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Studying a religious studies degree

Religious studies isn’t just about the next life: it will give you plenty of skills for this one as well. Read on to find out more.

What is religious studies?

Religious studies examines different beliefs about God throughout history and across the world. It won’t qualify you to become a minister of a particular faith – which requires specific religious training and study – but looks more at how different religions shape society and people’s thoughts. This means that there is a lot of crossover with other subjects like philosophy, history and anthropology. Many religious studies courses also include elements of theology, which is more about arguments for and against the existence of God, although you might also be able to study this as a separate subject.

What will I study on a religious studies degree?

Most undergraduate degrees begin with an introduction to the major world religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the first year, during which time you will study the core beliefs and sacred texts of each.

There is then often the opportunity to study one faith in more detail for the rest of your course, or to take a broader overview and look at things like different attitudes to gender or how religions relate to atheism – the theory that there is no God. Students who are also interested in languages might learn how to translate ancient texts.

You can also do religious studies as part of a joint honours degree with another subject like politics, teaching, maths or a foreign language.

What are the entry requirements?

You don’t need to follow a religion to do a religious studies degree. Nor will you need to have taken religious studies at A-level, although this will give you a good insight into the subject.

Since religious studies involves a lot of essay writing, most universities will be looking for a good mix of facilitating A-level subjects including at least one of the humanities such as English or history.

Where can it lead?

Some religious students studies do go on to religious training and become ministers of religion, or get involved with administration work in faith organisations and churches. Many also go on to postgraduate study.

Religious studies is also a good route into social work, particularly in a multicultural society where it’s necessary to understand and sympathise with different people’s beliefs. Having an open mind is one of the most important things a religious studies course will teach you, alongside research, literacy and communication skills, which are useful in a wide range of careers such as:

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