Best Online Degrees in: Divinity
Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Divinity
Online divinity degrees are designed to teach students how to property interpret the Bible and to equip students with a thorough understanding of theology. Divinity is a field most appropriate for students who want to enter Christian ministry or leadership, or prepare for future graduate study in Christian education. Even so, many students who are interested in their own spiritual formation and growth pursue a degree in divinity, and move into non-ministry careers in business, communications, writing, and more. College and universities that offer divinity degrees may allow an opportunity to major in various areas, such as ministry, religious studies, or biblical studies.
Online bachelor’s degree programs in divinity are not as common as Master of Divinity programs. However, the few that are offered can usually be completed in four years, provided the program follows a standard semester format. However, program length differs from school to school and students may take longer to complete the program if they attend part-time. Program length may be shortened if a student has transferable credits from work completed at other schools to bring into the divinity program.
The curriculum in an online divinity degree program is designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of the Bible and the theological works of major Christian thinkers, often as part of a larger liberal arts education. Students commonly take courses in the languages of the Bible — Greek and Hebrew. Courses in Christian history, apologetics (defenses of Christianity), hermeneutics (interpretation of the Bible), and homiletics (preaching from the Bible) are also common. Students may also take the following courses:
- Old Testament Survey. In this course, students are introduced to the major themes and people discussed in the 39 books included in the first half of the Bible, called the Old Testament. Students will learn how the Old Testament is broken down into areas of religious law, history, poetry, major prophets, and minor prophets, as well as some of the most significant people discussed in the texts, such as Abraham, Moses, and King David.
- New Testament Survey. This course introduces students to the major themes and people discussed in the 27 books included in the second half of the Bible, called the New Testament. Students will learn how the New Testament is broken down into the Gospels, history, epistles, and prophecy. The life of Jesus Christ is often emphasized, as well as significant writers like Paul, Peter, and John.
- Systematic Theology. In this course, students learn how to consider what the whole of biblical scripture has to say on any particular theological topic, such as the nature of God, sin and grace, and salvation. Students study various church doctrines and creeds, their roots in scripture, and how doctrinal differences have led to a great deal of diversity of belief in the Christian tradition.
Students should expect to complete writing- and research-heavy assignments in an online divinity degree program. Written assignments might include exegetical papers in which students must critically examine a section of biblical text. Language courses in Greek and Hebrew entail a great deal of work in translation as students learn to read, write, and pronounce these ancient languages and commit to memory some of the most common Greek and Hebrew words used in the Bible.
Building a Career
People with degrees in divinity often go on to enter careers as pastors, ministers, chaplains, missionaries, evangelists, or religious writers, authors, and speakers, although some find work with faith-based nonprofit organizations. Many pastors enter their church career as youth pastors, leaders of women’s or men’s ministry teams, pastoral care staff, or as assistant or associate pastors. With time and experience, they may be brought on by a board of directors or by church elders as a senior or executive pastor. Some ministry positions will require a Master of Divinity or similar graduate degree from a seminary.
The median yearly salary for clergy, which includes pastors and similar titles, was estimated at $44,140 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Median salaries for religious workers were $26,150 annually, the BLS noted. Salaries vary depending on where you live, the size of your church or employer, your roles and responsibilities, and your church or organization’s budget.