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Religious Studies

What Can I Do with a Religious Studies Degree?

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In addition to the wide variety of ministries in faith communities, a degree in Religious Studies provides excellent preparation for careers in justice advocacy, political activism, law, journalism, social work, government, education, business, and public policy.

A second major or minor in religious studies will provide students of history, peace and conflict studies, political science, or religion and public life with a better understanding of religious communities and the many longstanding ideological conflicts that have shaped the contemporary world.

Students in the natural sciences who intend to enter the fields of medicine and health sciences will find that religious studies courses equip them to evaluate the moral complexity of current scientific advances and to appreciate the spiritual dimensions of health.

Students in the humanities will find that the study of the religious texts and traditions will afford them greater insight into literature, philosophy, music, and visual art.

Click on the links below to learn more about opportunities and strategies for success in the many different fields that employ Religious Studies graduates:

Areas of employment:

  • Buddhist
  • Catholic
  • Jewish
  • Protestant

Potential Employers:

  • Local churches, synagogues, mosques
  • Religious organizations
  • Denominational boards and agencies
  • Monasteries

Strategies for success:

  • Become involved in related campus activities.
  • Protestant clergy positions require denominational ordination and usually a Master of Divinity.
  • Possess high moral and ethical standards.
  • Develop leadership ability and self discipline.
  • Obtain excellent written and verbal communication skills.

Chaplaincy

Areas of employment:

  • Military
  • Institutional
  • Hospital
  • Conventional Institutions

Potential Employers:

  • All branches of military service
  • Hospitals, hospices
  • Homes for children, youth, senior citizens
  • Correctional institutions
  • Police and fire departments

Strategies for success:

  • Obtain ordination and two years' service in local church.
  • After acceptance into branch of service, attend chaplaincy school.
  • Enroll in Clinic Pastoral Education (CPE) programs at regional hospitals.

Local Ministries

Areas of employment:

  • Youth Ministries
  • Adult Ministries
  • Leisure Ministries
  • Counseling/ Recovery
  • Religious Education
  • Day Care, Children and Adult
  • Missionary Outreach
  • Food bank/ Emergency Ministries
  • Family Life Center Management
  • Journalism
  • Public Relations
  • Television, Radio and Films
  • Publishing
  • Music

Potential Employers:

  • Local churches, synagogues and mosques
  • Religious organizations
  • Denominational boards

Strategies for success:

  • Get additional training or double major in specialized areas.
  • Obtain certification for specialized areas.
  • Obtain Master's degree in Divinity or counseling.
  • Gain experience by volunteering in local church and campus religious organizations.
  • Obtain an internship at denominational headquarters.
  • Build relationships with local church and denominational leaders.
  • Get experience in communications areas and develop a portfolio.
  • Double major in music; take additional courses in religious music.
  • Get performance experience through campus groups.

Missions

Areas of employment:

  • Church and Community Development
  • Education
  • Medical
  • Metropolitan Ministries
  • Community Centers
  • Evangelism

Potential Employers:

  • Denominational boards or agencies
  • Missions boards
  • Local churches
  • Religious Institutions
  • Evangelical organizations, e.g. Cultural Ministries, CHRISTLIFE, National Evangelical Team
  • Social Missions - World Vision

Strategies for success:

  • Obtain any needed advanced degrees, certification, or licensing for area of interest.
  • Seek related volunteer or work experience with group of interest.
  • Foreign language skills are a plus.
  • Develop fundraising skills and contacts.

Religious Communities

Potential Employers:

  • Denominational groups including: Roman Catholic (Order of Sisters, Brothers, Priests), Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Buddhist

Strategies for success:

  • Desire to combine career with life / living arrangements.
  • Apply to religious order for admittance.
  • Requires self-discipline.

