Earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Religious Studies online makes a student conversant with the impact of religion on society and the very issues that shape cultures all over the world. This research-focused degree is an exploration of in-depth information and comes in a variety of specializations, including the religions Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. As online adult learners, students get the opportunity to earn this post-graduate degree with little disruption to their job and other obligations. At their own pace, they can pursue their dreams of a thriving career that involves religion and religious culture in some way.
The Ph.D. in Religious Studies program involves a wide range of courses and methodologies. Those who are interested in obtaining this degree will eventually become open to various perspectives and strategies on the subject. It concerns the methodical analysis of all forms of religion as it pertains to their theological, historical, philosophical, socio-scientific, and literary perspectives.
A Ph.D. in Religious Studies enables you to undertake a substantial piece of supervised research in a particular subject. You will then be crafting an original contribution to knowledge, which the academic community should consider as a piece worthy of publication. Students become exposed to intensive writing and emerge as critical thinkers.
By investing in this post-graduate degree, a student gains advanced academic knowledge and skills on religious research or investigation. They deal with a large number of documents relating to religions and cultures. In the process of studying religious texts, Ph.D. students also become adept in languages such as Greek and Latin.
Seeking a career in Ministry? If so, check out these degree programs:
Our 10 Best Online Schools for Ph.D. In Religious Studies was developed with adult students’ learning experience in mind, factoring in the quality of education they receive. This list emphasizes each of the online program’s features, such as the rigorous coursework in a condensed format and the specific teaching and training that each program offers. We enumerate each of the accredited online schools’ acceptance, retention, and graduation rates to highlight their high academic standards.
The ten online academic institutions offering Ph.D. in Religious Studies programs all provide the superior platforms for virtual education, coupled with support and accessibility of learning resources to create an environment that is conducive to learning. When available, we disclose information on accelerated completion and fast-track options.
Arizona State University
Program Standouts: Arizona State University offers an online Ph.D. in Religious Studies program at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. The goal of this program is to help prepare graduate students to become competent scholars and teachers. Its purpose is also to give additional training to graduate students who shall be gaining an advantage due to a broader comprehension of the role of religion in disciplines like history, anthropology, political science, journalism, secondary education, and justice studies. The 84-credit online doctoral coursework can be completed within seven years, given full-time study. The curriculum involves coursework along with religious studies Master of Arts (MA) or Master’s in Passing, a foreign languages requirement, simulated examination, dissertation proposal, and the completion and final defense of a dissertation.
Campus Location: Tempe, Arizona
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges
- Religions in the Americas
- Religions in Asia
- Islam in a Global Context
- Global Christianity
- Anthropology of Religion
Acceptance Rate: 82.9%
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 66.2%
LEARN MORE ABOUT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES.
Program Standouts: Amridge University features an online Ph.D. in Biblical Studies program. This program prepares and trains students for academic teaching, research, and production of competitive academic writing. The program is specifically designed towards equipping students for teaching the Bible and biblical languages as well as religion in universities, seminaries, theological schools, and colleges; to educate students in specific disciplines at the college level; to be an expert in academic biblical teaching in one’s religious practice, and generate academic writing. The program is also meant to help students acquire the skills needed, such as critical thinking in a biblical context, as well as proper analysis, interpretation for insights and conclusions in academic writing. The 51-semester hour coursework will utilize the latest Hebrew or Greek editions of the Old and New Testaments. The other courses talk about how to write a dissertation. Students are also required to take a comprehensive examination, that reflects their chosen area of focus.
Campus Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSOC)
- Old Testament
- New Testament
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Retention Rate: 67%
Graduation Rate: 18%
LEARN MORE ABOUT AMRIDGE UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES.
Program Standouts: The university offers an online Ph.D. in Renewal Theology with an emphasis in Biblical Studies. The central aim of the program is to help students grow in pastoral leadership and prepare emerging church leaders worldwide. This program provides advanced theological studies to those called for ministry through the academy, church, military or in nonprofit settings to become full-fledged leaders, researchers, and teachers. Through the program, students discover the spiritual and literary aspects of biblical studies, history, and theology; establish instructional planning, evaluation, and strategies; and publish original academic research in the chosen concentration. The degree program is delivered entirely online with residency in 15-week course sessions. The online coursework can be completed in 2.5 to 3.5 years, while the entire Ph.D. program takes four to seven years to be finished depending on the length of time it takes for the student to complete the dissertation. The online coursework consists of 48 hours of coursework, 24 hours of track electives and 12 hours of non-track electives with exams and dissertation.
