Best Research Universities for Religious Studies Degrees

The best religious studies research universities are those with rich histories of influence, proven through the work produced by the program’s faculty and alumni. Beyond demonstrating scholarly impact in the field, the best religious studies degree programs maximize your opportunities to interact with outstanding religious studies faculty.

Best Research Universities for Religious Studies Degrees

Majoring in religious studies can mean different things to different students. Some religious studies degrees are secular, and approach the study of world religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism from an academic perspective, delving into the history, literature, and beliefs of each. Other degrees, particularly those with a concentration in divinity, are firmly rooted within a religion, with the goal of developing advanced knowledge and finding employment in the clergy. Whether your goal is a life in service to your faith, or you are just fascinated by world religions, a major in religious studies can be a rewarding path. The best schools for religious studies are those which are fully accredited, which align with your spiritual and professional goals, and which give you the chance to work with the best and most influential professors and classmates.

Frequently Asked Questions About Religious Studies Bachelor’s Degrees

While many will go on to work directly in religious settings as clergy, religious studies majors can find employment in various professions. Religious studies majors build knowledge and skills that can apply in social services, education, public relations, media, business, politics, and countless other professional settings. Moreover, many undergraduate religious studies degrees are rooted in a firm liberal arts education tradition. This means you get to study a bit of everything, and develop a well-rounded knowledge base, with the critical and analytical skills to navigate new challenges, and learn in unfamiliar situations.

Whether serving as clergy within a religion, or functioning as a culture critic, religious studies majors influence how we understand and interact with religion in our daily lives. Today, top influencers in religious studies are bringing light to topics like New Testament analysis, Christian apologetics, Science and Christianity, and much more.

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Religious studies is an idea major for those who have a practical interest in combining their faith and profession. Religious studies degrees are frequently offered by religious institutions. For instance, a Bachelor of Ministry (BM) may be offered by a Christian school, Bible school, or seminary. These degrees provide focused religious instruction for students who wish to apply their Christian faith to a leadership role within a religious community or organization. Similarly, degrees for aspiring clergy in the Jewish or Muslim faiths are likely to be offered by Rabbinical schools or Madrasa respectively.

By contrast, a bachelor of Theology (BTh) is more academically focused and more likely to be offered at a secular institution (as well as through most religious institutions). The Bachelor of Theology is designed for students who wish to engage with deep study of the scriptures, history and culture surrounding either a specific religion, or a variety of major world religions, without necessarily training for service in the clergy. The best religious studies degree for you will depend on both your career goals and religious affiliation.

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Once you’ve declared your major in religious studies, you will likely be required to complete a set of core courses in a number of related subject areas. While your concentration will give you a chance to choose from a wide range of highly-specialized religious studies electives, there are several common courses that most religious studies majors will be required to take, including:

  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Church History
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Introduction to Theology
  • World Religions
  • Christian Apologetics
  • Jewish Diaspora

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A major in religious studies prepares you for diverse professions in academia, public service, and places of worship. Your religious studies major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:

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Related: How to Major in Religious Studies

Best Research Universities for Religious Studies Degree Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Research Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Online Colleges

In pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose between three kinds of schools: research universities, liberal arts colleges, and online colleges.

Research universities are colleges and universities whose faculty are active in research and publishing. These schools offer a wide array of doctoral programs, especially in the sciences. They tend to be big, with tens of thousands of students.

Do you prefer a larger university setting, such as largest public university in your state? Research universities are typically big, offering degrees in many different disciplines. Is a big high-powered research environment the thing for you. If not, you should think about a liberal arts college. In deciding on an undergraduate institution, ask yourself what sort of environment will best help you to be happy and excel.

  • Consider whether you are self motivated enough to be a face in the crowd for some classes and largely unknown on campus at a large university. Of course you can find clubs and friends at a large university, but often liberal arts colleges have a more personal quality to them. If you want the community feel, a research university may not fit you well.
  • Are you interested in STEM fields? Research universities have that name for a reason – real research is happening there. This can create an exciting atmosphere for students interested in STEM. Attending a research university can give you a better chance of getting into better programs for graduate degrees, although a lot of that depends on your performance.
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Often referred to as “teaching colleges” liberal arts colleges put a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree.

