The analytic and interpretive skills of religious study can be applied to careers in religious settings, in schools, or in the community.
During a religious studies degree, students learn about comparative religious traditions, the impact of religion on society, and the history of religion. Religious studies majors strengthen their research, writing, and communications abilities while also gaining strong critical thinking skills.
Religious studies is a versatile liberal arts degree that offers multiple career paths. With a degree in religious studies, graduates can become religion teachers, counselors, advocates, community service managers, or religious studies professors.
Careers in Religious Studies
With a degree in religious studies, graduates pursue careers in fields like community services, fundraising, and education. For example, religious studies majors can become religion teachers at the secondary level or work as advocates or case workers in community services organizations.
This section explores common career paths for people with religious studies degrees, including earning potential, required education, and projected job growth.
Bachelor's Degree Required
Social and Community Service Managers
Religious Activities and Education Directors
Doctoral Degree Required
Postsecondary Philosophy and Religion Teacher
What Kinds of Religious Studies Degrees Are There?
Colleges and universities offer religious studies degrees at every level, including undergraduate and graduate degrees. Each degree leads to different career paths. For example, teachers must hold at least a bachelor's degree, while religious studies professors need a doctorate.
A religious studies degree prepares students for different careers than they would get with a theology degree, which provides more focused faith-based training. The critical and analytical training of a religious studies program can lead to careers in social services, business, education, and religion.
Associate Degree in Religious Studies
An associate degree in religious studies introduces learners to the history of religion, comparative religious traditions, and religious practice. Degree-seekers also complete general education requirements in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
After completing a two-year associate degree, graduates can pursue jobs with religious organizations, with roles like ministry association, youth leader, or teacher's assistant. With an associate degree, students can also transfer into a bachelor's program. An accredited associate degree often meets general education requirements for a bachelor's degree.
Bachelor's Degree in Religious Studies
A bachelor's degree in religious studies examines religious traditions and their histories. While taking courses in religious practice, religion in public life, mystical traditions, and religion in America, majors strengthen their critical thinking and communication skills. A religious studies degree also builds strong writing and analytical skills. Earning a bachelor's degree typically takes four years for full-time students.
With a bachelor's in religious studies, graduates can pursue a variety of careers. For example, they can work as advocates or case workers in social services organizations, apply for jobs in religious organizations, or work as religious studies teachers at the secondary level.
Master's Degree in Religious Studies
A master's degree in religious studies offers focused, advanced training in reading religious texts, understanding the history of religions, and comparing the devotional practices of different religious traditions. During a two-year master's program, graduate students explore the role of religion in cultural life, the connections between religion and social justice, and the social impact of religious traditions.
A religious studies graduate degree may not meet the requirements for ordained clerical positions. Clergy often need a master's in theology or a master of divinity. However, with a master's in religious studies, graduates can pursue opportunities as social and community service managers, administrators, or counselors.
Doctoral Degree in Religious Studies
A doctorate in religious studies prepares graduates for academic and leadership roles, including religious studies professor. During a doctoral program, graduate students complete focused coursework and write a dissertation in their specialty area. Earning a doctorate requires a significant time commitment; most programs require 4-6 years to complete.
After defending their dissertation, graduates can apply for tenure-track academic roles or pursue opportunities outside of academia, like religious education director or clergy.
Accreditation for Religious Studies Programs
Prospective religious studies majors should always choose an accredited institution. Accredited schools meet high standards for educating students and granting degrees, and they also meet the requirements for distributing federal financial aid to students.
Regional accreditation remains the best choice for religious studies programs. However, some religiously affiliated schools may hold national accreditation. Applicants considering a religiously affiliated school should also review national faith-related accrediting organizations.
Learn more about accreditation in our accreditation guide.
Religious Studies Professional Organizations
- American Academy of Religion AAR encourages the academic study of religion. The academy publishes information like best practice guides and research reports. Members can apply for regional development grants, public engagement fellowships, and research grants through AAR. The association also provides career assistance, such as job postings, outside grant opportunities, and online training resources.
- North American Association for the Study of Religion NAASR, which dates back to 1985, promotes the study of religion through historical, social scientific, and critical lenses. The association promotes cooperation between scholars of religion and hosts conferences with networking opportunities. NAASR also publishes a scholarly journal, a book series, and working papers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Religion a Good Major?
A religious studies major teaches students to analyze religious traditions and the relationship between religion and society. The degree also builds critical thinking and analytical skills.
Why Do Religious Studies?
During a religious studies degree, students build strong research and writing skills, which can also benefit their critical thinking. The degree helps graduates pursue careers in religious institutions and other social organizations.
How Long Does a Ph.D. in Religious Studies Take?
Earning a Ph.D. in religious studies generally takes 4-6 years, depending on the program and whether the student holds a master's degree.
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