Religion and Public Life

Areas of employment:

  • Public Life
  • Lobbying
  • Advocacy
  • Peace and Justice

Strategies for success:

  • Political Science
  • ENV Studies minor
  • Philosophy of Peace
  • Liberation Theology

Business

Areas of employment:

  • Administration/ Management
  • Human Resources
  • Building Management
  • Research
  • Ethics Office / Environmental Ethics
  • International Corporations

Potential Employers:

  • Local churches, synagogues and mosques
  • Religious bookstores
  • Religious publishers
  • Denominational boards/ agencies
  • Seminaries/ schools of theology
  • Religiously affiliated schools
  • Denominational hospitals, homes, schools, boards and agencies

Strategies for success:

  • Double major or minor in Business.
  • Take electives in Management, Psychology, and Accounting, as appropriate.
  • Get related experience.
  • Dual degree in engineering helpful.
  • Develop research and writing skills.
  • Study World Religions + Specific Language

Communications

Areas of employment:

  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Sales
  • Television/ Film
  • Radio
  • Publishing
  • Commercial Art
  • Writing
  • Editing

Potential Employers:

  • Denominational boards/ agencies
  • Interdenominational organizations
  • Local churches, synagogues and mosques
  • Denominational publishing houses of books and magazines
  • Secular publishing house
  • Secular radio, television and film industry

Strategies for success:

  • Take courses in English, journalism,social sciences.
  • Develop excellent writing skills.
  • Submit articles for publication in religious and nonreligious papers and journals.
  • Learn desktop publishing techniques.
  • Obtain specialized technical training such as a second major or minor in broadcasting.
  • Develop artistic talent.
  • Electives or second major in Graphic Design/ Illustration.
  • Obtain related experience through internships.

Education

Areas of employment:

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Counseling
  • Administration/ Staff
  • Chaplaincy
  • Religious Life Programming
  • Campus Ministry
  • Educational Administration

Potential Employers:

  • Private / Public schools
  • Preparatory schools
  • Private, public or religiously affiliated colleges and universities
  • Schools of theology/ seminaries
  • Youth Campus and Organizations such as Young Life, YMCA / YWCA, Islamic Student Associations
  • Hillel (Jewish Campus Ministry), Buddhist Monasteries (e.g., DEER PARK in Oregon, WI)
  • Peace Corps

Strategies for success:

  • May require certification/licensure to teach.
  • Ph.D. usually required for teaching, research and administration in colleges and universities.
  • Complete Master of Divinity plus additional training for campus ministry.
  • Master of Divinity or Ph.D., D.Min. or Th.D. usually required for teaching, research and administration in seminaries and schools of theology.
  • May require multiple skills such as providing ministerial services as well as administration, teaching, coaching, etc.
  • Become involved in specific campus ministry organizations.
  • Seek leadership positions and internships or summer employment opportunities.

Health and Welfare

Areas of employment:

  • Administration
  • Social Services
  • Residential Living
  • Religious Activities Programming
  • Chaplaincy
  • Counseling: Mental Health or Pastoral

Potential Employers:

  • Hospitals
  • Mental health treatment facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Retirement homes
  • Assisted living homes
  • Children/ youth homes
  • Social Services

Strategies for success:

  • Second major or minor in Business, Social Work, Human Services, Health Care Ministry or interest area.
  • Take courses related to special populations.
  • Volunteer time in related organizations.
  • Obtain advanced degrees and certification for counseling and chaplaincy.
  • Complete Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at regional hospitals.
  • May need ordination for pastoral counseling.

Non-Profit

Areas of employment:

  • Administration
  • Vocational Training
  • Retail
  • Public Relations
  • Programming
  • Counseling
  • Advocacy
  • Crisis Services (pregnancy, housing, etc.)
  • Financial/Debt Counseling
  • Camp Administration
  • Lobbying

Potential Employers:

  • Nonprofit organizations including: United Way, Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc.
  • Churches, synagogues and mosques
  • Religious hospitals and hospices
  • Correctional institutions
  • Shelters
  • Nursing homes
  • Youth organizations and camps including: YMCA, YWCA, Young Life, etc.
  • Adoption agencies/ Foster Care
  • Religious political organizations, e.g. NETWORK and Wisconsin Catholic Conference NETWORK, Sojourners, TIKKUN, Wisconsin Catholic Conference, Wisconsin Council of Churches

Strategies for success:

  • Volunteer with local organizations for experience.
  • May need specialized training/ certification for some areas.
  • Obtain excellent interpersonal, oral and written communication skills.
  • Seek summer campus experience and leadership roles, such as director or assistant director.
  • Legal experience and law degree may be required.