What Degree is Needed to Be a Missionary?

MissionariesStudents of all ages and backgrounds find themselves interested in the type of degree needed to be a missionary. They imagine taking off for an exotic destination immediately after graduating or spending some time in the summers working in those areas. Depending on the school that you choose, you may even have the option of doing missionary work before you graduate. There are a few college degrees that will require you for this type of work, but some religions will let you seek appointment without having a formal degree.

What is a Missionary?

Churches use missionaries as a way to reach those who aren’t aware of a specific religious organization. The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints is one of the best examples of this. The church uses members of all ages to visit locations around the world and talk with people about the teachings of the church in the hopes of increasing its membership in new areas. Missionaries may also assist with special projects while on assignment, including building new churches and schools, cleaning up after a natural disaster or with other relief efforts.

Missionary Service Degree

One type of degree needed to be a missionary is a missionary service degree. Only available from a handful of schools in the country, some schools offer the program online. It specifically focuses on the issues that missionaries face every day, including how to speak with those from a different religious background and the laws regarding religion in different countries. Several of these programs ask students to devote a set period of time to working overseas in a foreign territory to gain hands on experience with missionary work.

Religious Studies Degree

A religious studies degree is another degree you can use to work as a missionary. These degrees are available from both private religious schools and public colleges. The main difference is that a public college with often give you a look at the religions of the world while a private college focuses on the religion affiliated with that church. Many of those who obtain a religious studies degree later work for a church in various capacities, including as a chaplain, reverend or youth pastor. Earning an undergraduate degree in religious studies can also prepare you for entering a graduate program after completing your missionary work.

Do You Need a College Degree?

Some students question whether they need a degree needed to be a missionary, but there is no one size fits all answer to this question. According to The Church of Jesus Christ of the Later-Day Saints, some of their missionaries are as young as 18 years old. Those interested in a missionary appointment can apply with the church after graduating high school. The church looks at the maturity and history of the individual, and some may find that they don’t receive an appointment until turning 21. Other churches and organizations will let worshipers accept missionary positions with degrees in other fields or no college degree, and others offer appointments to the spouses and families of current missionaries.


Missionary work lets you travel the world and talk with others about your religious beliefs. While many churches will let you accept a position without any college education, you might find that the degree needed to be a missionary at another church is a degree in missionary service or religious studies.

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