Campus Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSOC)
- Association of Theological Schools (ATS) Commission on Accrediting
- Biblical Studies
- Religious History
Acceptance Rate: 84.1%
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 60.3%
LEARN MORE ABOUT REGENT UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES.
Program Standouts: Vanderbilt University’s online Ph.D. in Religion is offered under the institution’s Department of Religion in the Graduate School. Students can be admitted to the Ph.D. program of the university after graduating from an accredited academic institution with a bachelor’s degree or from an accredited graduate school or seminary. Those who have a Masters in Divinity (M.Div.) or Master of Arts (M.A.) degree may directly enter the Ph.D. program. The 72-credit coursework has two critical methods for studying religion itself. First, it is a crucial and humanistic discipline, and second, it is a theological discipline. Qualifying examinations are typically taken during the fifth semester of study, along with a presentation of a dissertation proposal, the dissertation itself, and the defense.
Campus Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Critical Studies in Asian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions
- Ethics and Society
- Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel
- Historical Studies
- Homiletics and Liturgics
- Jewish Studies
- New Testament and Early Christianity
- Religion, Psychology, and Culture
- Theological Studies
Acceptance Rate: 11.7%
Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 93.2%
LEARN MORE ABOUT VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES
Piedmont International University
Program Standouts: The online Ph.D. in Biblical Studies program prepares students with exceptional skills and conducts research to the highest level to facilitate in their service as seminary professors, Christian leaders, and pastors. Graduates of this 60-credit hour program are expected to have a premillennial interpretation of the Bible. They should be able to utilize the skills and tools for producing useful exegesis of Greek and Hebrew biblical texts to defend and support hermeneutical and theological conclusions. Graduates can also articulate messages from the Old Testament, New Testament, or religious doctrines for presentation at church, in a college or seminary classroom, in a general ministry environment, or published context.
Campus Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Accreditation: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
- Old Testament
- New Testament
Acceptance Rate: 36%
Retention Rate: 24%
Graduation Rate: 34%
LEARN MORE ABOUT PIEDMONT INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN BIBLICAL STUDIES.
Program Standouts: Faulkner University offers an online Ph.D. in Biblical Studies program which aims to prepare well-trained, ethically-driven, and morally oriented scholars for the academic study of the Bible. The online program is ideal for graduates to obtain significant knowledge in the major disciplines of biblical studies for preparation in academic endeavors. Graduates will be able to enter careers in teaching, research, and different fields of ministry. The 54-semester hour doctoral program includes foundational courses like Biblical Scholarship and Christian Ministry and Advanced Studies in Biblical Hermeneutics and a six-course core program that allows the student to have the best academic experience in terms of religion and biblical studies. There are also six electives required for completion, since the students may choose in terms of advanced seminars in the primary biblical text (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek), then proceed to dissertation completion. Students are required to complete four dissertation modules with three hours each to obtain a doctoral degree. Once the modules are completed, a conference call shall be scheduled for the dissertation defense.
Campus Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Biblical Scholarship and Christian Ministry
- Advanced Studies in Biblical Hermeneutics
Acceptance Rate: 57.3%
Retention Rate: 54%
Graduation Rate: 53.5%
LEARN MORE ABOUT FAULKNER UNIVERSITY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES.
Lancaster Bible College
Program Standouts: Lancaster Bible College, being an evangelical, nondenominational Christian academic institution, is committed to preparing and teaching servant leaders for Christ. It offers an online Ph.D. in Biblical Studies program, which allows students to reach the highest level of Biblical scholarship. The program consists of three, short on-campus intensive subjects and completely online coursework. Students work through the whole program in a cohort format, as it gives support and encouragement to each other using 40 online credits of coursework and 20 dissertation credits. The entire doctoral program can be completed in three and a half years, as it focuses mostly on the utilization of Bible knowledge to make the Gospel known.
