Best Online Degrees in: Religion
Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Religion
The award for best value in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion goes to Eastern New Mexico University. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the estimated cost of tuition for full-time, beginning, undergraduate students at Eastern New Mexico was $4,147 for the 2011-2012 school year. PayScale shows that graduates from Eastern New Mexico see an average of 3.1% to 3.3% return on investment.
American Public University wins the award for best flexibility in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion. Their courses are asynchronous, meaning students are not required to log into their class at a set time. Students can download their assignments and work on them whenever they like. Students can also choose to take each course in either an eight-week or 16-week session. The eight-week sessions are fast-paced and more intense, but they will allow students to earn their degrees in less time.
The award for best career support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion goes to American Public University. Their Career Services staff will help students and alumni prepare and write their resumes and cover letters, learn interview techniques, and find internships, fellowships, and careers. They also provide numerous general and program-specific career tools and resources.
Eastern New Mexico University is receiving the award for best financial support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 99% of the beginning full-time undergraduate students at Eastern New Mexico are receiving some type of financial aid. Aid in the form of grants and scholarships are being received by 95% of these students, totaling just under $3 million.
The award for best technology support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion goes to American Public University. Their virtual classrooms allow students to interact with one another and professors, access and download assignments, track their academic progress, and more. Their tech support team is readily available to provide support, resolve problems, and answer any questions a student may have.
American Public University wins the award for best student engagement in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion. Their online classrooms are designed to be communities for students to interact with one another and with their professors. They also have student chapters in several industry associations, and have professional forums. U.S. News & World Report has ranked American Public University No. 14 in the nation based on their student engagement.
The award for the best disability support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion goes to American Public University. They provide a step-by-step guide to registering for disability accommodations. Once the registration process is complete, a Disability Accommodations Officer will work with the student to help get them the accommodations they need.
Library and Research Support
Liberty University wins the award for best library and research support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion. Their virtual library has an expansive collection of e-books, articles, and journals, as well as numerous databases. They also provide guides and tutorials to help students conduct research and find information. Their library staff is available to offer assistance and advice, and to help students develop research strategies.
Liberty University wins the award for best learning support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion. They provide online tutorials and course guides, as well as writing resources guides. Their mobile apps allow students to access their classes and assignments on the go. The Student Advocate Office provides support, advice, counseling, and more to help students succeed.
The award for best alumni engagement in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion goes to Eastern New Mexico University. The alumni association at Eastern New Mexico helps alumni to stay up to date on what’s happening at the university through their e-newsletter and Facebook account. They also hold regular events that allow alumni to meet, socialize, network, and build relationships. The alumni association has also created a scholarship specifically for the children and grandchildren of Eastern New Mexico alumni.
Prior Learning Options
The award for best prior learning options in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion goes to Liberty University. Students can transfer previously-earned college credits and use them toward their degree. Liberty also awards college credits based on professional training, life experience, certifications, military training, and scores on College Level Examination Program, Institutional Challenge Exam, and Dantes Subject Standardized Test.
New Online Student Orientation
Liberty University wins the award for best new student orientation in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in religion. They provide a sample online course which allows students to see what online education is like at Liberty, as well as Blackboard tutorials to familiarize students with the virtual classroom and the tools available to them. Their website contains guides and tutorials to help students through registration, signing into class, ordering books and materials, and more, and student support services are also available to help new students.
Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion
Online religion degrees are a good fit for students who want to pursue careers in ministry or teaching. An online degree in religion is also a fitting choice for students who want to learn more about world religions for their own personal enrichment or learn about a specific religion in depth to build a strong foundation for their own spiritual growth. Online religion degrees may touch on all of the major eastern and western world religions, or focus primarily on a single religion, such as Christianity. Depending on the school, students may be able to further specialize in a specific area of religion, such as biblical studies or youth ministry.
Online bachelor's degree programs in religion are designed to be completed in four years of full-time study if the program follows a traditional semester format. However, programs that follow a term or module format may be accelerated, making it possible to complete the program in less than four years. Program length varies based on the number of prior credits a student brings into the program from other schools and whether the student has completed the necessary prerequisites to enter the religion major.
The curriculum in an online religion degree will vary based on the type of program and the specialization the student chooses. Students whose course work is primarily in Christianity commonly take courses in Greek and Hebrew to better understand biblical texts as well as courses that survey the old and new testaments of the Bible. Students may also take courses that emphasize certain sections and types of writing in the Bible, such as the books of history, poetry, prophets, the Gospels, and the epistles.
Students in a more general religion program may take courses that discuss the Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity), the Eastern religions (including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and others), and animistic indigenous religions of various regions. General religion degree programs tend to focus on how religions have developed over the years and their impact on history, society, and culture.
- History of Religion in America. In this course, students learn how religion has impacted society in America, starting in the pre-colonial era to present time. Students examine how the American religious experience has changed over the years and how religion continues to shape American culture. The emphasis is typically on the major religious movements in American history.
- Philosophy of Religion. This course teaches students the classical arguments for and against the claims made by the world's major religions. Hot topics might include arguments for and against the existence of God, philosophies on the nature of God, and the problem of evil.
- Counseling in Religion. In this course, students learn the most prominent methods of religious counseling, as well as the key differences between secular and religious counseling. Students learn how various religious traditions provide support and advice for those suffering from depression, anxiety, worry, grief, guilt, marital problems, illness, and substance abuse.
Homework in a religion degree program might include translations of Hebrew and Greek texts and writing essays explaining the similarities and differences of various religions. Some programs require or encourage internships at churches and other places of worship, faith-based organizations, faith-based social agencies, Islamic centers, Jewish community centers, or religious schools.
Building a Career
People with an academic background in religion may enter a variety of careers available to liberal arts majors, including business, sales, human resources, writing, and more. However, some of the most relevant careers include clergy and postsecondary teachers of religion and philosophy. Clergy include pastors and ministers, chaplains, youth and children's pastors, pastoral care staff, worship leaders and music pastors, and other non-volunteer staff at churches, other places of worship, and religious organizations. The national median annual wage estimate for clergy was $44,140 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Those who wish to become professors of religion or philosophy will need to advance past the bachelor's degree to obtain a graduate degree. The Ph.D. is the preferred degree level for most permanent positions at colleges and universities, although master's degrees may be accepted for some teaching positions. Religion and philosophy teachers teach a wide variety of courses in theology and related areas, and often conduct research as well. The median yearly wage for professors in these fields was estimated at $65,100 as of May 2011, the BLS noted. However, remember that employment in the field and specific salaries are not guaranteed. Your ability to find work depends on where you live and the economy, while your salary is based on your education, experience, and other considerations.