Career Prospects

Apart from pursuing an academic career, there are numerous (often unknown) career paths for Religious Studies graduates. For this reason, graduates of our programme are invited to share their career profiles with an interested audience. As part of the informal event "Quo vadis", the motivations, professional biographies and practical experiences of graduates are discussed, allowing students to get to know the enormous variety of benefits of a Religious Studies degree, be it in terms of career opportunities or personal development paths in general. Furthermore, special tips and tricks for the student's own study administration and their career planning are also provided in exchange with the graduates.

Below you can access a growing archive of career profiles.

Quo Vadis IX (June 19, 2024)

Perspektive 21: The Expert for PR and Organisation

Bernadette Pensch completed the Individual Diploma Programme in Religious Studies and a B.A. in Sociology simultaneously after having worked for many years. A key factor in choosing this degree programme was its feasibility alongside her job and a family with two children. Another important aspect was that the degree programme should cover as many topics, areas and disciplines as possible that were relevant to her, such as history or philosophy. Originally, she would have liked to work in an intercultural or interreligious field. After completing her studies, she stayed in the area of PR and works at the association WIENXTRA – with a focus on the organisation of large events for children and families as well as cooperations.

The knowledge she acquired during her studies in Religious Studies is often a great advantage in her work. During her studies, she would have liked to participate in more excursions, but this was not possible due to her work and family commitments. The few experiences in this area such as an excursion to the Josefstadt prison or visits to some religious communities were important and remain vivid memories for her. During her studies, she appreciated the fact that there was no homogeneous age group of students, but that 18-year-olds studied together with 80-year-olds and that learning together was often associated with a lot of humour and fun. She also emphasised on the personal development that takes place as part of a degree in Religious Studies, as well as the opportunity to apply the knowledge acquired in everyday life.

She would clearly like Religious Studies to participate more and take a position in public discourse, for example with regard to discrimination against religious worldviews or Ethics classes in schools. It would have also been beneficial if the department offered students internships in various fields during their studies. If she had the choice again, she would definitely opt for a degree in Religious Studies, because this degree programme also teaches knowledge and skills that play a central role in society, in the present and in everyday life.

Perspektive 20: The Psychotherapist

Martin Stechauner completed the Individual Diploma Programme as well as a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. He was interested in languages and Religious Studies since his school years. Coming from a family of medical doctors, he initially studied medicine. However, after failing a few important exams in the introductory phase, he decided to concentrate fully on his degree in Religious Studies. He particularly remembers the friendly contact with the student representatives at the time, as well as the opportunity to attend courses at almost all the humanities and social science faculties, which were credited towards his degree.

Mr Stechauner then took a detour to focus on Judaism, which also led him to take a Hebrew course as a source language for Religious Studies. This would also have been an advantage in the context of the memorial service he initially planned to do in a Jewish retirement home in Israel. However he ended up completing this memorial service in a Jewish retirement home in Argentina. Nevertheless, the connection to Israel arose during his studies since he was able to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during both his diploma and doctoral studies.

During his doctoral studies, he finally decided to start a training programme to become a psychotherapist – as a kind of plan B, but still with the aim of completing his doctoral studies. During internships at the Diakonie Flüchtlingsdienst (a refugee service organisation), it became clear that his previous knowledge of the Middle East and Islam from Religious Studies was very useful. After completing his doctorate, Mr Stechauner realised that a full-time career in Religious Studies would only be possible if there were long-term career prospects at a university, especially in the form of a permanent position but this turned out to be rather difficult. After applying for several jobs in both the university and social sectors, he finally got a job at a psychosocial association in Vienna, where he looked after mentally ill people in a shared apartment. Mr Stechauner is currently working as a psychotherapist with refugees at the Diakonie. Here again, he is able to apply the Religious Studies skills he acquired during his studies in a wide range of ways.


Quo Vadis VIII ( December 12, 2023)

Perspective 19: The Expert in Communication

Valentin Eisendle completed his Master's degree in Religious Studies in 2022. Before his Master's degree, he completed a Bachelor's degree in International Development. Today, he works for the "Radlobby"—an advocacy group that promotes safe and comfortable cycling in everyday life—where he is involved in marketing and public relations.

Valentin can look back on a varied professional career, ranging from his beginnings in the improvisational theater and his work for a Lower Austrian theater association to the field of organizational development and management consulting. He has also been able to use his knowledge and skills from his studies in Religious Studies, particularly with regard to the analysis of systems and (inter-)cultural logics. In his opinion, knowledge of rites, traditions and cultural elements of religious life is an advantage in many sectors and should be valued accordingly. The skills he acquired during his studies, enabling him to familiarize himself with a wide range of topics with an open and reflective approach, have always been of great benefit to him.

While studying Religious Studies, Valentin learned the skill of unbiased thinking, which also benefited him in his professional career. His interest was not so much in traditional advertising as in storytelling, a skill he has been able to use successfully in his professional life, whether in seminars, training sessions or lectures. His career shows the variety of ways in which the knowledge he gained during his studies can be used on the job market. Experiences such as his participation in the summer school VICISU (Vienna International Christian-Islamic Summer University) and an excursion to Bosnia during his studies were particularly formative for him. Above all, these opportunities were very enriching and offered him the chance to make new contacts and actively exchange ideas with colleagues. Visiting countless religious institutions was also a particularly valuable aspect of his studies, which enriched and shaped his view of religious and cultural diversity in the long term.

