Online Christian Colleges in Pennsylvania

According to the Pew Research Center, Christianity enjoys a robust following in Pennsylvania. Pew's Research Landscape study revealed that 73% of adults in the state consider themselves Christian, with Catholic, Mainline Protestant, and Evangelical Protestant denominations having the largest followings. This means that nearly 7.4 million people in the state practice some version of Christianity. Of this group, 77% state that Christian doctrine is important to how they live, while 69% attend religious service at least once a month.

73% of adults in Pennsylvania consider themselves Christian, with Catholic, Mainline Protestant, and Evangelical Protestant denominations having the largest followings. Pew Research Center

Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that Christian online colleges are some of the most successful and accessible institutions of higher education in the state. Students can select from private Bible colleges, seminary schools, and secular public universities -- all featuring a strong Christian presence. Online Christian colleges in Pennsylvania offer degrees in diverse fields from the associate to doctorate levels. Because of denominational affiliations in the state, Catholic institutions represent the majority of Christian institutions. However, there are many options for other Christian students, including non- and interdenominational schools.

By attending a faith-based college or university, students embed themselves in a safe and positive environment where one's convictions and worldviews are valued and supported by peers, professors, and the university administration. Christian online colleges also sustain relationships with like-minded organizations all over the world, which provide numerous social initiatives and career opportunities for students and graduates alike.

Online Christian colleges give nontraditional learners the tools to study at their own pace and from the comfort of their own homes. Through asynchronous courses delivered through software like Canvas and Blackboard, students can access course materials and interact with instructors and peers 24/7.

Additionally, most distance education programs offer part-time and full-time enrollment -- as well as accelerated course options year-round -- so learners can create a schedule that fits their needs. Many online students find they can work and/or maintain family and church obligations while earning a bachelor's degree in fewer than the standard four years. Christian online colleges also boast financial incentives, like discounted tuition rates and distinct funding opportunities. Furthermore, students save significant money on accommodations and commutes by living at home.

Online Christian colleges in Pennsylvania integrate religious ethics, logic, philosophy, and history into every facet of academics.

Faith-based schools cultivate safe environments that affirm and strengthen one's core beliefs. Learners engage in study and recreational activities with peers, faculty, and university leaders who share their faith and values, which helps students stay focused and grow as a professional in their field and a member of God's community. Additionally, degree seekers can be assured that each curriculum aligns with their faith.

Online Christian colleges in Pennsylvania integrate religious ethics, logic, philosophy, and history into every facet of academics. Outside the classroom, students receive support through individual online counseling and spiritual guidance, digital and in-person weekly worship services, and opportunities for engagement in campus ministries, student groups, community organizations, and service mission trips.

As you search for suitable online Christian colleges in Pennsylvania, consider the academic characteristics of a school. Some students find a liberal arts education fits their interests, while others prefer programs grounded in technical training and immediate career advancement. Bible colleges embed the principles and values of scripture into every aspect of the curriculum, but even here differences exist: some schools emphasize theoretical understanding and self-reflection, while others focus on practical endeavors such as community organization and humanitarian missions.

Some schools emphasize theoretical understanding and self-reflection, while others focus on practical endeavors such as community organization and humanitarian missions.

Other issues you may wish to inquire about are student services and extracurricular resources. Distance education comes standard with online tutoring, career services, and academic advising. However, beyond these conventional offerings, consider how a Christian college fosters a safe and nurturing environment. Most schools build connections with national or international campus ministry organizations, such as Campus Crusade for Christ and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Community and business partnerships -- which can result in internships, fellowships, and study abroad opportunities -- represent another way colleges help their students pursue long-term career goals, while also nurturing men and women dedicated to the service of God.

Christian online colleges come with practical benefits as well. You have the option to attend school in a small town or large city, depending on the environment most conducive to your style of learning or work. Most faith-based institutions are private and support small student populations, which provide frequent personal attention from faculty and administrators. Small class sizes also benefit peer-to-peer interactions, helping you build friendships with others who share your faith and goals for the future.

Seminary Schools vs. Bible Schools

Bible colleges and seminary schools offer very different degree levels and types. The former facilitates liberal arts undergraduate degrees -- such as English literature, physics, and healthcare management -- that are embedded in Christian thought and values. These general education or liberal arts curricula feature religious-specific coursework like history of the Catholic Church and the Old Testament as literature. Students cultivate the theoretical understanding and practical leadership qualities to stand for and with the most vulnerable populations throughout their careers and personal life.

Seminary schools grant graduate degrees such as the master of divinity and master of theology. Students who attend these schools usually pursue fields of study like pastoral counseling and cross-cultural ministries, which prepare them for careers as church leaders, mission workers, and Christian family counselors. These programs also provide training for secular careers such as university teaching, program administration, and environmental advocacy.

