What is a Biblical Studies Degree?

Creation. Sin. Reconciliation. Hope. These are the principal theological themes in the Bible. Degree programs in biblical studies help students understand these themes through exploration of scripture. The discipline’s curriculum spans biblical interpretation, teaching, and languages. The major provides foundations for ministry work and related careers, as well as for personal spiritual development.

Program Options

Certificate in Biblical Studies – Up to One Year Duration
Certificate programs in biblical studies are introductory in nature and ideal for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of the Bible. Many students who earn the certificate go on to further studies at the associate or bachelor’s level.

Associate Degree in Biblical Studies – Two Year Duration
At the associate level, students engage in a more in-depth and integrative study of the Scriptures that aims to connect biblical interpretation with an understanding of the world. They also receive training in general studies areas including research writing, critical thinking and math, and the social and behavioral sciences.

Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies – Three to Four Year Duration
The bachelor’s degree program in biblical studies is designed to help students apply the Scriptures within contemporary life and ministry. Student learning outcomes at this level are the most comprehensive of the three undergraduate credentials. They include applying research methodologies to topics related to biblical studies, communicating the message of the Scriptures to identified audiences, and applying historical geography and ancient cultural perspectives in the interpretation of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Despite the differences described above, courses like the following are at the heart of all biblical studies undergraduate programs:

  • Reading the Old Testament
  • Reading the New Testament
  • Interpreting Scripture
  • Historical Geography of Ancient Israel
  • Ancient Near Eastern Backgrounds and the Old Testament
  • Second Temple Jewish Backgrounds
  • Teaching the Scriptures
  • Applying Scripture in the Contemporary World
  • Interpreting Isaiah for Teaching
  • Interpreting Romans for Teaching
  • Foundations of Learning
  • The Story and Structure of the Bible
  • Self and Social Identity in Christianity
  • The Old Testament and Theology
  • The New Testament and Theology
  • The Church and Its Doctrines
  • Method/Interpretation for Biblical Theology

Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies – Two to Three Year Duration
At the master’s level students take some required courses but can design their program in consultation with a faculty member, to focus on their particular area of interest. The master’s program’s culminating requirement is normally a thesis based on original research. Some schools may offer a non-thesis major paper or coursework track.

Doctoral Degree in Biblical Studies – Three to Five Year Duration
The master’s program in biblical studies typically involves a lot of taught courses. It emphasizes the transition from pure subject learning to independent research. On the other hand, the doctoral degree is like a very long dissertation project. Ph.D. students have the benefit of supervision from a faculty advisor and may complete some taught classes, but their focus is on their independent research. The Doctoral Degree in Biblical Studies is aimed at those who want to teach the discipline at the university level or assume senior leadership roles in the Church.

The courses taken by individual master’s degree and Ph.D. candidates will vary, depending on their chosen area of focus and research. Below are some common graduate level courses and specializations in biblical studies.

Common Graduate Level Courses

  • Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Biblical and Ecclesiastical Latin
  • The Pentateuch – A Study of the First Five Books of the Hebrew Bible
  • Synoptic Gospels and Acts – A Study of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke
  • Johannine Writings – A Study of the Gospel of John, the Johannine Epistles, and the Book of Revelation
  • Christian Worldviews in Historical and Cultural Perspective
  • Historical Jesus
  • Psalms
  • Wisdom Literature – The Book of Ecclesiastes
  • Introduction to Biblical Archaeology

Common Specializations and Applicable Courses

The Old Testament:

  • History of the Bible
  • Elementary Hebrew
  • Hebrew Reading
  • Hermeneutics – The Theory and Methodology of the Interpretation of Biblical Texts
  • Critical Introduction to the Old Testament
  • Introduction to Biblical Related Research
  • Synthesis of Biblical Studies

The New Testament:

  • History of the Bible
  • Elementary Greek
  • Greek Reading
  • Hermeneutics – The Theory and Methodology of the Interpretation of Biblical Texts
  • Critical Introduction to the New Testament
  • Introduction to Biblical Related Research
  • Synthesis of Biblical Studies

