Once you decided to become a Religious studies professor, it is best to get involved with professional organizations in order to network and stay informed of the most recent trends in the field. At this stage, it is also important to begin looking for employment opportunities.
What will you do as a religious studies professor?
Typically, a Religious studies professor takes classes that are related to their own research interests. They will then meet with students one-on-one or in groups to discuss topics about their particular field of study. This is also the time for professors to publish articles and books.
Responsibilities and duties
You will be responsible for:
- Teaching classes and seminars - You will need to keep up with the latest news and information in your field.
- Researching and publishing - You should take advantage of opportunities to present research at conferences and seminars.
- Mentoring and advising students - Your responsibility is to provide guidance for students as they learn about your area of study. You can also assist them with developing ideas for papers, writing application essays, and figuring out what degree plan would be best suited for them.
- Organizing outreach programs - A vital part of being a religious studies professor is involving yourself with community outreach programs such as building houses or feeding the homeless. It's not just important that you stay informed; but also that you give back!
Responsibilities and duties may vary by an employer: public vs. private, university-level vs. college level, etc.
Required skills for this position
For most, an undergraduate degree is required to become a religious studies professor. You will want to make sure you continue your education even further with graduate studies.
You should be able to:
- Teach effectively both in-person and online - It's important that you are able to connect with students, be thorough in your lectures, and have a positive learning environment for them.
- Have excellent research skills - At the Ph.D. level, the main part of this job is writing papers and doing research projects. Staying up-to-date on the latest topics being discussed about your area of expertise is crucial.
- Be proficient in word processing skills - As a professor, you are expected to write books/articles as well as grade student papers so great word processing skills are important.
Other key skills for this position that you should be able to do are:
- Arrange campus visits for prospective students
- Serve on committees and boards in the community to help raise awareness of educational issues
- Know how to read/write/speak proficiently in two or more languages depending upon specialization within Religious Studies
- Negotiate contracts, grants, and salary with funding sources or governmental agencies
- Be willing to travel occasionally if teaching at an offsite location such as a school away from the main campus of the university. This is often necessary when giving lectures at other universities.
- Offer workshops on topics related to your area of expertise for neighbors, churches, etc. These may also sometimes be required by your employer.
A master's degree is generally required before entering this career path, though some individuals may start out working as research assistants while studying towards a Ph.D.. Completing additional coursework in religious studies prior to applying for a teaching position helps increase your chances of getting the job, especially when starting out at the entry-level.
A few universities require that professors have teaching experience in addition to an advanced degree, though only require that you achieved tenure at a university before becoming a full professor.
What software and tools will you use as a religious studies professor?
At the most basic level, you will need to use Word and Excel software. Software used for this career: Word Processing, Publishing, Presentation Software - Microsoft Word, Spreadsheet software - Microsoft Excel.
Communication Tools - Email is commonly used. Telephone Landlines are more common than cell phones. It's also important that you stay up-to-date on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter so you can network with other professionals in your field of study.
Do you need special courses or classes?
At a minimum, you will want to take as many courses as possible that relate to the subject matter of which you'll be teaching. This is preferred even if your advanced degrees do not specifically relate to religious studies because it helps you gain a better knowledge and understanding of the field.
In addition to earning a master's degree, most religious studies professors complete several years of postdoctoral research and teaching at the college level in order to advance their careers. While your exact salary will vary based on location, level of education, and other factors, you can expect to make between $45K - $100K with a Ph.D., depending on where you work.
The median salary for a religious studies professor is $64,610 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top ten percent make more than $108,650 annually. To become an official professor, you should have a Ph.D. or a terminal degree in your area of study.
Some other important factors that influence salaries are years of experience and employer type (public v/s private). Benefits vary by employment status as well as from one person's situation to another's. However overall they can be very generous especially those provided through public institutions such as free tuition for dependents, reduced rates on school fees and memberships, subsidized pet insurance, and much more!
How to get this job?
One of the best ways to get this job is to attend the college that you would like to teach at and take all their courses since they will be more familiar with your academic history. This will also give you insight into the different disciplines within religious studies and allow you to see if it's something that you really want to do long term. You might also be required to show active membership in professional societies relevant to your area of study.
Interviews can be nerve-wracking, however, there are some things that you can do to help reduce the anxiety. First of all, it's a good idea to get a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview with you. This way they can ask questions and give you tips on ways to improve your responses.
A successful interview is the result of preparation. When applying for jobs in religious studies, you will need to provide contact information for three references who will serve as professional references when asked by the interviewer. You should also prepare answers for common interview questions such as:
What makes you qualified for this job?
Why did you leave your last position?
What do you know about our company?
How would your previous employer describe you?
What are your salary requirements?
When interviewing, it is important to act enthusiastic and excited about the position ahead of time. You will also want to research the company before arriving for an interview so that you can ask relevant questions about its history and growth. During the interview process, make sure to maintain good eye contact with your interviewer. Speaking clearly and confidently about yourself or your previous work experiences will help convince them that you are a great candidate for the job!
Where can you find this job?
In the U.S., the majority of religious studies professors are employed at colleges and universities. However, they may also work in elementary or secondary schools, libraries, museums, seminaries and research centers related to their area of study. Professors who teach about Eastern religions may also be employed by adult education centers or similar institutions.
About 65 percent of religious studies professors have tenure at a college or university, according to the American Academy of Religion (AAR). The AAR prefers that tenure criteria be based on teaching abilities and research activities rather than extraneous factors like race, gender, or personal beliefs. Religious studies professors who do not achieve tenure remain on limited-term contracts until they are either awarded tenure or terminated.
Professional organizations such as the American Academy of Religion or the Society for Biblical Literature often post job openings on their websites. These postings are typically only for full-time academic positions rather than visiting or adjunct appointments.
In addition to these formal postings, many colleges and universities will advertise job openings on social media sites like Facebook. So create a profile on your school's Facebook account and monitor for postings.
Many religious studies professors work part-time or as visiting faculty at various institutions, meaning that there is not one single place to find all open positions in the field. AAR provides a list of job openings around the world, but users may have more success checking with their state's department of education to find academic opportunities.
Who can be your employers for the religious studies professor position?
- Employers for this job include:
- Colleges and universities
- Elementary and secondary schools
- Libraries, museums, seminaries, and research centers related to the area of study
- Adult education centers or similar institutions
Who are the best people to work with?
The best people to work with as a Religious studies professor would probably be those who have studied topics such as history, art, culture, or literature in order to broaden their perspective on how religion affects different aspects of society.
Also, it is important to stay knowledgeable about the most recent trends in your field by reading academic journals and attending conferences. It helps to also know another language besides English since you may be required to teach courses that require additional languages like Hebrew or Latin (Latin because many older religious texts were written in this language).
How can you understand that a religious studies professor is a position for you?
Before applying or interviewing for the position, consider what you would like to get out of the job. Do you want an academic career? A career in research? Teaching experience can help you decide if this is a path you might be interested in pursuing. If not, think about other types of non-academic positions that might appeal to you more, such as museum curation or working on inter-religious dialogue projects.
Think about your strengths and weaknesses before looking for this position. Since most religious studies professors are employed at colleges and universities, it is important to have teaching experience (previous teaching assistantships will look great on your resume). It also helps to show off any language skills that can be used when teaching classes on comparative religion.
If your college or university is small and does not have a religious studies department, consider pursuing an interdisciplinary degree that focuses on religion. This allows you to complete all coursework under one department rather than splitting up your classes with various departments like sociology or philosophy.
A master's degree in religious studies (or an area of specialization like biblical studies) is also suggested for most full-time professorships; however, some postdoctoral research opportunities may require only a Ph.D., especially if the job requires heavy teaching loads (i.e., introductory courses). If teaching isn't necessary for the position, then a Ph.D. is usually not necessary either.
There are many varieties of religious studies jobs with various responsibilities and requirements, so consider your options before applying. For example, some positions require teaching an occasional class or two while others only require the professor to do research and write articles for academic journals or books. Think about what type of schedule you would prefer - full-time work with benefits or part-time work that does not involve much travel?
Most religious studies professors hold a Ph.D., but some can be hired with an M.A. if there is not much teaching involved in the position (i.e., research-oriented). There are also some part-time or non-academic positions that do not require any degree at all, although these are usually in small museums, churches, or in interreligious dialogue work.
Since this job requires extensive study of human behavior, religious studies professors may qualify for other jobs working on topics relating to anthropology, sociology, or history. For example, many religious studies professors who research on the topic of religion and migration work in sociology departments.
Some may also choose to pursue jobs that deal with humanities subjects like art history or literature, but this often depends on the area of focus within religious studies. For example, an expert in Buddhist art will probably not do well finding a position in an English department.
The job outlook for religious studies professors is not very promising. Most positions are at small, liberal arts colleges and there is an increasing demand for specialists in non-Western religions like African or South American faiths (especially since they are widely practiced by immigrants within the United States).
Most graduates with PhDs do end up getting desirable jobs; however, many end up working as adjunct professors at various schools instead of full-time professors at one college or university. T
his means that they only teach one or two classes per semester (rather than several) for less pay and fewer benefits. The lack of full-time positions will continue to increase unless more religious studies programs are established to meet the growing diversity of religions being practiced across the world.