Top Online Christian Colleges and Universities for 2019

Christian colleges connect regular subjects and course offerings with Christianity. Their curricula differ from regular universities because most classes link the topic back to religion, God, or Christianity. Students with a strong sense of faith and a solid religious background thrive in Christian universities, seminaries, and Bible schools. Additionally, students who graduate from private, Christian high schools may transition easily to similar college counterparts. Not all Christian schools require students to subscribe to one specific religious belief or denomination.

Students who attend Christian colleges often pursue religion in their professional lives, beyond college. These career opportunities include pastors, youth ministers, church leaders, and missionaries. Most online Christian schools offer programs in these areas in addition to traditional subjects like nursing, business, and teaching. These students gain a religious education, relating their coursework to Christianity while also obtaining the credentials they need to work outside of religion after graduation.

What Are The Best Online Christian Colleges & Universities?

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1

Grand Canyon University Phoenix, Arizona

Based in Phoenix, AZ, Grand Canyon University offers over 100 online degrees. Students complete courses one at a time, a unique approach which GCU believes will lead to a greater understanding of course materials. Classes are small and taught by full-time faculty, and offer frequent starts throughout the year. As an interdenominational Christian institution, religion plays an important role in Grand Canyon’s mission. The university abides by a strong statement of Christian faith and offers twice-weekly chapel services that students can attend in-person or online.

2

Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia

Liberty University is the largest Christian university in the world. With a campus tucked away in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Liberty has also established itself as a heavyweight among other online Christian colleges and universities. Liberty offers more than 250 certificate, associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in many specializations including business, criminal justice, education, and nursing. Boasting high student retention and graduation rates, Liberty is routinely ranked among the best universities when compared with other Christian online colleges. Since Liberty is not-for-profit, it also offers some of the lowest tuition rates for an online degree program.

3

Saint Leo University St. Leo, Florida

Founded in 1889, Saint Leo University is the oldest Catholic higher education institution in the state of Florida. With 15,000 students enrolled around the globe, St. Leo is a leader among Christian online colleges and universities. As a religious-based institution, all online undergraduates must complete three religion or philosophy courses as a general education requirement, though not necessarily in Christian theology. With over 40 online university and college degree programs, St. Leo brings its experience and heritage as an established university to online education.

4

Ohio Christian University Circleville, Ohio

Ohio Christian University provides students with a "holistic, Christ-centered, biblically integrated education in the Wesleyan tradition". Offering online associate and bachelor’s degrees in business, leadership, ministry, psychology, and counseling through its AIM Adult Degree Program, Ohio Christian has established itself as a leader in online Christian education. Competitive admission rates and a low student to faculty ratio of 10:1 make Ohio Christian University a top choice for an online Christian degree.

5

University College at Azusa Pacific University Azusa, California

As the online and adult division of Azusa Pacific University, University College is one of many online Christian colleges that cater to working adults seeking faith-based courses. Taught from a Christian worldview, University College offers over 100 associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs. Additionally, it is regularly ranked among the nation’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report. Many of University College's degree programs can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis. Online students study with the same faculty as traditional students and have full access to campus resources. As an added benefit, a livestream of chapel services allows online students to partake in Christian worship at the university.

6

Graceland University Lamoni, Iowa

With its online nursing and education degrees ranked 10th and 11th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Graceland University has demonstrated excellence in distance learning. The liberal arts university that opened its doors well over 100 years ago in rural Iowa now provides a religiously-influenced education to its roughly 1,500 part-time and full-time students. Most students are practicing Christians from various denominations. Graceland offers nine online master’s degree programs designed for busy professionals in healthcare, education, and theology.

7

Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, Indiana

Established in 1985 as a regional university, Indiana Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered, student-focused liberal arts school. IWU strives for Christlikeness, encouraging students to pursue their education as a life calling while preparing for professional success through spiritual growth. IWU online allows working adults the opportunity to advance their careers or broaden their intellectual horizons by offering most degree programs to distance learners. Online students enroll for all required courses at once, meaning they are never waitlisted. All course materials are delivered directly to the student’s door as part of the program cost.

8

University of Northwestern St. Paul, Minnesota

Established in 1902, University of Northwestern-St. Paul provides students with a Christ-centered liberal arts education. The school’s code of conduct for faculty, staff, and students is rooted in the Christian doctrine. With a 14:1 student to faculty ratio and a promise made by all affiliated with UNW to hold each other accountable, students have the support system they need to advance in both education and faith. UNW offers nine online undergraduate and graduate degree programs that are taught with the same values as their on-campus counterparts.

What's the Difference Between a Christian College and a Bible College?

Christian students consider Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian colleges in their search for the right program. Each school offers its own unique purpose, so students should carefully explore their options to ensure they make the right decision. Prospective Christian college students should consider their career goals, and what they want to learn through their college education. Seminaries focus on Bible and theological studies, preparing students for careers in church leadership. Christian schools also offer a more broad approach in lieu of curriculum, course, and program offerings.

Prospective students should also determine their ideal social atmosphere -- whether they prefer a quiet, focused environment or an exciting and bustling environment. Moreover, some Christian colleges accept multi-denominational students, while others identify as single-denominational schools. Students need to make sure their ideal school accepts their denomination before they apply. They should also decide whether they want to get to know students from other denominations, or if they would like to surround themselves with peers of the same religious background. Religious requirements also touch on whether or not students need to attend church regularly, and what religious coursework they must satisfy to graduate.

Curriculum

Christian and Bible college curricula include some similarities, but they also differ on several levels. Bible colleges focus heavily on Bible studies, with courses covering the Old Testament, New Testament, the life of Christ, and various biblical teachings. Students focus almost exclusively on studying the Bible, diving into each segment course by course. Christian colleges encompass a broader spectrum with regard to curriculum. Coursework in these programs touches on theology, Bible studies, and other topics such as pastoral ministry, fundamentals of Christian faith, spiritual formation for ministry, and conflict and communication.

Christian colleges encompass a broader spectrum with regard to curriculum.

Essentially, students should pursue a Bible college education if they want to enhance their understanding of the Bible, expand their knowledge of biblical concepts, and ultimately pursue a career requiring an understanding of the Bible. Students interested in pursuing a career in ministry, as a pastor, or in another leadership role within the church, should consider attending a Christian college for broad exposure to different theological and religious topics and concepts.

Social Atmosphere

Each Christian and Bible college boasts its own unique social atmosphere and set of morals and values. Each university subscribes to certain beliefs and determines how it wants its students to focus through their education. Students can easily find a prospective university's morals and values on the the university's "about" web page.

Living situations vary by university, with on-campus housing options available in different styles and formats. Some students prefer quieter living situations, such as their own apartments, while others enjoy interacting with other students through dorm living. Some students prefer an upbeat party culture, while others prefer a more reserved college experience, getting to know others on a more personal level at their own pace. Campus social atmospheres typically impact on-campus students.

Religious Requirements

Every Bible and Christian college boasts its own specific, unique set of religious requirements. Students often must complete a certain amount of religion-specific coursework. Coursework requires students to maintain the level of knowledge needed to understand different theological and biblical concepts. Some Christian schools require students to read about the university's particular lifestyle, signing an agreement to adhere to the lifestyle before gaining admission. Many Christian universities maintain church attendance requirements, usually for on-campus worship services. Some Christian universities also require students to complete volunteer or missions requirements, which allow learners to apply their skills and knowledge.

Multi-Denominational vs. Single Denominational

Multi-denominational Christian universities accept students from a variety of religious backgrounds. Multi-denominational colleges include students from Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, Jesuit and other Christian denominations. Single-denomination schools focus on just one denomination of Christianity. Some schools also consider themselves non-denominational, bringing in students who do not prescribe to any particular sect of Christianity. Each university outlines its requirements in regards to student denomination, allowing students to identify which colleges they can apply to and which ones they should avoid.

Multi-denominational Christian schools allow students to connect with people from different backgrounds.

Multi-denominational Christian schools allow students to connect with people from different backgrounds. This exposure proves a great resource for career-bound students who might need a better understanding of religions outside of their own. Single-denominational schools allow students to hone in on their specific set of beliefs and build connections with peers of similar backgrounds.

Do Students at Christian or Bible Colleges Have to Be Christian?

