A degree in theology can be the foundation for a career as a clergy member, religion teacher, or religious director. These careers can involve instructing and counseling parishioners, teaching postsecondary students religion, or leading programs for church members.
Theology means the 'study of God' and encompasses a variety of available educational programs leading to bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees. Those who study theology generally pursue further education or careers in ministry, education, or counseling, and the degree program chosen as well as subsequent specialization depend on the desired career goal.
|Career||Clergy||Religion Teacher||Religious Director|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||N/A||Licensure sometimes required||Relevant experience often preferred|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||6%||12% (for philosophy and religion postsecondary teachers)||4%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$44,250||$66,380 (for philosophy and religion postsecondary teachers)||$38,780|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Career Options for a Degree in Theology
Pastor, priest, chaplain and reverend are a few of the titles for clergy members. They are ordained in their faith and tend to the spiritual well-being of their congregations. Job duties can include conducting religious services, counseling church members and visiting people during times of need.
Requirements to become a member of the clergy can vary according to religious denomination, but many clergy members hold a graduate degree in theology or a related area. Theology degrees are available through the religion departments of many secular colleges and universities or through seminaries and schools run by specific religious denominations.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for clergy was $44,250 as of May 2015. The BLS projected jobs for clergy to grow by 6% over the 2014-2024 decade.
Teachers specializing in religion can be found at post-secondary educational institutions or at private religious schools. Depending on their employer, they may cover various religions in their teachings or specialize in a specific denomination. Educators at postsecondary institutions may also conduct research in addition to their teaching duties.
Many religion teachers hold a graduate degree in a theological discipline, often at the doctorate level. During their studies, theology graduate students often specialize in a specific area, such as theology and culture, historical theology or Biblical studies.
According to data reported by the BLS, postsecondary philosophy and religion teachers earned a median annual salary of $66,380 in 2015.
Religious directors typically coordinate activities within a religious institution in areas such as education or counseling. Directors may specialize in specific congregational groups or activities, such as youth ministries, women's study groups or children's education. They may supervise staff or volunteers, provide counseling services and collaborate with clergy on church activities.
Although the job requirements for religious directors can vary by employer, many directors hold a bachelor's degree or higher, along with several years of related experience. Besides being well-versed in their faith, religious directors should be knowledgeable in a variety of areas, including project administration, human resources and personal service.
Employment of directors of religious activities and education is expected to increase by 4% from 2014-2024, according to BLS projections. In 2015, the median annual pay for this career was $38,780.
Members of the clergy typically assume a leadership role within a congregation and may give sermons or provide spiritual counseling to parishioners. Religious directors coordinate activities within a church or religious institution, and religion teachers instruct students in an academic environment and teach theology and religion courses. A degree in theology can be an asset to those interested in pursuing any of these careers.