How Humans Believe: Study for Religion & Theology Degree

An online degree in religious studies provides an excellent foundation for students who seek to integrate faith into their professional careers. For many, this means the pursuit of a career in spiritual environments, such as a Christian church. However, an online religious studies degree can also lead to faith-driven careers in other job sectors.

Religious Studies and Theology Degree Information

Religious studies or Theology deals with the history, tradition and society of world religions as well as the diverse and divisive or unifying roles religion plays in modern society. Religious studies also explores the concepts, myths and symbolism behind religious texts, architecture and arts. Rituals, ethics and moral systems are all discussed in religion courses, along with the core beliefs of ancient civilizations and how those beliefs affect the present.

Part of the ongoing goal of studying world religions or the study of theology is viewing each respective philosophy and its beliefs from a global perspective. Much of the cultural symbolism and mythos in any area of the world derives from its primary religion and can be seen in art, music, literature and moral issues and affecting politics, economics, society and ethics. In a sense, religious studies is more of an examination of multiculturalism so much as it is a look at theological practices.

While the five major religions will be covered, different schools offer various courses in smaller religions or religious sects. The cultures of China, Japan, Africa and the Americas are often presented as elective courses. Anthropology, history, philosophy, ethnic studies and sociology are some of the other subjects required within the major.

Bachelor Of Arts

A Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies emphasizes critical thinking, analyzing and writing skills along with reading and research. The curriculum covers all introductions to religions and a series of other courses related to specific topics, such as gender roles in religion, traditions or theodicy concerning Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism. Students will also have to participate in seminars and discussion groups as well as write papers and a possible senior thesis, depending on the university. Some schools offer joint degree programs with other humanities offerings, like a degree in philosophy.

Further Education

Those who wish to further their education in religious studies by becoming a professor or researcher can choose to attend a graduate program that prepares students for academia and professorship in colleges, universities and seminaries. Applicants will need to submit a writing sample, recommendations, college transcripts and a GRE score. Many schools also enforce a foreign language requirement either in a common language like French or in Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese Japanese or Greek. Graduate coursework includes American religious history, ancient Christianity, Islamic studies, Asian religions, Judaic studies, philosophy of religion, New Testament, Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, theology and religious ethics.

Coursework

The coursework for religious and theology studies includes classes that are specific to particular religious areas, such as a course on the life of Jesus or the philosophy behind karma in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. All students will have to take introductory courses in world religions, along with beginning courses in each field, such as an introduction to Islam, and reading religious texts like the Old Testament.

Classes vary depending on the university, but some courses deal with interdisciplinary facets of learning, such as the relationship between culture and religion, ecology and religion, the ethics and moral issues behind religions, political religions, bioethics, women in religion and literature and religion. Other topics depend on the universityís offerings and faculty, but some possibilities include Zen Buddhism, Jewish culture, the history of Christianity, Taoism, anti-Semitism, Reformation Europe, religious pluralism, fundamentalism, understanding cults, and ancient and modern views on Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Career Opportunities

Many people think that studying religion or theology automatically implies a career as a priest, minister, rabbi or other religious official. While this is the ideal major for students who wish to attend theological graduate studies or seminaries, religious studies prepares students for other professions due to its humanities-based teachings like researching and writing. Job fields for religious studies graduates include law, journalism, government, business, counseling, health care and, of course, teaching and education.

What is the Earning Potential For Theology Students & Those Who Earn Religious Studies Degrees?

It is harder to measure salary expectations for religious studies, as it is such a broad field with so many opportunities. In general, wages vary for any given job from $31,143 to $57,127. Parish ministers without any experience and a bachelorís degree in religious studies can earn around $28,000, while a higher degree with no experience starts at around $32,000.The median salary for a religious activities and education director is $53,600. An assistant professorship at a major university starts at $48,000 while a professor with tenure can earn $74,000 on average. Further schooling in other graduate programs will result in different salary ranges, such as if a student continues onto law school.

Religion & Theology Degree FAQs

What Can I Do with a Theology & Religious Studies Degree?

As expected, many graduates of an online theology degree program go on to become religious officials, such as ministers, priests and rabbis. Others choose to enter support roles within religious organizations, acting as youth group leaders, managers or performing administrative duties.

Jobs outside the sector of theology & religion are plentiful as well. Many religious studies graduates become schoolteachers or college professors at regular and theology schools and universities. Others use the degree as a foundation for a career in business, health care, law or journalism.

What Are the Topics of Study in an Online Theology Degree Program?

Classes will vary depending on the type of online religious degree. However, all religious studies programs include classes in world religions, philosophy, historical texts, biblical studies and ethics. Language studies, leadership and business classes may also be included in an online religious studies degree program.

What Skills Are Necessary to Succeed in an Online Theology Degree Program?

Obviously, students should have a strong moral compass and be deeply passionate about theology and religion. Written and oral communication skills are beneficial for a majority of careers in religious studies. A deep compassion for fellow human beings and the desire to help others are also highly relevant characteristics for those pursuing a career in theology or religion.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn With an Online Degree in Theology & Religious Studies?

The job market should remain strong for religious leaders and theologians. Depending on the chosen career path, graduates of an online religious studies degree can expect to earn between $31,000 and $57,000 annually.

A church director in charge of religious activities and education is one of the higher paying positions, with a median salary of $53,600 per year. College professors are also well paid, with an average starting salary of $48,000 annually. Tenured professors often earn upwards of $74,000 each year.

Online Religious Studies & Theology Degree Programs

Theology or Religious studies online degrees are typically taught at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Different schools offer different degree specializations, so enrolling students should research various school programs to find the one most conducive to their intended career paths. Available topics of focus include biblical studies, youth ministry, Christian studies, church business management, religious education and intercultural ministry.

Theology & Religion studies Student Guide

The study of Theology and Religious studies is the multidisciplinary academic field studying, comparing and interpreting religious beliefs and their behaviors along with institutions and teachings. This secular branch of study attempts to explain religion in a secular manner with an emphasis on historical research and cultural understanding while using anthropology, sociology and philosophy methodologies. Some classes offer a literary approach to reading religious texts, while other classes discuss the philosophical perspectives of world religions.

Phenomenology is the method of observing the characteristics of religion in a thoroughly scientific manner, particularly the idea of the epoch, or setting aside personal beliefs or metaphysical questions in favor of watching phenomena. Functionalism is another method that uses the functions of phenomena to analyze and interpret religions, their structures, beliefs and communities.

Books on Theology & Religious Studies

As a humanities subject, religious studies requires extensive reading. Some courses may create readers or a compilation of articles and excerpts of texts for students to read, while other courses will rely on a series of books, whether they are literature, historical or primary sources such as diaries, along with the actual religious texts like the Qurían and the Bible. For introductory courses, however, students will most likely rely on a textbook supplemented with outside reading materials. Some possible textbooks used for basic religious studies courses include "Studying Religion: An Introduction through Cases" by G. Kessler, "The Sacred Paths: Understanding the Religions of the World" by T. Ludwig and "Religious Journeys" by J.E. Campo.

Religious Studies Articles And Databases

Since religious studies is going to require multiple papers, journals and academic articles are going to be used as sources. Primary sources vary on the school, although major universities are probably going to have more materials to choose from than smaller liberal arts colleges. Go to the school library and find out how to access these resources as well as find out about online databases. ATLA Religion, Index Islamicus and RAMBI are great starting places for scholarly information, in addition to articles printed in the Religious Studies Review.

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