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Religious Studies Major Guide for 2015-2016

What is Religious Studies?

Religious studies is a field of study that investigates and analyzes the range of ideas and practices commonly understood as “religious” in both historical and contemporary contexts.  Courses in the Department of Religious Studies focus upon many dimensions of religion (beliefs, practices, values, experiences, historical changes, institutional structures, myths, social ethics, and politics) as expressed by a range of religious traditions from all over the world. Its major and minor programs of study offer both breadth and depth in the academic study of religion in its modern comparative, cross-cultural, and multidisciplinary forms.

The program is also a good introduction to the study of cultural diversity and intercultural knowledge, numerous ancient and modern non-Western societies, and various traditions of philosophy, ethics, and theology in their native contexts.

The major and minor in Religious Studies can thus be good preparation for graduate programs in Religious Studies and various intersecting fields including history, literature, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, art, musicology, political science, international relations, global studies, and many more.

Career Opportunities in Religious Studies

In addition to scholarly work as discussed above, a course of study in Religious Studies can also be excellent preparation for students interested in careers in law, journalism, education, ministry, psychotherapy, overseas and domestic government service, and humanitarian and social work.

Salary Trends in Religious Studies

It is difficult to generalize about this matter because students interested in religion move in so many directions. As with any degree, pre-professional experiences (volunteerism, work experience, internships, etc.) enhance the chances of obtaining employment and affect the projected salary.

High School Preparation

Courses in the arts and the humanities—as well as a solid foundation in communication skills, especially writing—are recommended as the best preparation for course work in the Department. Foreign language skills developed in high school can also help considerably.  Although some students come into the Department with specific personal experience or study in particular religious traditions, many do not—and in any case critical thinking skills and comparative interests are far more important.

How to Major in Religious Studies

There are no prerequisites to major in Religious Studies at UTK. Interested students should contact the departmental secretary or any faculty member.

Requirements for Religious Studies

The basic concentration consists of 30 credit hours, and is designed to assure that students attain skills to analyze and interpret religious phenomena in different cultures and historical periods, including how sacred texts, traditions, and interpretations of critical reasoning inform and are informed by religion. The course of study includes an integrative capstone seminar, a course devoted to method and theory, and minimum breadth in the following areas 1) Mediterranean and the Middle East, 2) North America and Africa, 3) South, Southeast, and East Asia, and 4) Methods and Issues in Religious Studies. Within this structure, students have considerable scope to develop an area of concentration.

Highlights of Religious Studies

The Department sponsors an active Religious Studies Association for students, faculty and friends of the department, as well as any who may have a general interest in the program.  It has a strong tradition of fostering symposia, cultural programs with national and international guest lecturers, and special educational and outreach events such as India Semester, China Semester, Middle East Semester, Africa Semester, and Holocaust conferences.  Faculty members in the Department lecture regularly on campus and in the wider Knoxville community on a range of topics that pertain to the ongoing, if not growing, significance of religion in the lives of individuals, communities, nation-states, and global civil society.


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“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education web site ( or the Ready for the World web site ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors. In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.

Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.

For More Information

See the departmental secretary or visit the web site


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

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