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 Statistics has 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.

Master’s in Religious Studies Online

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Best Master’s in Religious Studies Online

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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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
#1
Covenant Theological Seminary
12330 Conway Road, Saint Louis, Missouri 63141
$14,560NA
#2
Regent University
1000 Regent University Dr, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23464
$15,59062%
#3
Denver Seminary
6399 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, Colorado 80120
$11,610NA
#4
Dallas Theological Seminary
3909 Swiss Ave, Dallas, Texas 75204
$17,903NA
#5
Western Seminary
5511 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, Oregon 97215
$14,808NA
#6
Drew University
36 Madison Ave, Madison, New Jersey 07940
$19,44074%
#7
Campbellsville University
1 University Dr, Campbellsville, Kentucky 42718
$8,47336%
#8
Carolina College of Biblical Studies
817 South McPherson Church Road, Fayetteville, North Carolina 28303
$5,04033%
#9
South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary
2200 SW 10th Street, Deerfield Beach, Florida 33442
$5,310NA
#10
Liberty University
1971 University Blvd, Lynchburg, Virginia 24515
$7,84762%
#11
Graceland University-Lamoni
1 University Place, Lamoni, Iowa 50140
$10,97047%
#12
Crown College
8700 College View Drive, Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota 55375
$10,35061%
#13
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
3939 Gentilly Blvd, New Orleans, Louisiana 70126
$6,75059%
#14
Holy Apostles College and Seminary
33 Prospect Hill Road, Cromwell, Connecticut 06416
$4,50050%
#15
Criswell College
4010 Gaston Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75246
$9,45063%
#16
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
120 S. Wingate Street, Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587
$5,47251%
#17
Columbia International University
7435 Monticello Rd, Columbia, South Carolina 29203
$10,71062%
#18
Iliff School of Theology
2323 E. Iliff Ave., Denver, Colorado 80210
$19,824NA
#19
Claremont Lincoln University
150 West First Street, Claremont, California 91711
$13,200NA
#20
Chicago Theological Seminary
1407 E. 60th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637
$24,696NA

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

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.  

  1. Thesis-based curriculum – prepares the students to pursue further education like a doctoral degree in religious studies or seek employment in research-related careers. 
  2. 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. 

Master’s in Religious Studies Online Degree Types

There is largely one type of online religious studies master, which is a Master of Arts or MA in religious studies online. However, several related master’s in religious degrees are available, like the Master of Divinity Online and Master’s in Theology Online

Master of Arts in Religious Studies

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 Description 
Indigenous Religions 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. 
Islam 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. 
Judaism 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. 
Religious Ethics 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 
  • Curriculum Development 
  • Foundations of Religious Education 
  • Pastoral and Educational Praxis 
  • Religious Education Across the Curriculum 
  • Catechetical Leadership 
  • 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
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) 

Additionally, the Association for Biblical Higher Education is recognized by the Department of Education in the U.S. as an agency of national and specialized institutional accreditation. It is also recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as an accrediting agency for institutions preparing students for Christian ministry through church vocation, biblical, and general studies.

To understand more about accreditation, refer to the Accreditation Guide.

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: 

  1. Full-time: full-time master’s requires 2 years to complete, depending on the program and institution. 
  2. 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: 

  • Online application
  • 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 Résumé 
  • Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement 
  • Two or more letters of reference 
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (required by some schools)

Note: The GRE or 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 include Drew UniversityEarlham School of Religionand Liberty 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 UniversityFlorida 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: 

Course Provided by Description 
Philosophy, Science, and Religion: Philosophy and Religion Coursera 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. 
World Religions Through Their Scriptures edX 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. 
Religion, Conflict, and PeaceHarvard University 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

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

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

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. 

Student Loans

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.

FAFSA

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.

Students should also be aware of Scholarship Scams when looking for scholarships. To learn more about college funding, refer to the Financial Aid Guide.

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:

Adrienne M. and Charles Shelby Rooks Fellowship for Racial and Ethnic Theological Students

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 

Marguerite Young Endowment Fund

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 2024 for 2024-2025 | Deadline: TBA

Mary E. Bivins Religious Scholarship Program 

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?

How long is a religious studies master’s?

Is a religious studies master’s worth it?

Religious studies vs. theology – what is the difference?

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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 
  • Clergy 
  • Religious Activities Directors 
  • Social Service Managers 
  • Education Activities Directors 
  • Postsecondary Education Administrators 
  • Postsecondary Teachers (Religion) 
  • Community Service Managers  
  • Pastoral Leadership 
  • 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 religion provide 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: 

Occupation Median Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2030) Job Description 
Postsecondary Education Administrators $96,910 7% (as fast as average) Postsecondary education administrators oversee student services, faculty research, and academics at universities and colleges. 
School and Career Counselors and Advisors $60,510 10% (as fast as average) Counselors help students develop academic, social, and other personal development skills. They help people choose the paths to employment and address other concerns. 
Social Workers $50,3909% (as fast as average) Religious Social workers are employed in a variety of religion-based settings, including human service agencies, schools, and healthcare providers. 
Instructional Coordinators $63,740 7% (as fast as average) Instructional coordinators oversee the curricula and teaching standards of religion-based schools. They develop instructional materials, implement them, and assess their effectiveness. 
Postsecondary Teachers $79,640 12% (much faster than average) 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 the National 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:  

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.  
  4. 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.  
  5. 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.  

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed on this page are those of Online Masters Colleges’ (OMC’s) researchers and teams. Unless specifically indicated, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the people, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s provided content is solely for informational purposes. OMC or its employees make no guarantees of the accuracy or completeness of any information on this page or found by following any link. OMC will not be held liable for any mistakes or omissions in this material, nor will it be held liable for any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the material on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, reader discretion is always advised because part or all the provided information may have changed over time, potentially leading to inaccuracies

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