2021 Best Online Religion Degrees [Religious Studies Guide]

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Getting a religion degree online can offer many of the rewards that other liberal arts degree programs do.

Online Religion Degrees

Whatever your interests—biblical studies, a ministry career path, or an academic curiosity into religious belief systems and cultures—an online religion degree can be a meaningful investment both intrinsically and professionally.

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A religion degree can act as a foundation for a variety of careers as well.

Online Bachelors in Religion Degrees

Online Bachelors in Religion Degrees

Bachelors programs in religion can deepen your understanding of the way religious belief systems shape and influence culture and society.

You may be interested in a religious studies major for intrinsic reasons, whether or not you have a specific career goal in mind. On the other hand, you may decide to major in religion or theology as a first step toward qualifying to work in education, academia, or ministry.

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There are many reasons why students decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in religion. Religious studies majors may want to:

  • Partake in biblical exegesis and theological studies
  • Build a foundation for advanced degree in divinity or theology
  • Receive values-focused liberal arts education
  • Qualify for entry-level jobs in Christian education or ministry

A number of students may even take religious studies as part of a personal exploration of faith and religious concepts as they explore any number of more secular vocational interests.

If you’re interested in a pastor degree or a ministry degree, a bachelors degree in religion, theology, or religious studies often has the best course programs for your interests.

Religion & Theology Careers & Salaries

Religion & Theology Careers & Salaries

Some religion majors want to become pastors or go into ministry positions of some kind. Others pursue an undergraduate degree in religion as a way deepening their faith while also building an academic bridge to another career field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, someone with a passion for religious studies may also be interested in careers related to education, counseling, or community and social services.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Writers and Authors $67,120
High School Teachers $62,870
Middle School Teachers $60,810
Fundraisers $59,610
Archivists $56,760
Clergy $51,940
News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists $49,300
Directors, Religious Activities and Education $45,110
Social and Human Service Assistants $35,960

A number of the above career paths require additional education or specialized training, but a bachelors in religion can act as a foundation for either further studies or on-the-job training. For example, some students also earn either a Christian psychology degree or a Christian counseling degree in order to pursue a career in these areas.

If you are passionate about serving others, developing your breadth of liberal arts learning can help prepare you to be a compassionate, ethical, and value-oriented leader in a wide range of careers.

Religious Studies Curriculum & Courses

Religious Studies Curriculum

Course offerings will vary significantly from school to school. A curriculum anchored in liberal arts perspectives will also differ significantly from one designed to emphasize religious studies. Here are examples, though, of courses you might take:

  • Religion, Society, and Culture: This course is a broad exploration of the Christian worldview in the context of contemporary social and cultural beliefs and value systems.
  • Comparative Religion: You’ll learn about and compare the historical contours and core belief systems of prominent world religions.
  • Introduction to Biblical Studies: Students learn about fundamental concepts and approaches related to biblical exegesis and theological doctrine, including literal, moral, spiritual, and historical forms of scriptural interpretation.
  • The Bible as Literature: You’ll learn about a range of literary and mythical forms and motifs reflected in core biblical texts.
  • Old Testament Studies: You’ll learn about pivotal narrative events in the Old Testament in the context of relevant historical and cultural factors and the formation of theological doctrine.
  • New Testament Theology: This class focuses on key features of New Testament scripture and theology, including Jesus of Nazareth and key comparisons between the Old Testament and New Testament.
  • American Christianity: You’ll learn about the history of Christian beliefs and worship in US history, about the differences between important Christian denominations in America, and about the influence of Christianity on US culture.
  • Western Culture and Christian Scripture: This course prepares you to recognize important scriptural symbols, themes, and motifs that are influenced by other traditions in western civilization.
  • Religion and Multicultural Perspectives: This course examines selected current events topics related to the intersection of religious and secular beliefs in multicultural contexts.
  • Religious Education: Students get an overview of the institutional structures and educational methods supporting Christian formation and education in Christian and non-Christian cultural settings.

An online religion degree curriculum can help you understand a broad range of religious, philosophical, spiritual, and cultural topics.

Admissions Requirements

Online Religion Degrees admissions

With a high school diploma and a readiness for lots of reading on religious studies and related topics, you should be ready for admissions to a bachelor’s degree online program in theology or religion.

Admissions requirements can vary by school and program, but they typically include:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Satisfactory GPA
  • SAT or ACT scores (if required)
  • Letters of recommendation

Some programs may have specific admissions requirements, so it’s helpful to look for those when comparing online programs. You can also check with the school admissions office if you need more information.

