17
Accredited
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1887, Campbell University bills itself as an inclusive Christian university. It serves more than 6,800 students each year from five campus locations in North Carolina and through its online university. Campbell University offers an Associate of Arts degree in Christian Studies and Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies. The A.A. degree requires 62 total semester hours to complete, including 36 semester hours of study in general education and 18 semester hours in Christian Studies. The B.A. degree path requires 124 semester hours to complete. Students pursuing the bachelor's degree are required to complete 45 semester hours in general education, 37 semester hours in elective courses, and 42 semester hours in Christian studies. Coursework for both degrees includes study in Old and New Testament, world religions, Christian beliefs and related theological topics. Having earned respectable ranks in all areas of our metrics, Campbell University is a solid school to round out the end of our list.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Location:

450 Leslie Campbell Ave.
Buies Creek, NC 27506
Go to School Website 
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Religious Studies Career Outlook

As long as churches, mosques and synagogues still stand, people will be needed to lead their services and explain their tenets. Job openings can vary widely, but if you are passionate and persistent enough, a position will likely present itself.

Religious Studies Professors
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$77,420
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
9,000
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
11.6
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Doctoral or professional degree

Religious studies professors endeavor to better understand the world's most popular religions. They study historic texts, learn about past civilizations and their gods, and share their knowledge with the students they teach.

While many religious studies professors are religious individually, their role as a teacher requires them to study and explain all the world's religious convictions, along with how those religions and cultures impact society. Religious studies professors teach their students to ask the big questions: Who is God? Further, how has religion shaped our world?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that most postsecondary teachers need a Ph.D. However, some religious studies professor careers begin with a master's degree.

Ethnic Studies Professors
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$84,590
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
3,800
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
15.1
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Doctoral or professional degree

Ethnic studies professors use their intellect and insight to portray the historical background, cultural patterns, and nature of various ethnic groups throughout history. By helping students learn about the past, ethnic studies professors create well-rounded, knowledgeable young people who can build new worlds free of racial bias and misunderstanding.

While most postsecondary teaching positions require a Ph.D., it's possible to get started in ethnic studies professor careers with a master's degree. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most ethnic studies professors worked for colleges and universities in 2016, yet some professionals worked for junior colleges.

Clergy
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$49,450
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
66,300
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5.6
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

While the term "clergy" can be used to describe many different religious positions within a church, workers given this title are recognized as representatives for a religion in an official capacity. Clergy are typically charged with overseeing most of the church events, and may be involved in creating church budgets, fundraising, welcoming new members, and planning events.

Clergy positions require a huge level of dedication to the church, and should only be considered by those who are serious about their religious faith.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most clergy careers begin with a master's degree or Ph.D. in religious studies. Some clergy also need to become ordained in their faith before they can serve in an official role.

Ministry Directors
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$44,840
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
41,200
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
4.3
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

Ministry directors often wear many hats at their home church. They are typically in charge of planning, directing, and coordinating church programs. However, they may also provide counseling or guidance to church parishioners who need pastoral care.

Since ministry director's main job is promoting the religious education and activities of the church, it's essential for job candidates to have a strong faith in their religious denomination. With enough education and faith, ministry directors can lead church members toward a greater understanding of their religion and their role in the universe.

Ministry director careers often begin with related work experience within a church setting. However, a two-year or four-year degree is often preferred by employers.

Sources and Methodologies

Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  1. Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2014-15

Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on five criteria:

  1. In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  3. Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  4. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  5. Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015

Sources:

  1. Bachelor of Arts in Religion, Faith International University, accessed March 2017, http://faithseminary.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/bachelor-of-arts-in-religion/
  2. Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, Virginia University of Lynchburg Online, accessed March 2017, http://moodle.vul.edu/course/category.php?id=4
  3. Bachelor of Science or Arts in Religion, Eastern New Mexico University, accessed March 2017, http://www.enmu.edu/degree-programs-history-social-science-religion/undergraduate/religion
  4. Course catalogue, page 109, Eastern New Mexico University, accessed March 2017, http://www.enmu.edu/images/academics/catalogs/undergradCatalog_15-17.pdf#page=109
  5. Finish Your Degree, Gardner-Webb University, accessed March 2017, http://gardner-webb.edu/admissions-and-financial-aid/degree-completion-program/index
  6. Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies, Gardner-Webb University, accessed March 2017, http://gardner-webb.edu/academic-programs-and-resources/colleges-and-schools/arts-and-sciences/schools-and-departments/religious-studies-and-philosophy/dcp/religious-studies/index
  7. About Campbell, Campbell University, accessed March 2017, https://www.campbell.edu/about/
  8. Christian Studies Associate of Arts, Campbell University, accessed March 2017, http://ww2.campbell.edu/images/online/blog/AA.CHRS.Schema_05.2016.pdf
  9. Christian Studies Bachelor of Arts, Campbell University, accessed March 2017, http://ww2.campbell.edu/images/online/blog/BA.CHRS.Schema_05.2016.pdf
  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Postsecondary Teachers, accessed April 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
  11. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016, Ethnic and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary, Accessed April 2017, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251062.htm
  12. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016, Clergy, Accessed April 2017, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes212011.htm
  13. ONET Online, Clergy, Accessed April 2017, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/21-2011.00
  14. ONET Online, Directors, Religious Activities and Education, Accessed April 2017, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/21-2021.00
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Sources and Methodologies