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 These scholars will explore historical documents, artwork and cultural artifacts to learn about belief systems around the world.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.