Religious Anthropology Degree Program Summaries

Oct 23, 2019

Anthropology programs can be tailored towards a religious studies specialty via coursework and research. Bachelor's programs provide an introductory framework and research skills while graduate programs offer advanced study and increased opportunity.

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Essential Information

Degree programs in anthropology focus on human cultures including the arts, politics and customs of people of a certain geographical area, period in time, or spiritual faith. No degrees specifically target religious anthropology; however, Bachelor of Arts programs in sociocultural anthropology include religious studies topics. At the graduate level, students in master's programs in anthropology may focus their research on religion; the same is true of doctoral students. Research in the field is common in master's and doctoral programs, while study abroad opportunities can benefit undergraduate anthropology students.

Program requirements for bachelor's degree program applicants consist of a high school diploma or equivalent, prior coursework in a second language, with a demonstrated interest in diversity or communities generally proving helpful. For graduate students, a bachelor's or master's degree will be required depending on whether you are applying to a master's or doctoral program, along with extensive work experience, proven research ability, and the completion of entrance exams.

Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology

Undergraduate anthropology programs provide an understanding of the role of culture in human life, which can be applied to future careers in government, healthcare, social work, art and media. These programs also serve as a foundation for continuing studies in more specialized topics, such as religion. Core classes are largely centered on biological sciences, sociology, the arts and communications. Because anthropology is such a wide field, curricula are often divided into tracts: sociocultural anthropology, physical anthropology, archaeology and linguistics. Coursework specific to sociocultural anthropology majors may include:

  • Religion, theology and spirituality
  • World history
  • Global politics
  • Evolution and anatomy
  • Archaeology

Master of Arts in Anthropology

Pursuing an advanced degree gives students the opportunity to concentrate on a specific research subject; this is an optimal way for an individual with an undergraduate degree in sociocultural anthropology to focus on religious studies. A master's degree entails class work, field study and research in an approved field. While graduate study may be customized, classes covering global health, epidemiology, genetics, cartography and geography are usually required. Students concentrating in religious studies may complete coursework in:

  • Greek mythology
  • Judaism
  • Hinduism
  • Atheism and agnosticism
  • Wiccan, druid or voodoo cultures
  • Ancient religions

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology

A Ph.D. is the highest degree offered in anthropology, and it is usually required for a career in academia. Pursuing a doctorate is an opportunity for candidates to immerse themselves in a culture; it requires extensive fieldwork. Many universities emphasize diversity within doctoral programs, seeking a spectrum of research topics and recruiting minority or international students. Ph.D. candidates spend much of their time conducting field research and writing dissertations, and some programs require a certain amount of teaching. In addition, students may take advanced classes that cover:

  • Research methodology
  • Cultural and social theory
  • Taxonomy and phylogeny
  • Human morality and ethics

Career Options

Graduates entering the workforce may practice applied anthropology by using their knowledge of cultures and perspectives in a real-world setting. Jobs in which a bachelor's degree in sociocultural anthropology might be relevant include:

  • Religious leader or missionary
  • Diplomat in government relations
  • Museum professional
  • Teacher or administrator
  • Social worker
  • Foreign correspondent

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Although anthropologists work in a variety of settings, those with advanced degrees in sociocultural anthropology often become field researchers, authors, educators or a combination of all three. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of 2018, the median salary was $62,410 per year for anthropologists and archaeologists and $83,940 per year for anthropology teachers at colleges, universities and technical schools. The BLS predicts a 10% growth in employment from 2018-2028 for anthropologists, slower than average for all national occupations, due to a dependence on federal budget decisions regarding funding (

Continuing Education

No state license or certification is required for cultural anthropologists, but membership in organizations such as the American Anthropological Association or the Society for Cultural Anthropology offer many opportunities for professional development. Attending conferences and subscribing to industry journals are other ways that anthropologists can stay on top of the latest research.

By focusing sociocultural anthropology degrees and related programs towards the field of religious studies, both graduate and undergraduate students can gain an education in religious anthropology. Research forms a large part of these programs at all levels of study.

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