Islamic Studies

Islamic studies is a broad field in which students typically study a variety of aspects related to Islam, including beliefs, politics, literary works and traditions. Continue reading to find out more about the field, degree programs, potential careers and earning potential.

Are Islamic Studies for Me?

Career Overview

Islamic studies generally encompasses the history, culture, and philosophy of Muslim peoples. The approach to Islamic studies might involve disciplines like anthropology, sociology, linguistics and religious studies. Undergraduate certificate and minor options are available in Islamic studies, with degrees offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Programs may combine Islamic studies with Middle East, Near East or South Asian studies. Students often explore both intellectual topics, like Islamic medicine and philosophy, and traditional subjects, such as important scriptures and literature.

Employment Information

Graduates from Islamic studies degree programs can seek employment as translators and interpreters, college professors, foreign diplomats and international businesspersons. Jobs for interpreters and translators are expected to increase 46% from 2012-2022, and jobs for college professors who teach area, ethnic and cultural studies classes are expected to increase 16% from 2012-2022, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov).

According to the BLS, translators and interpreters earned a median annual wage of $45,430 in May 2012. That same year area, ethnic and cultural studies teachers at the postsecondary level earned a median salary of $67,360. As of 2014, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management reported that employees of the federal government were paid salaries according to the General Schedule, which is based on level of employment, geographic location and level of experience; the lowest salary was $17,981, and the highest salary was $130,810 (www.opm.gov).

How Can I Work in Islamic Studies?

Education

The curriculum of an Islamic studies program typically includes extensive study of Arabic or another Middle Eastern language, such as Turkish or Persian. Courses may cover the development of the Muslim Middle East, architecture and art from the long-ago Mongol invasions and the Ottoman empire to contemporary times, interpretation of the Qur'an, Sufism and Shi'ism, relationships between Islamic and Western countries, the Arabian Nights, women in Arabic literature and contemporary Islamic thought.

As an undergraduate, you can expect to study historical, cultural and comparative issues related to the Muslim world. Most curricula are interdisciplinary, involving political science, economics and literature studies. Most programs also require intensive language courses. Studying abroad is also highly recommended so that you may immerse yourself in Islamic culture and utilize the Arabic language.

In order to qualify for entrance into a master's or doctoral degree program in Islamic studies, you must have a strong background in Modern Standard Arabic. Previous coursework covering Islamic literature, culture and religious beliefs may even be required. Courses you can take include Arabic Sufi poetry, Arabic religious texts, comparative mystical literature, political Islam or animal spirituality. At this advanced level, you may be expected to complete rigorous courses conducted entirely in Arabic. You will also be required to conduct independent research in your field of focus for your thesis or dissertation. In addition, you must pass comprehensive written examinations, which may cover Qur'anic studies, Islamic philosophy and Sufi literature.

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