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Religious studies, also known as the study of religion, is an academically motivating field dedicated to studying or researching religious behaviors, beliefs, and institutions. The study gives a broad perspective on major religious traditions across the world. The master’s in religious studies online degree is suitable for individuals interested in nonprofit and community service, pastoral leadership positions, counseling, or related fields and students interested in continuing their studies in the same field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticshas given employment projections of 473,300 with a median annual wage of $55,000 for this field. There are various occupations available for students, like, management, education instruction and library occupation, legal occupations, business and financial operations, and so on. Discover more about the online religious studies master’s in this guide.
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Students planning to opt for online master’s in religious studies degree programs should scrutinize several critical aspects of the program. Factors such as institution ranking, curriculum and coursework, services for students, the infrastructure of the institution, quality of faculty, and affordability should be part of the decision-making process. Online Masters Colleges has scanned many programs and come up with the best master’s in religious studies online colleges, listed below:
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Understanding Master’s in Religious Studies Online
The master’s in religious studies online focuses on religious traditions, given the contemporary and global issues. It helps students understand international relations and economic and political aspects and encourages conversations not limited to boundaries of the disciple. Most online religious studies degrees would range from 30 to 36 credits depending on the program’s requirements and delivery mode. The program pattern is majorly non-denominational and provides students an environment to learn and explore religious studies in neutral settings. The program is offered online and in person. Some programs also provide a blended mode of online and offline. The curriculum would include core, focus area, elective, and capstone courses. The degree program would slightly differ depending on whether students choose a thesis or non-thesis track.
Thesis-based curriculum – prepares the students to pursue further education like a doctoral degree in religious studies or seek employment in research-related careers.
Non-thesis-based curriculum – prepares students who want to develop a career based on leadership, work in faith-based communities and non-profit organizations, and improve their skills to seek opportunities in other fields related to religion.
The Master of Arts or MA religious studies allows students to explore religion from diverse perspectives. It is a broad range of studies that includes the arts, humanities, social sciences, and other disciplines.
Specializations in Master’s in Religious Studies Online Programs
Choosing a specialization at a master’s level will help students in honing their skills and broaden their knowledge base in addition to their regular studies. A specialization benefits students, helping them get a better salary package, industry recognition, and expertise. It makes them industry leaders in their respective fields, giving them better chances at employment. Here are some religious studies specializations students can consider:
Area of Specialization
In this specialization, students learn to demarcate the religious belief systems of different communities described as “indigenous.” Students learn about various belief systems across America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and other regions.
In this specialization, students engage in religious institutions, different texts, and devotional life in Islam. It is an interdisciplinary field where students understand various aspects of Islam.
In this specialization, students study the ancient and foundational sacred texts of Judaism in their context of history. They learn observances, culture, politics, Jewish rituals, learning, and foodways.
Religion in the Ancient Near East and the Mediterranean
In this specialization, students focus primarily on the religions found in the ancient Mediterranean. This would also include those that have originated and developed in the civilizations of ancient Rome and Greece.
Religion in Asia
This specialization focuses on the academic study of religions found in South Asia and various nuances across communities and sections of society.
Religion in the U.S.A
This specialization takes an interdisciplinary approach to focus on practices, religious ideas, movements, and institutions in the United States. Students focus on American religious history and identify the central trends and themes.
Performance and Ritual
This specialization exposes students to the theories of performance and ritual in religious and non-religious contexts. It compares contexts to understand the different common structures and differentiate religious from non-religious.
This specialization focuses on religion’s meaning, validity, merits, and the order of ecosystems and societies. It addresses several problems related to justice, the good life, and the common good.
Curriculum and Skills Gained in Master’s in Religious Studies Online Programs
A master’s in religious studies online degree typically requires 30 to 36 credits. Some basic core subjects are compulsory for all students to take up. Other than these core courses, students must choose elective and capstone courses and complete projects and assignments to meet the religious studies master’s requirements. Some programs require a thesis to be completed; in such cases, additional requirements must be met by students. Most programs have similar religious studies courses, some of which include but are not limited to:
Interpreting the Text
Seminar in Biblical Studies
Seminar on the History of Religion
Advanced Study of Jesus, Muhammed, and Buddha
Christian Origins: Introduction to New Testaments
Grace, Christ, and Spirit
Church, Sacraments, and Liturgy
Introduction to Practical Theology
Spirituality, Morality, and Ethics
Foundations of Religious Education
Pastoral and Educational Praxis
Religious Education Across the Curriculum
Foundations of Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Digital Media and Ministry
Jewish Roots of Christian Faith: Introduction to Old Testament
When students graduate with their online master’s in religious studies degree, they will be geared up to take responsible roles in education and academics. Based on their knowledge and skills garnered throughout the program, they will be able to showcase their abilities in their various roles. Some of the skills graduates would use will be their ability to:
demonstrate adaptive thinking to make judgments and critically think about the problems occurring within different religious settings;
use the necessary creative thinking skills to design solutions to problems;
organize and administer religious-based activities effectively in a culturally sensitive manner;
display skills of collaboration that would entail a respectful exchange of knowledge and ideas to enrich opinions and resolution of conflict;
use leadership skills in various institutions related to religions or faith-based organizations and display flexibility and active imagination to lead religion-based institutions for the betterment of society;
demonstrate high standards of professionalism associated with achieving success in the field of religion and beyond;
demonstrate profound comprehension of religion-related philosophy as well as reflective practice;
use their knowledge to create a diverse and balanced curriculum for religious education;
use effective communication skills to express thoughts verbally and in writing, articulate thoughts, build relationships, debate reasoning, and work with people to apply the knowledge learned in the field of religion; and
organize and collaborate with different stakeholders in the field of religion to show cooperation with others and support those with different viewpoints and ideologies.
Accreditation for Master’s in Religious Studies Online Programs
Higher educational institutions undergo an elaborate validation process to meet strict educational standards. This process is known as accreditation. A few private and independent organizations review academic programs and institutions to establish whether they meet their high standards. Ideally, students keen on pursuing a master’s should always apply only to accredited master’s in religious studies colleges. Many employers prefer students who have completed their degrees from accredited programs and universities. Some of the accrediting bodies in the United States are:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Timeline for graduating from Master’s in Religious Studies Online Programs
An online master of religious studies can be completed in two years if students choose full-time study. However, it is worth noting that the program’s duration might also depend on many factors like the chosen electives, curriculum, capstone, thesis or non-thesis coursework, concentration, whether classes are synchronous or asynchronous, etc. Students have the option to complete the master on either full-time or part-time:
Full-time: full-time master’s requires 2 years to complete, depending on the program and institution.
Part-time: part-time master’s would take between 2 and 4 years to complete. It is suitable for students who have family obligations or full-time jobs.
Master’s in Religious Studies Online Programs Admission Requirements
Online religious studies master’s have requirements that prospective students need to meet to be admitted to this program. Each institution has different requirements, which would depend on the program in question. Here are the most common master’s in religious studies online admission requirements:
Fees of application form
Graduate degree from an accredited college (minimum GPA of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0)
Official transcripts from all academic organizations attended
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (required by some schools)
Note: TheGREor MAT (Miller Analogies Test) may be waived for applicants already holding a graduate degree.
Master’s in Religious Studies Online No GRE Programs
Graduates applying for master’s programs need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit their test scores when enrolling. However, some institutions waive this requirement under specific circumstances. For example, students with a higher GPA than most may not be required to submit their GRE scores. Examples of universities offering master’s in religious studies online no GRE programs includeDrew University, Earlham School of Religion, andLiberty University.
Accelerated Master’s in Religious Studies Online Programs
An accelerated master’s degree is an option given to students to complete the requirements of their master’s degree in lesser calendar time than required. These programs give students the flexibility and speed to satisfy requirements and could be cost-saving. Some colleges combine a bachelor’s and master’s degree that students can complete in 4+1 years instead of the usually required 4+2 years. Some examples of accelerated master’s in religious studies online include those offered by the Missouri State University, Florida International University, and The University of South Florida.
Free Courses for Master’s in Religious Studies Online Students
Several institutions and online platforms offer free master’s in religious studies online courses. Such courses help students enhance their knowledge but cannot be used as a replacement for regular accredited master’s degree courses. Here are some free courses for religious studies master’s students to explore:
Philosophy, Science, and Religion: Philosophy and Religion
This course helps students familiarize themselves with relevant areas of science, including evolution, cosmology, and neurosciences. Students engage with these areas conceptually. The course also encounters critical philosophical approaches between religion and science in a cross-disciplinary manner.
This course helps individuals interpret the roles world religions have played in recent times and throughout history. It helps them appreciate the internal diversity and evolution of different religions of the world.
This course provides the tools to interpret the roles religions play in creating conflicts in the contemporary world. It helps students understand how religions are embedded in different human cultures and understand how internally diverse the world’s religions are.
How to Pay for a Master’s in Religious Studies Online Program
The cost of a master’s in religious studies degree program differs from school, program, and other factors. Program structure, materials, tuition, travel, capstones, electives, etc., affect costs. Unconfirmed statistics show that the tuition fee for online master’s in religious studies degree online ranges from $3,500 to $17,500 per year. Although students could fund their studies by working full-time, some alternative funding mechanisms are available for them to consider, including:
Scholarships are a form of an award of financial aid for individuals to advance their education further. They are awarded based on different criteria that reflect the values and purposes of the organization awarding the scholarship. Scholarships are usually merit-based and could be based on the student’s art, athletics, academics, and other different abilities.
Grants are offered to individuals for research or education in a specific area or target groups. They are usually not focused on academic accomplishments or the student’s success but are based more on the applicant’s financial standing. Grants also target factors that regular scholarships will not account for.
Graduate assistantships are part-time jobs where students work in a college or university setup. Students work in their major’s department, for which they have part or whole of their tuition covered by the institution. Assistantships also help students form contacts with the faculty.
A student loan is another option for students to fund their education. Even though student loans come at a lower cost of interest, they become a burden if one falls behind in paying installments on schedule.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is a form filled out by current students studying in colleges in the United States to determine if they are eligible for student financial aid from the U.S. government. Prospective college students would also be eligible to fill out this form.
Scholarships for Master’s in Religious Studies Online Students
Students have a good opportunity to fund their education through Graduate School Scholarships. They help students ease their financial burden considerably. Students can apply for various scholarships based on their academic success or other fields like music, art, sports, etc. Here are some scholarships for a master’s degree in religious studies:
The United Church of Christ funds this scholarship to support African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, and Native American minority members preparing for different programs at accredited colleges.
Award/Amount : $5,000
Application Deadline : Opens December 1 & closes March 15 (the following year), annually
This scholarship is awarded by Pittsburgh to graduate students who pursue a master’s degree in theology or religious studies. It is an annual scholarship for students dedicated to the field of religious studies.
Award/Amount : $3,500
Application Deadline : Opens in January 2023 for 2023-2024 | Deadline: TBA
The purpose of this scholarship is to fund graduate students pursuing post-secondary education that would lead to a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fields related to religious studies.
Award/Amount : $2,500
Application Deadline : TBA
FAQs about the Master’s in Religious Studies Online Program
What is a master’s in religious studies?
A master’s in religious studies allows students to explore questions related to the field of religion. Students in this program develop leadership skills and critical thinking, which help them pursue career opportunities that explore an individual’s connection to religion. This program is designed for individuals who want a broad perspective on the study of religion that will include major religious traditions worldwide.
What can you do with a master’s in religious studies degree?
There are numerous possibilities for students who have done a master’s in religious studies. One could take up pastoral leadership, teaching and research positions, various roles dealing with children, youth, and adults, and social work. They can also work in nonprofit and community-based services.
How long is a religious studies master’s?
Different factors could influence the timeframe of religious studies master’s. However, it generally ranges from 30 to 36 credits, taking about 2 years to complete. The exact duration of the program would be influenced by whether it is completed in a full-time, part-time or hybrid mode of study. A thesis or capstone, electives, and other factors can also affect the program timeline
Is a religious studies master’s worth it?
