Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Religious Studies: Degree Overview

Oct 12, 2019

Essential Information

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Religious Studies is a scholarly, research-oriented degree intended for students looking to conduct in-depth academic investigation or become educators at the postsecondary level. These programs provide students with an understanding of the role of religion in world history with regard to culture, politics and society. They also include general studies in major issues in religion today. Students may also concentrate their studies in a particular religion, such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism or Buddhism. Depending upon the area of focus, students might be required to study the languages in which source texts and ancient documents are written, such as Latin and Ancient Greek. Because many Ph.D. students pursue teaching careers, many religious studies programs incorporate pedagogical training and often include student teaching opportunities.

Applicants to religious studies Ph.D. programs are required to possess a bachelor's degree, though most programs do not require applicants to have studied religion while an undergraduate. These programs also tend to be writing-intensive, so students typically must submit a writing sample demonstrating strong writing and critical-thinking skills.

Ph.D. in Religious Studies

Common courses in a religious studies program include:

  • Religious studies education
  • History of Judaism
  • Foundations of Christianity and New Testament analysis
  • Islamic religious traditions
  • Religion in American history
  • Religious history of Eastern Asia

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

After earning a Ph.D. in religious studies, most graduates go on to pursue academic careers conducting research and teaching postsecondary institutions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 23,100 postsecondary teachers of religion and philosophy in May 2018 ( The number of postsecondary teachers in general is expected to increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the national average. This is largely due to an increase in the number of students attending colleges and universities, but student enrollment is expected to grow at a slower rate than it has in the past.

Continuing Education Information

A Ph.D. in Religious Studies is the terminal degree in the field. However, some individuals pursue complementary degrees or study the practice of teaching in order to improve their career opportunities in education. Certification is not required for religious studies educators.

In conclusion, a Ph.D. in religious studies is a great educational option for students with an intense academic interest in religion. Over the course of these programs, students hone their expertise in a specific area of interest and build the research, writing, and teaching skills they need for academic careers in the field.

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