Theology students are often asked, “So, what are you going to do with your degree?” The fact is there are many different options for people with theology degrees, only a few of which involve becoming ministers or working within a given church. A theology degree can be applied in a wide variety of social service, physical and mental health and counseling spheres. Here are seven career options you can choose with a degree in theology that aren’t ministry-oriented.
Youth counselors with a background in theology are uniquely positioned to help troubled youth and their families. As a youth counselor, you could work in a boys’ or girls’ home, at a Bible camp, or working in community outreach. Theologians must understand both the factual and moral underpinnings of their chosen sect, as well as human psychology. This can be a powerful combination when aiding youths of all ages and from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Religious scholarship is a fascinating field of study, and many theology students go on to become full-time scholars. A theology scholar may research ancient Vatican documents, focus on the life of a particular saint or the chronology of a specific Biblical event, or study faith-based artifacts. This would be a good field for anyone who enjoys asking questions and finding tangible answers.
Maybe reading old books or dealing with kids doesn’t appeal to you. What about teaching others about theology? Many colleges and universities, ecclesiastical and otherwise, are seeking theology instructors. This has the benefit of giving you access to a wide range of ideas issued by students of all backgrounds and offers job security if you achieve tenure track at most universities. As a theology educator, you will likely be expected not only to teach, but also to publish your own research, essays, or religious tracts, allowing you a wider audience for your ideas.
Old, sick and dying people are often afraid of what may be waiting on the other side for them. A hospital or home healthcare chaplain offers counseling, prayer, and comfort both to the ill and dying and to their families during a frightening and painful time. However, hospital chaplains may also lend encouragement to patients who are on the road to recovery or even baptize newborn infants. A hospital chaplain has to be equal parts religious leader, counselor and confidante to those he or she serves.
This may come as a surprise, but a lot of companies give preferred status to applicants with theology degrees. There are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the founder of the company was a devout Methodist. Maybe the company leadership is concerned that the direction the company is taking is not properly ethical. Theologians in management are usually tasked with ensuring the moral and ethical well-being of the business, to help ensure all their dealings are in accordance with not only sound business practice but solid moral grounding. These types of positions may also offer opportunities for ministry and worker counseling.
Many people who obtain degrees in theology prefer to work hands-on to help people. Ecclesiastical and secular social work and outreach programs are always looking for people to aid in their work. As a social worker, you can help provide aid and comfort to the poor and elderly, among others. You may need additional degree work for this depending on what kind of social work you enter, for instance coursework in sociology or aberrant psychology.
After graduation, or possibly before it, many theologians feel the call to go on missions to other countries or downtrodden areas of their own nations. This type of work may entail such things as humanitarian aid, medical outreach, helping drought-stricken areas tap new water sources or building schools and homes for people in war- or weather-stricken areas. Some ancillary skills you may want to look into are translation and linguistics, nursing or field medical intervention, or engineering and construction.
Perhaps you don’t want to just study one religion, but are more interested in the similarities and differences between all religions. If this sounds like you, you may wish to consider a comparative religion career track. In this field, you will study a wide range of ancient and modern belief structures and theological systems from all over the world, seeking correlations and points of divergence or change from common roots. This is a fascinating and exceptionally useful field of study for writers, scholars, archaeologists, theological psychologists and sociologists, and even some relatively offbeat fields such as UFOlogy and angelology. This can also be beneficial if you are considering field, missionary, or social work as your post-graduate vocation.
The majority of hiring companies today are more concerned with whether an applicant has a degree at all than what the degree is in. This is beneficial because it can help you put several of your passions together into one position on your resume. Theologians often take employment as editors, writers, social commentators or in the government. In these positions they can influence or even control social policy, investigate abuses of human rights and dignity in their home countries and abroad or hunt down wanted war criminals. Because of the diversity of possible employment paths available, it is simply not possible to list them all.