What can you do with a religious studies degree? Consider the power and impact of religion: Humans have practiced religious traditions for thousands of years, and religion helps billions of people make sense of the world around them and offers greater purpose to their lives.
By majoring in religious studies, you can glean insights into peoples and faiths from around the world, and develop valuable skills that can help you advance professionally. Religious studies coursework highlights the many different ways religious traditions have been expressed or practiced throughout history and across the world today.
Let's take a closer look and see if pursuing a religious studies degree online is a good fit for you.
What is a religious studies degree online?
In a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies program, you’ll be exposed to a variety of world religions and how they are practiced and understood by their adherents. You’ll consider the history and sociology of religion, and have the opportunity to develop a philosophical background to contextualize multiple faith traditions.
A religious studies degree online is the same as a traditional, in-person religious studies degree. The key difference is it's designed for students who are not physically on campus, so they can learn from wherever they are. Like an in-person religious studies program, your religious studies program online will feature lectures, readings, small-group discussions, assignments and exams.
Do you have to be religious to major in religious studies?
No, religious studies courses are open to everyone. Whether you’re a believer, an atheist or an agnostic, you’ll be welcomed in your religious studies degree program.
Unlike theology, which traditionally studies religious experience from an explicitly religious perspective, religious studies examines different world religions from the perspective of what they mean to their adherents, without making statements one way or another on faith itself. It gives a comparative perspective plus analytical and theoretical tools to think about religion, culture and politics across time and place, or in a globalizing world.
"We don't seek to convert students to any religion, nor do we intend to undermine the faith commitments of students who might belong to a religious tradition or community," said Jason Bruner, faculty head for religious studies at Arizona State University. "We strive as a faculty to teach the careful, contextualized study of religions, religious communities and texts."
What can you do with a religious studies degree?
In addition to being a personally fulfilling area of study, a religious studies education can lead to many professional paths. The field offers a gateway to an academic or research-based career in psychology, sociology or religious studies itself. Religious studies can also lead to work in anthropology, as your interests may develop beyond studying other cultures' religious practices and toward studying their societies more generally.
Your religious studies degree can help you develop a host of transferable skills that are applicable to a wide range of jobs outside of academia. Bruner notes the discipline places an emphasis on critical reading skills and clarity of argument and expression in written and verbal communication.
"These skills would be applicable to careers such as research analyst, education and non-profit work," he said. Bruner adds a religious studies major could serve as preparation for graduate study in religious studies or related fields such as theology, history, philosophy, anthropology, international studies, foreign relations, public policy and international development.
Many religious studies graduates work in occupations that are directly faith-based, such as a school or hospital chaplain. Another popular path for religious studies majors is transitioning to the business-sector field of organizational studies which focuses on how individuals react to a given organization, either as employees or as customers.
Going from religious studies to organizational studies is not such a big leap. A major in religious studies can teach you transferable skills that are crucial to many aspects of a corporate career, including research and writing, as well as the ability to analyze unfamiliar environments on one's own terms.
"When it comes to career outcomes," Bruner said, "it should be emphasized that students in fields such as religious studies earn just as much as their peers in business and other 'career-oriented' degrees. Further, there’s evidence that corporations prefer these humanities degrees.”
Earn your online religious studies degree
ASU Online offers two bachelor’s in religious studies degree concentrations.
- The Bachelor of Arts in religious studies with a concentration in religion, culture and public life focuses on the understanding of how religions develop across cultures and how religious understanding shapes communication, entertainment, socialization and more.
- The Bachelor of Arts in religious studies with a concentration in religion, politics and global affairs explores religion’s impact on all aspects of life with special consideration to the religious intersections of nationality, ethnicity, race, gender and other facets of human community and identity.