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Master’s Degree Programs in Religious Studies Overview

Majors Overview November 24, 2015

This article talks about master’s degree programs in religious studies and their educational requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Master’s Programs in Religious Studies

Divinity schools, seminaries, and university departments of theology are among the institutions that offer master’s degree programs in religious studies. Coursework includes equally diverse specializations and subject areas, such as religious history, Eastern religions, religious philosophy, Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Also covered are areas such as religious ethics, Hebrew, Islam, New Testament or Old Testament.

In the United States, most religious studies programs are comprised of Christianity and related studies. However, the programs often have interdisciplinary coursework, including techniques from fields such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics, history, and economics.

The emphasis of many programs is on languages, aimed at aiding the required original research. The terminal degree in the field of religious studies is a doctorate. Thus, continued education through enrollment in a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) would help to make an individual more employable in a competitive field.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree, in addition to submitting GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. The strongest applicants are commonly proficient in one or more languages, in addition to having backgrounds in anthropology, sociology, history, or psychology.


Program coursework is mainly theoretical with a heavy emphasis on original research. The course of study largely dictates the content of program coursework. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Christianity’s effect on other religions
•Psychology of religion
•Religious movements

Career Choices

While prospective post-secondary teachers prefer a doctorate, holders of a master’s degree may seek teaching positions at private secondary schools.

Job and Wage Outlook

In the 2012 – 2022 decade, secondary teachers are expected to see a six percent job growth. In May 2012, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $55,050, ranging between $36,930 and $85,690 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates who seek continuing education may pursue doctorate programs in the same field, characterized by additional research and a dissertation. These programs could lead to careers in academia.

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