Religious Studies Career Guide – Salary & Degree Info

Religions have shaped the world in general and human societies in particular in numerous ways since time immemorial. The diversity of beliefs played a significant role in advancing humanity’s understanding of spirituality and various concepts of life and death. Those interested in exploring these beliefs and practices and how they answer some of life’s most complex questions will find Religious Studies an ideal choice for a college degree.

Unlike theology, which mainly focuses on studying the divine, Religious Studies look at religions and beliefs from an academic standpoint to understand how they relate to each other. This is also where they can examine how different religions play a fundamental role in the collective history of humanity.

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Table of Contents

5 Top Religious Studies Careers

Higher Education Teacher

Higher Education Teacher Salary: $76,160 per year

One of the most lucrative career paths for graduates of Religious Studies is teaching in universities and colleges. This post requires in-depth knowledge on the subject of religious studies, usually with an area of focus and research interests that complement their expertise. Some religious studies professors specialize in Asian Religions, Religions in the Americas, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, and more.

They are expected to teach courses in religion, theology, philosophy, and other related areas of study. Some might solely focus on teaching, while others also research and publish scholarly papers and even books. As educators, they are expected to embody skills, knowledge, and experience integral to this particular profession. At the very least, a higher education teacher must have a master’s degree in Religious Studies or related fields. They play a huge role in advancing the education of future Religious Studies graduates who will impact their chosen career path.

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Social Worker

Social Worker Salary: $51,760 per year

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that the field of social work employs 715,600 as of 2020. It is expected to grow 12% faster than average between 2020 and 2030. As social workers, Religious Studies graduates will be able to work in a variety of settings. They can find employment in hospitals, settlement houses, private practices, and community development corporations, among many others. It is their job to help people deal with their problems in their daily lives. They are tasked to offer services such as advocacy and crisis response.

Their organizational and analytical skills can be put to good use in this job position. They must be able to listen actively and acquire a high level of emotional intelligence. Their background in Religious Studies and how religion and spirituality influenced and shaped society can help them become more effective in their job. They will be able to help clients develop a holistic view of the environment they are in.

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Religion Journalist

Religion Journalist Salary: $49,300 per year

Some Religious Studies graduates take on journalism as their career path. This allows them to make a difference in society by keeping the public updated regarding current events and other noteworthy information. They can find employment in a range of settings, including newspapers, websites, television, and radio broadcasting, among many others. As journalists specializing in religion, they will be expected to respect the role of faith in people’s lives.

They often have an abiding sense of fairness, understanding that every story has two sides and presenting the facts without coloring them with their own biases. They must also be committed to covering all kinds of religions and how these play an important role in political and societal systems and modern-day conflicts.

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Religious Worker

Religious Worker Salary: $40,070 per year

Having a background in Religious Studies can land one a job in religious settings. They can either be a part of religious organizations, colleges, universities, general hospitals, or home health care services. Depending on their religion and role, their job descriptions will ultimately vary. Some may serve as clergies. As spiritual leaders, they will be tasked to oversee sacred activities to nurture their congregations. They are also expected to participate in interfaith services, often working together with community leaders.

Those who choose to become pastoral care workers will find themselves providing emotional, social, and spiritual support. They will be conducting counseling, prison visits, prayer sessions, and memorials, among others. While their duties may vary, their main concern is always to help people improve their spiritual dimension of wellness.

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Lawyer

Lawyer Salary: $126,930 per year

Many Religious Studies graduates went on to study law. Lawyers are required to earn a law degree and pass their state’s written bar examinations. They are responsible for advising and representing their clients on legal issues and disputes. Their background in religious studies can be a good and solid foundation for legal ethics.

Many of the skills they acquire from their Religious Studies degree can be used in this profession. For one, they are often required to meet and interview clients so they can render legal advice. This duty allows them to utilize their strong communication and analytical skills. They are also often tasked to perform legal research to determine the facts of a case concerning current laws. Their written skills can be useful when drafting legal documents such as pleadings, motions, briefs, contracts, and wills.


Why Earn a Degree in Religious Studies?

Unlike theology, which mainly focuses on studying the divine, Religious Studies look at religions and beliefs from an academic standpoint to understand how they relate to each other. This is also where they can examine how different religions play a fundamental role in the collective history of humanity.

Most Religious Studies graduates went on to work in education, business, journalism, television or film, marketing, politics, and publishing, among many others. They can find positions in the nonprofit sectors as well as religious institutions and government agencies. It is not uncommon for them to deliver counseling services as educators. Many also serve as religious officials, including nuns, priests, ministers, and missionaries.

If one’s interest lies in different religions worldwide and how they have shaped societies throughout history, then earning a degree in Religious Studies is the ideal choice. Just like other liberal arts majors, Religious Studies cultivate one’s critical thinking skills along with observational and written, and oral communication skills.