Accreditation

Online Religion Degrees accreditation

You may want to consider only regionally accredited schools and online programs for your online religion degree.

The accreditation process involves an independent, third-party review of a school’s academic quality. It also helps ensure that a school has an appropriate level of student services and academic instruction from well-qualified faculty.

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Accreditation can also be a precondition for some forms of financial aid. A degree from an accredited institution is also more likely to be honored by other schools and prospective employers. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) can provide information about the accreditation process and how to find accredited schools.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Online Religion Degrees financial aid

Tuition and other costs related to an online bachelors degree in religion can vary by school.

Financial aid can come in the form of state and federal grants and often includes student loans. The terms of loan programs and other forms of aid can vary, so it’s helpful to review all offers carefully. Other forms of financial aid that you may qualify for include work study programs and need-based and merit-based scholarships.

If you plan to apply for need-based assistance, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be a good first step.

Biblical and Theological Professional Organizations

Biblical and Theological Professional Organizations

One way to start learning more about professional trends and opportunities in the field of religious studies is to join a relevant professional organization, such as:

Your professional membership can allow you to start networking, and it may even help you find additional educational opportunities related to your studies and career interests.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Pastor?

In order to be a pastor, you’ll likely need a bachelors degree and a strong background in religious studies and Christian theology. For many pastoral positions, you’ll also need to complete an advanced degree, such as a masters in divinity or theology.

That said, pastoral qualifications can vary based on the religious denomination, the type of position, and the policies of the faith-based body in charge of hiring. In general, getting your online bachelors in theology or religion can help you build a foundation for further studies if you plan to pursue a masters or doctorate at a college or seminary.

What Is a Degree in Religion Called?

bachelors program in religion

Some religious study programs emphasize courses and training in Christian theology. Others are designed to give students a broader background in religious studies and the liberal arts. These include a range of cultural topics and concepts related to religious systems, beliefs, and institutions.

It’s beneficial to consider your own interests and career goals as you compare online programs. You may also see that some schools or programs have religion degrees that go by different names. For a bachelors in religion, you might enroll in programs that offer a BA in Religion, a BA in Theology or Divinity, or a BA in Religious Studies or Bible Studies.

What Can You Do with a Religious Studies Degree?

A religious studies degree may help you pursue various opportunities, such as jobs in education or religious education.

Churches, religious schools, and other faith-based organizations also provide services related to a broad range of religious, social, and educational activities. A degree in religious studies can also be a stepping stone toward a more advanced pastoral degree, such as a Master of Divinity.

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With additional training and any required licensing, graduates might seek work as teachers or school counselors. The academic training you receive in communication, logic, textual interpretation, and ethics can also help prepare you to enter the social services field.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Religion Degree Online?

bachelors degree in religion

Getting your bachelors degree in religion typically takes 4 years if you study full-time and follow a traditional 16 week semester.

You may also find online religious degree programs that are designed to help you finish faster, for example, in the accelerated theology degree online programs that some universities offer. In an accelerated program, you’ll likely follow an 8 week semester and stay continuously enrolled year-round.

If you work or have other commitments, there are online religious studies programs with flexible and part-time study options. When studying part-time, it often takes longer to complete your degree.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Theology Degree?

Theology Degree jobs

The jobs you can pursue with a bachelors in religion or theology can depend on many factors, including your past experience, religious affiliations, and geographic location.

Some graduates will seek jobs in church leadership and in pastoral roles. They may also pursue a Master of Divinity in order to open more doors to career opportunities in ministry. You might also look for opportunities helping support or lead religious service organizations or working in youth mentoring, social work, or counseling.

Common human services careers related to this field include teacher, social and community service manager, social worker, and counselor. These careers do require additional qualifications and licensing, though.

What’s the Difference Between a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies vs. Theology?

A religious studies degree involves liberal arts perspectives and a more broadly humanistic perspective on comparative religion and culture. A theology degree program emphasizes Christian perspectives and the study and interpretation of biblical texts according to Christian doctrine.

Religious Studies Degree Theology Degree
  • Covers different religious belief systems and their origins
  • Examines diverse world religions using a range of academic frameworks
  • Studies religious traditions in the context of other cultural traditions and influences
  • Applies liberal perspectives from other disciplines to the study of religious beliefs, influences, and behaviors
  • Focuses on the core tenets of Christian belief systems
  • Examines critical Christian beliefs and their sources in the Bible
  • Studies biblical history and exegesis and related ancient languages
  • Explores the major branches of Christian thought and their historical origins and development

A theology degree can also help you build a strong foundation in doctrinal concepts and methods that you can apply toward a masters in divinity.

