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Best Master's in Religious Studies Online

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 8/18/2022
2020 Best Online Master's in Religious Studies Badge

The 7 best value online master's in religious studies programs can be found at these colleges and universities. At #1, Covenant Theological Seminary charges $17,325 per year for their Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies (Non-Thesis Option). Regent University Online offers distance learners an M.A. in Christian Spirituality and Formation for $12,000 per year. Alumni reported a mid-career salary of $68,500.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 Covenant Theological Seminary $17,325 $76,900
# 2 #2 Regent University Online $12,000 $68,500
# 3 #3 Denver Seminary $12,100 $67,300
# 4 #4 Dallas Theological Seminary $9,145 $65,300
# 5 #5 Western Seminary $16,800 $68,200
# 6 #6 Liberty University $5,500 $53,943
# 7 #7 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary $9,230 $51,300
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Religious Studies Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 Covenant Theological Seminary

  • Annual Tuition: $17,325
  • Median Salary: $76,900
  • Locations: St. Louis (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Covenant Theological Seminary is a Christian University affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. It is located in St. Louis. The university offers a fully online Master of Arts in Biblical Theological Studies with both a thesis and a non-thesis option. Students study Biblical languages — they can choose Greek, Hebrew, or both — and church history, and a capstone is required. A total of 66 credits are needed for the degree, and the program can be completed in two to four years. A Master of Theology and a Master of Divinity are also offered in hybrid format. The MDiv allows for two-thirds of the degree to be completed online, with just six visits to campus. Three tracks are available: pastoral ministry, specialized ministry, and church planting.

#2 Regent University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Median Salary: $68,500
  • Locations: Virginia Beach (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Established in 1977, Regent University is located in Virginia Beach, Virginal. The Christian university offers an online Master of Arts in Practical Theology with five concentrations: church & ministry, interdisciplinary studies, marketplace ministry, missiology, and worship & media. A total of 48 credits are required to complete the degree. Applicants must have already completed a four-year bachelor’s degree. The university also offers an online Master of Arts in Christian Spirituality & Formation and a Master of Arts in Church Leadership, both of which are available only online.

#3 Denver Seminary

  • Annual Tuition: $12,100
  • Median Salary: $67,300
  • Locations: Littleton (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Located in Littleton, Colorado, Denver Seminary is a Christian university that offers several online master’s degrees, including a Master of Arts in Biblical & Theological Studies (39 credits), a Master of Arts in Christian Studies, a Master of Arts in Leadership, and a Master of Divinity (78 credits). The MA degrees can be completed in two years or less, and the MDiv in four years. The degrees can be completed fully online, but students can also choose to take some courses on campus. Coursework is delivered via the Moodle online learning management system.

#4 Dallas Theological Seminary

  • Annual Tuition: $9,145
  • Median Salary: $65,300
  • Locations: Dallas (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Established in 1924, Dallas Theological Seminary is a non-denominational seminary with campuses in both Dallas and Washington, DC. The institution offers a Master of Arts in Christian Studies that can be completed 100 percent online in just two years. The degree is also available in Chinese and Spanish, but some courses in the Chinese program need to be completed in residence in Dallas, Houston, or Hong Kong. A total of 62 credits are required to complete the degree. A Master of Biblical and Theological Studies is also offered; the 36-credit program includes 13 credits of electives so students can customize their degree. The degree is also available in Chinese.

#5 Western Seminary

  • Annual Tuition: $16,800
  • Median Salary: $68,200
  • Locations: Portland (OR)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Founded in 1927, Western Seminary has campuses in Oregon, California, and Washington. An online Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies is available, and the program is available with several tracks: Biblical languages, Biblical/theological studies, chaplaincy, coaching, exegetical studies, pastoral studies, and women’s transformational leadership. A total of 56 credits are needed, and the degree can be completed in two years of full-time study. A hybrid option is also available, which requires 36 credits plus five 1-week residencies on campus for face-to-face learning. Applicants must have already earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

#6 Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $5,500
  • Median Salary: $53,943
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University offers over 70 online master’s degrees in the religious studies discipline. They are available in biblical exposition, biblical studies, Christian apologetics, divinity, human services counseling, music and worship, pastoral counseling, religion, sports chaplaincy, theology, and worship studies. Most degrees are available entirely online and delivered in eight-week formats, with eight start dates per year. They can be completed in a total of 1.5 to 2 years and, depending on the degree, require 30–60 credits to complete. Coursework is delivered via the Blackboard online learning management system, and learning is asynchronous. Students can access more than 750,000 electronic books, journals, and peer-reviewed articles. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, and transcripts need to be submitted. Standardized test scores are not necessary for admittance into LU, and students can transfer up to 50 percent of the total credits required for a master’s degree. Online students receive academic support from the university’s advising team. They also have access to library services, writing assistance, tutoring, study aids, technical support, live webinars, online communities, and more than 30 tutorial videos.

