The Department of Religious Studies at CU Boulder combines the intimacy of a classic liberal arts education and the rigor of a strong graduate program with a climate of engagement fostered by research-dedicated faculty who are interdisciplinary, international and experimental, and bring teaching to life with diverse experiences and unique perspectives.
The department’s research specializations range across the world and span from the ancient past to the contemporary moment. Beyond and across their areas of specialization, they are committed to making the study of religion accessible and relevant to public life.
Did you know that both former U.S. secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and John Kerry have both spoken about the importance of religion in international relations and the need for diplomats to have training in religious studies? Kerry even said that, “One of the most interesting challenges we face in global diplomacy today is the need to fully understand and engage the great impact that a wide range of religious traditions have on foreign affairs. I often say that if I headed back to college today, I would major in comparative religions rather than political science.”
At CU Boulder, the major in religious studies is designed to help you develop a sophisticated understanding of the forms and varieties of religion that have appeared in human culture. As part of that, the program does not provide the sort of specialized religious training associated with seminary education, but rather serves as an invitation to explore the world around you more deeply, promoting cultural literacy and engaging questions of value and meaning. The curriculum leading to the bachelor of arts (BA) degree is a rigorous academic program that draws from the humanities, arts and social sciences to provide a descriptive and analytical approach to religious traditions and phenomena.
Emphasis in the major is placed on the interrelations between religion and other aspects of human experience, such as politics, science, literature and the arts. Students also explore many forms of religious expression, including myth, symbol, ritual, theology, ethics, scriptures, dance, social institutions and religious doctrine.
In addition to a strong curriculum, the department also has a number of excellent and award-winning faculty, including a scholar called "pathbreaking" by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, numerous teaching and book award recipients, and fellows for such prestigious organizations as the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright, the Holocaust Education Foundation and the National Council of Eastern European and Eurasian Research.
The Department of Religious Studies encourages research in several traditions and themes, including Native American and Indigenous Religions; Buddhism; Christianity; Hinduism; Islam; Judaism; Chinese Religions; Law and Politics; Philosophy and Ethics; Media and Popular Culture; Gender and Sexuality; Ritual, Performance and the Body; Interreligious Dialogues; and Ancient and Religious History.
Their diverse faculty also include several who have joint affiliations with institutes and centers like the Center of the American West and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program, and other departments like History, Jewish Studies, Humanities, Ethnic Studies, Asian Languages and Civilizations, Women and Gender Studies and Media Studies.
For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in religious studies, there are a number of research opportunities beyond just classwork:
As a religious studies major, you will acquire the critical thinking and communication skills valued by employers in diverse fields, from finance to law to medicine to the nonprofit sector. Additional possibilities include careers such as secondary school teaching, publishing, social service, journalism and as preparation for post-graduate professional and vocational degrees such as law.
Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation.
According to the 2019-20 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:
- The average expected salary for someone with a bachelor's degree in Religious Studies is $55,000.
At CU Boulder, Religious Studies graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $73,762, based on a pool of 105 alumni who graduated between 2005 and 2018. This amount, however, is lower than the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch:
The most common question religious studies majors get from friends, family and strangers is “what are you going to do with a degree in religious studies?” The two most common misconceptions are that a Religious Studies degree is only for those who are pursuing vocations in the clergy or the academy, but in fact that is not the case! Though the department do have a few students who pursue these paths, the vast majority of their graduates find that their religious studies degree “travels” very well, and have gone on to a wide array of careers including law, medicine, public health, film and the arts, international relations, technology, journalism, ecology, education and the nonprofit sector. Past alumni include: