Religion in

Careers in Religious Studies

Having tightened the fan belts, this REL professor is set to join the information superhighway.


Life After Graduation?

Like all areas in the Humanities, there are a variety of career possibilities with the knowledge and skills gained in the academic study of religion.

Despite declaring an REL major due simply to ones interest in, and curiosity for, the material covered in our courses, students are advised to think ahead. Your senior year, and then graduation, often come sooner than you think.

For those who assume that one must be religious in order to study religions, or that the study of religions is intended to deepen ones own faith, career opportunities are likely limited to entering various professional roles within religious institutions. With such an understanding of the field in mind, religious studies majors are sometimes also assumed to be preparing for a careers in such fields as social work or conflict mediation.

Understandably, such a conception of the field is the subject of ongoing debate in the field (read a 1996 article on this very topic here [PDF]).

Although graduates from Departments of Religious Studies do indeed pursue, and excel in, such careers, those who understand the study of religion to be an aspect of the human sciences--part of the collective effort to study the many ways in which people build and contest identities and systems of value--do not necessarily see a link between the academic study of religion and personal faith-development. Such students therefore see their major in REL as preparing them for any number of careers in which their nuanced ability to define, describe, compare, understand, and account for varying types of knowledge systems is seen as a benefit.

Although such REL majors can go on to graduate school, others enter any number of professional fields, such as the law or journalism.

If you are interested in applying to graduate school, please talk with one of our professors early in your undergraduate training. For starters, click here for some helpful advice.

Learn about the career paths taken by some of our past graduates.

What Do You Do With a Major in Religious Studies?

Good question; maybe these will get you thinking.

Read an article by a Journalism and Religious Studies double major

Visit the University's Career Center

UA Career Center Worksheet on the Religious Studies Major (PDF)

"Theses on Professionalization" (see the accompanying job market links below the theses)

Information about Graduate Programs in Religious Studies

Have you talked to your professors about their grad school experiences? Have you visited the web sites for various Departments offering an MA and PhD, to check out their degree requirements and their academic resources? Are these schools in regions in which you'd like to live for a few years (MA = 2 years; Ph.D. = approx. 4 to 6 years)? Interested in going to another country for your studies? Do they offer programs/courses that suit your interests? Do they offer teaching assistanships and scholarships? Do they offer just an MA (making them "a terminal M.A. degree program") or also a Ph.D.? Are there advantaged to attending a regional or terminal degree program for your MA and then applying to another school for your Ph.D.? Are their professors nationally known? Do they work in areas that match your interests? Will you have to learn languages while there? Will you have to write a thesis?

The chapter entitled "Religion" from The Real Guide to Grad School (published in 1997; PDF)

Directory of Graduate Schools for Religious Studies (and other fields that study religion, such as Theology)

University of Florida's Directory of Graduate Programs

Information on REL Graduate School from the Department of Religious Studies, California State University, Chico

Preparing for Graduate School

Certain things must happen in order to apply for grad school (which usually happens in late Fall or mid-winter)--sometimes they are pretty standard (such as writing the GRE and obtaining letters of reference) and sometimes they are highly specific to each school to which you apply (such as writing a personal statement of interest). If you're thinking of a teaching and research career in the university, have you thought about what areas and specialties are currently in demand? Who is getting hired? What will it eventually take to be hired? Have you thought about a timetable for getting application materials together?

Information on Academic Hirings in Religious Studies for 2005 (PDF)

A Senior Year Timetable for Grad School Applications

Graduate Records Examination (GRE) Official Website

Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) Information