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Philosophy & Religion Frequently Asked Questions

Philosophy Program

 What can I do with a major or minor in Philosophy?

Though some of our students go on to graduate school in philosophy and have become philosophy professors, the vast majority pursue other careers. Philosophy emphasizes logical reasoning, argumentation, and analytic writing, so it’s great preparation for Law School. In fact, philosophy majors regularly outperform all other majors on the LSAT. And any line of work that requires clear writing and critical thinking is a natural fit for philosophy majors, which explains why our graduates have gone on to careers in business, federal and state government, and teaching.

 What’s the most common misconception about Philosophy?

Philosophy is NOT simply saying whatever you think about a subject in a random, haphazard fashion.  Instead, Philosophy involves thoroughly analyzing the arguments and views of others and ourselves, and developing intellectually responsible ways of criticizing and supporting those arguments and views. We value looking at things from multiple perspectives and honestly assessing their worth, irrespective of the views we initially think are right. 

 What sorts of classes do Philosophy majors and minors take?

For the Philosophy major concentration, you’ll take classes in Logic, Ethics, and the History of Philosophy (Ancient Greek and Early Modern). In addition, you’ll have the chance to choose from many electives in these and other areas, including Metaphysics (what is reality like?), Epistemology (how do we know things?), Political Theory (what is the best form of government?), and specialist courses studying the greatest philosophical works, both from the past and up through the present day. Philosophy minors take fewer classes, but they still have the same great courses to choose from.

 My parents want me to have a practical major. How can I work in some Philosophy as well?

Many of our students are double-majors, and combine study in Philosophy with study in such fields as Political Science, English, History, Math, Psychology, Biology, etc. If you choose the Interdisciplinary Philosophy major, you can count 3 relevant courses from another department toward your Philosophy major! Because we have lots of major/minor electives, it’s relatively easy to find classes that can fit around the required classes for other majors while also allowing you to pursue your specialized interests within philosophy. Bringing in outside perspectives makes for better philosophical discussions, which we value very highly in our courses.

Religion Program

 Can I really study religion at a public, secular university?

Yes! The academic study of religion is different from the kind of religious education that believers or practitioners undergo. In the academic study of religion, we analyze the human dimensions of religion: we study the histories, texts, and practices of diverse religious traditions, as well as their impact on politics and social change. Students of all religious backgrounds, or no religious background, can study religion academically and apply their knowledge to a variety of careers.

 What religions can I study at JMU?

In the Religion Program, you can take courses on Hinduism, Buddhism, African religions, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Confucianism, and Daoism. You can also take comparative courses that explore how a variety of religions -- including indigenous traditions -- approach some of life's biggest challenges, from racism and climate change to the refugee crisis and terrorism. We also offer independent studies so that students who are passionate about particular traditions or topics can customize their own courses. Finally, don't miss the Interdisciplinary Religion major option, where you can count 3 relevant courses from other departments toward your religion major!

 What career options do I have as a Religion major?

As a Religion major, you will develop unique skills in cross-cultural understanding and the ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints -- skills that are highly valued in a variety of careers today. You will also gain experience in critical thinking, research, writing, and oral communication. Our recent Religion graduates are thriving in careers such as government consulting, intelligence analysis, international development, education, law, journalism, health sciences, non-profit work, advocacy, and more.

 Does the Religion major offer credit for internships?

Yes! As a religion major, you can get course credit (REL 495) for a practical internship with an organization of your choosing. This is a fantastic opportunity to begin exploring how you can apply your Religion major to your career. -- not to mention a great addition to your resumé. You can also get credit (REL 493) to serve as a Religion course assistant, where you work closely with a faculty member through different phases of course preparation, presentation and evaluation. Our major is designed to fit you and your professional goals.

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