Is a Degree in Religious Studies Worth It?

degree in religious studies

Yes, a degree in religious studies is worth it for many students. A bachelors in religion can help you deepen your own religious knowledge and understanding. It can also help equip you to pursue active work supporting or leading religious activities or ministries.

Getting a ministry or theology degree can also be a first step toward a position in church leadership, which might involve earning a masters degree in theology or divinity as well.

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Earning a degree in religious studies can also help you develop many personal, humanistic, and soft skills that are applicable in other occupations in a variety of fields, such as social and community services.

Universities Offering Online Bachelor’s in Religion Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

American Public University

American Public University campus

American Public University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Religion program. Students must complete 120 credit hours and have the option to transfer in up to 90 qualifying credits. Courses start every month and last for 8 to 16 weeks. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent.

APUS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Andrews University

Andrews University campus

Andrews University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Religion program. Students must obtain 124 credits to graduate and have the option to transfer in up to 15 qualifying credits.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and need to submit transcripts from their high school and any post-secondary institutions attended.

Andrews University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

Arizona State University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. Students are required to take 40 classes. Each class is 7.5 weeks long. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and be either in the top 25% of their graduating class or have an ACT score of 22.

ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Athens State University

Athens State University campus

Athens State University offers an online Bachelor’s in Religion program. The program requires 124 credits to graduate and is designed to allow students to also complete a minor. To be eligible for admission, applicants must have a minimum of 36 credit hours that they can transfer into the program.

Athens State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Belhaven University

Belhaven University campus

Belhaven University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies. Students may choose to add a Human Services concentration to their degree. A total of 124 credits are required to graduate. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent with a GPA of 2.0 or higher.

Belhaven University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Belmont University

Belmont University campus

Belmont University offers a Bachelor’s in Ministry for mature students. To graduate, students must complete 128 credit hours and can transfer up to 64 qualifying credits into the program. Applicants must submit official transcripts from past colleges or universities they’ve attended, a recommendation form, and a personal essay.

Belmont University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Brescia University

Brescia University campus

Brescia University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Arts in Theology with an emphasis in Pastoral Studies. To graduate, students must complete 128 semester hours. The university offers rolling admission and accepts applications year round. Applicants can have the help of an admission counselor to complete the application process.

Brescia University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Cairn University

Cairn University campus

Cairn University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies. The program can typically be completed in 4 years. The completion of 121 credits and a capstone thesis project is required to graduate. Applicants must complete an online application and submit an essay, official transcripts, and test scores.

Cairn University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Calvary University

Calvary University campus

Calvary University offers the Warrior’s Choice bachelor’s degree program. The program offers students the opportunity to work towards earning a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies by adding two minors to the Bible and Theology major. Applicants must have both pastoral and personal references to be eligible for admission.

Calvary University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian University campus

Colorado Christian University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies program. Students must complete 120 credit hours by taking courses in 5 week blocks. A dual degree option allows students to also work towards gaining a master’s degree in the field at the same time. Applicants must be mature students to apply for the program.

Colorado Christian University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Crown College

Crown College campus

Crown College offers an online program for a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies. The program is designed to allow students to obtain a second major while studying. Each course is 8 weeks long. Those interested in the program must submit an online application, a spiritual life essay, and a statement of faith.

Crown College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Dallas Baptist University

Dallas Baptist University campus

Dallas Baptist University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies program. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0. Applicants must submit their high school GPA. Students seeking scholarships must also submit ACT, SAT, or CLT scores.

Dallas Baptist University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Eastern New Mexico University

Eastern New Mexico University campus

Eastern New Mexico University offers online programs for a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Religion. The Bachelor of Arts requires students to be proficient in a foreign language, while the Bachelor of Science does not. Applicants must submit an online application, official transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores.

Eastern New Mexico University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Florida International University

Florida International University campus

Florida International University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. To graduate, students must finish 120 credit hours with a grade of C or higher. Applicants must submit an online application with official high school transcripts, an application fee, and either SAT or ACT scores.

Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

Grand Canyon University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies. Students must complete 120 credits, and online courses are 7 weeks long. Up to 90 qualifying credits can be transferred into the program. Those interested in the program must submit an online application, an official transcript, and a statement of faith.