  • Do you want your professors to know you? Liberal arts colleges strive to cultivate campus cultures that encourage tight bonds between professors and students. Professors at these schools will typically conduct original research. Yet the best of these schools offer their faculty reduced teaching loads so that they can both be productive researchers and still have plenty of time for students (both in and outside the classroom).
  • Do you want to feel like you know everybody? One of the most enticing features of a liberal arts college is that in very little time, you can feel like you know who’s who, which can create strong friendships, but also more pleasurable walks across campus. While your sports teams may never be on ESPN, it’s more likely that you’ll know the athletes as your peers. Beyond student and faculty relationships, it’s not unusual for the school president and other administrators to learn who you are. When faced with problems with your student account or the need to switch classes, this can be comforting during a stressful moment.
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Online colleges are typically the same colleges and universities you could attend in-person, but for certain degree programs the college or unviersity has made the degree programs available to be completed online. For over 5 million students, online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees in the most flexible format available. Online degrees are as respected as the on-campus degress you could earn from the same schools. There’s usually no disctinction between the two degrees, and your degree and transcript will not say that the degree was earned online. Online degree programs are offered by a vast majority of colleges and universities, and the number of offering continues to grow. Whehter you are searching for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, there’s a good chance you can earn your degree online from a respectable online college.

  • Are you a self-driven student? Perhaps the hardest aspect of obtaining an online degree is whether you will be disciplined enough to manage your time and course demands. Many online students report that online college made them more disciplined in all areas of their lives, but the flexible, self-paced learning that makes online colleges attractive can often be the same qualities that make it difficult. If you tend to be a procrastinator, you need to be honest with yourself. You can change your habits and propensities, or you can throw money down the drain.
  • Do you need the flexibility of an online degree program? Most online students study online because of time demands balancing work and life, or becuase the online colleges afford them the chance to attend a better school without moving. If you are serious about earning your degree for career advancement, online colleges make it possible. The most flexible options among online degrees are those that are aynchronous, meaning you don’t have scheduled times to meet with your class online. However, many students seek synchronous online degree programs so that they have some structure – set meeting times, scheduled exams, etc.
  • The good news is that attending an online college doesn’t mean you will miss out on getting to know your professors and classmates. In fact, many online students who have experienced both online and on-campus courses report having easier access to their professors. Since most communication with your professor is expected to be in text – via email or your class learning management system – it makes asking your questions easier. The same students also report that they got to better know the thoughts of their classmates. While in-person course conversations can be dominated by a few extroverts, online courses that require online discussions make it so that you see all of your classmates’ thoughts and questions.

If you interested in an online bachelor’s degree, check out what the best online colleges offer, or search our online degrees for the exact program that interests you. In either case, you will find well respected colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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If you think a liberal arts college may be a better fit for you, see our ranking of the best liberal arts colleges for a bachelor’s in religious studies.

How do we determine the best religious studies research universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Influence”.

The influence of a college or university is based on the schools’ top academic influencers related to the discipline in this ranking. We track the influence of faculty and alumni affialiate with these school counting not only the publicaitons and citations of the school’s affiliated people, but we also consider the overall web presense of the faculty and alumni. The greater the citations, authority of web links, web searches, and pageviews, the greater the individuals’ influence. Those combined make up the departments’ influence in the field of study. We believe tracking the academic influence of the people affiliated with a school is the best indicator of academic excellence.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching, and whether their graduates themselves are advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence. Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and misuesed performance metrics. Influence, as measured by our InfluenceRanking engine, provides a ranking that is more insulated from manipulation, and more reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Ranking: Best Research Universities for Religious Studies Bachelor’s Degree Programs

  1. #1

    Harvard University

    Cambridge , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    5%

    Graduation

    98%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1515/34

    What is Harvard University known for?

    Harvard University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Law
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    Harvard University Religious Studies Major Concentrations:

    • Comparative Study of Religion
    Source
    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    Yale University

    New Haven , CT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1515/34

    What is Yale University known for?

