Religious Studies Masters Degree Program Information
Religious studies is a field in which the terminal degree is a doctorate. Therefore, in order to be most competitive in the job market, those who complete master's degree programs in this field usually go on to earn a Ph.D.
Master of Arts in Religious Studies
Master's degrees in religious studies may be hosted through theological seminaries, university-based departments of theology, seminaries or divinity schools. Specializations and subject areas are equally diverse, including areas such as eastern religions, religious history, religious philosophy, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Still others include religious ethics, Islam, Hebrew, Old Testament or New Testament.
In the United States, Christianity and related studies make up the majority of religious studies programs, but lessons are often interdisciplinary, incorporating techniques from fields such as sociology, anthropology, history, linguistics and even economics. Many programs place a heavy emphasis on languages; sometimes language studies are prerequisite, and sometimes this they are a requirement for graduation. Most religious studies programs require at least reading proficiency in French and German, although this is often subject to change based on the religion studied. For example, a student studying Islam might have to learn Arabic.
Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission to master's degrees programs in religious studies. Other requirements might include letters of recommendation, GRE scores and a personal statement. The strongest applicants commonly have reading proficiency in one or more languages, as well as backgrounds in history, anthropology, psychology or sociology.
Coursework in these programs is almost entirely theoretical and heavily emphasizes original research. Coursework also varies greatly by course of study. The following are classes that might appear in a master-level curriculum:
- History of religions
- Christianity's affect on other religions
- Religious movements
- Psychology of religion
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Although a doctorate is preferred for most postsecondary teachers of religious studies, a master's degree may qualify its holder for teaching positions at private secondary institutions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment rate for secondary teachers will rise seven percent between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary for this profession was $55,050 as of May 2012. The highest-paid teachers earned about $85,690 or higher, while the lowest-paid earned about $36,930 (www.bls.gov).
Most individuals who complete master's degree programs for religious studies are pursuing jobs in academia. For this reason, graduates often go on to doctorate programs in the same field. Doctoral degrees are characterized by more research and a dissertation.
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