Religious studies is an academic discipline that looks at religious phenomena worldwide from a variety of angles in order to understand the many roles that religion plays in human life. To this end, students of religion learn to use a variety of theoretical analyses and methods. These include historical methods to understand how religions develop in time; critical literary methods to understand religious ideas; aesthetic methods to understand religious art and material culture; social-scientific methods to understand the relationship between religion, society and culture. Religious studies can also engage a variety of professional disciplines in analysis of how religion functions in economic, educational or political contexts, healthcare and scientific research, to name some examples.
Some ways of studying religion emphasize understanding religions on their own terms, other ways use comparative methods to discern differences and similarities between religions. Students of religion also study ways that people use religious resources to make meaning outside the boundaries of religious institutions and identities. Above all, the field of religious studies requires a willingness to explore different ways of interpreting human life and diligent effort to develop understanding of how religious ideas, symbols, rituals and spaces serve as resources for people in a variety of contexts as they make sense of and live out their lives in the world. Thus, religious studies provides important preparation for thinking, communicating and functioning professionally and personally in a complex, multidimensional world.
Because religious studies is an interdisciplinary program drawing upon many departments, some courses may have prerequisites in their home departments that must be fulfilled even though the prerequisites themselves have no bearing on progress within the religious studies major. Students are responsible for ensuring that they have met all the prerequisites to enter a course before they enroll in it. The current list of courses can be found in the Religious Studies course list page in the Guide.
Students who wish to declare their intention to major in religious studies must meet with the undergraduate advisor during regular office hours or by making an appointment. Students are encouraged to do this early in their academic careers in order to plan for successful completion and take advantage of opportunities such as Honors, special research, internship, service learning, or study abroad opportunities in associate with the major or certificate.
University General Education Requirements
All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.
|General Education|| |
* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.
College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
Students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.
Bachelor of Science DEGREE REQUIREMENTS
|Mathematics||Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT |
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
|Foreign Language||Complete the third unit of a foreign language |
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
|L&S Breadth|| |
|Liberal Arts and Science Coursework||108 credits|
|Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work||60 intermediate or advanced credits|
|Major||Declare and complete at least one (1) major|
|Total Credits||120 credits|
|UW-Madison Experience||30 credits in residence, overall |
30 credits in residence after the 86th credit
|Minimum GPAs||2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison |
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison
Non–L&S Students PURSUING AN L&S MAJOR
Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above. Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non-L&S-degree-seeking candidates:
- Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
- Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
- Music (Bachelor of Music)
- Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)
Requirements for the Major
Students must complete 30 credits in Religious Studies course work, to include:
|Gateway (Complete one course:)||3|
|Religion in Global Perspective|
|Exploring Religion in Sickness and Health|
|Exploring Religion and Sexuality|
|Sacred Places and Journeys|
|America and Religions|
|Christianity: Interpretation and Practice|
|Women, Gender and Religion|
|Introduction to Buddhism|
|The Crusades: Christianity and Islam|
|Sects and Cults|
|Medieval Social and Intellectual History, 1200-1450|
|Christianity and the Almighty Dollar|
|Classical Rabbinic Literature in Translation|
|Science, Medicine and Religion|
|Prophets of the Bible|
|Early Christian Literature: Matthew-Revelation|
|King David in History and Tradition|
|The American Jewish Life of DNA|
|Anthropology of Religion|
|Jewish Literature of the Greco-Roman Period|
|Introduction to Taoism|
|Islam, Science & Technology, and the Environment|
|Early Christian Literature: Pauline Christianity|
|Introduction to Confucianism|
|Islam: Religion and Culture|
|Great Cities of Islam|
|The Rhetoric of Religion|
|Islam in Iran|
|Topics in Religious Studies - Humanities|
|Topics in Religious Studies - Social Studies|
|Topics in Religious Studies-US Ethnic Studies|
|African American Religions|
|Children and Religion in America|
|The Enlightenment and Its Critics|
|Religious Studies Colloquium|
|Religion and Politics|
|Jewish Philosophy from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century|
|Buddhism and Society in Southeast Asian History|
|Islamic History From the Origin of Islam to the Ottoman Empire|
|Francis of Assisi: Literature and the Arts|
|Introduction to Sufism (Islamic Mysticism)|
|Classical Rabbinic Texts|
|Meditation in Indian Buddhism and Hinduism|
|Christian Literature: The Gospels|
|Art and Religious Practice in Medieval Japan|
|Advanced Topics in Religious Studies|
|Philosophy of Religion|
|Special Topics in Philosophy of Religion|
|Religion and Public Education|
|Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean|
|Proseminar: Studies in Religions of Asia|
|Proseminar in Buddhist Thought|
|The Anthropology of Shamanism and Occult Experience|
|Capstone (Complete both:)|
|RELIG ST 600||Religion in Critical Perspective||3|
|RELIG ST 601||Senior Capstone Research and Colloquium||4|
|Electives: Any course from RELIG ST 100 through 699||11|
Residence and Quality of Work
- 2.000 GPA in all RELIG ST and major courses
- 2.000 GPA on 15 Upper-Level credits for the major, taken in residence1
- 15 credits in RELIG ST or the major, taken on campus
Courses counting as upper-level in the major include: RELIG ST/HISTORY 208, RELIG ST/HISTORY 209, RELIG ST/HISTORY 212, RELIG ST/CLASSICS/JEWISH/LITTRANS 227, RELIG ST/ILS 234, , RELIG ST/LITTRANS/MEDIEVAL 253, RELIG ST/LITTRANS 257, , RELIG ST/ENVIR ST 270 and all courses numbered RELIG ST 300–699, except RELIG ST/CLASSICS/HEBR-BIB/JEWISH/LITTRANS 332.
