Career Guide to JMU Majors:
Philosophy & Religion
Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.
Description of MajorPhilosophy and Religion is offered as a combined major with a concentration in either Philosophy or Religion. Minors are offered in both. Students may choose one of the four concentrations: either philosophy, religion, philosophy with an interdisciplinary focus or religion with an interdisciplinary focus. Students completing a major with a concentration in philosophy are expected to know the major movements, problems, writings, concepts and terms in the history of Western philosophy. The program concentrates on major figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant; on problems arising in contemporary movements such as analytic philosophy, existentialism and American philosophy and on the major subdivisions of philosophy, including logic, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, philosophy and law, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion. Students completing a major with a concentration in religion take courses in Western Religious Traditions, Eastern Religious Traditions and Comparative Studies, and specialize within one or two religions traditions (for example, Buddhism; Islam) or a topic area (for example, religious ethics; biblical studies). Students who plan to attend law school should seriously consider philosophy as a major. Philosophy courses emphasize the kinds of skills that prepare students for the LSAT and the law school curriculum. Students who plan to attend seminary should consult the pre-seminary advisor who can help design an academic plan as preparation for further study in theological seminaries and university divinity schools. Fundamental skills that follow will be acquired by students in this major: the ability to think critically; increased capabilities for problem solving and argument analysis; the ability to express one's views clearly and concisely, orally and in writing; and global awareness.
Tell me more about this field of study
Philosophy involves examining and questioning our most basic beliefs about the constituents of reality, the course of action that is right and just for individuals and societies, what can we know about the world with certainty, what beauty is, and what makes for a sound argument. Philosophy touches upon almost every aspect of human life. Philosophy provides perspective on science, art, medicine, religion, politics and technology. Many Philosophy majors pursue careers in academics, however, these graduates also work in a broad range of non-academic fields. For example: business, computers and technology, consulting, finance, government (local, state and federal), law, marketing, media, publishing and religious ministry.
Religion, as an area of academic study, involves the objective study of one's own and other people's religions. Besides learning about major historical developments in the world's great religions, there is analysis of religious beliefs, comparison of the different traditions, and study of the social, cultural, and political significance of religion in American and global contexts.
Tell me more about specializationMost students would not specialize to any degree at the undergraduate level. But it is recognized that a student will want to emphasize some offerings over others. Therefore, concentrations are offered in either Philosophy or Religion. The interdisciplinary options allow students to combine either Philosophy or Religion with 12 hours of related course work in another department.
Common majors or minors that complement this major
Many students combine this major with a second major or minor from another department. The Philosophy concentration could be enhanced with the following: Anthropology, Art History, Computer Science, Communication Studies, Creative Writing, Criminal Justice, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, Justice Studies, Management, Management Science, Mathematics, Pre Law, Political Communication, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy and Administration, Sociology, Technical and Scientific Communication, Women’s Studies or Writing and Rhetoric. The Religion concentration could be enhanced by any of the following: Africana Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Communication Studies, Conflict Analysis and Intervention, Creative Writing, Criminal Justice, Family Issues, Gerontology, Health Communication, Historical Archaeology, History, Human Science, Humanitarian Affairs, Latin American Studies, Modern Foreign Language, Political Science, Pre Theology, Psychology, Russian Studies, Social Work, Sociology, Substance Abuse Intervention, Women’s Studies or Writing and Rhetoric.
Many employers are now looking for students with that something extra, a quality that sets them apart from the run of the mill major in one of the pre professional areas. This quality is often found in Humanities majors in the fields of Philosophy, Religion, English, Foreign Languages or History where the student gains broad knowledge about life, develops the skill of writing effectively, and learns to think analytically and creatively.
Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
Law Firms, Advocacy Groups, K-12 Education, Colleges and Universities, Community Service Agencies, Consulting Firms, Corporations, Court Systems, Federal & State Government Agencies, Medical Professions, Financial Institutions, Hospitals, Houses of Worship – all denominations, Non Profit Agencies, Publishing Firms, Public sector and Private sector Administration, Religious Service Organizations and Research Institutes.
Internships and other forms of individual study are available to all students who are both interested and qualified. For example, opportunities are available in law offices, drug rehabilitation centers, and the county planner's office. Students should contact faculty coordinators in their areas of interest to gain further information. The Department of Philosophy and Religion also cosponsors a summer archaeological field program in Israel as an optional part of the sequence in biblical studies.
View our list of internship coordinators for each major.
A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center.
Make an appointment with a CAP career counselor to learn more about this major and your career options.
A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:
© Career & Academic Planning, James Madison University, 2013