Many Christian or Bible colleges do not require students to identify as Christian. Most of these schools accept students of all different backgrounds, both religiously and culturally. However, each school maintains its own requirements, and some do implement religious mandates. Students can review each school's admission requirements before applying to determine whether they meet the minimum standards, including those regarding religious background.

What Is a Seminary?

Seminaries typically exist as part of secularly focused institutions, offering degrees and coursework in theological studies. These include classes on the Bible, religious history, examining religious texts and ethics, and practical courses. Practical coursework at seminaries usually involves teaching students how to become spiritual leaders and bring others into their religion. Seminaries do not guarantee that enrolled students follow Christian values, and they do not require hands-on experience with congregations.

Students interested in seminary should possess an interest in studying life, the ways in which people interact, and how spirituality affects people. Seminary students should engage in ministerial work whenever and wherever they can. Seminary applicants should pay attention to accreditation, noting whether each prospective seminary holds the proper accreditation to further advance education or employment. Some seminaries do not boast accreditation, but students may find that those seminaries align with their desires in regards to financial aid, faculty, student life, and theological commitments.

Who Should Attend a Seminary?

Many students choose to attend seminaries over Christian or Bible colleges. Students who know they want to pursue a leadership role within their church find that seminary curricula best suit their desired learning material. Prospective students should consider seminary if they want a deeper understanding of theology. Curricula at these institutions focus heavily on theological concepts and biblical content. Seminary students obtain a deeper understanding of the Bible, broaden their theological development, and gain relevant training for church leadership roles.

What's the Difference Between a Seminary and a Christian College?

Seminaries, Bible colleges, and Christian colleges have their similarities, but ultimately offer different learning opportunities. Seminaries provide students with the education they need to obtain leadership roles in Christian ministries, such as pastors, church planters, missionaries, and counselors. Seminary curricula emphasize studying theology and the Bible, promoting spiritual formation, and teaching students the practical tools used in ministry.

Bible colleges do not hold the same prevalence today that they did in the past, but they still provide students with undergraduate educations -- boasting a Bible-focused curriculum. Christian colleges often combine elements of seminaries and Bible colleges to offer a more generalized Christian education. These programs introduce concepts from the Bible, theories in divinity, and various theological elements.

Online Christian Colleges

Online Christian colleges often prove more affordable than on-campus schools.

Students enjoy a plethora of benefits when they enroll in an online Christian college, including the ability to work from home. Online students often complete their work asynchronously, allowing them to finish at their own pace, from any location. For working students especially, these online programs prove particularly beneficial. Due to the flexible nature of these programs, students can still work full-time jobs while completing their education. This same flexibility benefits students with other life commitments, like children and families.

Online Christian colleges often prove more affordable than on-campus schools. For example, many online programs grant students the same tuition as in-state students, and online students are often exempt from on-campus housing and transportation fees. Moreover, online courses often do not require students to purchase as many materials as their on-campus counterparts.

Integrating Faith into an Online Setting

Integrating faith into online programs does not always prove an easy feat for Christian universities across the country. Most online Christian colleges, however, offer the same faith-based curricula as their on-campus counterparts, relating academic topics to religion, faith, and God. These connections might translate differently in online settings, but still deliver a faith-based education to Christian students.

Many online accredited Christian colleges offer unique services to students, including counseling and online spiritual support. These services allow students to connect with university faculty on a spiritual level, even though they cannot meet in person. Some schools also provide live streams of student worship services, allowing online students to participate in worship remotely.

Online students may also partake in online forums and groups through their Christian college, allowing them to connect with other online students. Many Christian colleges require students to regularly attend church services, and some schools apply this requirement to online students, as well. Students may also need to meet volunteer requirements, completing their work at nearby locations. Some schools even boast dedicated faculty members to help online students arrange their in-person requirements.

Finding the Right Online Christian College

Students selecting the right Christian college for them tend to focus on campus size, school values, program offerings, accreditation, tuition, and program length. Many students enjoy studying at smaller campuses, since they promote a more unique Christian community experience and offer lower student-to-faculty ratios. These lower ratios allow students to enjoy more personal experiences with their professors.

prospective students should identify which values matter most to them to help pinpoint whether a university aligns with their personal desires and goals

Each Christian college focuses on its own morals and values, so prospective students should identify which values matter most to them to help pinpoint whether a university aligns with their personal desires and goals. Most universities highlight a mission statement and a list of core values on their website, allowing students to make their decision with ease.

