Youth Christian Studies: Bachelor, Associate & Online Degree Info

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Associate and bachelor's degrees in youth Christian studies can lead to careers in youth ministry and religious education. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your training.
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Associate and Bachelor's Degrees in Youth Christian Studies at a Glance

For those seeking to increase their knowledge of Christianity and study the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, an associate or a bachelor's degree in youth Christian studies may lead to a career in youth ministry. Programs can help students develop a greater understanding of the Scripture (both Old and New Testament) and apply that knowledge towards the practical goal of helping educate and lead young people.

A degree in youth Christian studies may have one of several names and may be part of a larger Christian studies program. Prospective students may seek out both youth ministry and Christian studies programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions for directors of religious education were expected to grow 17% from 2010-2020, which was about as fast as the average for all industries (www.bls.gov).

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in teaching or leading youth in a church or parachurch setting Same as associate
Common Career Paths (with approximate yearly salaries) - Missionary or other religious worker ($26,000 median salary)*
- Youth minister ($15,000-$47,000 10th-90th percentile salary ranges)**
- Director of youth ministry ($36,000 median salary)*
- Social worker ($54,000 median salary)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full time 4 years, full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 16 courses
- Internship requirement
- Roughly 30-35 courses
- Internship or practicum requirement
- Portfolio may be required
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Rare (see below for other options) Available

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **PayScale.com (August 2012 figures).

Associate Degrees in Youth Christian Studies

An associate degree program in youth Christian studies can act as the first step in preparation for a career as a youth minister or religious educator. These programs may also focus on the spiritual formation of students and may require internships or practicums that work on developing students' leadership skills and service values.

Associate degree programs in this field are considerably less common than bachelor's degree programs and are often offered at schools that are related to certain religious denominations. For some denominations and religious organizations, an associate degree is all the educational background required to take on youth leadership roles. For others, you may need to transfer to a bachelor's degree program or even pursue a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program with a focus on youth ministry.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • This degree program can help prepare those seeking youth leadership roles and religious education positions
  • An associate degree program in youth Christian studies can be completed more quickly than a bachelor's degree program, potentially preparing you to enter the workforce sooner
  • Programs contain many supervised experiences or internships that can give you first-hand knowledge working with youth

Cons

  • Many youth Christian studies programs may be denominationally specific, which can make selecting a program that matches your faith more difficult
  • Students studying in a program associated with religious denominations that vary from their own may find it difficult to secure necessary recommendations when it comes to moving to a 4-year program or searching for a position
  • Leadership jobs at many religious organizations require at least a bachelor's degree

Courses and Requirements

During an associate degree program, students may develop theological, educational and leadership skills in preparation for roles in Christian youth ministry. These programs may not have the depth of bachelor's degree programs, but they are specifically focused on the necessities of educational and religious youth leadership. Additionally, as with many religious vocation programs, courses are devoted to religious development and spiritual formation. Many associate degree programs also focus on psychology and sociology, since you may need to provide counseling and support to young adults and children. Classes may cover such topics as:

  • Human development in ministry
  • Introduction to religious education
  • Leadership skills
  • Supervised spiritual formation
  • Youth ministry

Online Degree Options

While there are Christian studies degree programs available online, there currently are none that provide a full associate degree program with a specialization in youth ministry. Online coursework, however, is available for those who wish to study youth ministry, and some schools offer online programs that award certificates in the field. These certificate programs may meet face-to-face occasionally, in addition to the online format. Daily assignments, however, can be performed at home, and communication with your class is usually through e-mail, discussion boards or phone conversations. You don't typically need an undergraduate degree to start taking courses toward your online certificate. Most youth ministry certificate programs take about 18 months to complete.

Stand Out with This Degree

Students looking to stand out with a degree in youth Christian studies may want to take advantage of chances provided by their programs for practical leadership experience. Additional coursework that assists in leadership development outside of the required program may also strengthen their skills and assist in the job search. You might also take the opportunity to receive mentorship from professors and develop close professional ties with both faculty and other students.

Since leadership roles in youth ministry often include administrative duties, you should take advantage of opportunities provided by your program to gain proficiency in office technologies, from word processing to new communication tools like Facebook and Twitter. Some of these skills may be developed through the coursework, but students may want to make the effort to polish their social media skills in order to be more effective in reaching out to parishioners.

