Religious Studies Masters Degree Program Information

Master's degree programs in religious studies are offered by theological seminaries, university departments of theology, and divinity schools. In the United States, Christianity and related studies make up the majority of religious studies programs, but lessons are often interdisciplinary, incorporating techniques from fields such as sociology, anthropology, history, linguistics and even economics.

Essential Information

Many religious studies programs emphasize languages, which aids in the required original research. Specializations and subject areas are equally diverse, including eastern religions, religious history, religious philosophy, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Still others include religious ethics, Islam, Hebrew, Old Testament or New Testament.

Religious studies is a field in which the terminal degree is a doctorate. Therefore, to be most competitive in the job market, those who complete master's degree programs in this field usually go on to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

  • Religious Studies Program Fields: Eastern Religions, religious history, religious philosophy
  • Prerequisites: Undergraduate degree required
  • Program Specializations: Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hebrew, Old or New Testament
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Other Requirements: Many programs emphasize languages

Master's Degree in Religious Studies

Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission to master's degrees programs in religious studies. Other requirements might include letters of recommendation, GRE scores and a personal statement. The strongest applicants commonly have reading proficiency in one or more languages, as well as backgrounds in history, anthropology, psychology or sociology.

Coursework in these programs is almost entirely theoretical and heavily emphasizes original research. Coursework also varies greatly by course of study. The following are classes that might appear in a master-level curriculum:

  • Ethics
  • History of religions
  • Christianity's effect on other religions
  • Religious movements
  • Psychology of religion

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Although a doctorate is preferred for most postsecondary teachers of religious studies, a master's degree may qualify its holder for teaching positions at private secondary institutions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment rate for secondary teachers will rise six percent between 2012 and 2022. The median annual salary for this profession was $56,310 as of May 2014.

Continuing Education

Most individuals who complete master's degree programs for religious studies are pursuing jobs in academia. For this reason, graduates often go on to doctorate programs in the same field. Doctoral degrees are characterized by more research and a dissertation.

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