Careers in Religious Studies

What skills can I acquire with a BA in Religious Studies?

A degree in religious studies helps students cultivate valuable general knowledge, flexible and applicable skills, and insightful perspectives that help to make sense of a globalized world:

  • Critical thinking: Prepares students to think, speak, and write effectively, skills greatly valued by employers all across the job market
  • Appreciation of diversity: Develops global fluency, dynamic intercultural perspectives and an appreciation of diversity
  • Service: Prepares students to connect learning with service

What can I do with a BA in Religious Studies?

Students in this program follow a wide range of professional and scholarly career paths. In a survey of 25,632 alumni by Students Review, the unemployment rate for Religious studies majors was found to be 2.3%, far below the 6.7% average for all majors.

Unemployment Rates by Major

Religious studies majors have successfully moved into professional training or careers in:

  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Business (particularly international business)
  • Social Service
  • Teaching
  • Ministry
  • Graduate School
  • Peace Corps
  • Journalism
  • Editing/Publishing
  • Museum/Archival Work
  • Public Relations
  • Advertising
  • University Administration
  • Foreign Service/NGO Work
  • Counseling

Religious Studies majors are also prepared to continue at the advanced graduate level in Religious Studies and related fields, including seminary or divinity school.

Stars who majored in Religious Studies

Christy Turlington

Supermodel Christy Turlington is not just a pretty face. Turlington graduated cum laude from New York University in 1999 with a Bachelor or Arts in Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy.

Willard Scott

American actor, author, media personality, clown and comedian – those are just some of the titles that describe the famous Williard Scott. Best known for his TV work on the Today show, Scott graduated from American University with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion prior to making it in the business.

Mayim Bialik

After wrapping up her stint on the popular show Blossom, Mayim Bialik went to college and graduated with degrees in Hebrew, Jewish studies and neuroscience. Bialik went back after graduating and obtained a doctorate in neuroscience. Now she plays the hilarious Amy Farrah Fowler on the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory.

George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos, political commentator who received his master’s degree in theology at Balliol College, Oxford University, England, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University and graduated summa cum laude in political science.

Joseph Bernardin

Joseph Bernardin, former cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death in 1996.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair

Madalyn Murray O’Hair, famous American atheist activist and founder of the American Atheists and its president from 1963 to 1986.

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal, before roles in The Dark Night and White House Down, Gyllenhaal hit the books and graduated from Columbia University in 1999 with degrees in eastern religions and philosophy.

Michael Lerner

Michael Lerner, American political activist, the editor of Tikkun Magazine, a progressive Jewish interfaith magazine based in Berkeley, California, and the rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley.

Mircea Eliade

Mircea Eliade, historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and former professor at the University of Chicago. His theory of Eternal Return was one of the most influential contributions to religious studies.

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, pope of the Catholic Church and vicar of Christ, also known as Saint John Paul the Great. He was the second longest-serving pope in modern history.

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago and former White House chief of staff under President Obama. He graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a BA in Liberal Arts.

Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones, best known for her roles in comedies like I Love You Man and the NBC show Parks and Recreation. Prior to acting, Jones seriously considered becoming a lawyer. However, after the controversial O.J. Simpson trials, Jones decided to turn to theater while she was in college. In 1997, Jones graduated from Harvard with degrees in religion and philosophy.

Shane Battier

Shane Battier, when in college at Duke playing basketball in hopes of being drafted by the NBA, was also completing a degree in religious studies. Now Battier has helped lead his team, the Miami Heat, to two victorious NBA championships.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Muslim leader, Arabic scholar, cofounder of Zaytuna College, and an advisor to the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. The Guardian newspaper and the New Yorker magazine reported him as the most influential Islamic scholar of the West.