Religious workers can be found in practically every city and town in the United States. Although employment is greater in some regions, such as the Bible Belt, students who complete religious studies degree programs are ideally positioned to find employment in the field of religion.
Many colleges across the U.S. offer both campus-based and online religious studies degrees. Students can use the information on this page to learn more about 10 of the top schools for religious studies degrees. Programs range from associate and bachelor's degrees to Ph.D.s in ministry, religious studies or theology. Most jobs within the clergy require candidates to hold at least a bachelor's degree, but senior clergy positions often require candidates to have a higher level of educational obtainment.
Students who complete campus-based or online degrees for religious studies should have the educational foundation in many different world religions and cultures to potentially gain employment in a range of positions within the church and in their communities. Read on to learn more about our 10 top colleges for religious studies degrees, as well as scholarship and financial aid information and common career pathways for graduates.
Best Colleges for Religious Studies Degree Programs
The list below of our top schools for religious studies degree programs can help students learn more about degree options from many of the leading religious colleges in the U.S. We used a unique methodology that blends a wide range of data points provided by the National Center for Education Statistics to create this list. Read on to learn more about our 10 best religious studies degree programs, or click the button below to learn more about how this list was created.
The top college in our rankings is located at Deerfield Beach, Fla. South Florida Bible College offers a variety of religious studies degree programs both on campus and through online instruction.
SFBC offers an Associate of Arts degree in Biblical studies, and five Christian-based Bachelor of Arts degree paths:
- Biblical studies
- Christian business management
- Christian counseling
- Pastoral ministry
- Religious education
Additionally, the college offers a Master of Arts in Biblical studies and Master of Divinity program that are designed to be precursors to the pursuit of doctoral degrees.
South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary heads our list of the 10 top schools for religious studies degree programs based on its high graduation rate, open admissions policy and low 10:1 student to faculty ratio.
Our second featured institution is headquartered at Huntsville, Ala. At $4,320, Huntsville Bible College has the lowest cost of in-state tuition among the 10 colleges in these rankings. It also has an open admissions policy, and students can expect excellent interaction and relationships with their professors due to the college's low 5:1 student to faculty ratio.
HBC is a non-denominational Christian seminary that offers degrees programs at the associate, bachelor's and master's levels. Academic programs are designed to educate Christian men and women to live according to Biblical principles and to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. Programs include A.A. degrees (67 credits) and B.A. degrees (124 credits) in the following: Christian education; mission and evangelism; and pastoral ministry. Master's-level programs (36 credits) include study in ministry-pastoral studies or Biblical leadership, and African American studies.
Our No.3 institution is a private Christian college and seminary located in Lithonia, a small city 18 miles east of downtown Atlanta. Students can pursue either campus-based or online bachelor's and master's degree programs.
Luther Rice College & Seminary offers on-campus and online Bachelor of Arts degrees in religion with a major in biblical studies and minors in Biblical counseling, Christian worldview or ministry. There are five campus-based and online graduate degree options: M.A. in apologetics, Biblical counseling, Christian studies, leadership and ministry. Seminary degree programs include a master's in divinity and Doctor of Ministry.
The college makes our rankings based on its strong graduation and admissions rates and high number of students taking distance education classes. However, the college also has the highest cost of in-state tuition and highest ratio of students to faculty at 23:1.
This bilingual Bible college located in Memphis is a ministry-focused institution with a mission to raise new generations of Christian leaders. The college offers an associate degree in ministry with a focus on either Christian education, church growth and missions, or preaching and pastoral ministry.
There are three bachelor's degree pathways: Christian leadership, Christian education and Christian ministry. The college also offers certificate programs in Christian ministry and Biblical studies. Students interested in combining a Christian-based education with vocational and technical studies can pursue a combination degree through Mid-South Christian College and a handful of partner institutions located in Memphis and Tennessee.
Mid-South Christian College scores favorably for its cost of in-state tuition, high graduation and admissions rates, and it's tied for first with one other college for its low 4:1 student to faculty ratio.
This institution was founded in Durham, N.C. in 1995 by reverend Dr. Joseph E. Perkins, who also serves as pastor of the Apex First Baptist Church in Apex, N.C. The college's mission is to prepare students for careers in the clergy, Christian ministries and Christian leadership positions within their communities.
Apex School of Theology offers an associate degree in Christian education and a bachelor's degree in theology. Master's-level programs include study in Christian education, Christian counseling and Biblical counseling, as well as a Master of Divinity. The school also has a Doctor of Ministry program.
Apex has the fourth-lowest cost of in-state tuition among our featured institutions, an excellent 95 percent graduation rate, and the second-highest number of students in distance education programs at 94 percent.
The No. 6 institution in our rankings is a small private institution located at Fredericksburg. VBC's educational programs are designed to raise Christian ministry leaders and service members to work at Bible-based churches and Christian schools.
Undergraduate degree programs at VBC include associate and bachelor's degrees in ministry and Christian education. Master's degree programs include ministry, Biblical studies or Christian education, and VBC also offers graduate certificates in pastoral leadership, Biblical counseling, theology, educational leadership and more. All associate, bachelor's and master's programs can be completed on campus or online.
Virginia Baptist College has a favorable cost of in-state tuition at $5,540. It also has an open admissions policy, and just under three-quarters of the college's students are enrolled in distance education programs.
This conservative evangelical Christian college is headquartered at Baltimore. Educational programs are designed to prepare students to disseminate the gospel of Jesus Christ both locally and globally.
The institution has four academic programs:
- Bachelor of Arts in religion
- Master of Divinity
- Doctor of Ministry
- Doctor of Theology
The B.A. degree requires 120 credits to complete and includes 24 Bible and theology courses. The three-year Master of Divinity program requires 90 credits and is designed to prepare students for full-time pastoral or related work. Graduates often work in family and marriage ministry, missions, evangelism or teaching. The Doctor of Ministry program requires a two-year commitment and 30 credits for graduation, while the Doctor of Theology program is a four-year, 60-credit pathway.
Faith Theological Seminary had a 92 percent graduation rate.
Our eighth featured institution is located in Capitol Heights, Md. The college has the second-lowest cost of in-state tuition among any institution in these rankings at $4,590. It also has an open admissions policy and an incredibly low 4:1 student to faculty ratio.
There are two academic degree options from Maple Spring's evangelistic Bible College: A.A. and B.A. in Biblical Studies. The Bible forms the core of instruction in either degree program. Graduate students interested in seminary studies can choose from M.A. degrees in Biblical studies or Christian counseling, or a Master of Divinity. There also is a Doctor of Ministry program. Like the school's Bible College, all seminary programs and curricula are built upon a Biblical framework.
The ninth institution in our rankings is a private Baptist Bible college located in Laurel, Miss. The college offers an Associate of Arts degree with an emphasis in the Bible, business or general education, and a B.S. degree in church ministries. All programs are developed from a Biblical world view, with the goal of educating Christian leaders to serve the Kingdom of God in the pastorate, ministry, or through missionary work. All courses integrate faith and learning into the curriculum.
Southeastern Baptist College had the third-lowest cost of in-state tuition among our featured institutions at $4,790. It also has an open admissions policy, low 6:1 student to faculty ratio, and 89 percent of all students were enrolled in distance education programs.
Rounding out our top 10 is this private interdenominational institution in Tacoma, Wash. The university's academic programs were developed with a commitment to historical Biblical Christianity.
Faith International University has a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Students can pursue B.A. degrees in religion, business, education and leadership. Master's degree options include leadership ministry, Christian education, Christian counseling, divinity and theological studies. There are two doctoral degree paths: strategic leadership and ministry.
Students enrolled at the university can take a wide range of classes online with pre-recorded lectures. FIU makes our list in the 10th spot based on its open admissions policy, low student to faculty ratio, and it was the leader among all colleges for the total number of students enrolled in distance education classes.
Religious Studies Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
A bachelor's degree is a common educational obtainment for students pursuing religious studies degrees, and it's also a core requirement for many jobs within the church. However, senior clergy leadership positions often require candidates to hold a master's or doctoral degree. Students who obtain this higher level of education can increase their potential job possibilities for a wider range of careers in the field of religion. Here's a look at some of the areas of study for religious studies degree programs and common career paths for graduates.
Although religious study degree programs prepare students for work in the clergy, they'll also need other skills to succeed - effective communication and active listening are of utmost importance to most roles within a church setting.
Career Outlook for Religious Studies Majors
The majority of religious workers both within and outside a church setting have achieved either a bachelor's or master's degree. According to O*Net Online, a website that details national occupational information, 67 percent of clergy members have a master's degree, and 24 percent have a bachelor's degree in religious studies or similar area. Some positions require candidates to have a doctoral degree. Higher education clearly is crucial to finding employment within the clergy. Job opportunities are expected to increase by 5 to 9 percent through 2026 - that's 29,200 new positions. Candidates who have master's degrees or higher, as well as post-baccalaureate certificates, are better positioned for potential employment than candidates with lower levels of education.
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Religious Studies
Students can pay for their religious studies degrees in a number of ways. While Federal financial aid is available to those who qualify, students studying theology and religion have a great number of scholarships available to them as well. The prestigious Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship awards at least 20 fellowships in the amount of $25,000 for Ph.D. candidates who will complete their dissertations in religious studies and other areas. The Mary E. Bivens Religious Scholarship Program awards $2,500 to underclassmen and $3,500 to graduate students who are studying to be educators in Christian religion.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Christian Degrees, South Florida Bible College, http://sfbc.edu/academics/
- Academic Programs, Hunstville Bible College, http://huntsvillebiblecollege.org/academics/academic-programs/
- Degree Programs, Luther Rice College & Seminary, https://www.lutherrice.edu/degree-programs/
- Programs, Mid-South Christian College, https://www.midsouthcc.org/index.php/associates-degree
- Academics, Apex School of Theology, https://apexsot.edu/academics/
- Undergraduate degree programs, Virginia Bible College, http://vbc.edu/degree-programs/undergraduate-degree-programs/
- Degree Programs, Faith Theological Seminary, http://fts.edu/academics/degree-programs/
- Bible College/Seminary Programs, Maple Springs Baptist Bible College & Seminary, http://msbbcs.edu/seminary-academic-programs/#
- Degree programs, Southeastern Baptist College, http://www.southeasternbaptist.edu/web/15/DegreePrograms.aspx
- Program overview, Faith International University, http://faithseminary.edu/academics/program-overview/
- Clergy, Onet Online, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/21-2011.00#JobOpenings
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.