Those who want a religious studies degree but can't commit to full-time college enrollment can turn to a growing list of accredited online college programs. Several of the leading institutions for religious studies offer online programs at times and costs to meet the needs of nontraditional students. These programs can help ministers advance their careers or enrich their spiritual knowledge.
The website Online College ranked the top online religious schools according to value, flexibility, career support, financial support, student engagement, faculty credentials and prior learning options. The site posted two lists: one for undergraduates and another for masters programs in religious studies. The website Top Online Colleges ranks online college programs according to quality of education, job marketability, perceived reputation, acceptance rates and cost of tuition. All of the schools on this list were regionally accredited as of 2013.
Arizona State University was ranked the best by Online College for value, flexibility, career support, technology support, disability support, library and research support, learning support, faculty credentials and new student online orientation. Online students can download assignments and work on them whenever they want. There are no set class times; classes run for seven and a half week sessions. University of the Incarnate Word was ranked the best for student engagement, alumni engagement and prior learning options. At this university, students can transfer college credits or claim credits based on relevant professional and life experience.
Liberty University took the top spots in the Online College rankings for financial support, student engagement and faculty credentials. Almost all Liberty students received some sort of financial aid in 2013. Professors there are experienced working with distance learners, and the university is ranked eighth overall by Online Education Database. Grand Canyon University was ranked best in value, flexibility, career support and prior learning options. The school has a reputation for reasonable tuition rates and good financial aid packages. The classes are offered at hours compatible with working adults and non-traditional students, and the career center will help graduates polish resumes and find jobs.
Columbia University’s religious studies program was ranked the best online program by Top Online Colleges. Candidates can focus on Buddhism, Christianity, East Asian religions, Judaism, North American religions, philosophy of religion and South Asian religions. Students can also study religions in various “zones of inquiry”: time, space, body, media and transmission. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a Ph.D. program offering specialization in ancient Mediterranean religions, Islamic studies, medieval and early modern studies, religion and culture, religion in the Americas or religions of Asia. All doctoral candidates must understand at least two modern research languages before completing a set of doctoral examinations.