Accreditation for Christian Colleges

As you review your options for Christian colleges in Pennsylvania, pay attention to its accreditation. To bestow valid degrees, schools must earn regional, national, and/or specialized accreditation. Regional accreditation refers to official support from one of six organizations, depending on the location of the institution.

In Pennsylvania, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) bestows regional accreditation to schools that adhere to rigorous academic standards. National accreditation reflects approval from an organization empowered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and is usually granted to technical or trade schools. Similar to the regional version, colleges and universities earn this support through designated educational standardizations. Nationally and regionally accredited schools are eligible to receive federal funding through the ED and institutional support from the CHEA. Visit the ED's website for more information on national accreditation.

In Pennsylvania, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) bestows regional accreditation to schools that adhere to rigorous academic standards.

In addition to regional and national accreditation, schools can also gain field-specific accreditation for programs such as healthcare administration and criminal justice. Similarly, Christian online colleges can garner specialized accreditation from organizations like the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools, the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools, and the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Because most employers do not recognize unaccredited academic work, faith-based schools -- like their secular counterparts -- maintain a blend of national, regional, and specialized accreditation to guarantee the quality of their degrees.

Graduates of Christian colleges in Pennsylvania who elect to stay in the state can expect a growing regional economy and ample job opportunities. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate has decreased over the pass the few years, and now stands at 4.8% according to the Bureau Labor Statistics (BLS). The mean wages for state residents, factoring pay from all reported occupations, stands at an hourly rate of $23.44 and annual average of $48,760. This pay scale, coupled with the state's relatively low cost of living, makes Pennsylvania a great place to grow one's career and support a family.

Though Pennsylvania's economy largely relied on coal mining, steel production, and petroleum processing, the state continues to create jobs that align with the nation's trajectory. National statistics show that the fastest growing careers rest in the healthcare, tech, and renewable resources industries. These expansions benefit students attending online Christian colleges because these schools tend to emphasize ethical and community-oriented callings. The table below details 10 such professions. Those who want to pursue faith-based careers as clergy, missionaries, and church leaders can expect a 7% to 8% increases in related positions through 2026. Other positions charted for exceptional growth include social workers (16%), family counselors (23%), and substance abuse and mental health counselors (23%).

Community and Social Service Occupations in Pennsylvania
Occupation Employment Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors 6,730 $20.62 $42,890
Marriage and Family Therapists 1,350 $23.07 $47,980
Mental Health Counselors 13,020 $20.91 $43,480
Rehabilitation Counselors 7,390 $18.09 $37,620
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 18,580 $19.76 $41,090
Healthcare Social Workers 7,280 $24.12 $50,160
Social and Human Service Assistants 19,360 $15.69 $32,630
Clergy 1,370 $24.92 $51,840
Directors, Religious Activities and Education 2,060 $21.97 $45,690
Religious Workers, all other 1,410 $18.25 $37,960
Source: BLS, May 2017

Students who attend Christian colleges in Pennsylvania can fund their education through loans or some combination of scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Taking public or private loans should be avoided or used as a last resort, as they often come attached with high interest rates and will need to be repaid. Scholarships, fellowships, and grants, on the other hand, are essentially free money that does not need to be repaid. The list below contains 10 opportunities for Pennsylvania residents, Christian students, or both. You should also seek out other awards from community businesses, individual universities, religious groups, and professional organizations.

Christian Scholarships

The United Church of Christ Undergraduate Scholarship $500 to $1,500

Who Can Apply: Applicant must be a member of the UCC enrolled in an accredited four-year college or university. They must also be under 25 years old and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

National Presbyterian College Scholarship Up to $2,500

Who Can Apply: Candidates must be U.S. citizens and members of the Presbyterian Church. They must also be entering the first year of study at an approved college or university and achieve a minimum 2.5 GPA. View Scholarship

Ruth K. Jacobs Memorial Scholarship Up to $1,500/year

Who Can Apply: The award is open to any music major attending a U.S. or Canadian college with primary academic and career interests in choral church music. Candidates must be enrolled full time. View Scholarship

Catholic Financial Life College Scholarship Up to $1,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must prove at least 10 hours of service with an approved Christian organization. They must also be a member, or relative of a member, of CFL. View Scholarship

WomenLead Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: Sponsored by the InFaith Community Foundation, this award is open to any Christian enrolled in a master's program in a social services-oriented field. Additional requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrable commitment to social justice leadership. View Scholarship

Scholarships for Pennsylvania Residents

PA State System Board of Governors Chair, Guido M. Pichini, Endowed Scholarship $800

Who Can Apply: Candidates must hold a minimum 3.2 GPA and be enrolled full time at a State System university. They must also demonstrate leadership qualities. View Scholarship

Dr. and Mrs. Arthur William Phillips Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be a incoming first-year student enrolled full-time at a State System university. Though preference is given to natives of Butler, Clarion, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer or Venango counties, the award is open to all Pennsylvania residents. View Scholarship