Honors in the Major
Students may declare Honors in the Major in consultation with the Religious Studies undergraduate advisor.
Honors in the Major Requirements
To earn Honors in the Major, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and these additional requirements:
- Minimum 3.300 University GPA
- Minimum 3.500 GPA in all RELIG ST and all major courses
- Complete 19 credits, taken for Honors, with individual grades of B or better, to include:
University Degree Requirements
|Total Degree||To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.|
|Residency||Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.|
|Quality of Work||Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.|
- Proficiency in close reading, interpretation, and written and oral analysis.
- Proficiency in accessing, appraising, and utilizing a variety of resources and methods for research across disciplinary lines.
- Proficiency in categorizing, analyzing and comparing diverse systems of value and belief in a variety of contexts.
- Global and local religious literacy; identifying, evaluating, and interpreting the interrelationships and impact of religious worldviews and communities in Wisconsin, the United States and globally.
- Ability to conduct and present sustained research on primary sources using methodologies/analysis of religious studies culminating in the senior capstone project.
Sample Four-Year Plan
This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.
|RELIG ST 101, 102, 103, or 104||3||RELIG ST course meeting Literature Breadth1||3|
|Communication A||3||RELIG ST elective||3|
|Quantitative Reasoning A||3-4||Biological Science Breadth||3|
|Foreign Language (if needed)||4||Social Science Breadth||3|
|RELIG ST course with Literature Breadth1||3||RELIG ST/ILS 234 or 236 (meets Communication B requirement)||3|
|Quantitative Reasoning B||3||RELIG ST/FOLKLORE 352, 403, or 404 (meets Ethnic Studies requirement)||3|
|Social Science Breadth||3||Physical Science Breadth||3|
|Elective||4||I/A COMP SCI, MATH or STAT (if needed for B.S.)||3|
|RELIG ST Elective||6||RELIG ST Elective||3|
|Social Science Breadth||3||Science Breadth||3|
|I/A COMP SCI, MATH or STAT (if needed for B.S.)||3||Social Science Breadth||3|
|RELIG ST 600||3||RELIG ST 601||4|
|RELIG ST Elective (numbered 300 or above)||3||RELIG ST Elective (numbered 300 or above)||6|
|Total Credits 120|
Consult the Course Search & Enroll tool for a comprehensive list of RELIG ST courses designated for Literature Breadth.
Dr. Corrie Norman is the undergraduate advisor and Honors in the Major advisor. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to meet with her. Students are encouraged to meet with Dr. Norman early in their academic careers in order to plan for successful completion and take advantage of opportunities such as Honors, special research, internship, service learning or study abroad opportunities in associate with the major or certificate.
Religious studies engages a variety of professional disciplines and provides important preparation for thinking, communicating and functioning professionally in a complex, multi-dimensional world.
Religious studies sponsors workshops and other career exploration vehicles, often in collaboration with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science, to aid students in articulating the value of religious studies for their career preparation. Student-developed capstone projects in religious studies often make specific connections to experiential learning and career preparation in a range of fields. Talk with Dr. Norman about possibilities for combining internships and other forms of preprofessional training with the major and certificate.
L&S career resources
SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.
SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career.
Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.
- Set up a career advising appointment
- INTER-LS 210 L&S Career Development: Taking Initiative (1 credit, targeted to first- and second-year students)—for more information, see Inter-LS 210: Career Development, Taking Initiative
- INTER-LS 215 Communicating About Careers (3 credits, fulfills Com B General Education Requirement)
- Learn how we’re transforming career preparation: L&S Career Initiative
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