Christian Thought:

  • Introduction to Apologetics – The Relationship between Faith and Reason
  • Patristic and Ancient Heresy – The Christian Movement through the First Six Centuries
  • Patristic and Medieval Christian Thought – A Study of the Early Development of Christian Ideas
  • Modern and Contemporary Christian Thought

Degrees Similar to Biblical Studies

The focus of archaeology degree programs is the study of how people lived in the past. Students of this social science learn about the culture and evolution of extinct civilizations. They attend lectures and work in labs and on research projects. They get a sense of archaeology degree jobs by conducting excavations to recover artifacts like tools, clothing, decorations, and ancient ruins.

Classical Studies
The study of the languages, literatures, philosophy, history, archaeology, and civilization of ancient Greece and Rome is the focus of a degree in the classics.

Divinity refers to the quality or nature of God’s being. Degree programs in the field study one or more religions and explore how they view God.

Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is the study of the moral principles that govern human behavior. The field is concerned with what is good for individuals and society. Coursework in the field includes human rights and justice, the philosophy of punishment, business ethics, media ethics, and bioethics.

Linguistics explores the nature of language variations and dialects, how language evolves over time, how it is processed and stored in the human brain, and how it is acquired. It is the scientific study of language and communication, both within a single language and across language groups.

The primary sub-areas of linguistics are phonetics – the study of the production, acoustics, and hearing of speech sounds; phonology – the patterning of sounds; morphology – the structure of words; syntax – the structure of sentences; semantics – meaning; and pragmatics – language in context.

Ministry programs prepare students to become ordained Christian ministers or priests. Individuals who earn a degree in the field may ultimately work as pastors, worship leaders, counselors, church administrators, and/or ministerial educators. Coursework may include study of the New Testament and Old Testament, sermons and religious rituals, biblical counseling, ministerial ethics, youth ministry, and preaching methods.

Philosophy encourages the asking of big questions and the formulation of arguments to attempt to answer them. Who are we? Why are we here? What do we believe? Why do we believe it? What is right and wrong in life? What is true and false? What is real and unreal? Philosophy is concerned with the nature of existence and knowledge.

Religious Studies
The focus of religious studies degree programs is the nature and origin of religious belief and traditions. Coursework includes the study of specific religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Catholicism, as well as religious history, politics, and anthropology.

Theology is the study of religion. It examines what faith means to different people and cultures. The discipline explores the relationships between varieties of religious experience and historical and contemporary human society. Classes span history, philosophy, literature, anthropology, ethics, science, languages, cosmology, and international studies.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Ability to ask and answer complex questions
  • Ability to work independently and in groups
  • Appreciation for and understanding of various cultures and societies
  • Awareness of the influence of religion on history, politics, ethics, and economics
  • Capacity to consider different interpretations and perspectives
  • Capacity to debate and lead discussions
  • Oral communication
  • Report writing
  • Research, organization, and critical analysis of various kinds of information
  • Understanding of social and political processes and structures

What Can You Do with a Biblical Studies Degree?

A degree in biblical studies leads graduates to work in ministry and related areas. Some of the roles listed below may require further education or specialized training.


  • Associate Pastor
  • Children’s Pastor
  • Children’s Programs Director
  • Community Life Pastor
  • Evangelist
  • Missionary
  • Spiritual Development Pastor
  • Women’s Ministry Director
  • Worship Director
  • Youth Director
  • Youth Pastor
  • Clergy


  • Colleges / Universities
  • Hospitals
  • Police / Fire Departments
  • Prisons
  • Professional Sports Teams
  • US Military (Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force)


  • Christian Education Director
  • Teacher / Professor
  • Teaching Pastor
  • Theologian
  • Vacation Bible School Director

Human Services


  • Writer / Editor / Blogger for both Christian and non-Christian magazines, newspapers, and various online platforms


Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths