Degree programs in Islamic studies consist of studies of the Middle Eastern peoples, their history and culture as well as in the faith of Islam. Bachelor's degree programs offer a general overview, but may allow students to choose a concentration on a particular topic. Most programs at the graduate level are in religious studies. In a master's program, students work on learning an Arabic language and engage in research. Doctoral students continue that work.
If you want to enter a bachelor's program, you must have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Applicants to master's programs should have a bachelor's degree, and some schools require that this degree is in religious or Middle Eastern studies. Some programs also require knowledge of the Arabic language. The completion of a thesis is required in order to graduate.
Applicants to doctoral programs must have either a bachelor's or a master's degree in religious or Middle Eastern studies. They must also know how to read and write in Arabic. Doctoral students must complete a dissertation as part of their program.
Bachelor of Arts in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
A typical Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) program in Islamic studies builds a foundation for further study and research in the field. It usually includes a general curriculum covering the history and culture of the Middle East, and students may also choose an additional specific regional or cultural focus. Coursework within an Islamic studies bachelor's degree program includes both general education requirements, such as composition, humanities and math, and core classes specific to Middle East culture. Students often study Islamic history, language, and culture before choosing a focus.
Common course topics include:
- Arab nations history
- Middle Eastern women roles
- Introduction to Islam
- Politics in the Middle East
Master of Arts in Islamic Studies
While most graduate programs in this field are in religious studies with a focus in Islamic studies, there are a few Master of Arts (M.A.) in Islamic Studies programs available. Students often choose a specific area and region of focus, as well as study the geography, history, and laws of the Near and Middle East. Religions, with a focus on Islam, are typically a particularly important area of study. Master's degree programs include advanced courses specific to the religion, history, and culture of the Middle East.
Typical coursework in an M.A. in Islamic Studies program includes:
- Arabic language
- Islamic law and ethics
- Middle Eastern history
- Qur'an interpretation
- Islamic sects
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Doctor of Philosophy in Islamic Studies
Most relevant Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs are found as religious studies programs with a focus in Islamic studies. Coursework for a doctorate program in Islamic studies combines the study of classical and modern Islamic culture. Much of a student's course load depends on their chosen area of expertise. For example, a student who is specifically focused on Iran might be expected to study Persian in addition to Arabic.
Additional classes that can be found in a Ph.D. program include:
- Qur'anic, Juridical and Hadithic studies
- Comparative ethics in religion
- Islamic government
- Traditionalism and rationalism
- Sufi literature
Most individuals who complete a bachelor's degree program in Islamic studies continue on to a related graduate degree program. However, there are career options available to graduates, such as:
- Business consultant
- Political advisor
Most students with doctorate degrees in Islamic studies pursue academic careers in teaching or research. Other graduates may do high-level consulting for the government or international organizations. Common job options may include:
- Middle Eastern history college professor
- Government consultant
- Government translator
A master's degree in Islamic studies can lead to a wide variety of jobs in government, law, business, interpretation or research. Other graduates of an Islamic studies graduate degree program may go into teaching at high schools or colleges.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school teachers could expect job growth of 6%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, from 2014 to 2024. As of May 2015, the BLS reported, high school teachers earned a median annual salary of $57,200.
Postsecondary teachers, in general, could expect job growth of 13%, faster than average, from 2014 to 2024. In the postsecondary education field, ethnic and cultural studies teachers earned a median annual salary of $72,300 in 2015 according to BLS data.
Several universities offer programs in Islamic studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. While some graduates may choose to become high school teachers or university professors, some might choose to become translators, consultants, or researchers, or choose another career path.