What to do with a degree in theology or religious studies
An understanding of religions and social beliefs can see graduates make an impact in roles where multiculturalism exists
Despite the fact UK church attendances have been dwindling for years, the vast majority of the world’s population believes in one deity or another, and there has arguably never been a more important time to understand how, and why, people feel inspired to behave in the name of a higher being.
“Martin Luther King was a graduate of theology,” points out Margaret Holbrough, careers adviser at Graduate Prospects. “While his impact on the civil rights movement in the US is unlikely to be matched, the knowledge gained by modern-day religious studies graduates – plus their understanding of the impact different religious and social beliefs can have in all environments – make them ideal candidates for a whole range of professions, especially where a multicultural dimension exists.”
What skills have I gained?
Religious studies graduates should understand the perspectives of all the major religions and, as such, are often great empathisers, an increasingly valuable attribute in today’s world.
Besides the usual degree disciplines of clear communication and research, employers will be interested in the way you can debate and contextualise different standpoints – and crucially, that you know how to do so without offending others.
You should also be sensitive to how time and translation can alter the meanings of religious texts and messages.
Theology students focus on Christianity in depth – with a more passing overview of other religions – but will also possess many of the same types of skills.
What careers can I pursue?
The most obvious careers for religious studies graduates are as ministers across all religions and beliefs, as well as research and teaching at every level.
Currently, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) is offering £6,000 bursaries for graduates interested in training to teach religious studies at secondary level.
As our data shows, though, graduates move into a diverse range of occupations, particularly in development work, community-based roles, aspects of welfare, social care and counselling, plus local and central government policymaking and administrative departments.
“In the wider employment market, many commercial organisations welcome them in human resources, or general management roles,” Holbrough says. “Equally, in the legal profession, broadcasting and journalism, library and information management, employers draw on their knowledge and expertise.”
Further study is a common choice. Around one in five religious studies or theology graduates go on to ministerial training, with a high proportion going into teacher training or business and management conversion courses. Specialist postgraduate courses covering scripture study and the history of religion are also well subscribed.