Religion is a defining feature of human life. It has been around since the advent of homo sapiens.

Religion shapes the way people interpret the world and their place in it. It conditions how they feel and what they imagine to be possible and informs the way they relate to others. Religion affects the organization of social and economic power and determines the course of local and global politics.

"Religion" can refer to many things. It can refer to a historical tradition or social institution. It can refer to a life philosophy, a personal quest, a mode of consciousness, a way of connecting with the spirit world, or a method for harnessing cosmic power. Religions are not few, but many, and they rarely stand still. They evolve in response to factors in their environment, including other religions. They travel through time and across geographical regions. With the advance of global communications, religions are taking fascinating new forms, and they are spreading through cyberspace.

Religion influences all of us, in ways we might not realize. It continues to be a factor in our lives and communities, whether we identify as religious or spiritual people, think of ourselves as atheists or agnostics, or prefer to ignore religion.

Why Study at Iowa

The study of religion is an education for life that reveals the remarkable worlds of meaning within which most people live, worlds to which they are introduced by family and community, and which they learn to navigate, investigate, and adjust as needed to respond to momentous events.

Students can integrate the study of religious ideas and phenomena with other areas of interest, such as literature, art, music, politics, law, international studies, medicine, history, psychology, or business. Many students pursue a double major in religious studies and another field or minor in religious studies while majoring in a complementary area of study.

Course Work

Students majoring in religious studies earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Course work includes:

  • Two required courses, Religions in a Global Context: The Critical Role of Religion in International Affairs, taken toward the beginning of your major, and Senior Majors Seminar taken in your junior or senior year;
  • At least two courses at the foundational level, 1000-1999;
  • At least three courses at more advanced levels, 2000-4999;
  • Three other courses taken at any level. Although religious studies courses are organized into two categories, Religious Traditions and Critical Issues, students may choose freely across the categories. The department recommends the study of diverse traditions and issues.

Some of the languages taught at the university are particularly useful in religious studies: Greek, Latin, some modern European languages, Japanese, Chinese, Sanskrit, and Hindi.

See Religious Studies in the UI General Catalog to learn more about this major and graduating with honors.

Minor in Religious Studies

See Religious Studies in the UI General Catalog.

Admission Requirements

Students in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to nearly 500 student organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple living-learning communities, study abroad programs, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

Religious Studies faculty members represent a wide range of interests and teaching styles. Because of the department's relatively small size, students are able to develop close mentoring relationships with their favorite professors.

As vital partners in the department's instructional work, graduate student teaching assistants lead discussion sections and sometimes teach courses based on research gathered for their dissertations.


Many employers and graduate/professional schools are keen to attract students who have engaged in the academic study of religion, especially in public university settings. That's because individuals who study religion tend to be intellectually curious, concerned about the future of humanity, reflective and duly self-critical, and sensitive to cultural and religious diversity. Also, they are capable of thinking critically about others' ideas and practices without being judgmental, appreciative of the value of historical perspective, effective communicators about things that really matter to people, and eager to cooperate with others in finding solutions to big social problems.

Students who major or minor in religious studies often go to graduate school, law school, or medical school, or into nursing, social work, human rights/non-governmental organization work, counseling, or business. The study of human religiosity or spirituality is critical for people who wish to understand and manage human diversity. For many students, the best reason to study religion is to open their minds, stimulate their imaginations, and prepare to engage a complex, dynamic world.


The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Religious Studies (BA)
Religion and Media
Religious Studies
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan