Free Online Lectures and Courses for Religious Studies

College students exploring religious studies will grapple with some of life’s most challenging theological questions, theories and conflicts. These scholars will explore historical documents, artwork and cultural artifacts to learn about belief systems around the world. Some students might decide to assist communities as clergy members or counselors, providing faith-based relief and personal advice within religious institutions, hospitals or charitable organizations. Other graduates might decide to work as consultants for the government, providing important cultural and religious intelligence for military personnel abroad. Those who decide to pursue a graduate degree in religious studies can specialize in the theologies of specific areas, time periods and societies. Like many disciplines within the humanities, religious studies majors are able to explore careers in many different environments including religious organizations, businesses, government offices and charities.

Sample Courses

Students pursuing religious studies in college generally start with introductory courses on several world religions, including Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism. The basic tenants of these theological philosophies are covered, along with the philosophical, political and societal issues they present. As students progress through a religious studies program, they might choose to dedicate their time to studying a particular theology, time period, and region in depth, taking courses such as American Catholicism during the 1960s or Theravada Buddhism. Students who progress into courses at the graduate level often begin to examine belief systems from a specific culture or era. Since nearly every society has some form of theological belief system, the options are exhaustive.

Possible Specializations

People pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher can usually declare a major specialization, which allows them to focus on one or more religious belief systems. Students might take a multidisciplinary approach, exploring the roles of religion in historical, political and scientific contexts. Others might choose to focus on Eastern religions, or belief systems of a particular region. Others might specialize in theologies tied to particular historical periods, such as medieval Christianity.

Degree Types

Associate

Students exploring faith-based questions throughout life might find an associate program valuable. This degree introduces students to well-rounded, introductory curricula about many religious belief systems around the world. Students at this level can delve into familiar Western belief systems and texts including the Old and New Testaments. Like many humanities career options, most jobs for religious studies majors require at least a bachelor’s degree for employment. Students should check their credit transfer options before enrolling in an associate program, to make sure their courses can be applied to a future bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s

This degree can prove to be versatile for religious studies majors. A bachelor’s degree gives students foundational experience in several world belief systems, along with the flexibility for students to take specialized religion courses. Those who graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies can move on to careers within religious organizations, non-profits, counseling offices, government organizations and charity centers.

Master’s

Students that pursue a graduate program get to dedicate their coursework and instruction time to their theological specialty, whether it focuses on a particular belief system, region, time period or group of people. Graduate students sometimes have the opportunity to teach undergraduate courses, which can give them a head start if they plan to obtain a Ph.D. and instruct at the collegiate level. Those with graduate degrees can qualify for administrative positions within government organizations, non-profits, charities and religious institutions. All of these industries have need for professionals that have strong ethical and theoretical backgrounds.

Ph.D.

Students that wish to dedicate their professional careers to theological research can apply for a doctorate program within religious studies. Scholars will continue their work within their specialty at this level, and they might work in conjunction with other disciplines, such as art history and archeology. Ph.D. graduates can pursue roles as faculty members at academic institutions, or leadership roles within religious, non-profit, charity and government institutions.

Ideal Candidates for Religious Studies

Communities often rely on religious studies professionals and scholars as lines of support. This makes compassion a very important personality trait. People will often engage clergy members and counselors for help regarding very personal issues, like substance abuse, domestic problems and ethical issues.
Patience and listening skills can go hand-in-hand for religious studies majors, as they learn about various faiths from ceremonies and religious practitioners. Scholars might dedicate extremely long periods of time to scrutinizing religious texts and interpreting historical artifacts. Once they enter a profession, these graduates will need to use their listening skills to help people in crisis and provide the appropriate theological information.

Career Pathways

The American Academy of Religion recorded ratios of advertised religious studies career positions to candidates’ self-selected classifications. It turns out students who have specialized in topics like East Asian religions, Hebrew and South Asian Religion far outnumber the amount of available jobs in 2002. On the flip side, there were no candidates available to fill advertised positions within the fields of African and Oceanic religions. Before students choose their classification, they should examine the career outlook of their given theology focus.
When it comes to clergy positions , graduates can expect an average annual income of $47,880. Clergy roles are available within many types of environments, including places of worship, nursing homes, hospitals and family service centers. Clergy members are often looked up to as role models within a community, serving as a resource for theological information and counseling.
Those who hold graduate degrees may qualify for leadership positions within a religious institution. Directors of religious activities and education can make an annual average of $40,770. These professionals often find employment at private schools, places of worship and within family service organizations.

Students interested in pursuing a religious studies degree can find assistance by contacting school admissions teams and reaching out to faculty members. Honors societies and professional organizations can serve as starting points to learn about college funding options, job requirements and networking opportunities.

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Religious Studies Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • Cambridge Religious Studies Journal

      Every year, Cambridge's religious studies journal publishes over 25 original research papers dealing with some of the biggest questions and problems that arise in the study of classic and ...

    • Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion Journal

      A peer-supported academic community that is dedicated to promoting collaborative and cross-discipline research on ancient and modern religion. Welcoming submissions from historians, theologians ...

    • Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures

      This journal is focused on medieval conceptions of religion, mysticism and devotion. The JMRC has been published semi-annually for 32 years, but students will need a JSTOR account to access complete ...

    • Review of Religious Research

      Published four times per year, this journal's purpose is to promote collaboration among religious studies scholars. Particular emphasis is placed on elevating research standards and methods and ...