The American Association of University Women Pennsylvania Scholarships $1,000 to $2,500

Who Can Apply: These awards are open to women from the Perry, Dauphin, or Cumberland counties of Pennsylvania. They must be enrolled in an accredited college or university and demonstrate academic achievement as well as financial need. View Scholarship

AT&T STEM Scholarship of Pennsylvania $1,000

Who Can Apply: Candidates must be a Pennsylvania resident in the junior or senior year of a STEM degree program at one of the 14 State System universities. They must also demonstrate financial need. View Scholarship

The Foundation for Enhancing Communities Scholarships Varies

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be residents of participating Pennsylvania counties admitted to or currently attending an in-state college or university. View Scholarship

Find a Church in Your Community

Beyond the information found in this guide to Christian colleges in Pennsylvania, you can locate other opportunities for ministry and community engagement by using ChurchFinder and USA Churches. These websites enable you to search for churches by denomination and proximity, and provide details on contact information, service times, and specific programming and leadership initiatives.

Get Connected

Students who attend Pennsylvania Christian colleges bolster networking and ministry opportunities by participating in national organizations like those found below. Benefits include study- and service-abroad trips, and financial assistance through academic scholarships and research grants.

  • The Christian Business Network Through its Global Connectivity Platform, CBN facilitates cooperation between student leaders and industry professionals, often resulting in careers for the former. Members also enjoy a digital library of resources and topical webinars.
  • The Christian Student Foundation of Pennsylvania Founded in 1983, CSFPA supports student leaders with volunteer and internship positions with its campus ministries. The foundation also provides information on fellowships and career opportunities.
  • InterVarsity Established in 1877, InterVarsity promotes inclusive evangelism through worldwide service missions and annual gatherings, such as Urbana, which draws over 300,000 Christian students every year. Intervarsity also provides bible study resources like group discussion and inductive research strategies.

Find Christian Ministries

It may not be possible or affordable to attend a traditional or online Christian college in Pennsylvania. Still, several organizations at public or non-religious colleges and universities connect students with campus ministries and faith-based groups. These organizations also promote community engagement off-campus through summits and international initiatives, and some Christian students may also find career opportunities.

Interdenominational
  • Campus Crusade for Christ Founded in 1951, Cru now boasts over 100,000 student and faculty members across 2,300 college campuses. The organization provides student leadership training, bible study materials, and volunteer and career opportunities.
  • Chi Alpha Through XA, Christian students can find local, regional, and national ministry events and work positions. The organization also facilitates volunteer trips and cross-cultural missions all over the world.
  • International Fellowship of Evangelical Students In addition to its world assembly and regional conferences, IFES also connects Christian students through community service and job opportunities. Additionally, IFES provides a large online library of manuscripts, spiritual guides, and up-to-date research.
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes FCA supports coaches and athletes with devotional print materials, leadership training sessions, and service missions all over the worlds. Christian students may also engage with local bible study groups and ministries, called "huddles."
Catholic
  • Catholic Campus Ministry Association CCMA maintains over 500 college campus ministries across the U.S.. The association supports its members through online webinars, annual conventions, and academic programming that includes certification and graduate degree opportunities.
Lutheran
  • Lutheran Student Movement USA Established in 1969, LSM-USA provides student leaders with community organizing training sessions and campus ministry events through its nine regional offices. Christian students may also take advantage of national gatherings and service-learning and alternative spring break trips.
Presbyterian
  • Reformed University Fellowship As the official campus ministry organization for the Presbyterian Church of America, RUF operates bible studies, student summits, and leadership training all over the world. RUF also builds churches in university cities and towns.
  • UKirk With an emphasis on supporting college ministers, UKirk provides grants, literature guides, and even logos and promotional print materials. The organization also facilitates a national collegiate summit and international service missions.
Baptist
  • Baptist Collegiate Ministry Life BCMLife supports student leaders with training articles, international mission opportunities, and even job positions. Additionally, BCMLife sponsors multiple conferences and gatherings every year, including the international Welcoming the Nations event.

Public Universities in Pennsylvania with Christian Ministries

  • University of Pennsylvania: As one of the oldest and most prestigious public higher education in the U.S., Penn welcomes students of all backgrounds into its rigorous academic programs. Christian students find faith-based support through the Christian Association, which has ties with UKirk, Cru, RUF, and other major campus ministry organizations.
  • Temple University: Temple, a "state-related" university that receives public funding, enrolls over 35,000 students annually and supports Christian learners through Chi Alpha-support campus ministries. The university also contains faith-based student organizations, such as the Young Men and Young Women's Christian Associations.
  • Pennsylvania State University: Established in 1885, Penn State now operates 24 campuses all over the state. Christian students can find Chi Alpha campus ministries, including groups specifically for members of Catholic and Protestant church.
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