AAR National Survey of Former Majors to Determine the Long-Term Impacts of the Religious Studies Major
What are the long-term impacts of pursuing an undergraduate major in religious studies?
Thousands of undergraduates are currently majoring in religious studies in North America, yet most religious studies programs have only limited and anecdotal knowledge of what happens to students after their final classes. As one religious studies faculty member writes, at present “it’s really more a matter of students keeping track of us than our keeping track of them.”
The AAR would like to reverse this dynamic. With support from the Teagle Foundation, the American Academy of Religion has developed a national survey of religious studies majors to help the field assess what it is doing right and what it can do better. The focus of the survey is not merely upon what former majors are currently doing, but also upon what they learned (and what they wish they had learned), what parts of the major they have found to be useful, and how the study of religion has shaped their values and actions. The survey—which takes about 20 minutes for respondents to complete—includes questions about graduate school and career paths, the skills honed in the major that respondents list on their resumes, and the skills that they actually have most used in careers and in life.
Because the survey data is being collected nationally by the AAR but can be disaggregated by individual institution, the survey is designed to be useful to departments of religious studies for program review and assessment purposes. In order to help develop a picture of longitudinal trends, for instance, institutions are able to distinguish between responses received by year of the students’ graduation. Institutional data can then be benchmarked against national data and that of peers.
The survey is designed to answer via empirical evidence a central question that is asked—often with growing suspicion—by various stakeholders: “What can I do with a major in religious studies?” The survey has already been piloted with over four-hundred respondents from five institutions, and it is safe to say that the results will surprise you.
How can my institution participate in the survey?
All institutions that offer an undergraduate major in religious studies (or a cognate of religious studies) are strongly encouraged to participate in the survey. Sponsored by the American Academy of Religion and administered under an IRB protocol by Georgia State University, the AAR’s Survey of the Long-Term Impacts of the Religious Studies Major is easy to use. Your institution will need to provide to the AAR through Georgia State a list of your graduates with their current e-mail addresses in an Excel file, as well as a cover letter from the chair of the department or other institutional figure to explain to former students the purpose of the survey. E-mail addresses provided will be used solely for the administration of the survey. In addition to receiving a report of their own results, each institution that participates will also be provided with data to allow them to compare their institutional results to national data for the field and that of their peers.
Inquiries: Inquiries about the survey in general and the specific requirements for participation should be sent to Robert Puckett, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Results and Analysis of the AAR-Teagle Survey of Religious Studies Majors