    • The Religious Studies Project

      The RSP produces regular podcasts, essays, roundtable discussions, book reviews and conference reports for both social and scientific scholars of religion. The site also produces a weekly digest of ...

Religious Studies Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • Calihan Academic Grants

      Deadline: July 15 (Fall) and October 15 (Spring)

      Award Amount: $500: $3,000

      Research grants to students and religious leaders whose academic work shows outstanding potential.

    • Congregational Fellowship Grant

      Deadline: Ongoing

      Award Amount: $5,000

      Annual Fellowships for incoming graduate students enrolled at a postsecondary institution pursuing a Masters of Divinity. Students must be U.S. citizens or Canadian citizens, 35 years of age or ...

    • Grants in Your Local City

      Deadline: Varies

      Award Amount: Varies

      This resource will find grants available based on the city or region you live in.

    • Great Lakes Region Grants

      Deadline: April 15

      Award Amount: $3,000

      Scholarship for Great Lakes Region residents who are graduate students enrolled full-time at an accredited theological seminary. Students must be pursuing a Master of Divinity degree and be planning ...

    • Novak Award

      Deadline: December 1

      Award Amount: $10,000

      Scholarship for doctoral students enrolled at a postsecondary institution majoring in Theology, Religion, Economics, Philosophy, Business, or related field. Students must demonstrate an interest in ...

  • Scholarships

    • American Baptist Minority Students Scholarship

      Deadline: Open

      Award Amount: $1,000

      Established to provide financial assistance to minority students at American Baptist-related colleges and universities, particularly for studies in religion ...

    • Anna Sobol Levy Scholarship

      Deadline: March 1

      Award Amount: $1,000

      The Anna Sobol Levy Fellowship helps fund the education of future U.S. military officers and diplomatic personnel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to ...

    • Course of Study Reimbursement Fund Scholarship

      Deadline: $700

      Award Amount: Open

      Scholarship for undergraduate or graduate students enrolled at a postsecondary institution. Students must be licensed local pastors. Due date and number of ...

    • David Pohl Scholarship

      Deadline: April 15

      Award Amount: Varies

      Annual award for graduate students enrolled half- or full-time at a postsecondary institution. Students should be aspirants or candidates, pursuing a Master of ...

    • Dissertation Fellowship Scholarships for African-Americans

      Deadline: February 1

      Award Amount: $18,000

      Annual Fellowships for African American doctoral students enrolled at a postsecondary institution pursuing studies in Religion or Theology. Applicants must be ...

    • Mellon Fellowships

      Deadline: December 21

      Award Amount: $15,000

      Annual fellowships for Ph.D or Th.D candidates in doctoral programs in the fields of Humanities and Social Sciences at graduate schools in the United States ...

    • Murphy Scholarship for Women in Ministry

      Deadline: January 30

      Award Amount: $1,000

      Scholarship for female Women's Ordination Conference members enrolled at a postsecondary institution pursuing studies in Catholic Ministry.

    • North American Doctoral Fellowship

      Deadline: March 1

      Award Amount: $10,000

      Annual Fellowships for minority doctoral students enrolled full-time in a postsecondary institution pursuing studies in Religion or Theology. Students must be ...

    • Rosalie Bentzinger Scholarship

      Deadline: February 1

      Award Amount: $5,000

      Annual award for Ph.D. students enrolled full-time at a postsecondary institution pursuing studies in Christian Education. Students must have a minimum "B" ...

Religious Studies Internships

  • Church Magazines Editing Internship

    Deadline: N/A

    Editing religious publications, with three possible time periods available throughout the year. Located in Salt Lake City.

  • Evangelical Lutheran Companion Internship

    Deadline: N/A

    A 3 week program that invites up to 40 + international youth, who are hosted by ELCA synods. No deadline listed, but applications opened on 2/27/14 for the summer internship.

  • Missouri State Race and Faith Internship

    Deadline: N/A

    An emerging movement that seeks to improve the understanding of race and race relations among people of faith in the Ozarks. Application deadline is open, but next internship starts in the spring.

  • NEXTGen Detroit Internship

    Deadline: N/A

    An opportunity to develop, plan and execute programs for this summer, learn about fundraising and community outreach, and sharpen your marketing skills while building relationships with, and for ...

  • Our Sunday Visitor

    Deadline: N/A

    Religious media internships available in Indiana. Several positions available, see link for descriptions and deadlines.

  • Spiritual Living Administrative Intern

    Deadline: N/A

    An opportunity to learn how spiritual living relates to inter-departmental relationships and the outside Jewish community in Cleveland, Ohio. No application deadline.

Religious Studies Student & Professional Organizations

  • Professional Organizations

    • American Academy of Religion

      The AAR has over 9,000 members making it the world's largest cross-denominational organization of religious scholars and professionals. The association hosts and promotes an annual and several ...

    • Association of Practical Theology

      As a community of practicing ministries, this organization is dedicated to improving interfaith communication and understanding and promoting the education of faith counselors nationwide. The APT ...

    • North American Association for the Study of Religion

      Works to connect scholars and practicing theologians by circulating quarterly publications, annual conferences and online scholarship features and excerpts written by its members.

    • Religious Education Association

      The mission of REA is to advance the interconnected practices of scholarship, research, teaching, and leadership in faith communities and the wider world community.