Members of the Christian clergy and those interested in teaching at Christian-affiliated religious schools generally earn a graduate degree in theology, divinity, religious education or ministry. The Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Doctor of Theology are primarily for professionals who intend to work as pastoral ministers or interact with the public. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Theology students generally perform academic research in a field of religious specialty.
Students can find online graduate programs focused on Christianity at multiple seminaries and other Christian-affiliated private schools. To apply to one of these programs, students need to hold a degree in a related field and submit recommendation letters, graduate test scores and a resume. Distance-learning degree programs in Christian philosophy generally consist of 48-90 credits of coursework, depending on the program's focus. Students can typically earn their degrees in 3-7 years. Coursework may be completed almost entirely online, but students may be required to attend short on-campus residencies once or twice a year. Doctoral students also need to be on campus for their dissertation defense.
Those seeking admission to a graduate-level program in this area must have a previous degree, which likely needs to be in a similar field. For example, students interested in a Ph.D. or other doctoral program in Christian studies generally must have an M.Div., a master's degree in theology or another relevant master's degree. Recommendation letters, resumes and graduate test scores are also commonly required.
Individuals in an online degree program can access lectures, assignments and other class materials at a time convenient for them, provided they adhere to course due dates. While distance-learning students complete much of their coursework in an online asynchronous format, many graduate programs require 1- to 2-week residencies at the host university once or twice a year.
Students complete intensive, traditional face-to-face coursework and seminars during this time, enabling them to network with peers, meet professors and complete group-based work. Those pursuing doctoral programs typically have to visit campus to defend their dissertations before a committee.
Coursework for each of the different distance-learning Christian philosophy degrees listed varies widely by college and program. Both master's and doctoral programs are research-intensive, and doctoral programs usually require completion of a dissertation and comprehensive exams. Master of Divinity programs often offer concentrations, such as Christian education or Christian theology. Some possible course titles include:
- Literature and history of the Old Testament
- Constructive theology
- Pastoral education and mentoring
- Greek, Hebrew and Latin
- Exploring Christian ministry
- Theology and worship
- Doctrine of the Church
- Understanding Biblical research
- Biblical studies
Graduates of distance-learning degree programs in Christian theology and divinity might go on to pursue additional education or seek out positions as clergy, teachers or counselors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed clergy members was expected to grow 6% from 2014-2024, which was about average (www.bls.gov). The number of religious activities directors was projected to increase 4% during the same time frame. Job opportunities for philosophy and religion teachers in higher education were expected to increase 12% in the 2014-2024 decade, the BLS reported.
In online graduate programs in Christian philosophy, students can expect to undertake advanced studies in the Bible, the institution of the Church and other fundamental religious concepts. This can prepare them for ministerial careers or teaching and public outreach positions.