The field of ethnic studies was developed in response to the 1960s civil rights movement in the U.S. A group of scholars concerned with the marginalization of communities of color founded what they then called the "National Association of Interdisciplinary Studies for Native-American, Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican and Asian Americans" in the early 1970s. In 1985, this group renamed itself the National Association for Ethnic Studies (NAES). Ethnic studies draws on academic disciplines such as anthropology, history, literature, politics and the law, combining these topics to help scholars to address many aspects of personal identity.
Graduates of programs in ethnic studies are all around us, working in fields like social services, counseling, criminal justice and law. Learning about the history of one or various ethnic groups enables individuals who are not members of that group to foster a deeper appreciation and understanding of that group, and of culture and society as a whole. Meanwhile, members of an ethnic group may find that their insight and understanding of their own cultural heritage — as well as the heritage of others — expands in valuable ways. In fact, the field's versatility is what can make it so enticing, providing people with opportunities to find jobs right within their own communities or to explore ways to make the world a more fair and equitable place. As a result, those interested in pursuing ethnic studies should be creative, tolerant, and above all, intellectually curious.
To assist with career exploration in this field, we have compiled a list of the five best online programs for ethnic studies in the U.S. To create this list, we accessed a range of data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and analyzed it using a unique methodology geared towards nontraditional and adult students. More details about this methodology are available at the bottom of this page.
Students pursuing a religious studies degree can expect exposure to a wide range of beliefs, customs and traditions from around the world. With so many different cultures and faiths to learn about, it's difficult to know what to expect from a degree program in religious studies — what kinds of courses might you encounter? What kind of skills should you be focusing on while you take them? Let us shed some light on what to expect from online education in religious studies.
Programs in religious studies are available at every level of higher education, from the associate to the doctorate, and each degree level offers a different approach that can be beneficial to a prospective student. Students who enroll in an online associate degree program should prepare for a curriculum that provides a broad foundation in religion, covering all kinds of faiths and concepts in context with one another. This foundation can be helpful for somebody who wants to quickly get their feet wet in preparation for a religious career. Here is a sampling of courses that might be offered at the two-year level:
Four-year online bachelor's degree programs in religious studies typically start with foundational coursework, similar to that of an associate program, and gradually allow students the freedom to focus their studies onto the religions and/or concepts that interest them. Courses such as Ritual, Symbol and Myth, Religious Thought, Non-Western Religious Traditions and Approaches to Studying Religion are examples of what might be made available in a bachelor's degree program.
Though a bachelor's degree can be a great endorsement to potential employers for many entry-level careers in faith-based organizations, some employers prefer to see a master's degree on a resume. The curriculum of a master's degree program usually results in a much more specialized experience than that of an undergraduate degree program, and the courses taken will depend heavily upon which areas of religion you choose to study. For instance:
Should you wish to pursue your studies even further, out of faith or the desire for knowledge, a doctoral degree program is the pinnacle of an education in religious studies. Designed to be highly research- and critical thinking-based, a PhD in religious studies might include courses such as Islamic Studies, Religion in the Americas or Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
A religious studies program is not meant just to teach you about religion, but also to teach you how to prepare for a career in religious service. There are many skills that can be useful to a professional of religious service, and an online religious studies program can help to hone several of these skills. One of the most vital skills to be had in a religious career is communication, including both the ability to listen to others and to engage listeners in a congregation, classroom or the like. Pastors must convey their thoughts to a congregation; counselors must work closely with individuals who need guidance; teachers must capture and hold the attention of students… and doing all of this requires strong communication skills.
There are many other aspects of a religious career that these degree programs can assist you in learning, however. Since many religious texts are quite in-depth and can be difficult to read, strong reading comprehension skills, especially of extensive or translated text, are certainly helpful. Fortunately, religious studies students will likely be working with such texts throughout their college career, helping them not only with reading comprehension but to become familiar with religious texts and the way they are written. Finally, religious figures will find themselves interacting with many very different people, often people with different — sometimes contradictory — viewpoints. Learning to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships and help others work through conflicts is a critical skill for a religious professional, be they a researcher, a minister, a counselor or any other such position.
Students who earn degrees in ethnic studies can use what they learn in their program to pursue a variety of career paths. The following describes some of these paths, including information on the daily duties of the career and the skills necessary to be successful in it.