Career Info for a Degree in Theological or Religious Studies

Jun 06, 2021

A degree in theological or religious studies can prepare one for several career options relating to religion. Occupations as clergy, college professor, or as a religion correspondent for a news agency are possible options with this degree.

Essential Information

Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in theology, religion and ministerial studies. Bachelor's degree programs usually begin with introductory courses in world religions, spiritual traditions and religious history. Students interested in graduate study can earn a master's degree, which can qualify them for leadership roles, research assisting or academic careers. Most programs offer the opportunity to focus the coursework in a particular area, such as education, missions, theology or textual translation. Those interested in senior leadership, university professor or advanced research positions could pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in a number of related fields or earn a specific doctoral degree, such as a Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Divinity or Doctor of Ministry.

Career Clergy Members Broadcast News Analysts Postsecondary Teachers
Education Requirements Bachelor's Bachelor's in journalism or communications Ph.D
Additional Requirements Moderate-term on-the-job training Internships are encouraged Previous teaching experience
Projected Job Growth* (2019-2029) 4% -11% 9%
Median Salary* (2020) $51,940 annually $49,300 annually $80,790 annually

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Clergy Member

Clergy members, such as priests, ulama, rabbis and pastors, act as religious and spiritual leaders for their parishioners. Duties vary depending on the specific church and denomination, but many clergy can lead their parishes in worship, administer sacraments or instruct the congregation in religious educational programs. In this capacity, they're also expected to act as community leaders as well as religious leaders. Clergy members might visit the sick and dying, comfort the bereaved and help church members through personal problems.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of clergy members was expected to increase 4% from 2019-2029, which is as fast as average compared to all occupations ( The median salary for clergy members was $51,940 in 2020, and the size and location of a congregation could be a determining factor. In 2019, the BLS stated that the most common degree for entry-level clergy members was a bachelor's degree.

News Analyst

News analysts gather, report and interpret news for television and printed media for a variety of audiences. Analysts who specialize in religion can write about public religious debates, politics and even foreign policy. Working hours can be unusual at news organizations because news cycles are driven by deadlines and events. Analysts who cover religious topics might work out of an office, travel around a specific region or make trips to foreign countries.

The BLS anticipated that the number of broadcast news analyst jobs would decline by 11% from 2019-2029. That growth might be related to news agencies' preference for news analysts over reporters. A bachelor's degree was the most common requirement for news analysts, according to the BLS. The median salary for the profession was $49,300 in 2020.

Religion or Theology Professor

Religious and theology teachers usually work in postsecondary institutions, typically in private universities. These educators teach students about the history, philosophy and beliefs of religions, languages and cultures. In addition to planning curricula, giving lectures and evaluating students' work, some professors are required to conduct independent research and publish their writing regularly in scholarly journals and reviews. Teachers generally must hold master's or doctoral degrees, which entail 2-6 years of graduate-level study.

According to the BLS, employment of postsecondary teachers in general was expected to increase 9% from 2019-2029. The growing number of high school graduates looking toward college and the influx of adults going back to school for retraining was anticipated to drive this growth. The median annual salary for postsecondary teachers of religion and philosophy was $80,790 in 2020.

A degree in theology or religious studies explores the history and diversity of religions. This background prepares one for a variety of jobs, either practicing in a theological field like a clergy member, or as an academic exploring the history of the world's many religious traditions.

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