#7 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

  • Annual Tuition: $9,230
  • Median Salary: $51,300
  • Locations: New Orleans (LA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Arts in Biblical Studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is available entirely online or in combination with on-campus classes and weeklong workshop classes. The degree program is designed for those seeking research degrees in biblical studies with a goal to teach, conduct research, or write in a related field. A total of 52-55 credits are needed to complete the degree. Master's degrees are also offered online in Christian education, discipleship, missiology, pastoral ministry, and theology. These programs range between 36-84 credits. Online education at NOBTS is available in three formats: standard online, where students study a semester-long course asynchronously; NOLA2 Live, a synchronous lecture broadcast held weekly, where students log on and interact with one another in real-time; and NOLA2 Flex, in which students can log in for live lectures or watch recordings afterward. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). If their degree is from a non-accredited school, they may be admitted on a probationary basis with additional requirements. Distance learners have access to services such as academic advising, library resources, technical support, writing assistance, and counseling.

What Is the Field of Religious Studies?

Students interested in studying religion at the graduate level have many options to choose from. While some programs take faith-based perspectives that emphasize the philosophical justification behind various belief systems, religious studies degrees explore the cultural, political, and social aspects of different deistic values and practices.

Unlike theology, which is devoted to understanding the nature of divinity, this discipline is grounded in historical analysis, research, and comparative reasoning. As an interdisciplinary field that draws on many social science traditions, religious studies seeks to uncover how various faiths shape — and are themselves shaped by — culture, human interaction, and historical events.

A Master's in Religious Studies is a great choice for graduate students who are curious about the societal aspects of different faith traditions. This applies both to students who have deeply held religious beliefs and want to further understand their faith as well as those who want to learn about how faith affects the lives of people and communities.

Online Master's in Religious Studies Degrees

An online Master's in Religious Studies is designed to be completed in two years of full-time study. Credit requirements vary by program, but graduate students usually complete 30-36 course hours during this time.

Most programs also offer a choice between thesis and non-thesis tracks. The former requires students to write and defend an original research paper before an examination committee and is a good option for those who want to focus on a particular topic in greater detail. On the other hand, a non-thesis track may be a suitable choice for individuals who want to widen their knowledge of the field through more coursework.

Courses in an Online Master's Degree in Religious Studies

Students enrolled in an online religious studies master's program take classes that consider religion from various social, cultural, and historical perspectives. Below is a brief list of common courses students can expect:

Introduction to Studying Religion

In this class, students learn about the methods and strategies used to study religion. This may include textual analysis and interpretation, historical investigation, and functionalism — which is the study of religious communities. This course also covers modern theories and research practices in the field.

Approaches to American Religions

Students enrolled in this course gain an understanding of various American religions. They focus on how native and European belief systems influenced the histories of different communities, as well as how faith-based practices have evolved over time.

Global Religions

The global religions class is designed to teach students about the world's major religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, and many others. It covers how these faiths are practiced and understood by different communities across the world. Students may also learn how different faith communities have interacted with each other over several years.

Religious Studies Specializations & Concentrations

The religious studies field is vast. Given this, most master's programs allow students to specialize in a particular subfield or concentrate their coursework in a chosen subject area. Both specializations and concentrations may include the opportunity to study one religion in-depth or investigate several religions in specific parts of the world.

Typical areas of concentration in religious studies include the following:

Ancient Christianity

In this track, students study Christianity's early years. They learn about how one of the world's largest faiths emerged and grew in an ancient society, as well as the early belief systems and cultural practices of its adherents.

Asian Religions

This specialization focuses on comparing and contrasting various Asian religions. Students learn how widespread religions, such as Buddhism and Islam, vary by geographical location. They also study how different religions on the Asian continent have affected each other over time.

Islamic Studies

The Islam Studies track investigates how culture and local traditions have influenced Islamic beliefs in different parts of the world. Students may study Islamic immigrant communities as well as countries that incorporate Islamic beliefs in their laws and politics.

Religion and Modernity

This concentration is ideal for students who want to know more about the relationship between religion and society. Covered topics can include religion's effect on art, music, social institutions, and other markers of modern life.

How Much Does an Online Master's in Religious Studies Cost?

