What Can I Do with a Religious Studies Degree?


 The career opportunities for undergraduate religious studies students are many and varied, especially when students blend their major or minor RELS curriculum with coursework in other fields.  Programs and academic disciplines contributing courses to the RELS program, such as Sociology, Anthropology, Native American Studies, and African-African American studies make it possible when paired with RELS for students to prepare for careers in the Social Sciences.   Students interested in English Literature or the writing programs in the A&S English department or the Gaylord College of Journalism could easily find themselves in positions as journalists specializing in reporting on religion across the globe.   After graduation, Religious Studies majors do the same things other humanities and social science majors do, in roughly the same proportions. Majoring in Religious Studies is not, for most students, a route to a religious career, any more than majoring in English leads to being a novelist, poet, or literary critic. But a careful and considered combination of coursework, or a commitment to the breadth and depth of the Religious Studies curriculum could lead to a promising career in some unexpected but extremely gratifying field of pursuit. Prospective students often ask what they can do after graduation with this degree, and obviously architecture or engineering is out of the question.  The question is met with another question:  if money were no object, and you never had to work a day in your life, how would you spend your time?  How would this degree enrich and make possible the goals you have for your life? 

Our majors have gone on to pursue careers in a wide variety of fields, including Non-Profit work (including NGO's), Politics, Education, Law, Social Work, Medicine, Business/Finance, and Graduate School. Religious studies graduates can pursue careers in secondary or elementary education, either in teaching or administration. Religious studies majors or minors also go on to graduate programs in preparation for positions as university professors, not only in religious studies programs but in related social science and humanities fields. Over 90% of students admitted to the OU College of Medicine have undergraduate degrees, many in liberal arts fields.  A significant number of RELS majors and minors are Pre-Med, with a minor in Medical Humanities.  As one of our students who plans to join Medicine Sans Frontiers said in a scholarship application, his goal is to heal bodies but not lose sight of the soul that occupies it. 

Religious Studies is also an excellent preparatory degree for the Master’s in Library Science. Research into religion requires the availability of credible and reliable resources; a combination of Religious Studies and the MLIS provide career options that serve the university and the public.  A number of religious studies majors or minors find their training ideally suited for careers in law and journalism. Students have gone on to careers in counseling and social work.

Finally, in the past several decades businesses have found graduates with broad liberal arts backgrounds to be prime candidates for executive training programs and as a result, religious studies students can plan for rewarding business careers by combining the RELS degree or minor with a business degree.  Knowledge of different religions is now a plus for businesses operating around the globe. Aside from the many career benefits, Religious Studies majors will discover that their studies will give them the perspective to participate more fully in the world around them.

Religious Studies majors are well prepared for the job market, as well as for graduate programs like law school, library science, and other professional schools, and masters and doctoral programs in religion. What are the skills that a major or minor in Religious Studies will encourage?

 Religious Studies majors and minors develop the ability to identify a problem or under-researched but important issue in the field.  They acquire research skills, the ability to analyze information, to write well, to be discerning, and able to exercise interpretive skills. These skills are significantly relevant to many careers and professions. The skills you will gain studying Religious Studies will prepare you for the any number of career options or professions.

Many occupations and careers require proficiency in research, writing, in various forms, and the ability to present a conclusion or make an argument —all skills you will learn as a Religious Studies major. Professors of Religious Studies research issues in religion and publish books, articles, and essays, in addition to teaching at the university or college level. Research projects often involve travel and language study.

For Religious Studies majors who begin to consider secondary teaching as a career in their last year or two before graduation, it is not necessary to switch majors and join the College of Education. Combining History or language study or English or a range of coursework with a RELS major makes it possible to achieve certification as a secondary school teacher. Here's a link to the State of Oklahoma's certification webpage: http://www.ok.gov/sde/teacher-certification.

 Religious Studies students also learn proficiency in online research and the use of online applications. A MLIS (Master's degree in Library and Information Sciences) is an excellent option for RELS majors. The MLIS prepares students to combine traditional research skills with advanced computer programming skills, digital imaging and web publishing. Alternately, a degree in Library and Information Sciences offers the possibility of dealing with older technology, such as rare books or ancient documents and book collection management.  Many libraries maintain databases of materials specifically intended for the study of religion. The American Library Association can give you more information about careers in Library and Information Science, and tips on how to apply to top MLIS programs.  Librarians often train not just in library techniques, but in a particular field, to interpret the value and quality of the materials available for procurement and distribution.

Religious Studies students make well-prepared candidates for roles in publishing, editing, and copy-writing.  Majors and minors can find employment in a wide variety of publishing venues, including university presses, textbook and trade houses, magazines and journals, professional organizations, and institutional publication offices. Presses that publish religion and related fields need employees with familiarity of the subject matter as well as English grammar and writing skills.

 Religious Studies majors learn a great deal about other cultures, peoples, and languages across the world.  Often students combine a major or minor in International and Area Studies, History, Political Science, or one of the language programs in Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Literatures, or any number of other programs. These are excellent forms of preparation for positions in the foreign service, state department, and even domestic service-oriented jobs. One of the most promising areas of professional opportunity is in non-governmental organizations (NGO's), which provide essential background information, context, and support for governmental processes.

 In the past several decades, businesses have found graduates with liberal arts backgrounds to be prime candidates for executive training programs and, as a result, many Religious Studies majors have developed rewarding business careers.

And there are, of course, a wide array of careers in religious vocations, which include employment in the growing number of faith-based social service agencies. Opportunities also abound in the broader non-profit sector of domestic and international humanitarian organizations. The College of Arts & Sciences non-profit minor is a nice pairing for someone considering these options.

 For more information, contact Adrienne Jablonski in the College of Arts & Sciences Career Services Office, Lee Green-Hall, or any RELS professor!