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Hampton University

Hampton University campus

Hampton University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies program. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours, including 9 elective credits, in 4 years. Applicants must be 21 years old and need to submit official high school transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Hampton University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Holy Apostles College and Seminary

Holy Apostles College and Seminary campus

Holy Apostles College and Seminary offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theology. Students must complete 120 credit hours and have the option to transfer in up to 90 qualifying credits.

Students must graduate within 6 years of starting the program. Applicants must submit official transcripts, a personal essay, and 2 letters of recommendation from academic and religious mentors.

Holy Apostles College and Seminary is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

King University

King University campus

King University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies program. Students must complete 124 semester hours to graduate.

Courses are 5 weeks long, and all major credits can usually be completed in 16 months. Applicants are expected to have a high school GPA of 2.2 or higher, though those who do not meet this requirement may still be considered.

King University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Religion program. Applicants must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher to be eligible.

The courses are 8 weeks long, and the program can typically be completed in 3.5 years. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours and have the option to apply to transfer in up to 75% of the required credits.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University campus

Louisiana State University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in World Religion program. Students must complete 120 credit hours to graduate, including 12 foreign language electives.

Applicants must have a high school degree or equivalent with a GPA of 2.0 and an ACT score of 20 or higher. The ACT score requirement may be waived for those with a high GPA.

Louisiana State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Moody Bible Institute

Moody Bible Institute campus

The Moody Bible Institute offers an online Bachelor of Science in Theological Studies program.

Students must choose one of two concentrations to add to their degree: Christian Thought or Spiritual Formation. Applicants must complete an online application and provide 2 references and SAT or ACT scores.

The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Oklahoma Wesleyan University

Oklahoma Wesleyan University campus

Oklahoma Wesleyan University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Science in Ministry and Leadership. The program requires 126 credits to graduate and can typically be completed in 80 weeks. Courses are 5 weeks long. Applicants must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher and need to submit their SAT or ACT scores.

Oklahoma Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Oregon State University

Oregon State University campus

Oregon State University offers an online Bachelor’s in Religious Studies program. To graduate, students must complete 180 quarter credits.

The program is designed to allow students to also complete a minor of their choice. Applicants should have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. SAT or ACT scores need to be submitted when applying.

Oregon State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University campus

Saint Leo University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Religion program. Students must finish 120 credit hours to graduate.

Students may participate in peer ministry, internships, or service trips. Those interested in the program must complete an online application and provide all official academic transcripts and standardized test scores.

Saint Leo University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Shorter University

Shorter University campus

Shorter University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Christian Studies program. The major is designed to allow students to also complete a minor of their choosing. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher. Applicants must submit an online application with SAT or ACT scores.

Shorter University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Southwestern Adventist University

Southwestern Adventist University campus

Southwestern Adventist University offers online programs for a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and a Bachelor of Arts in Theology. The BA in Religion requires 33 major credit hours, while the BA in Theology requires 56 credit hours. Applicants must have a GPA of 2.75 or higher and a GED average of 500.

Southwestern Adventist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Southwestern Assemblies of God University campus

Southwestern Assemblies of God University offers an online Bachelor’s in Religion and Philosophy program. Students must complete 127 credits to graduate. Applicants must submit an application with official transcripts and placement test scores. A minimum GPA of 2.0 is needed to be considered for the program.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Trevecca Nazarene University

Trevecca Nazarene University campus

Trevecca Nazarene University offers an online Bachelor’s in Christian Ministry program. Students must complete 120 semester hours with a GPA of 2.0 or higher to graduate. Applicants must have 40 credit hours to transfer into the program with a GPA of 2.0 to be eligible for the program.

Trevecca Nazarene University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida campus

The University of Central Florida offers an online program for a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Cultural Studies. Students must complete 120 credit hours and a capstone or final research project to graduate. To apply, applicants must submit an application, SAT or ACT scores, and an application essay.

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands campus

The University of Cumberlands offers an online Bachelor’s in Missions and Ministry program. Students must complete 120 semester hours to graduate. Applicants must apply online and need to submit official transcripts from any academic institutions attended. A GPA of 2.0 or higher is required to be considered.

The University of the Cumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Religion Degree Online

Religion Degree Online

If you want to build a career in ministry or academia over the long term, earning an online religion degree could be a foundational step. Even if you’re still considering different career options, an online bachelors degree in religion, theology, or religious studies could have meaningful, intrinsic rewards.

Whatever your motivations, if you think a religion major is right for you, you can start searching for accredited online religion degree programs that fit your learning goals and offer your preferred study options.

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Keith Nickolaus
WRITTEN BY
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a B.A. in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in education leadership, innovation, and policy.