This field is known for expanding students’ horizons and opening their minds to new experiences that are essential in molding their perspectives. They are often exposed to the diversity and complexities of societies and how the differences in religions and beliefs can enrich their understanding of the world around them.

Understanding the world’s different religions can also lead to a better understanding of life’s other areas, seeing how religion has been instrumental in shaping contemporary politics, cultures, and societies. This knowledge is valuable in various fields, presenting comprehensive career choices for those who have earned a degree in this field.

A degree in Religious Studies can open several career paths to its graduates. While many pursue religious vocations after they graduate, they also can pursue professional training in a range of fields, including business, law, journalism, and even medicine. It is also possible for Religious Studies graduates to earn advanced degrees in neighboring disciplines, including anthropology, classics, history, literature, and philosophy, among many others.

Colleges and universities offer Religious Studies in various concentrations. Some are focused on studying religions in general. Others also include individual traditions, deities, and other religious figures. Some programs are categorized according to Eastern Religions, Western Religions, or the Nature of Religions.

Skills Required for a Career in Religious Studies

Students pursuing Religious Studies should have an innate desire to understand the ways religions have shaped the world and continue to influence everyday life. They must be considering a career path in fields where knowledge about religions, beliefs, and cultures is essential. This may include jobs in counseling, social work, religious service, and many others.

However, to ensure success in their future career plans, the following skills must be embodied by those who wish to delve into Religious Studies. These skills are vital in achieving the sought-after degree and helping students navigate their chosen field after they graduate. They will utilize these skills when they finally land a job, capitalizing on their strengths in the job market in particular and in life in general.

Inquisitiveness

Asking and answering questions is part and parcel of Religious Studies. It is a huge part of discussions on several religions and their impacts on society. Students should be curious and actively try to answer questions that shed light on beliefs’ different perspectives. Having the intellectual curiosity to know things and acquire a new set of knowledge sets a solid foundation for Religious Studies graduates.

Research Skills

In Religious Studies, you will be dealing with a lot of information on different religions, along with varying perspectives. This means you have to be equipped with good research skills to search, extract, evaluate, and present the information. Some projects require conventional research sources, especially old texts.

Analytical Skills

Conducting a thorough analysis of their gathered data goes hand in hand with their ability to research. They often display a good grasp of examining and sorting out information, extracting those that are relevant.

Linguistic Skills

As mentioned before, old texts are essential when it comes to digging up relevant information. This requires a solid knowledge of the different languages of the sacred texts, including Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and others. Translating these old texts into English can be a handy skill.

Organizational Skills

Religious Studies also requires students to learn some organizational skills that can be useful in the field. There are times when they are asked to join immersion activities like assisting local churches and planning out programs that can help their local community. They should be able to mobilize their teams and run the programs successfully.

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Online vs. Traditional Religious Studies Degrees – Any Major Differences?

In the last decades, the popularity of online study or distance learning has exploded. It has exponentially reached its peak during the COVID-19 pandemic, where lockdowns and health restrictions have forced millions of students inside their homes. As of 2019, around 7 million students enrolled in distance education courses at degree-granting higher education institutions. This number was only expected to go up in the last few years as the impact of the pandemic becomes more evident.

For many colleges and universities, online learning served as their lifeline. This brings the question: is there a huge difference between the two? Which is better? Students pursuing Religious Studies might want to explore their options. Choosing between a traditional and online education requires careful consideration as this can impact their academic life in the next four years.

Students must look at the strengths and weaknesses of both methods to determine the best option for them:

Convenience and Comfortability

Online education is known for its flexibility. This means students are often given the freedom to work their academic schedules around their current responsibilities, whether it is personal or professional. They can set their own pace because the flexible format allows them to work on their coursework at their convenience. Most online modules and lectures are available 24/7. A highly lauded benefit of online degree programs is that they can be taken anytime and anywhere.

This is a huge boost for working students and professionals who need to juggle work and school. It is also good for those who thrive in a convenient course schedule from the comfort of their home.

Tuition Costs and Other Expenses

While there is not much difference between online and face-to-face tuition rates, there is a real opportunity to cut down costs with online degrees. Students do not need to stay on or near their campus to attend classes in person. They can do so wherever they are. They also get to save on daily commutes to and from the campus. The time they usually spend traveling for their classes can be put to better use.

Availability and Technology

While online courses are easily available, not all students have access to resources and technology to make the online education experience smooth sailing. For one, online programs require a good computer or any electronic devices that can aid their learning. They require a dependable internet connection. For those living outside the city, this can sometimes be challenging. According to statistics, 4.4 million households with children did not have access to computers for online learning during the pandemic.

Social Interaction and Networking

Online learning still offers constant communication with professors and classmates. However, this is to a lesser degree compared to traditional education. Talking through the screen is well and good, but nothing can replace good old human interaction when done face to face. On-campus classes provide a wealth of opportunities for students to form connections and lasting friendships with their schoolmates through joining academic clubs and organizations. They can even meet alumni from their field who can act as their mentors in the real world.

