Majoring in Faith

Many Students will change their major in college—surprisingly, faith is a factor.

Whether on stage or behind a desk, in the marketplace or in ministry, you always have an opportunity to impact your professional field with your beliefs. But the Monitoring the Future study from the University of Michigan shows this effect works both ways. Your chosen major can also strongly influence the way you view and practice your faith.

Typically, students who are education or business majors show an increase in religiosity during their time at college, meaning they regularly attend a religious service and place value upon their spiritual life. Humanities and social science majors experience a general decrease in both. While biology and physical science majors don’t alter their attendance schedule much, their perspective of religion can take a negative turn.

More than half of college students will change their major at least once. While some would credit this statistic to indecisiveness, the Monitoring the Future study suggests this transition can occur as one develops in their religion. An initial major is often chosen based on pre-collegiate values and beliefs. Students who were religious in their youth are more likely to attend college in the first place. But as the level of religiosity increases, students often switch into education, humanities or biology tracks. This is not to say finishing what you started will chip away at your faith. Students who have already declared biology, social science or business majors usually maintain their original choice. But consistent religious routine often results in “a shift toward a higher status path.”

Some majors are missing from the report, including students who study religion itself, though the University of Michigan scholars believe recent trends of spiritual thought have proved damaging to religion. This is further evidenced in the negative relationship between faith and the academic fields of humanities and social science. “We believe that there are important differences among the college majors in worldviews and overall philosophies of life,” the researchers explained. “[Our] results suggest that postmodernism, rather than science, is the bête noir—the strongest antagonist—of religiosity.”

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