Campus Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Accreditation: Association for Biblical Higher Learning (ABHL)
- Bible Languages
- Theological History
Acceptance Rate: 67.6%
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 66.1%
LEARN MORE ABOUT LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES.
Program Standouts: Luther Seminary offers an online Ph.D. in Religious Studies program. This is ideal for students to obtain flexibility in proposing and participating in a field of study that is contextual, interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and individualized in nature. This advanced research degree is also ideal for the development of academic leadership for Christian churches and within a community of global theological scholarship. Students who consult with their principal adviser and the Graduate Theological Education office are expected to design an area that entails research interests and provide connection to the study.
Campus Location: Columbus, Ohio
- Higher Learning Commission
- Association of Theological Schools
- Systematic Theology
- Christian Ethics
- Reformation Studies
- Church History
- Congregational Mission and Leadership
- New Testament
- Old Testament
- Biblical Preaching
- Youth and Family Ministry
- Christian Education
- Liturgical Studies
- Pastoral Care and Counseling
- Global Christianity
- Practical Theology
Acceptance Rate: 67%
Retention Rate: 83%
Graduation Rate: 67%
LEARN MORE ABOUT LUTHER SEMINARY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES.
Catholic University of America
Program Standouts: The online Ph.D. in Religion and Culture program of the Catholic University of America places emphasis on analyzing methods on how religious expressions have modified cultures. This program uses the approaches of the humanities and social sciences in studying religion, focusing on the cultural and human dimensions of spiritual life. Such methods involve anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary theory, history, phenomenology, ritual studies, and others. Moreover, the program guarantees sufficient preparation for a highly competent professional and academic job market. Research has been conducted before on religion and science, interreligious dialogue, Confucianism in the modern Vietnamese novel, medieval Islamic philosophy as compared with western philosophy, the American religious experience, Hindu thought and practice, the practices of contemporary Latino parishes, and other topics. In terms of the program curriculum, a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework beyond the M.A. is needed. This Ph.D. program requires the completion of at least four major research papers, which provide evidence of the student’s ability to conduct academic research, coinciding with research seminars.
Campus Location: North East, Washington, D.C.
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Religious Studies Methodology
- Catholic Theological Tradition
Acceptance Rate: 78.6%
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 66.6%
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES.
Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary
Program Standouts: Considered to be an online multi-denominational Christian seminary and college, Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary is regarded as a leader in terms of online degree programs for adult students who aspire for advancement in Christian education and ministry training but do not want to leave their churches, communities, or families. The Independent Study courses enable students to work on their own pace, as they complete assignments on their most convenient time, allowing the challenges to occur in both work and ministry. Online coursework is well-organized, as there are weekly assignments, as well as a beginning and ending date for the courses, enabling more interaction with students and faculty via non-linear discussions. There are also webinars with live audio and video lectures, delivered at a fixed time and permit students to engage with faculty and other students in an actual environment.
Campus Location: Newburgh, Indiana
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Biblical Studies
- Biblical Theology
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 100%
LEARN MORE ABOUT TRINITY COLLEGE OF THE BIBLE AND THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY’S ONLINE PH.D. IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are the notable features of a Ph.D. in Religious Studies program curriculum?
A Ph.D. in Religious Studies degree program aims to look into the origin of numerous religions along with their effect on human society. It also equips graduates with the necessary skills and academic background to conduct essential research in an area of religious practice and faith. Those who wish to pursue this program are expected to hold an accredited master’s or bachelor’s degree.
Online Ph.D. in Religious Studies programs or Ph.D. in Religion programs are generally available. Students may opt to enroll only in a master’s degree program online, yet such programs may prepare you for religious seminary or leadership positions than post-secondary teaching. Coursework generally varies from a campus-based religious studies program that concentrates on sharing only one specific religion with a community of followers.
Generally, religious studies doctoral programs concentrate more on research methods and study specific aspects of religion, but the specializations chosen by the students differ significantly. The majority of the coursework that a student shall complete depends on the concentration or specialization. Degree concentrations may emphasize a specific region of the world like religions in Asia or Europe. Other programs involve religious faiths like Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or African religions. Some may also take on a cultural or anthropological strategy, with tracks in modern thought and religion or the philosophy of religion.
The following are other religious courses, which you may consider:
- Religious ethics
- Beginnings of Islam
- Beginnings of Judaism
- Study of the New Testament
- History of Early Christianity
- Religious History in the United States
- Women and Religion
- South Asian Religious Study
- Religion and Philosophy
The length of a Ph.D. in Religious Studies program may vary from four to seven years. During the end of the second year of a Ph.D. program, a series of qualifying exams should be taken to evaluate one’s progress. It culminates in dissertation completion, which can be started during the third year of study. A committee of faculty members must approve the dissertation before earning a Ph.D. degree.
The dissertation necessitates students to generate a hypothesis and conduct research that emphasizes religious studies topics. Graduates may search for postdoctoral fellowships or apply for a position as an assistant professor or instructor in community colleges and four-year academic institutions.
What is the career and salary outlook for graduates of Ph.D. in Religious Studies program?
An online Ph.D. in Religious Studies program trains students for careers in postsecondary teaching and research. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that tenured, full-time teaching opportunities existing in universities and colleges were projected to decrease from 2014 to 2024. The BLS has also stated that Ph.D. in Religious Studies graduates should also hold the best employment opportunities. A median annual salary of $66,380 has been projected for postsecondary teachers of religion and philosophy in 2015 according to the report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The following careers are some of the options for Ph.D. in Religious Studies graduates:
- Postsecondary Teacher – Better known as professors, they conduct classes in academic institutions. They usually introduce lessons and assignments, evaluate students through tests, and improve the course syllabi. Some of them do research and publish scholarly books and papers.
Postsecondary Teacher Median Annual Salary: $75,430
Postsecondary Teacher Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- Writer – Writers who have a background in theology write academic works and produce books and articles for publications and mainstream readers. They work together with editors, literary agents, and publishing companies.
Writer Median Annual Salary: $61,240
Writer Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Interpreter or Translator – Responsible for the translation of biblical texts, patristic texts, or contemporary religious materials. They handle the localization of services for churches and missionary organizations.
Interpreter or Translator Median Annual Salary: $46,120
Interpreter or Translator Projected Growth Rate: 18%
- Social and Community Service Manager – They are responsible for the development of outreach programs and social services to respond to the needs of communities and defined populations. Such professionals do their tasks for state or federal organizations to implement faith-based initiatives like homeless shelters, crisis pregnancy services, and food banks.
Social and Community Service Manager Median Annual Salary: $64,680
Social and Community Service Manager Projected Growth Rate: 18%
What are the various specializations or areas of concentration in a Ph.D. in Religious Studies program?
Here are some of the specializations for a Ph.D. in Religious Studies degree program:
This specialization concentrates more on the study of the Bible. This is the type of degree program was designed for students who want to pursue professional opportunities in Christian organizations, and those who wish to expand their knowledge on biblical context, like church volunteers and aspiring ministry leaders. Two of the crucial skills to be honed are critical thinking and proper interpretation of biblical texts. Through a degree in this specific field, students may be able to progress to advanced qualifications or utilize their respective degrees to start a degree in church or other religious organizations
Since several men and women open up to Christian counselors for various reasons, specifically from relationship advice to mental health, this religious studies specialization is deemed as in demand nowadays. Upon earning this degree, students may combine their knowledge by pursuing graduate level qualifications in Christian Counseling or search for better opportunities to employ as a faith-based counselor.
Ministry, as one of the specializations of religious studies, enables students to pursue a wide range of opportunities in the church and other organizations. Ministry holds various aspects, including community outreach programs, social work, and youth. This specialization aims to educate students, not just about the biblical history and principles of ministry but also its application to life in the current society.
Theology is a specialization that involves a greater examination of faith and spirituality. It focuses more on the study of religious truth, along with the historical implications of religious text to the organization of modern belief systems. This specialization is designed for specialized theological seminaries and students who want to deepen their comprehension of religion and pursue a spiritually and mentally challenging online program.