Students can complete bachelor's and master's degree programs in religion through an online learning format. Bachelor's programs are more widely available, although there are still several master's degree options.
Online bachelor's degree programs in religious studies, Biblical studies and theological studies don't typically require any on-campus attendance. At the master's degree level, programs may be offered fully online, or they may have a hybrid format or require students to take some coursework at school. This article discusses Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree programs.
Bachelor's Degree in Religion
There are several online programs available for a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Religious Studies. Many religion programs focus on Christian themes, but introduce the history and principles of various Eastern and Western religions. Most programs emphasize the Bible as a source material for theological and pastoral education.
Program Information and Requirements
The BA program can be completed in four years. Programs offered online do not require any in-person work or campus visits. Students obtain information about their assignments through the class's website or directly from the instructor.
Classmates and instructors interact on the phone or through chats, e-mail and online discussion forums. Students need a microphone and speaker to enable voice communication and to hear audio information. Recent versions of browsers and word processing software are recommended.
List of Common Bachelor's Level Religion Courses
While religions programs study spiritual beliefs worldwide, the majority of courses are related to Christianity. Students carefully examine the Old and New Testament. General education courses in English, science and a foreign language are required to complete the bachelor's degree. Students are also expected to take complimentary courses in psychology, history and philosophy.
This course provides an overview of diverse cultures worldwide and their religious beliefs, values and practices. Special consideration is given to major religions, such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Students investigate the interaction of other religions on Christianity.
This course deals with the principles of Christianity, including theories of morality, knowledge of the divine, doctrine and human nature. It is geared towards ministry preparation.
This class provides a historical and geographical background of the Bible and the development of its current state through translation. Students study archaeological research regarding the Bible for comprehensive contextual awareness.
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Master's Degree in Religion
Online Master of Arts degrees in Religion focus on Christianity. Students learn graduate-level systematic and historical theology. The programs research the Old and New Testaments of the Bible in-depth for meaning and application.
Program Information and Requirements
Some programs are offered completely online while others are hybrid programs requiring a few courses on-campus. Some schools offer classes throughout the year through asynchronous learning, allowing students to begin a class at their convenience. Other schools require online learners to participate in a set schedule of courses. An online MA program can be completed in approximately three years.
Distance learning through a virtual campus may involve instructional CDs and MP3s as well as online resources. Instructors interact with class participants through two-way video sessions. Students complete and return written assignments through e-mail.
List of Common Master's Level Religion Courses
Many of the master's degree program courses are in systematic theology. Students survey Christian doctrines in the context of history and modern contemporary culture with an anthropological approach. Other courses examine particular sections or figures of the Bible in detail.
History of Christianity
This course investigates major periods of Christian development including the Middle Ages and Reformation. It also details key persons in Christian history, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Martin Luther and Justin Martyr.
Eucharist and Baptism
This course delves into meaning of Baptism and the Eucharist, exploring these practices from a theological perspective. In terms of practical application, this class explores the relationship of these rites to the congregation. Students also study music related to the ceremony.
The study of Epistles reviews the didactic letters of the Bible, particularly the writings of Paul. This course appraises their influence on modern Christianity and historical significance for Early Christian churches.
Graduates of religion degree programs obtain positions within the church as ministers, chaplains (including military chaplains), pastors and missionaries. Other fields of interest include religious education, government and law. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a clergy members was $44,250 in 2015.
Continuing Education Information
After obtaining a bachelor's degree, one can pursue two types of degrees at the master's level. Master of Arts (MA) in Religion programs are available with online and on-campus options. Online programs for an MA are described above. Students who are interested in training for professional spiritual leadership may seek a Master of Divinity degree program. These programs are intended for individuals interested in becoming ordained as a priest, pastor or other type of minister. Online M. Div. and hybrid programs, with some residency requirements, are both available.
Students who wish to pursue education in religion higher than the master's level can progress to a doctorate. Options include a Ph.D. or a Doctor of Divinity. While Ph.D. religion programs focus more on academics, a D. Min. program is intended for specially educated church leaders. Online doctorate programs related to religion are rare.
Both bachelor's and master's degrees in religion can be obtained fully online, although it is more common for master's programs to include an on-campus component. Students can find majors in religious studies, Biblical studies, or theological studies online.