Why Study Religion?

Muslim praying while wearing surgical mask

Most students don’t arrive at Miami with plans to study religion; the possibility may have never even crossed your mind. But here are three reasons why you should consider taking courses on religion as part of preparing for your career.

1. Religion creates challenges and opportunities for professionals in many fields.

Religion impacts individuals and societies in many ways. It shapes law and politics; conflict and peace-making; ethnic and national identities; norms around gender, sexuality, and family; approaches to child-rearing, life transitions, and death; practices related to health, consumption, and finances; as well as art, literature, and media.

If you are preparing for a career that in any way involves people, it is likely that religion will somehow intersect with what you do. Consider these examples:

  • psychologists counsel individuals whose values and behavior are influenced by their religious backgrounds.
  • community leaders address religious tensions or conflicts within their community.
  • business owners and managers must consider how to respond to employees' requests for religious accommodations.
  • artists, publishers, and marketers have turned religious entertainment and products into multimillion-dollar industries.
  • health care providers are paying increased attention to how patients use religion or spirituality to cope with illness.
  • intelligence analysts and law enforcement confront the threat of violence by religious militants.
  • journalists need to explain the religious dimensions of political and social issues.
  • educators tackle the challenges of teaching a student body who subscribe to diverse religious worldviews and norms.
  • politicians, lawyers, and advocacy groups advance competing positions in ongoing debates about religious freedom and discrimination.

Despite its importance as a social force, and therefore its relevance to many kinds of work, religion is a subject that people often feel ill-equipped to discuss in professional settings. You can be the person in the room who knows how to do that.

2. Studying religion prepares you to work in a diverse, globalized world.

A Miami education is designed to promote competencies that employers have identified as critical for college graduates in today’s job market. One of these is intercultural competence.

In a survey conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 3 out of 4 employers said that college graduates need "intercultural skills and understanding of societies and cultures outside the U.S." As workplaces become more diverse and globalization makes the world smaller, you need to prepare yourself to engage effectively with people whose values or ways of seeing the world differ from your own.

Religion is a facet of cultural diversity. Courses in the Department of Comparative Religion strengthen your intercultural competence by equipping you to

  • identify ways that different religious traditions shape people's values and ways of living.
  • engage empathetically with viewpoints or worldviews very different from your own.
  • navigate unfamiliar settings or interpret unfamiliar practices through cross-cultural analysis.
  • discern and interrogate your own underlying assumptions or values by comparison to others'.
  • ask complex questions about cultural differences, and articulate responses that reflect appreciation for multiple perspectives.

You can select courses from our department to satisfy the Global Perspectives and Intercultural Perspectives requirements in the Global Miami Plan and the Diversity Requirement of the Farmer School of Business. One of our department's faculty members regularly leads a study abroad experience to the Arabian Gulf, where you can learn about the intersections of religion, social change, and business.

3. Studying religion at Miami makes you a better thinker, reader, writer, and researcher.

All courses taught in the Department of Comparative Religion are designed to promote critical thinking, critical reading, and written communication—competencies that are high priorities for 21st-century employers, according to survey data from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Many of our courses add a further important competency: inquiry and analysis.

This means that religion courses at Miami give you broadly applicable intellectual skills to take into your professional life. Can you foresee how these skills would be useful in your future career?

  • placing texts in contexts that illuminate their meaning
  • identifying implications, presuppositions, vested interests, or contradictions
  • synthesizing information to reveal insightful patterns
  • examining controversies and conflicts from multiple points of view
  • evaluating sources of information and the validity of arguments
  • deliberating with colleagues and providing them with effective feedback
  • persuasively supporting assertions with evidence and reasoning
  • identifying and clearly articulating questions, ambiguities, and problems
  • formulating and investigating hypotheses to solve problems
  • deploying relevant specialized vocabularies and theoretical frames

In our department's courses, you'll work with typical college texts such as books and academic articles. But you'll also gain experience critically analyzing other forms of communication: articles from highbrow and popular periodicals, websites, videos, interviews, historical documents—even physical (non-verbal) communication.

Similarly, you'll gain experience in our department not only with the "standard" kinds of college writing assignments: summaries, short analyses or arguments, research papers, and the like. Your professor might ask you to create communication appropriate to a real-world setting: a professional blog post, a recommendation memo, a crowdsourcing pitch, an editorial, a magazine essay, a poster presentation, a conference paper, or a public relations campaign.

Finally, because we are a small department, students are able to work one-on-one with faculty to develop research projects that give them knowledge and experience for their careers. Read more: Opportunities for student research.

Even one course helps!

Your options for studying religion at Miami include a major, a minor, or one of two Thematic Sequences. But even just one strategically chosen course on religion can expand your knowledge and your intercultural and intellectual skills set in ways that will prove useful in your career path.

Sydney ScribnerMeet Sydney Scribner (class of 2017). She majored in diplomacy and global politics, with a triple--yes, triple--minor in French, Middle East and Islamic studies, and European area studies.

Alongside all her other coursework, Sydney took a single course on religion that she says added an important piece to her career preparation. Read more.

From a graduate:

"Family and friends often asked me, ‘What in the world can you do with a degree in Comparative Religion?’ Since leaving Miami, I worked in the Ohio Governor’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. I interned with the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and helped compile the office’s annual report to Congress."
Christopher Kromer
International law