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December 17, 2012 / NextStepU

Major Monday – Religious studies

Do you often try to seek out answers to some of life’s most difficult questions? Are you curious to learn how religious belief and tradition seeks to answer these questions and use their theories to come up with your own answers? If you said yes to either of these questions, you might want to consider majoring in religious studies.


According to the College Board, this degree is most often earned at the bachelor’s (4-year) level. Students will take courses that delve into the theory of a wide variety of religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism as well as take courses in subjects such as new religious movements and religion and moral issues. In addition, a senior thesis is often required for religious studies majors and typically involves a specific topic of interest to the student that he or she wants to more deeply examine. This thesis will involve research, both of already existing texts as well as outside research that students will do on their own.

What to know before you apply

When applying to schools, students should know if there is any particular religious affiliation that is more prominent than others in the program. If they want to get an education that looks at many different religious cultures, students should look for schools that offer both Eastern and Western religious studies. In addition, students should be prepared to look at religious practices through both a classical and modern-day lens in order to answer questions that are prevalent for society as a whole as well as issues that more essential today. Finally, students should be willing to get in-person experience by visiting local congregations or trying out some of the practices that they learn about


Students in this major most typically go on to pursue careers either in religious education or become leaders in the religious community that they affiliate with. The average yearly salary for educations as of 2011 was $50,870 according the the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salary often varies for religious leaders based on the size of their congregation and the practices of their denomination so an average salary is difficult to determine.


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