Specializations of Religious Studies Degrees

Religous studies degree

Religious Study is a broad field that offers various opportunities for specialization. This narrows down one’s concentration in a certain field, equipping them with deeper knowledge about their chosen subject area. Doing this will give them an edge over their competitors when they apply for a job, as their experience and niche education will speak for themselves. 

Here are some of the popular Religious Studies specializations:

American Religious History

This field allows students to explore religion through its role in defining the American nation. It is established that religions in the Americas are diverse, and this is something widely covered in this specialization. Students will discuss the complexities involved in differentiating religion from the culture in the modern age.

Asian Religions

This specialization focuses on studying Asian religions through various contexts, including historical, intellectual, and cultural. Various religious traditions in Asia are encompassed by this field, from Buddhism and Hinduism to Confucianism and Taoism. Students often chose one cultural area or geographical focus for their study scope, usually India, China, and more. While this is the case, they are still expected to cover the other major Asian traditions only to gain general knowledge. The latter will allow them a broad acquaintance with regards to the developments in the Asian religions.

Ancient Christianity

Christianity plays such a massive role in the history of many European societies. Students are equipped with a thorough understanding of western Christianity and its history and tradition in this field. They explore and examine the relationship between Christian traditions and the cultures of Europeans and Americans. This multidisciplinary approach has a broad scope. Some focus on Christianity in Late Antiquity. Others tackle Christianity in early modern Europe.

Islamic Studies

This field covers the intellectual history and religious thought of the Islamic religion. Students are expected to develop comprehensive knowledge and demonstrate their competence in Islamic religious history, from the development of the Islamic civilization to the founding of laws, society, and institutions. They will also tackle various Islamic philosophies such as Shi’ism, Sufism, and other Islamic religious thought. Those who want to delve into modern and contemporary Islam can also do so in this field.

Judaic Studies

The Jews have quite an interesting scope in terms of culture, religion, literature, and history. In this field, students will take a disciplinary approach to study Judaism in different contexts, including its society, texts, ideologies, and institutions. Some universities emphasize strengthening one’s linguistic, textual, and methodical skills and the tools they use. There is also an option to study European Jewry from the medieval era to the Holocaust.

Philosophy of Religion

This field is focused on philosophical disciplines, acquiring historical knowledge from classical Greek origins to the present day. Students are expected to reflect on the conceptual and methodological issues regarding religion. They will examine the themes and concepts in religious traditions, including the broader philosophical reflection of religion’s nature, alternative concepts of God, and the cosmos, among other things.

Religious Ethics

Another field of specialization under Religious Studies is religious ethics. Students need to demonstrate their knowledge and competence with a range of literature and problems in different areas, including theological ethics, philosophical ethics, and social ethics. It emphasizes the teaching of right and wrong concerning religion. Studying this field is important as it helps advance interfaith dialogue that impacts political systems and everyday human interactions.

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Financing Your Religious Studies Education

A Religious Study degree can be anywhere between $7,000 to $15,000 or more, depending on the state one is in and the university of their choice. Private universities tend to cost so much more than public-funded ones.

College education in this field can be expensive. Many students find it a challenge to fund their education, especially if the support they get from their parents is not enough. However, they should not lose hope because there are several ways to finance their Religious Studies degree and live their dream.

Explore Financial Aid Options

Religous studies

Most colleges and universities offer varying options to aid one’s college tuition and other expenses. The most common financial aid is the one offered by the federal government. Students should complete a form to determine their eligibility for financial aid. The latter comes in many forms, including loans, grants, and work-study programs.

It is easiest to get a student loan, a form of financial aid that allows students to borrow money covering their tuition and other expenses while compelling them to pay back their debts once they have a stable job. There are also private loans on top of government-funded loans.

Get a Religious Studies Scholarship

Finding a scholarship or grant sounds like the best option for those who want to avoid being saddled with debt even before they graduate. Most scholarships for Religious Studies programs come from schools, churches, alumni, and even private organizations. Some scholarships are under the departments, while others are unique to the program.

Many universities grant scholarships according to one’s demonstrated financial needs, while others require applicants to meet minimum GPA requirements. These merit-based scholarships often ask applicants to maintain their good academic standing to keep the scholarship. Some of the scholarships available include Alexander Christian Foundation Scholarship, Disciples Leadership Program, Disciples Home Missions Scholarships, and many more. The amount offered varies from scholarship to scholarship.

Some might cover the full tuition, and others might offer a particular amount that can be used in any school-related expenses. Students need to check with their universities for available scholarships and make sure that they apply within the deadline.

Consider Working While Studying

Working while studying is not for everyone, but those who are agreeable to this setup can do so. Some universities have available work-study programs within the campus. Others choose to look for part-time jobs that will work around their class schedules. Employers partner with schools for employee programs that allow reimbursements of tuition fees and other costs. It is only a matter of looking for a suitable job that will allow one to pursue their academic degree in Religious Studies at the same time.

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