Careers in RELS


 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.

Our majors have gone on to pursue careers in a wide variety of fields, including Non-Profit work, 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.

Many Religious Studies graduates have achieved teaching certification and teach in secondary education. Religious Studies is also a preparatory degree for the Master’s in Library Science. 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 graduates develop research skills, the ability to analyze information, to write well, and to be discerning and able to exercise interpretive skills. These skills are significantly relevant to many careers and professions. In sum, the skills you will gain studying Religious Studies will prepare you for the any number of career options or professions.

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

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:

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 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.

Religious Studies majors 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.

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!