Tuition rates for online Master's in Religious Studies programs tend to vary. In general, online programs are often cheaper than on-campus ones because students can avoid paying additional fees, as well as save on expenses like relocation and transport.

It's important to remember that regardless of whether you enroll in an online or on-campus program, there are several additional costs associated with attending college. These may include purchasing a laptop, necessary textbooks, and other supplies. If you plan to conduct original research as part of your online religious studies master's, you may also have to factor in the cost of conducting fieldwork as well.

Interested in applying for scholarships and grants to help pay for school? Explore our financial aid guide.

What Can You Do With a Religious Studies Master's Degree?

Aside from helping you develop an understanding of social institutions and human behavior, a master's degree in religious studies may also equip you with in-demand skills in research, writing, communication, and critical thinking. Together, this knowledge and training can prepare you for jobs in various fields.

Clergy

Annual Median Salary: $49,720
Job Outlook: 1%-5%

Clergy workers direct activities that are considered religious by communities of faith, such as collective prayers, marriage ceremonies, and funeral processions. They may also provide spiritual guidance to individuals and help them live a more religious life. Depending on their belief system, clergy workers may be tasked with carrying out administrative duties in settings such as temples, mosques, or churches.

Social and Community Service Managers

Annual Median Salary: $74,000
Job Outlook: 15%

Social and community service managers are responsible for public programs that help local communities. These can include programs focusing on health, education, poverty alleviation, and a range of other areas. As managers, they represent community needs to funders and work closely with families to implement social programs as well as evaluate their overall effectiveness.

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Annual Median Salary: $96,910
Job Outlook: 8%

Postsecondary Education Administrators manage operations in schools and universities, including teaching, research, and student affairs. They may also be involved in identifying hiring needs and working with prospective students. Those with a background in religious studies may often be suited to find employment in learning institutions like Christian colleges.

While going into the workforce is an option for religious study graduates, those with a master's degree in this field are also prepared to continue their education at the doctoral level. In turn, PhD programs in religious studies may be an option for students who are interested in research or higher education careers.

What To Look For in a Religious Studies Graduate

Before deciding to enroll, it's helpful to know what to look for in a religious studies arrow-doublegram. Choosing one that meets your learning needs and aligns with your career aspirations can help ensure your graduate education is worthwhile. Below are a few factors to consider when selecting a Master's in Religious Studies:

Accreditation

Choosing an accredited is essential because it guarantees an education that meets national standards for educational excellence. When deciding, be sure to select a school that is institutionally accredited and, if possible, a arrow-doublegram that is accredited by one of four faith-based accrediting organizations.

Affordability

Next to accreditation, affordability is also a crucial factor to consider. Choosing a arrow-doublegram that suits your financial circumstances will increase your chances of graduating on time and also imarrow-doubleve your return on investment.

Learning Formats

If you work, have family obligations, or have a busy schedule, consider enrolling in an online master's degree. The distance learning format will help you take advantage of an asynchronous learning environment by learning at your own pace.

Specialization

With many degree tracks available in religious studies, it's a good idea to consider your arrow-doublefessional goals when deciding on a arrow-doublegram. Different specializations can open up unique career paths in sectors such as research, education, and public service, so it's best to enroll in a religious studies master's that helps develop the necessary skills to work in your area of interest.

Explore our Guide to Applying to Online Colleges to learn more about what to look for in an online arrow-doublegram.

FAQs About Online Master's Degrees in Religious Studies

How Useful Is a Religious Studies Degree?


The value of any education will depend, in part, on your personal and professional aspirations. While a religious studies degree program may not prepare you to secure a career in a technical field, like computer science, it can nevertheless help foster essential soft skills. This degree can also be useful for individuals who aspire to work in public service fields.

What's the Difference Between a Degree in Religion and a Degree in Religious Studies?


Degrees in religion span several options, including in fields such as divinity, biblical studies, ministry, and Rabbinical studies. They are generally designed to train graduates for a career as clergy workers. On the other hand, religious studies programs draw on the social sciences and liberal arts, giving students the chance to delve into the social, cultural, and historical aspects of various belief systems.

What's the Highest Degree in Religion?


A PhD is the highest degree you can earn in religious studies. Alternatively, a PhD in divinity may also be considered a terminal degree in religion.

What's the Difference Between a Theology Degree and a Religious Studies Degree?


A degree in theology or theological stuides takes a deistic point of view in its curriculum. Students learn about divinity and the philosophical underpinnings of belief. By contrast, a religious studies degree program is more objective in its approach as a discipline, with students striving to understand how religions develop as well as shape individual and communal lives.

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