If you’re interested in a theology degree but don’t necessarily want to lead a congregation of parishioners, take heart. A theology degree can be used to gain secular, religious and government employment. Most of these positions will not involve preaching, proselyting, or delivering scriptural lectures. Instead, they will be comprised of tasks that achieve the broader goal of supporting and serving clients through meeting their spiritual and emotional needs. There’s more you can do with a theology degree than just preach sermons. Below are five examples of other jobs with a theology degree.
One popular career option for theology majors is that of a hospice chaplain. Hospice chaplains provide spiritual care services to critically ill patients and their families. These religious professionals either directly care for patients or provide support through the coordination of care with other counselors and professionals. They primarily work with patients who are in the end-of-life stage. Hospice chaplains may provide funeral, memorial and bereavement services for patients of varied beliefs and faiths. Their primary task is to perform spiritual assessments of patients and families in the hospice program in order to provide individualized and appropriate services. They also maintain records of spiritual care services for quality improvement, program development, and continuing education purposes.
To become a hospice chaplain, you’ll need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in theology or religious studies. Most practicing chaplains hold a master’s degree, however. In addition, the majority of employers prefer chaplains who are certified through recognized organizations and ordained to be a minister.
Most hospice chaplains enter the field because they feel a sense of purpose from helping others. They may even feel called by a higher power to perform their duties. There is, of course, a financial reward for working as a hospice chaplain as well. According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clergy members earn a mean annual wage of $50,800.
Theology majors may also pursue a career in the military. These types of chaplains can be found in every branch of the armed forces as pastors, priests, rabbis and imams. Their job is to enhance the morale, aptitude, emotional resilience, and spiritual fitness of service members and their families. They also advise military leaders regarding ethical, religious and spiritual matters. These chaplains advocate for members of the military to seek spiritual support and guidance to make the best decisions on and off the job. They may also supervise, evaluate, and coordinate spiritual care staff and volunteers. In addition, military chaplains establish positive relationships with community clergy, counselors, and chaplains to adequately meet service members’ needs. They also actively attend and participate in interdisciplinary team meetings.
The first step towards becoming a military chaplain is to become a commissioned officer in one of the branches of the U.S. military. In order to do so, you’ll need to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program and meet all requirements to receive your four-year degree. In most cases, you will also be required to continue your education in a graduate program in theology or religious studies before you can become officially employed as a military chaplain. Finally, the military may also require you to become ordained or approved by a recognized organization within your religious sect.
If you have a desire to help others on both a spiritual and emotional level, then the position of a pastoral counselor may be the ideal job for you. Pastoral counselors are mental health professionals who work for religious organizations. They perform family, couple, or personal assessments in order to outline needs, goals and strengths with clients. Based on these assessments, they develop personalized therapeutic plans. These spiritual treatment plans include holistic approaches to improve one’s emotional and psychological well-being. Pastoral counselors may provide weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly consultative visits with clients during church service hours and during the week. During these sessions, the counselor focuses on therapeutic problem-solving strategies within the context of their patients’ religious affiliation. In some cases, pastoral counselors may refer clients to community, government, and private practice organizations for additional services.
To become a practicing pastoral counselor, you’ll need formal training in both mental health counseling as well as religious studies. While there are numerous ways to receive such training, most pastoral counselors have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree; one is usually in theology while the other emphasizes counseling theories and techniques. Some pastoral counselors seek professional certification from the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.
A degree in theology may also land you a career as a youth pastor. If you want to provide spiritual leadership, but not to a traditional congregation, then this is a path to consider. Youth pastors provide vision and leadership to teens and their parents. They develop curriculum goals and spiritual growth programs in collaboration with church leadership. They also recruit, train, and coordinate volunteers to help with group activities and excursions. Youth pastors work to build harmonious relationships with young people and their families, specializing in providing pastoral care to struggling teens and equipping parents with supportive tools and resources. They may also utilize various technologies to create effective communication methods for youth, parents, church bodies, and local communities.
A bachelor’s degree in theology or religious studies is usually required in order to become a youth pastor. You may also need to demonstrate experience working with adolescents and young adults. This requirement is often met through a volunteer experience or a formal internship.
After studying theology, you may decide that you want to teach the subject rather than practice in the field. Fortunately, there is always a need for good theology instructors. Thus, theology instructors are often employed by churches, parochial schools, or non-secular colleges. These types of instructors are committed to the personal development of students and the advancement of the organization’s mission. Theology instructors usually must be practicing, devout members of their religious sect. Their degree in theology may specialize in philosophy, scriptural interpretation, church history, religious studies, or applied theology. They must have the ability to collaboratively work with staff who may have dissimilar theological attitudes and beliefs. Finally, these professors must also be able to develop and enhance curriculum to fit their students’ learning styles and educational needs.
To become a theology instructor, you’ll need an advanced degree such as a master’s or even doctoral credential. The first step, though, is to enroll in a four-year university and major in theology or religious studies. After your academic stint is finished, though, you’ll be rewarded with a lucrative career. The position of a theology instructor is one of the highest paying roles in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these post-secondary teachers make over $75,000 per year on average.
These are just a handful of the jobs you can qualify for with a theology degree. Other positions include parish director, church program leader, overseas missionary, and diocesan office coordinator, for example.
Frequently-Asked Questions About Theology Majors and Degrees
When considering a theology major, it’s normal to have questions. Make a list of all of the concerns and inquiries you have and check them off one by one as you do your research. To help you decide whether a degree in theology is right for you, we’ve listed some of the questions we commonly receive about this type of credential. For specific information about a particular school or program, you should always speak with an admissions counselor or other school representative.
Q: How long does it take to complete a theology degree program?
A: A bachelor’s degree in theology usually requires a four-year time commitment. This can vary, though. Accelerated degree programs are sometimes available that can enable you to complete your degree sooner. On the other hand, part-time programs may take longer to finish.
Q: How much does a theology degree program cost?
A: Tuition costs vary widely from one school to another. With an affordable college or university, you can expect to pay between $5,000 to $20,000 per year on your degree. Remember, though, financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans is typically available to help you fund your education.
Q: Can I major in theology online?
A: Yes. Distance education isn’t just a trend amongst certain colleges and universities anymore. In fact, it’s become a mainstay. More and more schools are offering theology majors completely online. Such programs allow you to fulfill all of the requirements for your degree without ever attending a traditional on-campus class.
Q: How do I choose a theology degree program?
The college or university you choose to attend for your theology degree is ultimately a personal decision. However, it’s wise to consider factors such as cost, flexibility, accreditation, and curriculum, for instance.
Q: Should I join a professional organization in theology?
A: Yes! Professional organizations offer networking, professional development, and career resources for both theology majors and graduates. Some of the common professional associations in the field of theology and religious studies are listed below, but remember that there are dozens more to consider as well.
American Academy of Religion
Association of Youth Ministry Educators
North American Professors of Christian Education
Christian Community Development Association
Society of Biblical Literature
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