What is World Religions/Religious Studies?
According to Big Future, students majoring in religious studies “learn about the nature of religious belief and traditions” by developing an understanding of history and religious issues. Studying religion involves touching base with multiple disciplines such as theology, sociology, philosophy, history, and anthropology. Similar to any liberal arts and humanities degree, you will develop a “broad based foundation of cultural, historical, and artistic background that will help you hone your research, abstract reasoning and direct observation skills”, as notes by World Wide Learn. In a nutshell, studying religion involves studying and understanding diverse belief systems that have won the hearts of people all across the globe.
The Prospect writer and theology minor, Olivia Cunningham chose such path by stating, “I find it such an interesting topic and I just love to learn about various aspects of theology and belief systems. I’ve taken classes such as Christian Marriage, Spirituality and Mysticism, Theology in Literature, World Religions and the Mystery of God, and I don’t think there’s been one that I haven’t enjoyed.”
What kind of skills can you develop? Why do we even need it?
Studying religion gives you tools needed in order to analyze current social, political, and economical world issues, as well as why people interact and communicate the way they do. Since this major is so broad and unique, students will develop a number of skills, especially critical thinking and questioning why people behave a certain way. In my opinion, if everyone could take a religious studies course even once in their life, people would be much more civil and understanding of one another. Although not everyone is religious, studying and even just understanding the fundamental basics of multiple religions is essential in providing a greater platform for expanding our world view. (And it definitely doesn’t hurt to know why certain things are in fact an example of cultural/religious appropriation.)
What kind of career opportunities are available with a Religious Studies major?
Back in the day (basically four years ago), I had this notion that you had to major in whatever your career path is. I assumed sociology majors would all become sociologists and all zoology majors would become zoo tour guides (I wish I was kidding). However, the great thing about college is that your career path can be whatever you choose to make of it–and religious studies is no different! A degree in religious studies or world/comparative religions can land you in the field of
- Law (Yes, you can become a lawyer!)
- Medicine (Yes, you can become a doctor!)
- Service industry, hospitality, and event planning
- Journalism and publishing
- Nonprofit and non-governmental organizations
- Government, Peace Corps, and Foreign Service
- Business and Marketing
- Social Work and Counseling
- International Diplomacy
- President of the entire world (or at least, the USA)
Theology minor Olivia Cunningham further describes her plans for the future by stating, “I’ve always been a journalism major, and I added theology and international studies minors because they fit well with my schedule and were topics I enjoyed. Eventually, after a semester abroad, my advisor noticed my passion and suggested a career in religion writing. My goal now is to be a correspondent to Vatican City for a major news outlet.”
What can I do to prepare for this?
While there are no set of requirements to meet when becoming a religious studies major, it definitely helps to be open minded to different cultures, philosophies, religions, and languages. This major is all about exposing you to the real world, the ins and outs of history and religion, therefore you have to understand and respect differences when learning about different belief systems.
What are some undergraduate programs that offer World Religions?
At virtually any college and university across the nation, there is a Department of Religion. Even more so, the name” Religious Studies” or “World Religion” doesn’t always show up when selecting a major. Fear not, friends! You can also choose to major in theology or a specific religion, such as Islamic Studies or Jewish Studies. Some of the top colleges with an undergraduate program or major focused on religious studies include
- Stanford University
- Arizona State University
- Ottawa University
- Notre Dame de Namur University
- Hamilton College
- University of Virginia
- Scripps College