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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Biblical Studies

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Biblical Studies

Value

Bob Jones University was awarded the title of best online master’s degree in biblical studies for value. This private non-denominational Christian institution was established in Greenville, S.C., in 1927. Today, the school serves approximately 3,600 students. Strong academic programs, small class sizes, respected faculty members, and reasonable tuition rates make BJU a great value for prospective online students. According to Payscale.com’s 2012 Return on Investment Rankings, graduates of Bob Jones University can expect a 5.3% ROI. This number increased to an average of 5.9% once financial aid was considered. With this in mind, BJU was awarded to top position in this category.

Flexibility

Bob Jones University was also selected as the best online master’s degree in biblical studies for flexibility. Students enrolled in this Master of Arts program allows adult students to further their studies without leaving their ministry. The program is delivered asynchronously through a cutting-edge virtual learning platform. Students are free to log in and complete assignments, access course materials, participate in discussion boards, and take quizzes and tests at times that are convenient for them. Typically, the program can be completed in two years of full-time study. Considering these aspects, BJU was chosen as the best program for flexibility.

Financial Support

University of Northwestern – St. Paul was chosen as the best online master’s degree in biblical studies for financial support. Reasonable tuition rates and a track record of generous financial aid packages help Northwestern secure the top spot in this category. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 100% of incoming students received some financial assistance in 2010. In addition, all of these aid packages included some grant or scholarship funds. Approximately 75% percent of students also received funding through federal loan programs. The default rate in 2009 was a low 3.1%, an indication of manageable loan repayment for the majority of graduates from University of Northwestern – St. Paul.

Student Engagement

The best online master’s degree in biblical studies for student engagement is found at Bob Jones University. The school is dedicated to providing a rich learning experience for all of their students, both on campus and online. Faculty members are attentive and experienced in working with the needs of distance learners. Small class sizes also ensure students received the personalized instruction, guidance, and research assistance they need to succeed in an online master’s degree program. Electronic library resources, academic advising, and an interactive learning environment that allows students to easily communicate with their peers all contribute to BJU’s strong reputation for student engagement. In addition, online students who are able to commute to campus can participate in clubs, student organizations, leadership development activities, and athletics events.

Library and Research Support

Moody Biblical College was given the award for best online master’s degree in biblical studies for library and research support. The school’s Crowell Online Library has a wealth of resources specifically designed to meet the needs of distance learners. Students will have access to electronic library catalogs, full-text databases, reference collections, online tutorials and indexes, and eBooks. Distance learners can also request books and library materials be sent directly to them from the library. If the resource is not available through the Crowell Library, interlibrary loan privileges are also available. With all this considered, Moody Biblical College was awarded the top spot for library and research support.

Faculty Credentials

University of Northwestern – St. Paul was chosen as the best online master’s degree in biblical studies for faculty credentials. This small, private institution based in Saint Paul, Minn., was ranked among the top 20 regional colleges in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report in 2012. A strong group of faculty members combined with small class sizes form the foundation of the school’s academic reputation. Instructors are experienced in their field and trained to work with the varied needs of distance learners. For these reasons, University of Northwestern – St. Paul was placed at the top of our list for faculty credentials.

Prior Learning Options

University of Northwestern – St. Paul was chosen as the top online master’s degree in biblical studies for prior learning options. Incoming students at the graduate level have the opportunity to earn advanced course placement. This allows students who have earned a grade of B or higher in related courses to transfer up to 9 credits to the master’s degree program in theological studies. Eligible course topics for transfer may include biblical studies, biblical languages, theology, church history, or ministry. Classes must have been completed at University of Northwestern – St. Paul or another accredited institution.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies

Online master’s degrees in biblical studies are designed to equip students with in-depth knowledge of the Bible, its historical context and modern-day applications, systematic theology, and strategies for biblical interpretation. This degree path is a good fit for students who wish to become pastors, church workers, or missionaries, but may also be of interest to those who want a deeper understanding of the Bible to strengthen their own faith, for personal enrichment, or to better understand Christianity. Prospective students should be prepared for rigorous research, writing, and ancient language studies.

An online master’s program in biblical studies can typically be completed in one and a half to three years of full-time study. Shorter, accelerated programs tend to be more intensive, requiring a student to attend school year-round, including summers and winters. However, many online programs are set up to be completed part time, and may take up to five years to complete. Some programs allow students to transfer in graduate credits from other accredited schools, which can significantly reduce the time it takes to graduate.

Class Curriculum

The curriculum in a biblical studies course may be broken up into different content areas, including biblical studies, systematic theology, historical theology, spiritual life and evangelism, and electives. Programs that are designed to prepare students for ministry include course work in ministerial studies in addition to biblical studies. Nearly all biblical studies programs include courses in Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek, the original languages of scripture. Required course work differs greatly from program to program, but a few courses shared by many programs include:

  • Old and New Testament Surveys. Separated into two courses, Old Testament Survey and New Testament Survey, these courses introduce students to the books that make up the two halves of the Bible, their major themes, and the most significant people discussed in each. Old Testament Survey will discuss the creation story, Hebrew law, the kings, and the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament, while New Testament Survey will discuss the Gospels and the life of Jesus, the history of the early church, the epistles, and prophecy of the New Testament.
  • Hermeneutics. This course teaches students how to appropriately interpret biblical scripture. This entails closely examining key words in Greek and Hebrew that do not have an easy English translation and studying the scriptures in their proper historical and cultural contexts, as well as in light of the entirety of scripture.
  • History of Doctrine. In this course, students will look at church doctrines over the years, their biblical and theological roots, and how they have remained constant or evolved over time. Students will also be introduced to some of the most significant theologians whose writings contributed greatly to the formation of prevalent doctrines.

Students will complete a wide array of assignments and research papers in a biblical studies master’s program. In Greek and Hebrew language courses, students will be asked to provide translations of sections of texts and to otherwise demonstrate their grasp of these ancient languages. Students will be asked to critically examine sections of scripture and to write about the primary themes from certain passages. Students may also research two different theological perspectives, present the strengths and weaknesses of both, and provide scriptural support for why they believe one is stronger than the other. Some programs conclude with a comprehensive exam, a written thesis, and the oral defense of that thesis.

Building a Career

Students who complete a master’s degree in biblical studies may be prepared for careers in ministry, teaching, or theological writing, although some go on to pursue unrelated careers in business, sales, industry, law enforcement, or management. Ministry careers include pastors, assistant or associate pastors, pastoral care staff and church workers, missionaries, chaplains, youth/children’s pastors, evangelists, and more. These ministers and church workers are responsible for providing spiritual guidance for their congregation or for certain populations within their congregation.

The average wage for clergy was estimated at $48,490, and the median wage was estimated at $44,140 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Your salary as a minister could vary greatly based on a number of factors, including the size of the church you serve, your roles and responsibilities, your level of experience, and how much is allocated by your church’s board of directors or elders.

Philosophy and religion teachers work at colleges, universities, and junior colleges. A master’s degree is sufficient for some positions, but many will require or prefer a doctoral degree in biblical studies, religious studies, or a similar area. The average yearly wage for philosophy and religion teachers was estimated at $71,620, while the median yearly wage was $65,100 as of 2011, the BLS noted. Salaries are dependent on factors like your level of experience and education, your rank as a professor, and where you live in the country. Top-paying states for philosophy and religion teachers were Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and California, the BLS added.

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