Monks in Thailand gathered in prayer

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

To declare a Study of Religion major or minor, simply go to the Department for the Study of Religion, Arts and Letters Rm. 662, and meet with either the Department Chair or the Department Advisor to have them complete the “Declaration or Change of Undergraduate Major and Minor” form. Students then deliver this signed form to the Office of the Registrar.
The Office of Advising and Evaluations provides this information online. An unofficial transcript is available to you at any time. Students should take their transcripts or program evaluations from the Advising Office and meet with the Department Advisor to develop a program of study so that they can graduate within a reasonable amount of time.
Students are required to have at least one lower division Study of Religion course prior to taking any upper division RS courses. Students, who are RS majors and minors may take upper division courses once this prerequisite is satisfied. Students who are not RS majors and minors, may not take upper division RS courses for general education credit before completing 60 units of University credit.
RS majors can receive credit for lower division “Foundations” courses in General Education. RS majors cannot, however, receive G.E. credit for upper division courses in Study of Religion; they must take courses outside the major. RS minors, however, can use upper division Study of Religion courses in fulfillment of the university Cultural Diversity requirement, and the G.E. requirement.
The short answer is yes; the courses count toward both the major and the American Institutions requirement. Students can also take a semester of “Institutions” in one department, and take a second semester in a different department, as long as the courses fulfill the two different requirements of “Institutions” (e.g. U.S. history and government, and California history and government).
Students major in Study of Religion because they find it is a fascinating subject that deals with life’s most important questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? What is the meaning of life? Students like to examine how religions have answered these and other questions. In addition, however, the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries have shown the profound impact religion has on world affairs. Rather than an object of obscure and marginal interest, religion has become a major player in all aspects of society and culture. Thus, those who are interested in the world around them also decide to major in Study of Religion.
Most students approach their first Study of Religion course thinking, or fearing, that it may be some sort of sectarian indoctrination. They are pleased to learn that Study of Religion, like any other academic discipline, uses the tools of modern secular scholarship. In other words, the program approaches religion like any other object of study: with an open mind and a critical perspective (in the sense of evaluating, not necessarily criticizing). It looks at religion from a variety of viewpoints — historical, psychological, political, cultural, anthropological, sociological, theological, philosophical, etc. etc. — in order to understand how religion affects the world in which we live.
The Department for the Study of Religion at San Diego State University has a variety of majors with an extremely diverse understanding of religion. Thus, we have majors who are atheists, agnostics, and deeply committed believers in a number of different faith traditions (e.g. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Neopaganism, as well as Christianity). We have majors who were raised in a strict religious environment, and those who have no religious background whatsoever. We have majors who are questioning the religion of their parents, or are seeking their own spiritual paths. What this diverse group has in common is a deep regard for the scholarly study of religion, and a love of the questions and answers that emerge — even though they may not agree with the answers they study.

This is perhaps the most frequently asked question we receive, since students and their parents are interested in the career outlook for RS majors and minors. Like other liberal arts majors, the RS major does not lead directly to a career, as do majors in professional programs such as Business or Journalism. But what liberal arts majors do get is a broad and extensive background in writing, critical thinking and analysis, and oral communication. These are skills which can be applied to any job or career. Thus, the RS major provides excellent pre-professional preparation for fields such as law, teaching, medicine, counseling, social work, conflict resolution, international business, foreign service, journalism, various ministries, or careers in public service or non-profit organizations.

A look at our graduates from the last few years indicates a wide variety of options, ranging from clinical psychological counselors and nurse practitioners, to flight attendants, paralegals, and small business managers. Some students go on to graduate school in order to become teachers at the community college or university level, or to enter various forms of ministry. Some have entered the Peace Corps or sought jobs abroad; others are working in nonprofit agencies or social services. Some careers require additional training, for which Study of Religion majors are amply prepared. Interestingly, most RS graduates do not go into the field of religion, but rather enter other careers which also require imagination, problem-solving, communication, or sensitivity to human diversity.
The courses required for the RS major, are listed in the San Diego State University General Catalog, and on our major page.
Some students are interested in the RS major, but have invested a lot of time and effort into pursuing another major. The minor allows students the opportunity of applying their credits in Study of Religion to a minor. Five classes (or 15 units total) are required for the minor. The advantage of the RS minor — or any minor — is that it appears on one’s degree, and may be added to one’s resume. The minor shows that you have a breadth and depth beyond your major subject: that you have extended yourself to study a discipline that is outside your major field. This is very advantageous to future employers, or to graduate school admissions offices, which want to get a sense of a person’s versatility.
The RS minor requires only five courses: one lower division RS course (RS 100, 101 or 103); and four upper division courses from any of the four areas of study: Sacred Texts, World Traditions, Religion, Society and Culture, or Religion in the Americas. Thus, the RS minor may select courses of personal interest, as well as ones which accommodate the student’s schedule.
About one-quarter of RS majors are double majors, fulfilling the graduation requirements of two academic programs. There are many advantages to pursuing this route. Like the RS minor, the double major indicates to future employers or admissions counselors that you are versatile and well-rounded. It shows you are able to juggle a number of different subjects, and that you are not narrow. The double major is especially helpful for law school, medical school, or other competitive graduate programs.


Professor Roy Whitaker

Office: AL-670
Email: [email protected]

Important Links:  Class Schedule |  SDSU Catalog |  Major Academic Plan