After earning a master’s degree in religious studies, one could work in a leadership capacity for community-based organizations, teaching religion at different institutions, and so on. A master’s in religious studies degree can be worth it for students looking to serve their community, understand the nuances of religious discipleship, work in administrative and academic positions in religious fields and be a teacher in different religion-based institutions.
Religious studies vs. theology – what is the difference?
Theology focuses on the systematic study of supernatural forces or divine powers. In contrast, religious studies focus on human scopes of religion rather than just scriptures and rituals humans have made. Theology tries to answer questions about religion, and religious studies are dedicated to researching religious behaviors and beliefs. In religious studies, multiple perspectives are considered rather than just an outlook on religion..
Careers and Salary Outlook for Master’s in Religious Studies Online Graduates
After earning an online master’s in religious studies, graduates work in various occupations as managers, administrators, teachers, and so on. They will have the option to work in diverse religion-based institutions, non-profit organizations dealing with religious matters, governmental agencies, and community centers.
Apart from teaching and administrative positions, other roles religious studies online master’s graduates can take up include:
Community and Social Service Specialists
Religious Activities Directors
Social Service Managers
Education Activities Directors
Postsecondary Education Administrators
Postsecondary Teachers (Religion)
Community Service Managers
Children, Youth, and Adult Education Positions
Other Helping Professions
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics (BLS), occupations based on philosophy and religionprovide a median annual wage of $55,000, with 56,820,460 workers with a religious degree employed. The list below highlights statistical data by the BLS on a few employment options available to graduates:
Postsecondary teachers of religion instruct students in different religion-based subjects at and beyond the high school level.
Certifications and Licensing for Master’s in Religious Studies Online Graduates
Certifications ensure that educators and other professionals have the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to perform their job well enough. A person with a master’s degree may hold positions that would require working with different people, and certifications can be a way of assuring the public about the credibility of that professional.
An online master in religious studies degree does not provide licensure or certification for students. However, it may qualify graduates for positions in teaching, depending on the requirements of the employers. Every state may have different specific requirements for its educators to meet. Some of the requirements could be but are not limited to:
An undegraduate degree from an accredited university
Completion of a particular number of semester hours
Completion of a set number of semester hours in a particular area within religious studies
Candidates seeking National Board Certification for positions like school counseling or other teaching positions could refer to theNational Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). They must also check the specific requirements enlisted for certification and licensure, if any, for their particular geographical location.
Additional Resources for Master’s in Religious Studies Online Graduates
Master’s in religious studies online graduates can benefit from a wide range of resources by enlisting in professional associations. Certification programs, career aids, and industry connections are some of the most common features offered to the members of such associations. One could also look at the available resources for a better understanding of how to work in specific religious setups, learn management tactics, find solutions to problems, and so on. Here are a few resources for students to get started:
North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAMSR)– The North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAMSR) was founded in 1985 to encourage theoretical, comparative, historical, and cognitive approaches to studying religion amongst North American scholars. It represents North American scholars studying religion at international levels and aims to sustain communication between them and their international counterparts.
Religious Education Association (REA) – The Religious Education Association (REA) is an association of practitioners, professors, and researchers in the field of religious education. Members meet and work to advance substantive research, look up practical approaches to religious studies, and fund scholarships for deserving students.
American Academy of Religion (AAR) -The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is one of the largest scholarly societies dedicated to the field of the academic study of religion. AAR has more than 5,000 members worldwide. It aims to foster excellence and advancement in the academic study of religion and related fields.
Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) – The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) is an interdisciplinary academic association that promotes, stimulations, and builds communication in social scientific research about religious experiences and institutions. It was founded at Harvard University in 1949. Today, it fosters dialogue and collaboration with thousands of scholars from different fields.
Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) – The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) is a membership organization with more than 8,000 scholars. It is one of the largest and oldest learned societies devoted to the critical investigation of the bible from varied academic fields. SBL supports scholars doing research and fosters an understanding of the public bible.
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