Religious Studies

Few topics in life can evoke such utter passion as that of religion. To the completely devout, their religion is the only way. To those who reject all religion, it seems foolish to engage in its practice.
Somewhere in the middle is the truth, and that is what those who study religion aim to find.
As Muhammad Ali once espoused, “rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do – they all contain truths.”

Those interested in pursuing the religions of the world can do so through a religious studies program at an accredited college or university. While some choose the program of study simply as a means to enrich themselves and their understanding of the world’s many religions, others do so in order to prepare a foundation for service-oriented careers in the ministry, counseling work or social services.

Required Education

Sometimes referred to as theology degrees, there are a number of options available to those who wish to engage in religious studies.

Associate degrees in theology and religious studies generally will provide the basics of world religions, including an overview of all religions practiced and key figures and places of importance to each religion. Those who possess an associate degree in religious studies can go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, or they may work in any number of entry-level jobs within the religion industry.
Bachelor degrees in religious studies also are available and generally include a well-rounded study of all world religions. Undergraduate degree programs also include some courses in philosophy as it relates to certain religious practices. Those who possess a bachelor’s degree in religious studies can work in a variety of fields, including the ministry, research, non-profit work and even as a writer focusing on topics of religion.
Master’s and doctorate degrees in religious studies generally are reserved for those who wish to teach theology or religion at a college or university, or who wish to pursue research-related careers in theology and religion. Some management-level positions – such as the director of a religious foundation or hospital – require these advanced degrees.
It is important to note that those who wish to use their degree in religious studies to pursue a career in the ministry also will be required to meet certain criteria before they can become ordained. Different religions and even denominations within the same religion have their own requirements for becoming ordained.

Future Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the greatest number of workers who are employed on the religious studies spectrum work for religious organizations. They represent 3.42 percent of the industry and earn an average of $29,240 annually.

The next largest sector of employment for this field is in education, which represents 0.01 percent. Those employed in this aspect of the industry earn on average $31,180 annually.

The bureau did not track demand or expectant growth for this industry.

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