Christian studies programs are offered at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Undergraduate students get a broad view of Christianity's role in the world and study the Bible and religious history. Some programs allow students to choose an area of concentration, such as sports ministry or education.
At the master's level, students engage in in-depth study and research of topics such as Christianity in contemporary culture and Christian history. Individuals who are interested in entering the ministry should verify that these programs will meet requirements that can lead to ordination.
Associate's Degree in Christian Studies
An associate's degree program in Christian studies examines the impact of Christianity in the world, introduces key events and people in Christian history and examines fundamental concepts in Christian theology. Program content also considers the various denominations of Christianity and the roles of ministers, missionaries and the laity.
Students interested in pursuing an undergraduate program must have a high school diploma. Associate's degree programs usually include a liberal arts component, possibly consisting of courses in algebra, biology, history and political science. Course content specific to Christian studies might feature the following topics:
- Theology introduction
- World religions survey
- Basics of biblical interpretation
- Christian philosophy and thinking
- Church management and administration
Bachelor's Degree in Christian Studies
A bachelor's degree program in Christian studies examines contemporary Christianity and provides a comprehensive review of theology, biblical history and the history of Christianity. Readings from primary and secondary sources and interpretations of the Old Testament and New Testament are a central component of program content. Students strengthen their skills in analysis, research and oral and written communication while developing their own spiritual identities. Internship opportunities may be available in programs that offer separate tracks for youth ministry and pastoral ministry.
The general education component of a bachelor's degree program often consists of courses in composition, a foreign language, history, the natural sciences and the social sciences. The following topics are among those addressed in Christian studies courses:
- Global perspectives on Christianity
- Old Testament studies
- New Testament studies
- Christian apologetics
- Early Christian history
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Master's Degree in Christian Studies
A master's degree program in Christian studies seeks to integrate biblical and historical scholarship with preparation for spiritual leadership roles. However, the degree is not considered a path to ordination. Prospective students must have completed a bachelor's program with at least a 3.0 GPA. In addition to further explorations of Christian philosophy, theology and history that build on past studies, program content examines Christian counseling, community outreach, evangelism and missionary work. Students enhance their research and presentation skills and attempt to discover points of relevance between contemporary secular culture and Christian culture.
Master's degree programs are structured into foundational courses, Christian studies seminars and research. The curriculum might devote several courses to the exploration of a single topic, such as the books of the Old Testament. Other subjects studied could include:
- Christian research and scholarship
- Classical Christian rhetoric
- Christian leadership
- Christian ethics
Popular Career Options
A Christian studies associate's degree offers entry-level employment opportunities with religious organizations as office and administrative support personnel. Positions are also available within churches, but many are filled by volunteers. Paid positions might include:
- Answering service
- File clerk
- Reception and information clerk
- Human resources assistant
- Administrative assistant
The cultural and spiritual dimensions of a Christian studies bachelor's degree have applications with private and public entities involved in human assistance and charity work. Graduates may be able to find administrative support positions with:
- International aid organizations
- Non-governmental organizations
- Non-profit organizations
- Humanitarian organizations
In addition to positions as clergymen, graduates with a Christian studies master's degree can pursue other employment possibilities. Careers in education and church leadership include:
- Community college instructor
- Church administrator
- Youth program director
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a job growth of 3% for secretaries and administrative assistants who perform these kinds of clerical jobs from 2014-2024. This is slower than the average compared to other professions. As of May 2015, administrative assistants employed by religious organizations earned a median annual salary of $30,620. While many university and college teachers hold doctoral degrees, earning a master's degree could lead to a teaching position at a two-year college. The BLS projected a 13% job growth for postsecondary educators from 2014-2024, which is faster than the average. As of May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for postsecondary religion and philosophy teachers was $66,380.
Continuing Education Information
People considering a career in ministry need to earn a full bachelor's degree before moving on to graduate-level studies. Many Christian studies bachelor's programs accept associate's degree credits in transfer. Earning a Christian studies bachelor's degree opens up at least two paths to further academic study. Degree holders can pursue a master's degree in Christian studies or a doctoral program in divinity. Christian studies degree holders who want full ordination as a minister, priest or pastor need to earn a Master's of Divinity or Doctor of Divinity degree. Earning a doctorate can also lead to teaching positions at postsecondary schools. Degrees at the master's and doctoral level are offered at seminaries and divinity schools.
Christian studies programs are often pursued for the value they add to the student's religious life and the vocational training they provide. Graduates have various work opportunities depending on their interests and level of education.