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.

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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.

Educational Prerequisites

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.

Program Coursework

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:

  • Ethics
  • 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).

Continuing Education

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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  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
        • Christian Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
        • Biblical Studies
        • Religious Music Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Illinois (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Northwestern University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
        • Religious Music Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • Connecticut (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Connecticut include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
        • Jewish Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • Texas (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Baylor University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Human and Consumer Sciences
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
        • Religious Music Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Ohio (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Dayton include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
        • Pastoral Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Howard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Diploma
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Human and Consumer Sciences
      • Human and Social Services
      • Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston College include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Human and Social Services
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Religious Studies
        • Pastoral Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies

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