Studying Religion Can Make you Incredibly Rich

In what can probably be filed under “most bizarre stories ever” an article I came across today claimed that I, yes I, had a real shot at being one of the 1%.

The article is in the USNews and World Reports’s special “university directory” claims that Religoius Studies ranks 5th in degrees that land people in the 1%. Number one, not surprisingly, is Economics, with over 8% of their graduates getting into the 1%. Then comes Political Science with 6.2%. Most surpising on the list, perhaps, is Art History, which ranks 3rd with almost 6% winding up in the exhaulted 1%.

Next is Finance at 4.8%.

And 5th is Religious Studies. Apparently 4.3% of us will reach the top:

5) Religious studies. Another surprising major to see in this list is religious studies; 4.3% of those who earn undergraduate degrees in this field become top earners.* Earning a religious studies degree can give you an objective and thorough understanding of the world’s religions. In addition to studying specific faiths, students also gain knowledge about the nature of religion in general and its role in the life of individuals and societies. A BA in Religious Studies or equivalent degree is the starting point of professional practice in this field.

Pharmacy and Accounting round out the top 7. The article concludes:

It is important to note that the median salary of these fields, though higher than what you would earn at most jobs, will not place you in the top 1% of earners. Professionals who achieve such status generally spend decades gaining expertise and achieving recognition before their income rises to that level. Still, the statistics plainly show that it is possible to become a top earner with any of these degrees.

* U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey

Of course I find this very dubious, but if anyone wants to dig up the Census numbers and check, I’d appreciate it. My theory for now is that studying religion makes you very attractive to unscrupulous but rich members of the opposite gender. Wealthy Religious Studies majors don’t earn their wealth, they marry into it.

And that was my plan too, until I started dating another Religious Studies major.


  • Jared

    I had to chuckle at the fact you are also dating a Religious Studies major. It makes sense that there is an opportunity to become a top earner. Some of these nonprofit religious businesses earn major revenues. We can think of religious speakers on television as an example.

  • Jaimie

    I think religious studies is a good major in that it promotes the understanding of people around us and why they think and act the way they do. Understanding is a way of reaching out.
    The real way to get rich in religious studies is to drop it, go to seminary, become a pastor, and then start one of those mega-churches. Those guys make big bucks. Or one could become a televangelist and swindle money out of the old and vulnerable. Another way to get lots of money is to write books on scary ways the world will end or variations on simple answers to tough questions. Sorry if that sounds snarky but I am extremely suspicious of people who want to use religion to make lots of money.

  • dannyfisher

    As an old friend of mine always says to me, kiddingly, “You’ve got to stop working for Buddhism…and let Buddhism work for you!”

  • Ted Seeber

    It only works if you have a degree in Christian Theology from the Dallas Theological Seminary (obscure Christian sub-sect theology joke intended- I leave it as an exercise to the reader to look up the fundamentalist Christian Biblical philosophy presented at that school, and why going to that school is likely to put a preacher in the famed 1% top of American Incomes).

    I guess my final warning, without actually disparaging the theology involved, is that if you study that theology and actually believe it, you are about as far from the Buddha as the stereotype in this old Phil Collins video: