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Career Information for a Degree in Religious Studies

Degrees in religious studies typically cover the history of religion and its impact on society. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for religious study graduates.

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Religious study graduates can work in a number of fields depending on their degree and experience level. While salary can play an influential role, the differences in job growth rates may be a determining factor for most professionals interested in pursuing a solid career.

Essential Information

Religious studies degree programs teach students about the historical and cultural effects of religion on past and present societies and provide the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills required to analyze, interpret and understand religious texts. With a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in religious studies, individuals can qualify for many careers.

Career Clergy Professor News Analyst Missionary
Education Requirements Typically a master's or doctoral degree; for some entry-level positions, a bachelor's degree may be sufficient Doctoral degree usually required for a university position, but master's degree often sufficient for other colleges Bachelor's degree with concurrent degree studies or internships in journalism None required, but a bachelor's degree can be helpful
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* 13% for all postsecondary teachers* 13% decline for broadcast news analysts* 5-8% for religious workers, other (includes missionaries)**
Median Salary (2015)* $44,250 $66,380 for postsecondary philosophy and religion instructors $65,530 for broadcast news analysts $28,750 for religious workers, other (includes missionaries)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*Net OnLine

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Career Options

Religious studies degrees give graduates the critical thinking skills needed to work in many types of jobs. Here is an overview of the requirements, salary and job outlook for clergy members, college professors and news analysts, along with some facts about work as a missionary.

Clergy

Spiritual leaders of religious communities, such as ministers, rabbis and priests often earn religious studies degrees. The majority of these positions require master's or doctoral degrees in religious studies. Members of the clergy perform ceremonies such as weddings, communions and funerals, deliver weekly sermons on topics related to spirituality and daily life, read and interpret religious doctrines for congregation members and provide counseling services to members of a congregation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for clergy members was $$44,250 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS predicted that there would be 6% job growth in the field from 2014-24, which was about as fast as average for all professions.

Professor

Religious studies professors typically work at universities, colleges or divinity schools. Professors may prepare and teach curricula, complete administrative tasks, study current literature in the field, perform research and publish scholarly work. Completion of a Ph.D. program in religious studies is usually required to teach at the university level, the BLS reported, but some professors may also hold a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree. In 2015, the median salary for postsecondary philosophy and religion teachers was $66,380, according to the BLS. The BLS projected a 13% growth rate for all college professors from 2014-24.

News Analyst

According to the BLS, news analysts, reporters and correspondents with liberal arts degrees in areas such as religious studies may have greater advancement opportunities, because of their subject-matter knowledge. To pursue a career as a journalist, individuals should pursue a concurrent degree in journalism or obtain internships with media outlets while attending school. A background in religious studies might assist journalists with explaining the religious perspectives behind national and global events. In 2015, the BLS reported the median annual salary for broadcast news analysts was $65,530. Additionally, the BLS expected a 13% decline in jobs in this field from 2014-24.

Missionary

A degree in religious studies is not usually a prerequisite to becoming a missionary, but individuals who complete these degree programs are often better prepared to answer difficult questions about particular belief structures. Missionaries travel, often to foreign countries, to educate people about a particular religion, either explicitly or by example. Many missionaries work on a volunteer basis and also seek out other volunteer opportunities or paid positions. This may include a broad range of jobs such as helping to build or repair infrastructure in towns and villages, working in a local hospital or teaching English.

Missionaries are classified by the BLS as religious workers, a category that was stated to earn a median wage of $28,750 in 2015. This field was expected to experience average growth between 2014 and 2024, according to O*Net OnLine.

A bachelor's degree, internship, or entry-level experience can help qualify you for a profession in religious studies. Careers as a professor, clergy, missionary, or news analyst offer salaries that vary drastically. Knowing which jobs are growing at an average rate or declining by the numbers, will help you decide which career choice is the perfect match for you.

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