While the nation's religious landscape is increasingly diverse, Christianity remains its most widely practiced religion. According to a 2008 survey published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 78 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian. Christian studies majors allow those with either a personal or academic interest in the faith to explore its teachings, history and customs. This discipline can also serve as a stepping stone to a meaningful career, typically in public service or academia.
The ideal Christian studies major
Many Christian studies majors are practicing Christians who want to learn more about their faiths; others simply have a strong academic interest in religion. Either way, ideal majors of a Christian studies online liberal-arts degree value religion and are willing to invest a great deal of time learning about its history and rituals. They are passionate about their beliefs, but prepared to have open, sometimes intense, conversations with students from a diverse range of backgrounds and belief systems. Most also have a drive to help or serve others, publicly or spiritually.
Many Christian studies majors go on to careers in teaching, counseling or ministry--careers that require excellent people skills, an ability to communicate well both orally and in writing, and an empathetic and open nature.
What to expect from a Christian studies program
Christian studies programs primarily study Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the Bible and various denominations within the faith. Most programs also offer insight into other religions, especially Abrahamic religions like Judaism and Islam. Courses focus on religious beliefs, history and ethics, and include some foreign language study, such as Hebrew or Latin. According to The College Board, Christian studies majors often take the following courses:
- Biblical hermeneutics
- Christian ethics
- History of Christian thought
- Old Testament
- World religions
- Liturgical theology and practice
Christian studies degrees run the gamut from certificate and two-year associate degrees to advanced doctoral degrees, but, according to The College Board, most graduates earn a bachelor's degree. Students should consider their career goals before choosing a program: community workers may get by with an associate or bachelor's degree, but theology professors or counselors typically earn master's degrees and beyond. Clergy positions often require graduate school as well.
Online Christian studies degrees enable global collaboration
Christian studies is a mostly book-based discipline, making it an ideal fit for online learning. Because collaboration with fellow students is important, most distance learning programs make good use of forums, email and other social tools.
Christian studies is also a relatively small major. According to a 2011 study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, students enrolled in theology and religious vocation programs accounted for only 6 percent of all majors. Online Christian studies degrees enable students who may not live near a college offering a Christian studies major to pursue the degree. They also allow students to learn from prominent professors located anywhere in the U.S., the Middle East and other locations where Christian studies degrees are popular.
Popular careers for Christian studies graduates
Many Christian studies students go on to apply their degree to a career within some type of public service. According to The College Board, the following represent some of the most popular career options for Christian studies graduates:
- Minister. Ministers are typically Protestant religious leaders who direct church services, programs and fundraising activities. They also serve as liaisons between the church and the community.
- Nun or priest. Typically Catholic, nuns and priests serve as religious advisers within the church or affiliated religious organizations and schools.
- Professor. Those with a strong academic interest in Christianity or theology may go on to teach it at the collegiate level.
- Counselor. Christian studies majors can use their educations to supplement other counseling-related degrees, going on to become either church-based or private practice counselors.
- Community organizer. These professionals identify a perceived need within their communities and organize efforts for change.
- Politician. Christian studies majors may choose to enter public office as another means of community service.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, clergy can expect to see average job growth from 2008 to 2018 while counselors in certain in-demand specialties such as rehabilitation or mental health should see faster than average growth.
Christian studies at a glance
- Popular career paths: clergy, counseling, professor
- Common courses: Christian theology, church history, Greek, Hebrew
- Key skills: Written and oral communication, listening skills, empathy