Whether you’re looking to devote your life to a specific religion, want a strong liberal arts education, or are interested in study religion from an academic standpoint, an associates in religious studies could be for you. The field of religious studies caters to all different types of students as it examines religion outside of any particular belief system. Throughout the degree, students study the history, beliefs, literature, and cultural development of religious systems and faiths. When they graduate, they would be prepared for more advanced study at the bachelor’s degree level.

Why an Associate Degree?

A religious studies associate degree would most likely be designed to prepare students for earning a bachelor’s degree in religious studies. This could mean students interested in getting a start on their degree but who might want to earn a bachelor’s degree┬áin religious studies at a later day, as well as those already involved in ministry work who would like to start earning a degree. Students don’t have to be religious to study religion, either. Students of any particular faith, or none, are welcome.

Getting Into an Associate Degree Program

Application requirements will vary from one school to the next. But generally they require:

  • High school diploma or its equivalent

Inside a Religious Studies Associate Degree Program

Associate degrees typically take about two years to complete. During an associate degree in religious studies, students learn how the major religious systems developed, what their followers do, and their effects on society. This includes classes in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam, as well as lesser-known practices. At this level, many associate degrees have a Christian focus, with courses in topics such as studying and teaching the Bible, the principles of theology, and Christian ministry.

Students can expect their courses to require significant reading of religious texts, theoretical studies, and historical studies. They will also be expected to write research papers. Discussions with professors and fellow students may be done online via live chat or message boards. Some programs may encourage students to get hands-on experience through an internship.

What’s Next for Religious Studies Associate Degree Holders?

What graduates do next will largely depend on their own personal and educational goals. Those considering Christian service may go on to find entry-level employment in chaplaincy, health and welfare ministries, missions, youth ministry, religious communities, or church administration. At the same time, employment opportunities are limited with just an associate degree, and some positions may require additional schooling and training. For example, social service managers, which are commonly employed by religious organizations, must have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To that end, students can also elect to apply their associate degree towards a bachelor’s or master’s degree to open up more career and job possibilities. This could mean a degree in religion, or education, journalism, politics, or professional schools for law or business. Because of its strong liberal arts foundation, there’s any number of possible fields students can enter.