Biblical Studies vs Biblical Archaeology: Career ROI

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Updated: February 28, 2024, Reading time: 10 minutes

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Despite the significant dip in the number of Americans who identify as Christians, Christianity is still the predominant religion in the United States. No wonder, then, that Biblical Studies and biblical archaeology are still popular fields of study at the undergraduate and graduate levels! 

If you’re planning on enrolling in or already enrolled in a graduate degree program in Biblical Studies or Biblical Archaeology in faith-based graduate schools, you’re on the right track, too. Regardless of your choice in these distinct disciplines, you will enjoy excellent career returns on investment, particularly if it’s your passion. 

You can satisfy your intellectual curiosity about the Bible and its history, cultures, and peoples, contribute to the body of knowledge about these matters, and strengthen your connection to the Christian faith. You will also love the interdisciplinary approach that these disciplines demand, contribute to the preservation of Christian cultural heritage, and love the challenge of making discoveries. 

In terms of material rewards, a successful career in Biblical Studies or Biblical Archaeology means well-paying jobs and a wealth of career advancement opportunities. The median annual wage for religious workers was $49,380, while archaeologists earned a median annual wage of $63,940 (May 2022), both of which are above the median annual pay for all occupations. The diversity of career opportunities ranges from pastoral ministry and teaching to nonprofit leadership. 

Biblical Studies and Biblical Archaeology are related disciplines with practitioners involved in the study of the Bible and its events, characters, and context. Both disciplines value interdisciplinary collaborations, too, usually between anthropology, linguistics, and religious studies, among other fields. 

But these are distinct disciplines, too, in the following aspects: 

A Quick Look at Their Differences

In the following sections, we will take a closer look at the roles and responsibilities, education and training requirements, and career opportunities in the fields of Biblical Studies vs Biblical Archaeology:

Biblical StudiesBiblical Archaeology
Average Annual Salary$67,697$63,940
Projected Job Growth10.5% or an average of 257,700 openings per year (For community and social service occupations)4% (2022-2032) or about 700 openings per year, on average (For anthropologists and archaeologists)
Licenses/Certifications RequiredNoNo
Primary DutiesProfessionals in the field of Biblical Studies study, analyze and interpret, even translate, the Bible and its related texts. Their deep understanding of the contexts in which the Bible was written opens up doors of opportunities in diverse sectors.Biblical archaeologists discover, investigate and interpret the archaeological evidence related to biblical cultures, peoples and events. Their knowledge and skills are instrumental in our contemporary understanding of the accuracy of these aspects, as well as their contexts and religious significance.

What Does a Biblical Studies Professional Do?

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Professionals involved in Biblical Studies draw from a wide range of fields in studying the Old Testament and the New Testament, collectively called the Bible, as well as its related documents like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, and Apocrypha. These disciplines include ancient history, textual and literary criticism, mythology, theology, philology, and comparative religion.

The interdisciplinary approach facilitates our broader and deeper understanding of the history and development, cultural and historical contexts, and the events, characters, and places mentioned in the Bible. Said approach also contributes to the depth and breadth with which Bible studies professionals engage in teaching, scholarly research, and authorship of books, articles, and academic papers.

If you decide to become a Biblical Studies professional, your specific roles and responsibilities will vary based on your organization, industry, and job title. You may, nonetheless, perform many of the following duties in line with your work. 

With these roles and responsibilities, bible studies professionals must possess proficient exegetical, language, and research skills. Their job also demands extensive knowledge of hermeneutics, theology and teaching pedagogy, as well as public speaking, analytical thinking, and interpersonal skills.

Biblical Studies Education and Career Paths

If you’re interested, earn a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies, Ministry, Theology, and Divinity or other related fields. Afterward, you can earn a Master’s in Biblical Studies or a Master’s in Divinity (M.Div), both of which involve advanced studies of the Bible, church history, and theology. Graduate students also develop their practical ministry skills. 

A terminal degree, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biblical Studies, is the highest degree that can be earned in the field. Keep in mind that it’s a research-centric degree that prepares students for careers in research, teaching, and consulting. 

Career paths for Biblical Studies professionals include: 

Indeed, a graduate degree in Biblical Studies will not only strengthen your spiritual enlightenment and feed your intellectual curiosity but also lead to rewarding jobs. 

A Career in Biblical Studies is for you if: 

A Career in Biblical Studies is not a great fit if you: 

What Does a Biblical Archaeologist Do?

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Nowadays, biblical archaeologists adopt a more scientific approach in the study of the archaeological remains of the biblical past, including its peoples, places, and periods. This wasn’t always so in the past because of its emphasis on ideology and theology. Contemporary biblical archaeologists provide society with a more balanced perspective of these aspects of the Bible and its archaeology-related aspects. 

Their common roles and responsibilities include: 

William F. Albright, Kathleen Kenyon, and Israel Finkelstein are among the most notable biblical archaeologists whose works have been crucial in the field’s development. 

The best biblical archaeologists possess technical knowledge and skills that facilitate excellent performance of their roles and responsibilities. If you want to be one, you must be proficient in excavation techniques, artifact analysis, survey methods (e.g., LIDAR), and laboratory techniques.

You should also be proficient in ancient languages, such as Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew, as well as in the use of GIS, database management, and archaeological conservation. 

As for soft skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration skills are a must. You should also possess cultural awareness and sensitivity, be adaptable to changing conditions, and act with ethics in mind. 

Biblical Archaeologist  Education and Career Paths

If you want to establish a successful career as a biblical archaeologist, you can start by earning a Bachelor’s in Archaeology, Anthropology, or History, among other fields. You should also learn the relevant foreign languages, perhaps starting with Hebrew and Greek. 

There are no licensing, certification, or registration requirements for biblical archaeologists. But if you want to enjoy career advancement and industry recognition, you should earn a Master’s in Biblical Archaeology and, if you desire, a doctorate.

Boston University, Cornell University, and the University of Arizona have master’s degree programs, while the University of California Los Angeles, University of Washington, and the University of Missouri offer PhD programs. 

If you become a biblical archaeologist, you can also choose a specialization. You can, for example, focus on Near Eastern biblical cultures or Israel’s development during the Iron Age.

As for career paths, the most popular for biblical archaeologists include: 

Biblical archaeologists can also join professional organizations, such as the Society of Biblical Literature, American Schools of Oriental Research, and the Archaeological Institute of America. 

A Career in Biblical Archaeology is for you if: 

A Career in Biblical Archaeology is not a great fit if you: 

In the end, both Biblical Studies And Biblical Archaeology are excellent choices as a career. While Biblical Studies tends to be more abstract, Biblical Archaeology has a more concrete approach—and that should be part of your consideration. 

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