Prospective students also consider program offerings in their decisions. If a student holds an interest in nursing, but a Christian college does not offer nursing programs, the student would most likely look to apply elsewhere. Some students might want an online education, in which case they should ensure that their chosen school offers the program they want in their desired format. Prospective online students should review which resources exist for distance learners at each potential school. Accreditation, one of the most important elements to consider, also varies by school. Students should review their ideal school's accreditation status before settling on a decision.

Accreditation for Online Christian Colleges

Only accredited online Christian colleges may offer federally funded grants and loans, such as Federal Stafford Loans, Pell Grants, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. Accrediting agencies gain approval from the Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These agencies regulate which elements go into granting accreditation to a college, university, or program. Regulating standards helps ensure a quality education across the board for students attending accredited institutions. This expectation allows employers and graduate programs to expect a certain level of education from accredited program graduates.

Considered the biblical alternative to secular accreditation, the International Association for Christian Educational Accountability addresses some of the shortfalls within standard accreditation while providing international theological accreditation. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) also serves as a main accrediting agency for Christian colleges. This agency boasts recognition from the ED and CHEA. Students can review their chosen university's accreditation status on its website.

  • Association of Biblical Higher Education: The Association of Biblical Higher Education comprises more than 200 institutions of biblical higher education, enrolling more than 50,000 students. ABHE offers undergraduate and graduate educational opportunities by way of distance education and residential, extension, and traditional modalities. ABHE includes locations across eight time zones.
  • The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada: An organization of seminaries and other theological graduate schools, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada promotes the enhancement and improvement of theological schools to benefit faith communities and the broader public. The ATS Commission on Accrediting provides theological graduate schools with accreditation recognized by the ED and CHEA.
  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools: Founded in 1979 as a nonprofit, self-governing, voluntary organization, TRACS promotes the interests, welfare, and development of postsecondary institutions with a strong, Christian purpose. TRACS belongs to the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education.
  • Association of Independent Christian Colleges & Seminaries: One of the largest nongovernment accrediting groups in the world, The Association of Independent Christian Colleges & Seminaries identifies as a nonprofit association of independent Christian seminaries and colleges dedicated to intellectual freedom, ethical conduct, moral integrity, and academic excellence.

What Do Students at Online Christian Colleges Study?

Christian universities typically blend biblical teachings with a liberal arts education, differing from Bible colleges and seminaries. Students in these programs can pursue secular or non-secular academic paths. Each Christian school offers its own unique list of programs. The list below includes some common degrees Christian colleges offer online.

Career and Salary Outlook for Graduates of Online Christian Colleges

Graduates of online Christian colleges leave their programs with the educational background and skills to pursue a multitude of career opportunities, both inside and outside of the church. Below, we review salary and job description information for some of the most common ministry careers, plus some career options that may not hold a direct relation

Minister

Ministers provide their communities with religious and spiritual support, working in a variety of fields including military and church settings. They preach and lead Bible studies and worship ceremonies. They also provide pastoral counseling to individuals in need.

Median Annual Salary: $49,876
Degree Required: Divinity degree: bachelor's or master's

Chaplain

Chaplains work with terminally ill patients, providing them and their families with spiritual and emotional support from a variety of different religious backgrounds and cultures. They also coordinate bereavement services. Many chaplains pursue psychology and counseling degrees to care for the mental wellbeing of their clients.

Median Annual Salary: $48,736
Degree Required: Bachelor's degree in theology, counseling, or psychology

Missionary

Missionaries travel to foreign countries to spread their religious beliefs. They teach others about their religion, train other Christians to share their beliefs, build safe housing in missionary countries, and report their progress back to their church.

Median Annual Salary: $38,000
Degree Required: Bachelor's in religious studies or theology

Youth Pastor

Responsible for developing and implementing youth ministry, youth pastors work with children of all ages, from elementary through high school. Youth pastors must hold a strong sense of faith and an ability to share and instill their faith into children who may seem despondent.

