A major in theology involves gaining a deeper understanding of one particular religion, generally in the pursuit of being a leader within the religious community. A religious degree can follow one of two paths:
- The purely academic path, which leads to a career in teaching and research.
- The parochial path, which leads to a career in the clergy.
Religious systems such as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam provide significant influence in the lives of millions, and have played a fundamental role in the creation of communities and countries. Religions around the world seek to provide answers to the big questions about human existence and one's role in life; to provide strength and guidance for an individual, and to unite communities in shared beliefs and rituals which are passed down through the generations.
Each religion may have separate denominations with unique traditions and responsibilities assigned to its clergy. For example, Christianity has more than 70 denominations, while Judaism has four major branches, as well as groups within each branch, with diverse customs.
As a clergy member, your role is as a religious and spiritual leader, and as teacher and interpreter of your traditions and faith. You'll organize and lead regular religious services and officiate at special ceremonies, including confirmations, weddings, and funerals. You may lead worshipers in prayer, administer the sacraments, deliver sermons, and read from sacred texts such as the Bible, Torah, or Koran. Clergy visit the sick or bereaved to provide comfort, and counsel those seeking religious or moral guidance or who are troubled by personal problems. You may also work to expand the membership in the congregation and solicit donations to support religious activities and facilities.
As a religious leader you must display confidence and motivation, while remaining tolerant and able to listen to the needs of others. You should be capable of making difficult decisions, work well under pressure, and live up to the moral standards set by your faith and community.
Individuals considering a career in the clergy should realize they are choosing not only a career but also a way of life. Typically, you may work irregular hours and put in longer than average work days.