Religion Major Careers

      Graduate Study

      A good many of our graduates have gone on to further graduate work in religious studies. Some of them have had a keen interest at the time of their applications in academic and secondary school teaching careers; others have sought ordination or other credentials for leadership in faith communities; still others have entered graduate study uncertain of where it might lead them vocationally.

      Students should be aware of the range of graduate programs in religious studies, both at the Masters and Doctoral levels, and in particular a distinction between vocational training for religious leadership and more overtly academic training for teaching. One should also be aware of the frequent crossover. For example, masters programs at the Divinity School of Harvard University (M.T.S and M.Div.) are peopled with students with both, or neither, aim.

      A note: given the vagaries of the academic job market, particularly in the humanities, students interested in doctoral work in religious studies should make that choice in an intentional, well informed way with some guidance. Ph.D. work can be a costly and lengthy endeavor, and while surely worthwhile in other ways, does not always result in a full-time, much less tenurable (that is, potentially permanent) teaching position.

      A. Study of Religion (Academic)

      Doctoral Level

      Although which programs are considered “premier” vary by specific field, generally speaking, the premier institutions in religious studies include:

      * Of course, some more directed inquiry into religious traditions through doctoral work in a specific discipline (sociology, anthropology, philosophy) might well suggest a different list of premier institutions. So too would study in particular traditions. The Universities of Wisconsin and Michigan, and California at Berkeley, for example, are distinguished in fields of Asian studies.

      Masters Level
      Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), sometimes S.T.M. or M.A.R.

      This degree, typically two years, affords flexibility with preparation for doctoral level work or, in certain other cases, preparation for careers in religious education, secondary school teaching, and in fields combining religion and the arts. Harvard Divinity School, for example, offers a Program in Religion and Secondary Education. Yale Divinity School offers a Masters in Religion and the Arts.

      B. Vocational Studies toward Leadership in Religious Communities

      The Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) is the standard three year preparation for ordained Christian ministry. Make sure you consult with leaders in your faith community for recommended places for seminary. Some require three years (or some portion thereof) at a denominationally affiliated seminary. Jewish seminaries offer programs toward ordination as well. Interested students are encouraged to consult with the Chaplain’s Office as well as the file cabinet of seminary programs in the Religion Department.

      C. Other Graduate Programs

      Some religion majors have found the best preparation for their interests in religious community leadership or secondary school teaching not in religious studies programs, but in graduate schools of education, social work, public policy or public administration.


      A good number of recent alumni pursue fellowships or year long volunteer social service projects, through such programs as Americorps, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and the like. See the Career Center and relevant faculty for more possibilities.


      Carleton Religion majors have taken positions in as wide a range of venues as Carleton graduates generally. We have alumni working as teachers and administrators in schools both public and private, in social service agencies, in law firms, in environmental causes, writing novels or editing them for publishers. The department has a rotating Faculty Career Coordinator, currently Associate Professor Sango, who serves as a liaison with Career Services. The career center can serve the student with a variety of resources, including testing, internships, alumni shadowing, and a variety of other services.

      The Carleton Religion Department boasts nearly 600 alumni majors, who identify themselves as active in a wide variety of career and educational pursuits:

      • 23%    Education
      • 16.8% Business/Commerce/Trade
      • 16.4% Health Care/Social Service/Counseling
      • 11%    Other Careers
      • 7.3%   Clergy/Religion Leadership
      • 6.2%   Legal Professions
      • 5.9%   Arts Occupations
      • 5.4%   Communications/Media
      • 2.4%   Environment/Agriculture/Forestry/Sports & Recreation
      • 2.1%   Public Service/Military & Protective Services
      • 2.1%   Computer/Information Systems
      • 1.4%   Service/Hospitality Industry