College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Why Theology or Religious Studies?

Parents are often concerned when their son or daughter announces that s/he would like to study theology or religious studies. "Why?" they ask. "What will you do with a theology degree?" Here is what we would tell your parents.

  • You are interested in it.
    • If you choose to major in theology or religious studies, you will learn all the same skills you would learn as a major in any other liberal arts subject – how to read carefully, think critically, formulate persuasive arguments, and communicate clearly.
    • You will get to practice these skills on a subject matter that you are really curious about and enjoy studying. There is no point spending 4 years of your life with something you don't enjoy.
  • Religion is a practical concern in today's world.
    • Religious wars are still being fought. Imagine the benefits to today's world if everyone had a better understanding of Islam and its diversity or of the historical foundations of Judaism that make the nation of Israel of religious, not just political concern to Jews.
    • Religious motivations effect political campaigns, voting habits and election outcomes. They influence legislation and policy at all levels of society.
    • Many persons are becoming disaffected by the behavior of religious leaders or have been hurt within traditional religious communities. To study theology is to know that there are wisdom traditions and spiritual traditions that flow more deeply through human lives than the external trappings of any religion in any particular time and place. It is to know that things have not always been the way they are now, and that therefore things can change.
    • For all these reasons, Newsweek recently reported on the revival of Religious Studies on college campuses. Read the article.
  • The theology or religious studies major is flexible.
    • The curriculum allows enough flexibility for students who so wish to double major, or earn one or two minors.
    • Department faculty are involved in a number of cross disciplinary programs and teach classes that fit these programs: Africana Studies, Ancient Studies, the Bioethics Institute, Faith Justice Studies, Gender Studies, Latin American Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, etc.
    • Department faculty are involved in teaching Service Learning courses – which engage the student in volunteer service and reflect on this service through the course content.
    • Theology faculty teach study tours – to Poland, Bolivia, Greece, Dominican Republic.
    • Because the department is relatively small, students can develop close relationships with their faculty and enjoy the benefits of faculty advising that takes into account the individual needs and interests of the student.

What can you do with a theology or religious studies major?

More things than you might think:

  • Double major with Politics and become a political advisor or lobbyist.
  • Double major with International Relations and go to work for any business.
  • Double major with Foreign Languages and become a UN translator or teach English as a second language while living abroad.
  • Double major with the Arts – photography, film, music, and become an interpreter of religion for others.
  • Double major in English and write for news agencies or magazines.
  • Double major with Sociology and become a social worker or public policy analyst.
  • Double with Psychology and become a counselor to those who take religion seriously.

Our recent graduates have gone into education, volunteer programs like Jesuit Volunteer Corps or the Peace Corps, social work, Law School, and Graduate School in Religion. A few are accepting lay leadership roles in parishes where there is a shortage of priests. Our majors are encouraged to seek internships with government agencies, local businesses and non-profits through the Career Development center.  Although these would often not be directly related to class work, and would not substitute for it, they provide valuable job training and opportunity for discernment of personal vocation.  Students who are studying theology and religious studies may find that they are able to put their knowledge and skills to good use working for government agencies, political lobbyists, law firms, social service agencies, public media outlets, etc.  Contrary to the expectations of many, the majority of our majors do not end up working for the church.