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Theology major facts and statistics

Looking for statistics on theology majors and religious studies majors? These facts and figures come from the most reputable and reliable sources you can find online, such as the National Center for Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the Brookings Institute.

 

A summary of high-level facts about theology majors in the United States, including degrees conferred, alumni in the work force, the unemployment rate, and the median salary.

 

Enrollment statistics for theology majors

Although enrollment for theology and religious studies majors is low in the United States, it has grown since 1971. Figures from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that only 3,720 theology degrees were conferred in 1971. That number peaked at 7,845 in 2012 and dipped slightly to 6,855 in 2020.

You can see the high point in the line graph below.

 

An orange line graph showing the number of theology bachelor's degrees conferred in the United States between 1971 and 2019.

 

Here you can see the number of theology degrees conferred for select individual years, as recorded by the National Center for Education Statistics.

 

Year Theology bachelor’s degrees
1971 3,720
1976 5,490
1981 5,808
1986 5,510
1991 4,799
1996 4,933
2001 6,220
2006 7,687
2011 7,567
2012 7,845
2013 7839
2014 7865
2015 7859
2016 7826
2017 7489
2018 7252
2019 7061
2020 6855

 

What’s interesting is that there are more theology degrees conferred at the master’s level than the bachelor’s level in the United States as of 2020. Whereas 38% of all theology degrees conferred are baccalaureate, 54% belong to master’s graduates.

Most academic programs produce a majority of bachelor’s graduates by a large margin, making theology programs substantially different in this regard.

 

A green donut chart showing the distribution of theology degrees conferred in the United States by level of academic attainment.

 

Gender distribution for theology graduates

Across all degree levels (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral), 66.9% of theology degrees are conferred upon men and 33.1% are conferred upon women, as of 2020.

 

A green pie chart showing the gender distribution for all levels of theology degrees conferred in the United States.

 

The gender distribution for theology graduates shows that men represent about two thirds of bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients, with women representing only about one third. At the doctoral level the male representation increases to nearly three quarters, as you can see in the pie charts below.

Here is the gender breakdown for theology degrees, divided by each level of academic achievement:

  • Bachelor’s degrees: 68.6% conferred to men, 31.4% conferred to women.
  • Master’s degrees: 64.8% conferred to men, 35.2% conferred to women.
  • Doctoral degrees: 72.7% conferred to men, 27.3% conferred to women.

 

Three colored pie charts showing the gender distribution of bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctoral degrees conferred in the United States.

 

You can see the exact number of degrees conferred in 2019 within the United States below, both by gender distribution and by level of academic attainment.

 

Theology degrees All types Bachelor’s Master’s Doctoral
Total 24,795 9,418 13,431 1,946
Male 16,585 6,464 8,707 1,414
Female 8,210 2,954 4,724 532

 

Employment statistics for theology majors

A large number of graduates in theology and religious studies work as clergy or spiritual advisors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—33% of them, in fact. This is the single most common occupation for this pool of graduates.

 

An orange bar graph showing the 10 most commonly held roles by theology majors.

 

Theology graduates do find other roles, though. You can see them listed below.

Job for Theology Major % of grads in job Job growth, 2020 – 2030
Clergy 33% +3%
Elementary teacher 3% +7%
College lecturer 2% +24%
High school teacher 2% +8%
Education administrator 2% +8%
Service manager 2% +7%
Truck driver & related jobs 2% +6%
Retail 2% -1%
Secretary 2% -8%
Director, religion 1% +2%

 

Theology majors work predominantly in community and social services roles. It’s probably no coincidence that 33% of them work in that capacity, considering that 33% of them also work in the clergy.

Here is the breakdown of theology majors general areas of work:

  • Community and social services: 33%
  • Management: 12%
  • Education and libraries: 10%
  • Administration: 7%
  • Sales: 7%
  • Other areas: 33%

 

Green and blue pie chart showing general areas of work for theology majors by per cent.

 

Those are general employment statistics. Early career statistics can be a bit different.

Although spiritual ventures don’t pay particularly high wages, theology majors see some of the lowest unemployment rates immediately after college.

Theology majors only experience a 1.5% unemployment rate soon after graduating, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That is exceptionally low. Most programs have an unemployment rate between 3% and 6%, with some outliers a little beyond either end of that range.

 

Orange bar graph showing the unemployment rate for theology majors in the United States.

 

The Federal Reserve Bank also recorded theology majors’ underemployment rate at 47%, which is on the medium-high side of the spectrum.

Theology alumni still experience lower underemployment rates than graduates from most other humanities programs. The most notable humanities program with a lower underemployment rate is journalism, and that is a career-specific degree.

 

A blue bar graph showing the underemployment rate for theology majors in the United States.

 

Salary statistics for theology majors

There are several different figures for theology majors’ median salary, each from different sources.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median salary of $40,000 USD.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports a median salary of $50,000 (mid-career).

The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project calculated the median earnings for theology majors as well, but differently. Instead of providing a single median representing graduates of all ages, this team calculated the median year by year after graduating.

This lets you see a more accurate representation of how much money theology majors earn over time. This is visualized in the line graph below.

 

Orange line graph showing the median salary for theology majors over time.

 

You can also see the specific median salary for theology and religious studies majors listed annually in the chart below, reaching up to 25 years after graduating.

 

Year Median salary
1 $27,000
2 $29,000
3 $32,000
4 $32,000
5 $37,000
6 $35,000
7 $38,000
8 $38,000
9 $43,000
10 $44,000
11 $48,000
12 $51,000
13 $48,000
14 $48,000
15 $46,000
16 $49,000
17 $53,000
18 $55,000
19 $48,000
20 $52,000
21 $46,000
22 $48,000
23 $48,000
24 $48,000
25 $44,000

 

These are the core facts and statistics and theology majors in the United States. The data shows that alumni have much smaller numbers than other programs in the humanities, yet they tend to display clear career trajectories pointing toward community involvement.

They earn relatively low wages at first, but those wages do climb steadily for the first 13 years of work. This indicates that theology majors do in fact form careers that can sustain them in the field for which they trained.

 

Sources: BLS, FRBNY, Hamilton Project, NCES 1, NCES 2

 

Interested in statistics for other academic programs? Check out these pages:

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb is on a mission to teach liberal arts and humanities graduates to build the successful careers they deserve. After earning a bachelor's and a master's degree in history, he became a digital marketer and joined one of the most successful tech companies in the world. He started the Employed Historian blog at employedhistorian.com.

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