Leadership is a central component of organized religion, whether you hope to lead a congregation, organize public service efforts within your community, or teach theology at the post-secondary level. Earning a master’s degree in religious studies could qualify you to serve in a spiritual leadership capacity while strengthening your own connection to your faith.
Master’s degrees in religious studies come in a wide variety, from secular studies of theology or word religion to degrees aimed at training for future clergy, such as a Master of Divinity or a Master of Rabbinic Studies. Whether your goal is a life in service to your faith and community, or you are just fascinated by world religions, a master in religious studies can propel you to a leadership role and a personally rewarding career.
Just getting started in the field? Check out our look at the religious studies major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in religious studies.
If you’re ready to earn your graduate degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Religious Studies.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as a religious studies master.
While some religious studies majors will work directly in religious settings such as the Christian or rabbinical ministry, religious masters may find employment in a wide range of areas. Earning an advanced degree in religious studies could qualify you for leadership roles in various professional settings, including social services, education, public relations, media, politics, and more.
Whether serving as clergy, leading service organizations, or educating others within a given faith, religious studies masters influence our understanding of theology, spirituality, and the practical concerns of organized religion. Today, top influencers in religious studies are bringing light to topics like New Testament analysis, Christian apologetics, Science and Christianity, and much more.
Learn more about these and other top influencers in the religious studies field today!
Some programs may require you to complete a Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This will test your basic reading comprehension, verbal, and mathematical competencies. Some programs may require you to meet a certain scoring threshold while others may merely require that you complete the exam. These requirements will vary from one religious studies master’s program to the next.
For testing tips, check out our Guide to the GRE.
If no GRE is required, the primary requirement for gaining eligibility into a religious studies master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. While programmatic accreditation is not specifically required in this field, most regionally-accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally-accredited college or university.
That said, a great many religious degrees are nationally accredited at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, rather than regionally accredited. Where this is the case, be sure to do your due diligence in researching the reputation and history of your master’s degree program. Be sure that any nationally-accredited masters in religious studies degree programs are reputable and of a high quality.
For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals.
If you’re still working on building your qualifications, check out our look at the religious studies major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in religious studies.
Your specialization will depend both on your career goals and your religious affiliation. Your personal spiritual beliefs may determine the advanced degree you pursue, or you may focus your studies on a particular dimension of religious practice such as its history or scriptures. You may also choose a specialization based on a specific area where you believe you can apply your faith, such as in education, athletics, community organization, and more. The following are notable religious studies specializations:
Your specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a religious studies major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as The New Testament and World Religions. However, your degree in religious studies will also be very specific to your career goals and area of faith.
Common religious studies courses include:
Leadership is a central part of organized religion. A master’s degree in religious studies will provide you with both the qualifications and the credentials to serve in a leadership role. Religious organizations are often central to the way communities come together, social services are distributed, education is accessed, and so much more. Earning a master’s degree will help you build organizational skills even as you channel these practical abilities through a spiritual perspective. A master’s degree in religious studies is a worthwhile pursuit if you hope to assume an administrative role in a faith-based organization, whether as part of a chaplaincy or otherwise.
|Career||Job Growth||Avg. Salary|
|Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary||8.55%||$78,591|
|Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary||8.51%||$76,038|
|Bottom 10%||Median||Top 10%|
|State||Cost of Living||Avg. Salary|
|#2 California||26% higher than average||$126,137|
|#3 Michigan||15% higher than average||$78,906|
|#4 Illinois||7% higher than average||$86,243|
|#5 Ohio||14% higher than average||$79,254|
|#6 North Carolina||11% higher than average||$78,999|
|Local government, including schools and hospitals||$110,331|
|Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||$92,881|
A master in religious studies prepares you for diverse professions in academia, public service, and places of worship. Your religious studies master can lead to a wide range of leadership opportunities, including these top jobs:
Curious how far you could go with a master’s degree in religious studies? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!***
Now that you know how to earn a masters in religious studies, check out The Most Influential Schools in Religious Studies:
Check out the full list here and get started on your path to a religious studies degree.