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. Many religious studies programs also emphasize the study of ancient languages, which can help students fulfill original research requirements. Specialization options include eastern religions, religious history, religious philosophy, religious ethics, Christianity, Judaism Buddhism, Islam, Hebrew, the Old Testament, and the New Testament.
In order to apply to one of these two-year programs, students must hold a bachelor's degree. Other requirements might include letters of recommendation, GRE scores and a personal statement. The strongest applicants commonly have reading proficiency in more than one language, as well as backgrounds in history, anthropology, psychology or sociology.
Master's Degree in Religious Studies
The curriculum of these programs combines theoretical coursework with independent research, and it varies greatly by specialization. Common course titles include:
- History of religions
- Christianity's effects on other religions
- Religious movements
- Psychology of religion
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
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.).
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 employment for postsecondary teachers will increase 13% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for this profession was $72,470 as of May 2015.
Most individuals who complete master's degree programs in religious studies intend to pursue jobs in academia. For this reason, graduates often go on to doctorate programs in the same field. Doctoral degrees involve more research and a dissertation.
To recap, master's degree programs in religious studies provide comprehensive training in the field and give students the chance to pursue their subfield of interest at a high level. After earning this degree, they are prepared to enroll in doctoral programs in the field.