Bachelor's Degrees in Youth Christian Studies

Programs that award a bachelor's degree in youth Christian studies come under a variety of names, including Christian studies and youth ministry leadership. Programs that award bachelor's degrees in Christian studies, for example, may have concentrations that tailor the program specifically towards youth studies. Other programs may offer minors that serve the same function.

These programs can prepare you to take on youth leadership roles, whether as youth pastors, assistant pastors or Christian educators. Many of these programs have specific requirements, such as a practicum or a capstone project. These may require working with religious professionals in a non-campus setting, developing practical skills and engaging in hands-on experiences with young people.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Bachelor's degree programs in youth Christian studies often offer internships that allow students to develop work experience while in school
  • Programs offered at denominationally-specific schools provide an opportunity to engage both socially and professionally with future colleagues
  • Programs can include mentorships and a focus on spiritual formation, which is foundational to following a vocation

Cons

  • Small, denominational schools may lack scholastic recognition outside of that denomination
  • Unlike pastoral programs, such as those that offer an M.Div., these programs usually do not lead to the highest leadership positions available in a congregation
  • Youth Christian leadership positions rarely lead to competitive-paying positions, when compared with other 4-year pre-professional degrees

Courses and Requirements

The courses required for a bachelor's degree in youth Christian studies cover a broad variety of topics. The curriculum is more vocationally focused than a program that prepares for a full ministry position, and they are more likely to cover areas in education and developmental theory. Topics might include:

  • American religion
  • Christian education and youth ministry
  • Church mission and ministry
  • Education strategies and developmental psychology
  • Interpreting the Bible
  • Spiritual formation and Christian spirituality
  • Youth ministry leadership

Online Degree Options

Although completely online programs in youth Christian studies are rare, some are available. These programs are sometimes designed with the working professional in mind, such as lay leaders who have taken on more responsibility within the church. Online programs can provide theological training to adults without disrupting an ongoing career.

You may want to examine requirements carefully, both to make certain that the program fulfills the expectations of future employers and that it is theologically compatible with your own congregational beliefs. Some online programs may have specific requirements, such as field experiences, that you must participate in. Because online students may live away from the degree-granting institution, local professional networks and connections may be necessary to fulfill the program's expectations.

Stand Out with This Degree

Those looking to stand out with a degree in youth Christian studies may want to take advantage of optional program-related opportunities to develop their leadership skills with adolescents through campus missions and internships. You might also try to develop close professional relationships with mentors who may have reputations that extend throughout the religious community.

Leadership roles generally require timely and concise communication. Graduates who bring an array of communication and technology skills to their new role may find that it contributes to the cohesiveness of their congregation. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other communication and social media technologies can provide new avenues of connection. You may stand out if you have knowledge of how to use these technologies and develop a following among those in your community.

Other Degrees to Consider

Students who have already completed their bachelor's degree, or who are plotting out a career in religious leadership, may consider earning a master's degree, such as a M.Div. These graduate programs, while lengthy, may offer wider job opportunities and more chances for advancement in church hierarchies. With proper training, you might become a clergy member. These workers made higher wages than religious directors, earning a median yearly salary of about $44,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. Employment was expected to grow at an average rate from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Christian Studies - Youth Ministry
      • B.A. in Christian Studies - Biblical Studies
      • BA in Christian Studies
      • BA in Christian Studies - Worship Leadership
      • B.A. in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Global Ministry
      • B.A. in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Philosophy
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • General Studies - Bachelor
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Liberal Arts (BA)
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Political Science
  • Online Programs Available
    6. City University of Seattle

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. General Studies
  • Nashville, TN

    Welch College

  • Rocklin, CA

    William Jessup University

  • Columbia, SC

    W L Bonner College

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor: Christian Studies - Youth Ministry
  • B.A. in Christian Studies - Biblical Studies
  • BA in Christian Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
  • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership

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Baker College Online

  • General Studies - Bachelor

What is your highest level of education?

Argosy University

  • Liberal Arts (BA)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Political Science

What is your highest level of education?

City University of Seattle

  • B.S. General Studies

What is your highest level of education completed?

Welch College

William Jessup University