Contact Information

Kristin Swanson
Professor of Religion
Department Head

Main 303
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa  52101

Phone: 563-387-1346


The study of religion at Luther is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing on and engaging with a wide range of disciplines including history, political science, philosophy, sociology, psychology, classics, and the natural sciences. For this reason, our program prepares students for diverse careers by helping you develop competency in multiple disciplines.

Diverse Career Options

If you are interested in the study of religion but are not planning to pursue a career in professional ministry, consider the many different professions that need people with a solid education in religious studies.

  • Journalists with knowledge of the histories and practices of different religious traditions can play a vital role in making sure that current events involving religion are covered accurately.
  • Medical doctors and nurses with a religion major or minor are better able to offer a holistic approach to treatment that takes seriously the diverse religious and spiritual needs of their patients.
  • The U.S. Government regularly seeks employees in agencies such as the State Department or CIA with training in the study of religion who can aid in formulating foreign policy that takes account of the role religion plays in the world.

These are just a few of the many careers in which you might benefit from a major or minor in religion.

Career Fields of Luther Religion Grads

If professional ministry is your vocational goal, the department will help you prepare for professional degrees at seminaries and divinity schools. We can provide you information on the many schools our graduates have gone on to attend, including ELCA seminaries, such as Luther Seminary and The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), and divinity schools, such as Harvard Divinity School and Vanderbilt Divinity School. Some of our students have also developed interests in teaching and research and have gone on to study in prominent doctoral programs across the country.

Here in the U.S., religion is not often taught in public high schools; yet, many high school students are religious, and their religious backgrounds are becoming more diverse.

As a teacher in high school, you would face questions related to religion every day. The religion program at Luther College will provide you with tools to deal with these types of questions. Our courses explore the nature of religion and religious identity. We will train you to be sensitive towards the needs of members of a variety of religious traditions as well as towards students who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist, or naturalist. The study of religion makes teachers more aware of their own religious commitments and at the same time more sensitive towards the religious commitments of others.

We know a career teaching religious studies or theology at a college, university, or seminary may not be on the list of possible careers for most incoming students. But it is an exciting and challenging career that could provide you a space for self-discovery and self-realization.

As scholars of religious studies or theology, we choose our own research subjects, study important issues, and work with amazing students. We explore the big questions of life and death, the intersection between politics and religion, and the moral convictions of individuals and communities.

Our work entails travel to conferences and research sites all over the U.S. as well as in foreign countries. We meet fascinating people from all over the world, and our research shapes what people think about religion. Our publications contribute to the official theology of religious institutions, to the understanding of religion as it is taught in colleges and graduate programs, and to public opinion on current issues.

Most importantly, as a professor you would have the opportunity to mentor students, introduce them to religious texts, ideas, and practices, and help them explore what it means to be human.

Believe it or not, medical schools not only value a solid training in biology and chemistry but also an extensive exposure to the liberal arts. We have been told that medical schools are particularly interested in applicants with a major or minor in philosophy or religious studies in addition to their premed requirements.

Why is this? Physicians, nurses, and many other health care professionals need to be culturally savvy, sensitive towards the religious needs of their patients, and astute in ethical reasoning.

This is where we come in. Our program offers courses that will introduce you to a variety of religious traditions, help you discern and respond to religious sensibilities different from your own, and provide you tools for ethical decision-making. As one of our alumni said: “My biology major got me into med school, but my religion major got me through med school.”

Traditionally, the study of English and Communication Studies is said to prepare you for a career in journalism. This may come as a surprise, but the study of religion also helps to prepare you for this profession. How?

First, our religion program will equip you with fundamental research and communication skills. Second, many current issues and events intersect with the areas of religion and/or ethics, from terrorism, to LGBTQIA+ rights, to presidential elections. Many topics of public interest require at least some knowledge of religious traditions and moral reasoning.

This is what you learn in a religion major: a wider understanding of various religious traditions; how religious traditions and thought influence public life; and how to access reliable knowledge about religions at a time when we all suffer from information overload.

A religion major will prepare you for seminary and any kind of ministry. In addition to an excellent grounding in biblical studies, and theology, the major will help you understand religious diversity in the U.S. and globally by providing courses that might not be offered at some denominational seminaries.

At Luther, you can explore major religious traditions, engage in the theory and practice of interfaith dialogue, and explore a variety of topics at the intersection of religion and politics, culture, or science.

Our department also offers off campus and study away opportunities that will provide you the opportunity to explore religious themes, traditions, and practices in the widest possible context.

Americans tend to separate religion and politics, but does this really work? Is the separation of religion and government desirable or even possible? How do we respond to the conflicts around the world that seem to be related to religion?

The relationship between religion and politics is not simply a foreign affairs matter but applies in the U.S. as well. Presidential elections often have strong religious overtones. The inauguration of the president entails religious symbols. The name of God is on American money. Despite our best efforts, politics and religions are inextricably intertwined. A basic knowledge of religious traditions can help you begin to make sense of all of this.

Our religion major will introduce you to a variety of religious traditions and offer specific courses that explore the intersection of religion and politics. Some of our faculty research specific instances where religion and politics intersect.

Study away courses, such as those that take students to the Atomic Bomb Museum in Hiroshima, and the jail cell in which Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years, are powerful, transformative, and make it clear that to study religion is to understand politics.

Here’s how a few Luther religion graduates are employed:

  • Administrator
  • Attorney
  • Business manager
  • Chaplain
  • City official
  • Clergy
  • Coordinator
  • Counselor
  • Editor
  • Educational counselor
  • Elementary school teacher
  • Librarian
  • Media specialist
  • Recreation worker
  • Religion professor
  • Sales representative
  • Social worker
  • Speech pathologist
  • Teacher
  • Therapist
  • Youth director
  • Volunteer

Contact Information

Kristin Swanson
Professor of Religion
Department Head

Main 303
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa  52101

Phone: 563-387-1346