2022 Guide: Online Masters in Religious Studies Degree Programs

For those drawn towards spirituality, religious studies makes a fascinating field of study. Religious studies scholars are interested in the differences between religions and the way those religions impact the people who follow them.

While some universities offer religious studies degrees focused on a particular theology, others offer ecumenical majors that cover all religious traditions.

What Is an Online Master’s in Religious Studies 

Most scholars of religious studies go into the field for the love of the topic. They learn about sacred texts, such as the Bible or Quran. Students gain an understanding of religious practices in the context of the cultures in which they are practiced. They also learn how to apply their knowledge to current events.

Like history and philosophy, religious studies have immense importance for culture and educational purposes. As a result, most religious studies majors eventually go into research or education, but roles are not limited to those areas.

Religious differences continue to play a huge role in modern conflicts. Military and government leaders may turn to experts in religious studies to illuminate relevant information and help navigate tenuous diplomatic missions.

Most religious organizations seek individuals trained for ministry within their own belief system. However, some employers, such as hospitals, employ ministers trained for all belief systems. Hospitals utilize clergy, including those with religious study degrees, to assist individuals who are in crisis or who are dying.

How Much Does a Master’s in Religious Studies Cost? 

Religious studies can be a relatively inexpensive degree to obtain. Many universities offer programs online. Religious studies majors don’t include a practicum component and depend primarily on lectures, discussion, and reading assignments. 

On the low end, some online programs offer master’s in religious studies as low as $12,000 in tuition. At the high end, on-campus study at an Ivy League college can cost students over $100,000 over two years. Most religious studies programs fall somewhere in the middle. On average, online programs are more affordable than on-campus programs.

Keep in mind that these cost estimates do not include other expenses. Housing, food, transportation, books, and fees must also be considered when calculating the price of education. Online programs often end up saving students money simply because they don’t require a move outside of current affordable housing situations.

There are scholarships available for religious studies majors. Many of these scholarships are offered by churches or denominations seeking to support individuals going into ministry. If a religious studies student has a personal religious affiliation, they should look into scholarships available through their local religious organization.

Most universities also have scholarship programs available to students who demonstrate financial need. Students can access these through the college’s financial aid office.

Average Salary for a Master’s in Religious Studies 

Most religious studies majors end up teaching in a post-secondary setting, either at junior colleges or universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a religion teacher in 2020 was about $90,000. Keep in mind that most faculty members live near their college campus, and colleges are often located in high cost-of-living areas. 

Payscale breaks down median salary by major. According to them, the average religious studies major will make around $59,000 per year. 

Some religious studies graduates end up as chaplains at hospitals or other organizations. Chaplains have a combined median salary of around $50,000. The median salary for someone who works as a religious activity and education director is approximately $52,000. According to the BLS, there are 140 individuals working for the federal government who identify as “Religious Activity and Education Directors.” These individuals have a combined median salary of around $103,000. Another 120 work for social advocacy organizations with a median salary of $70,000 a year.

What Is the Job Outlook for Masters in Religious Studies Holders? 

The demand for philosophy and religion teachers at the postsecondary level is projected to rise by 11% between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations. 

Courses in Master’s in Religious Studies

Class loads will vary depending on the program and focus. Generally, however, you can expect the religious study curriculum to include courses like:

  • Buddhism
  • Judaism
  • Christianity 
  • Islam
  • The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible
  • Sanskrit Language and Literature
  • Comparative religious studies
  • Asian Religions
  • Indian Religions
  • Religion in American Life
  • Pilgrimage
  • Ancient Myths
  • Shamanism
  • Greek and Roman Religion
  • Religion and Culture
  • Egyptian Religion
  • Catholic Tradition
  • Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity
  • Modern Judaism
  • Modern Islam
  • Interpreting the Bible
  • Black Religions
  • Arabic and Islamic Studies
  • Religion and Society

FAQs about Master’s in Religious Studies

Summary Information

  • Standard and accelerated programs available
  • Programs typically take 18-36 months to complete
  • Students can complete the degree program entirely online
  • Prepares students to teach religious studies in a postsecondary setting
  • Qualifies graduates to take positions as chaplains or in religious organizations
  • Offers opportunity to study cultural and religious concepts in-depth

  • Program costs are highly variable
  • Programs can cost as little as $12,000
  • Some scholarships are available to qualified applicants

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