Median Annual Salary: $36,914
Degree Required: Bachelor's in youth ministry

Children's Ministry Director

Children's ministry directors oversee ministry for children in the church ranging in age from nursery to elementary school. Their ministries may also include older children up to high school age. Children's ministry directors coordinate outreach events for holidays, plus other activities.

Median Annual Salary: $31,437
Degree Required: Bachelor's or master's in theology

Music Ministry Director

Music ministry directors lead the music in churches and ministries. They conduct church choirs and familiarize themselves with pianos and organs, since most churches use them in their music worship. They also select the music for worship services.

Median Annual Salary: $39,828
Degree Required: Bachelor's in theology or music

Substitute Teacher (K-12)

Substitute teachers fill in for full-time K-12 teachers. These teachers handle classrooms, carry out lesson plans, take attendance, and maintain order within the educational environment. They also enforce school rules, policies, and procedures.

Median Annual Salary: $20,916
Degree Required: Bachelor's

Professor, Higher Education

Higher education professors lecture and teach students, working with them on thesis papers, dissertations, and research projects. These professors must conduct in-depth research, collect and analyze data, and grade exams and papers.

Median Annual Salary: $85,859
Degree Required: Master's or doctoral degree

Counselor

Counselors work in a variety of fields providing mental health services to their patients. They help their patients set goals and treatment plans, working with them to track their progress and keep them on track.

Median Annual Salary: $45,969
Degree Required: Master's

Social Worker

Social workers provide resource services and advocacy for their patients. They also maintain documentation and case loads, reevaluating their patients at necessary intervals. Social workers facilitate support groups, education, and referrals for patients who need additional care and services.

Median Annual Salary: $44,677
Degree Required: Master's in social work

Director, Nonprofit

Nonprofit directors evaluate program policies to make sure they meet clients' needs and remain effectively administered. They also supervise the hiring, staffing, coaching, and evaluation processes, coordinating program development and planning with other company activities. Nonprofit directors maintain records and statistical information for their organizations.

Median Annual Salary: $53,605
Degree Required: Bachelor's

Probation or Corrections Officer

Probation officers oversee former inmates on probation or parole. Corrections officers oversee current inmates. These officers work with inmates to enforce positive development. They also write reports and conduct home visits to ensure that probationers remain on a positive path to rehabilitation.

Median Annual Salary: $45,017
Degree Required: Bachelor's in social work, criminal justice, or psychology

Journalist

Journalists conduct research to create news articles, often carrying out interviews. Journalists aim to grab readers' attention through photography and videography. Journalists may also appear on television, depending on the nature of their story.

Median Annual Salary:$39,396
Degree Required: Bachelor's in journalism or communication

Professional Organizations

Graduates of online Christian colleges can join a variety of professional organizations to advance their skill sets, expand their career opportunities, and network. Each organization holds a unique mission and boasts its own specific advantages. Many organizations host events including conferences, meetings, and networking events. Networking events allow professionals to cultivate business relationships with other individuals in their field, often leading to exciting career opportunities in the future.

  • American Association of Christian Counselors: The American Association of Christian Counselors assists the entire Christian counselor community, including pastors and licensed counselors. The association equips professionals with psychological insights and biblical knowledge.
  • Association of Youth Ministry Educators: Members of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators set out to advance the youth ministry field by supporting cooperative networking, critical engagement, and scholarly contributions. The association provides members with resources and hosts an annual conference.
  • Catholic Biblical Association of America: The Catholic Biblical Association of America promotes scholarly study in faith-based contexts. The association hosts meetings and events and provides publications to members.
  • Christian Community Development Association: The Christian Community Development Association provides spaces for professionals to learn and network with like-minded leaders. The association strives to fully engage Christians in their communities and careers.
  • Evangelical Theological Society: A professional academic society of theological and biblical scholars, students, and pastors, the Evangelical Theological Society fosters conservative, biblical scholarship. The society hosts regional meetings, an annual meeting, and provides members with different resources and publications.
  • National Association of Christian Counselors: The National Association of Christian Counselors identifies as a Christian service organization committed to counseling. The organization partners with Christian counselors at all career stages.

Scholarships for Students at Christian Colleges


To determine the best online Christian colleges, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online Christian colleges. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

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