Bible Studies Degrees: PhD, Master's & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a Bible studies degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of master's and doctorate degrees, online options and potential careers.
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Studying Bible Studies: Degrees at a Glance

A graduate degree in Bible studies can prepare you for a range of career opportunities, usually involving scholastic research and teaching at the post-secondary level. However, these programs don't prepare you for ordination or for a career as a priest or minister. Both master's and doctoral degree programs are generally research-focused and you'll spend a significant amount of time studying ancient languages, such as Greek, Aramaic or Sanskrit. Other common fields of study include the textual and methodological issues behind Biblical texts, the culture of ancient Israel, and the cultural and historical significance of texts from other religions. Many graduate programs allow students to design their studies so that they're focusing on either the Old or New Testament.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for?- Individuals who want to teach at the junior or community college level
- Those interested in higher education administration positions for which an advanced degree is necessary
Individuals who want to teach or conduct research at the university level
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Junior college religion teacher ($69,000)*
- Religious organization education director ($39,000)*
- University religion or philosophy professor ($72,000)*
- Academic historian/researcher ($54,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full time 3-5 years after the master's level
Common Graduation Requirements - 8-12 graduate level courses
- At least one ancient language requirement
- Reading proficiency examination in modern language of scholarly research
- Graduate thesis
- Roughly 20 course units required
- Qualifying language and culture examinations
- Demonstrated competency in two modern languages of scholarly research
- Teaching or research assistant requirements
- Doctoral thesis
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree from approved institution Master's degree in related field
Online Availability Some courses are available online Courses rarely available online

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Bible Studies

Most master's degree programs in Bible studies are relatively small and admit few students each year. These programs are language intensive, with both ancient and modern foreign language requirements. Once enrolled in this program, you'll be assigned a faculty adviser, with whom you'll work closely coordinating classes and other scholastic demands.

In addition to the coursework, students enrolled in this program must successfully pass a proficiency exam in a foreign language. This is usually French or German, but may vary depending on the concentration of your studies. You must also pass a series of qualifying examinations in topics such as pre-modern Arabic literature, Islamic thought or modern Middle East history.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can teach Biblical studies and related topics (such as history of religion or philosophy of religion) at the community or junior college level
  • Will help you gain experience with a wide range of academic subjects (religion, history, foreign languages, etc.)
  • Should increase your critical thinking and research skills

Cons

  • Getting a job teaching Biblical studies at a 4-year college can be difficult without a Ph.D.
  • This degree may leave you qualified for a small number of jobs
  • Tuition costs for graduate programs such as these can be expensive

Common Courses and Requirements

The course requirements for this degree program usually include upwards of 12 graduate-level courses. Students usually chose a concentration for their studies, which then dictates what areas their coursework will focus on. This academic concentration is typically chosen in conjunction with a faculty adviser.

Examples of courses you might take at the master's level include:

  • Arabic and Hebrew literature
  • Egyptology
  • Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Christian apocalyptic traditions

In addition to the required coursework, you'll most likely have to pass language proficiency exams, as well as written or oral examinations that focus on your other courses. Most programs also feature a graduate thesis requirement.

Online Degree Options

There are online course and degree options for Biblical studies at the master's level. However, these programs are usually designed for ministerial careers, as opposed to the more academically focused campus-based degree programs. If you're considering pursuing a Biblical studies degree online, you'll want to carefully research the accreditation and academic scope of the program and the institution.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

How to stand out with this degree will depend in large part on what vocational path you follow upon graduation. If your plan is to seek a teaching position, it will most likely help if you have published research articles in your field of expertise. If you plan on seeking a non-teaching role in an academic environment, it may help to be technologically-savvy and computer literate.

Ph.D. in Bible Studies

These programs are typically designed to prepare individuals for teaching and research positions at the university level. You'll be required to choose a concentration for your studies, which can be historical, such as the history of Christianity or the history of the Old or New Testament, or focused on other areas of study, such as religion and literature. These degree programs are research intensive and you'll have to hone your research and language skills to be effective.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You'll be eligible to pursue university-level teaching and research positions
  • You'll develop valuable academic skills, such as mastery of foreign languages and research skills, which may increase your employment opportunities in academia
  • Overall job growth amongst post-secondary teachers will increase by about 17% between 2010 and 2020*

Cons

  • This degree can take five years or longer to complete
  • The specialization required for this degree may limit your school options
  • Competition for tenured-track teaching positions can be severe

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

In addition to the required coursework, you'll have to master at least two non-English languages. You'll also have to successfully complete oral and written examinations prior to graduating, as well as a doctoral dissertation. Sample courses include:

  • Wisdom literature
  • Hermeneutics
  • Ancient Jewish literary traditions

Along with the items mentioned above, you'll most likely have teaching assistant responsibilities. Most doctoral programs specify a certain number of undergraduate courses you'll teach. You may also be required to spend time as a research assistant aiding a professor in researching and writing scholarly articles and texts.

Online Degree and Course Information

Online doctoral degree programs in Bible studies are rare. While you may find an isolated course or two available online, if you want to teach or conduct research at the university-level, you'll generally have to attend a campus-based program in order to acquire valuable teaching and research skills.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Since this degree program is preparing you for a career in academia, it will help your employment chances if you have published original research articles in the appropriate scholarly journals. Getting published is something you'll probably be encouraged to do as part of your doctoral studies. Also, because Bible studies is an international field of study, it might be helpful if you've spent time studying abroad in the Middle East. Many programs at the graduate level offer students study abroad options.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
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      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Ministry
      • Doctor of Ministry - Christian Leadership & Renewal
      • Doctor of Ministry - Military Ministry
      • Doctor of Ministry - Ministry Leadership Coaching
      • Doctor of Ministry - Clinical Pastoral Education
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Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry

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Regent University

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  • Doctor of Ministry - Christian Leadership & Renewal
  • Doctor of Ministry - Military Ministry

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North Greenville University

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Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Drew University

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