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Philosophy & Religion

Overview 

The Philosophy and Religion major is a department within the College of Arts & Letters.

Concentrations

Philosophy
Interdisciplinary Philosophy
Religion
Interdisciplinary Religion

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

Whether concentrating in Philosophy or Religion, students in this major acquire the habits of a flexible yet disciplined mind and vital skills that equip them well for a quickly changing world. The department offers a major in "Philosophy and Religion," within which students choose one of four concentrations: Philosophy, Religion, Philosophy with an Interdisciplinary focus or Religion with an Interdisciplinary focus. Students completing this major develop the ability to think critically and rigorously, show increased capabilities for problem solving and analysis of arguments, and hone the ability to express themselves clearly, soundly, and persuasively in oral and written form. Students concentrating in Religion will gain valuable cultural competency for a global environment, vital for a host of secondary majors (intelligence analysis, political science, global business, international affairs, justice studies, etc.), and they might also do a deep dive into the texts, rituals, and ethics of a particular tradition. Students concentrating in philosophy might take courses on epistemology (e.g. How do we know what we know?), philosophy of science (e.g. Is time travel possible?), or ethics (What are the ethics involved in producing A.I. or in eating meat?). The many skill areas in the major translate to a wide variety of meaningful and important career paths. Note: students who plan to attend law school should seriously consider Philosophy as a major concentration, as these courses emphasize the kinds of skills that prepare students best for the LSAT and the law school curriculum. Students who plan to attend seminary should consult the pre-seminary advisor in Religion.

The department also offers six minors: Religion, Philosophy, Global Issues and Global Religions, Ethics, Christian Studies, and Logic and Reasoning.

More About the Field 

Philosophy involves examining and questioning our most basic beliefs about the nature 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, what makes for a sound argument, and how we ought to behave. Philosophy touches upon almost every aspect of human life. Philosophy provides perspective on science, art, medicine, religion, ethics, politics and technology. Some Philosophy majors pursue careers in academics, but many graduates work in non-academic fields, including: business, data science, computer science and technology. consulting, finance, government (local, state and federal), law, marketing, media, publishing, and political life.

Few majors can equip students better to engage effectively in today's global, cross-cultural currents better than can a major in Philosophy and Religion, with a concentration in Religion or Interdisciplinary Religion. Students might study Religion and Immigration, Religion, Animals and the Environment, Religion and Medicine, or Religion and Disability. They may dive deeply into the academic, analytical study of a particular religion in courses such as Latinx Christianity, or Women and Gender in Islam, or Gandhi, Non-Violence, and Global Transformation. The academic study of Religion at JMU exposes students to the world's great religious traditions and cultures, including their doctrines, ethics, rituals, social aspects, worldviews, habits, material artifacts, etiquette norms, and scriptures. Religious studies is interdisciplinary by nature, involving approaches drawn from history, literature, ritual studies, sociology, neurobiology, analysis of popular culture, anthropology, gender studies, and more. Thus, Religion majors go on to a wide variety of careers including: government consulting, intelligence analysis, diplomacy, journalism, publishing, woking in the non-profit sector, business (especially global business), and public health.

Specialization

The interdisciplinary options allow students to combine either Philosophy or Religion with 9 hours of related course work in another department, determined in close consultation with an advisor. This makes Philosophy and Religion the perfect complement to a second major, whether Philosophy and Computer Science, or Religion and Public Health, or the many other possible combinations of major. Students in Religion choose a "home track" from one of four in which to specialize, while still gaining breadth in the others. Tracks include: "Eastern" traditions, "Western" traditions, Biblical Studies, and Global Issues and Global Religions.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Many students combine this major with a second major or minor from another department. There are no limits to the second major that you might choose, but some examples follow: 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, Creative Writing, Criminal Justice, Justice Studies, Family Issues, Gerontology, Health Communication, Historical Archaeology, History, Human Science, Humanitarian Affairs, Latin American Studies, Modern Foreign Language, Political Science, Pre Theology, Public Policy and Administration, Psychology, Russian Studies, Social Work, Sociology, Substance Abuse Intervention, Women’s Studies or Writing and Rhetoric.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Most likely, your major will prepare you for not one, but for many careers over a lifetime that continue to unfold in an ever changing global environment. Our majors have inquisitive, nimble, and disciplined minds. They welcome thinking about different perspectives, enjoy challenging themselves, and increasingly become better and better able to put themselves imaginatively into another's shoes. They read a lot and work hard on their writing. Curiosity and an intellectual spark set our students apart from many majors in other pre professional areas, qualities that sometimes give our majors a competitive edge in the job market, including in Business, Education, or STEM. This quality of intellectual nimbleness is often found in Humanities majors in the fields of Philosophy, Religion, English, Foreign Languages or History.

Careers

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.

  • Arbitrator
  • Archivist
  • Biographer
  • Book Critic
  • Campus Religious Director
  • Church Camp Director
  • College Recruiter
  • Communications Coordinator
  • Community Services Director
  • Consumer Advocate
  • Counselor
  • Diplomat
  • Editor
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Foreign Student Advisor
  • Grant Writer
  • Immigration Officer
  • Intelligence Agent (FBI/ CIA)
  • Journalist
  • Lawyer
  • Legal Assistant
  • Legislative Aide
  • Librarian
  • Lobbyist
  • Management Analyst
  • Marketing Research Analyst
  • Mediator
  • Minister/ Pastor/ Rabbi/ Clergy
  • Missionary
  • Peace Corps/ VISTA Worker
  • Personnel Manager
  • Political Activist
  • Production/ Publication Planner
  • Professor
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Public Administrator
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Public Service Officer
  • Religious Education Director
  • Religious Youth Director
  • Research Assistant
  • Social Worker
  • Speech Writer
  • Teacher/ Educator
  • Technical Writer

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 Experiential Opportunites 

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.

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Philosphy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary
Why Study Religion?

Research Careers

Visit our Career Outcomes page to find out what alumni were doing right after graduating with this major.

JMU CAREER OUTCOMES


Log in to Vault for access to detailed information on over 900 professions including employment prospects, estimated salaries, possible job titles, and top companies.

EXPLORE PROFESSIONS


Visit our Research Careers page for even more career research tools.

MORE RESEARCH TOOLS

Copyright

© Career and Academic Planning, James Madison University,

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from JMU Career and Academic Planning. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to cap@jmu.edu

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