    Yale University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Law
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    Yale University Religious Studies Major:

    • Religious Studies
    Source
  3. #3

    University of Chicago

    Chicago , IL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    13K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1535/34

    What is University of Chicago known for?

    University of Chicago’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Philosophy
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

    University of Chicago Religious Studies Major:

    • BA in Religious Studies
    Source
    REQUEST INFO
  4. #4

    Columbia University

    New York , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $64K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/34

    What is Columbia University known for?

    Columbia University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

    Columbia University Religious Studies Major Zones:

    • Time (History, Modernity)
    • Transmission (Tradition, Memory, Institutions)
    • Space (Place, Geography, Virtual Space)
    • Body (Materiality, Mind, Bio-ethics)
    • Media (Transportation, Information, Communication)
    Source
    REQUEST INFO
  5. #5

    Duke University

    Durham , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    8%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1525/34

    What is Duke University known for?

    Duke University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

    Duke University Religious Studies Major:

    • BA in Religious Studies

    Related:

    • Interdepartmental Major: Ancient Religion and Society
    Source
    REQUEST INFO
  6. #6

    Princeton University

    Princeton , NJ
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    6%

    Graduation

    98%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1515/34

    What is Princeton University known for?

    Princeton University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

    Princeton University Religious Studies Major:

    • AB in Religion
    Source
    REQUEST INFO
  7. #7

    Stanford University

    Stanford , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    5%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/33

    What is Stanford University known for?

    Stanford University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    Stanford University Religious Studies Major:

    • BA in Religious Studies
    Source
    REQUEST INFO
  8. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/33

    What is University of California, Berkeley known for?

    University of California, Berkeley’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    UC Berkeley Religious Studies Major:

    • East Asian Religion, Thought and Culture
    Source
  9. #10

    Georgetown University

    Washington , DC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1465/33

    What is Georgetown University known for?

    Georgetown University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • History
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    Georgetown University Religious Studies Major Concentrations:

    • Religion, Politics, and the Common Good
    • Christian Theology
    • Biblical Studies
    • Ethics
    • Religious Studies
    Source
  10. #11

    University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/34

    What is University of Pennsylvania known for?

    University of Pennsylvania’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    University of Pennsylvania Religious Studies Major:

    • BA in Religious Studies
    Source
  11. #13

    Cornell University

    Ithaca , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    11%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1480/33

    What is Cornell University known for?

    Cornell University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Anthropology
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    Cornell University Religious Studies Major:

    • BA in Religious Studies
    Source
  12. #14

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    26%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/32

    What is University of Michigan known for?

    University of Michigan’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

    University of Michigan Religious Studies Major:

    • Religion: Religious history
    Source
  13. #15

    New York University

    New York , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    49K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1440/32

    What is New York University known for?

    New York University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    NYU Religious Studies Major:

    • BA in Religious Studies
    Source
    REQUEST INFO
  14. #17

    University of Southern California

    Los Angeles , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    16%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    40K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    What is University of Southern California known for?

    University of Southern California’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    USC Religious Studies Majors:

    • Religion
    • Jewish Studies
    Source
  15. #18

    Brown University

    Providence , RI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    8%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1505/34

    What is Brown University known for?

    Brown University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Business
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    Brown University Religious Studies Major:

    • Religious Studies
    Source
    REQUEST INFO
  16. #19

    Northwestern University

    Evanston , IL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1495/34

    What is Northwestern University known for?

    Northwestern University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Law
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    Northwestern University Religious Studies Major:

    • Religious Studies
    Source
  17. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1405/30

    What is University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill known for?

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Communications
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

    Northwestern University Religious Studies Major Concentrations:

    • Jewish Studies
    Source
  18. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is University of California, Los Angeles known for?

    University of California, Los Angeles’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    UCLA Religious Studies Majors:

    • BA in Asian Religions
    • BA in Study of Religion
    Source
  19. #24

    Dartmouth College

    Hanover , NH
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1500/33

    What is Dartmouth College known for?

    Dartmouth College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

    Dartmouth College Religious Studies Major:

    • BA in Religion
    Source

Go to all Research Universities for Religious Studies programs

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