A Ph.D. is the most advanced degree students can earn in religious studies. It is often treated as a multidisciplinary degree, allowing students to explore how religion, ethics, politics, the environment, sexuality, social policy, and other disciplines interact. A religious studies phd program would entail significant research and rigorous academic courses. Graduates are prepared most typically to go into education, teaching at a college or university and continuing to conduct research.

Why a Ph.D.?

There are a number of reasons why someone would want to earn a religious studies phd online. Primarily, it’s because they want to teach at the college or university level. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in religious studies wouldn’t be sufficient to teach in higher education; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary teachers most commonly need a Ph.D. to be qualified to teach. Others may pursue the terminal degree because it is a personal goal, or to conduct original research and help advance the field.

Getting Into a Ph.D. Program

Each Ph.D. program will have its own application requirements and qualifications to apply. Here’s an idea of what’s typically requested:

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree from a regionally accredited program
  • Prior graduate work in religious studies
  • Statement of purpose
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Professional resume
  • Interview
  • Language requirement

Inside a Religious Studies Ph.D. Program

A Ph.D. in religious studies can take anywhere from three to six years to complete, depending on the exact field of study and any necessary language training or fieldwork. Religious studies programs are multidisciplinary in nature, and students can expect to take classes that touch on topics in religion, as well as history, anthropology, sociology, ethics, and more. Areas of specialization vary by program and might include American religious history, ancient Christianity, Asian religions, Islamic studies, Judaic studies, theology, and religious ethics.

Once they complete their courses and examinations, Ph.D. candidates then work on their dissertation. This paper is in a topic of their choosing and must demonstrate a high level of research, original insight, and specialized knowledge. Students must defend it before a dissertation committee to graduate.

What’s Next for Religious Studies Ph.D. Holders?

Most commonly, graduates of Ph.D. programs remain in academia, teaching at a college or university. According to the BLS, employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow by 17% from 2010 to 2020. This growth is anticipated due to increasing enrollments at institutions of higher education. Graduates may also potentially go on to work at institutions where their expert, specialized knowledge is needed, such as within a government agency, religious organization, or museum.