In his opinion, studying Religious Studies provides the ideal basis for "translating" between different areas—such as different departments or specialist areas—in various professional situations and enables a differentiated understanding, and the knowledge gained during his studies enables him to do this professionally and in a goal-oriented manner.

Perspective 18: The Journalist (Field of Religion and Ethics)

Lena Göbl, a graduate of the Master's degree program in Religious Studies in 2022, describes her studies as one of the best and most enjoyable experiences in her professional career to date. She decided to become a journalist at the age of 17 and took her first steps on this path with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communication Studies at the University of Vienna.

During both her Bachelor's and Master's studies, Lena was able to gain a wide range of practical experience through internships, including at various private radio stations, Ö1 and the ORF regional studios. In retrospect, she describes the decision to complete a Master's degree in Religious Studies as a helpful and valuable coincidence.

She now works as a salaried editor in the ORF's religion and ethics multimedia department. There she creates radio reports—such as for the Ö1 religion magazine "Praxis - Religion und Gesellschaft"—as well as religious studies radio features for the program "TAO - aus den Religionen der Welt", but also TV reports for the ORF programs "Orientierung" and "Religionen der Welt". Her work focuses on the diversity of religions worldwide, their teachings, new developments in the respective communities and the different paths people take in their search for meaning and happiness.

Studying religious studies proved to be very useful for her professional career. She emphasizes that studying religious studies in particular makes her a special expert in journalism and among her colleagues, as there are comparatively few female religious scholars in this field—even though the demand in a diverse society is constantly increasing. She would have liked to study even more intensively, as she repeatedly encounters situations in her professional life where she would like to bring even more religious studies expertise into her work.

She describes one of the most valuable skills she acquired while studying Religious Studies as the ability to take an outside perspective and thus develop an understanding of religion(s) and religious phenomena that is as unbiased as possible. During her studies, she learned to simplify complex issues in order to be able to communicate them better and to repeatedly take the perspective of people who have no expertise in Religious Studies. Here, too, a kind of translation takes place to a certain extent - between the complex scientific knowledge of the discipline and the summary and simplification of this content in a generally understandable form that is not just reserved for a specialist audience.

Quo Vadis VII (December 17, 2019)

Perspective 17: The Director (Ordensgemeinschaften Österreich)

Magdalena Schauer has been working in the media office of the Austrian religious orders since 2017. In her job she can make extensive use of her training in Religious Studies. One particularly busy week for example she enjoyed prior to the Quo vadis meeting: starting the week she has a recording with Ramazan Demir in the Donaumoschee, opened her photo exhibition the following day in which she portrayed religious life in Austria, filmed in the Jewish city temple with Awi Blumenfeld, and concluded the week with a documentary shoot in Stift Göttweig.

In the course of her journalism studies, which she completed in 2012 (Mag.), she recognised the advantage that a specialised field of knowledge would offer her. By chance, she learned about the M.A. degree in Religious Studies, and since she had had a strong interest in religious topics even during her school years, she decided on pursuing this educational path.

Similar to other graduates, Magdalena emphasises the importance of practical experience. During her time as a student she traveled a lot; she has been to China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, etc. and has, for example, participated in biblical archaeological excavations in Jerusalem. Of particular importance to her is not only the work itself, but especially the people she met and experiences she had with other religious and cultural circles. In conversations with the other staff members of the excavation site from both Israel and Palestine, she gained a nuanced understanding of the local political situation. For Magdalena, experiences of this kind are the best protection against prejudice: if she could share one aspect of Religious Studies with everyone, it would be the open-mindedness with which the discipline approaches its object of research. In so doing, it is possible to make numerous acquaintances that can only be of advantage later in one’s career. Her network now makes it easier for Magdalena to incorporate an interreligious component into many of her productions, in accordance with her interest in all religions.

Magdalena wrote her thesis on end-time notions of Jehovah's Witnesses under the supervision of Professor Karl Baier and completed her studies in 2014 (M.A.). She recommends writing the thesis as soon as possible, since the process becomes noticeably more difficult if one is also working. She found the deep immersion in a certain topic, as is the case within the framework of a research project, particularly enriching. To some degree, she can continue this intensive engagement with religion in her profession, and the daily application of knowledge and methods from her training in Religious Studies continue to have an effect on her personal worldview.

Magdalena does not view Religious Studies as an exotic subject (Orchideenfach), but describes it as a "desert flower," which can be even more extraordinary, but when used correctly can be regarded as an important and valued competence.

Perspective 16: The Communications Expert (WWF Austria)

After she had already studied journalism and public relations at the University of Applied Sciences (FH), Julia Preinerstorfer decided to pursue an M.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Vienna. Her motivation was mainly based on her interest in the relationship between politics and religion. She had also written her FH diploma thesis on this topic, in which she comparatively examined the role of religion in political communication in the United States and Austria.

She is currently working in the communications department of WWF Austria; prior to that she worked for a political lobby, a PR agency, and also as a freelance journalist for a few years. In the job market there was always a need to explain what distinguishes Theology from Religious Studies—Julia considers the "exoticism" of the subject in this context to be an advantage, because it often leads to interesting discussions during job interviews.

Julia approached her studies with great interest, something that was also reflected in the courses she decided to take. Among them specifically remain in her memory those on African American Christianity and the Pentecostal movement, as well as a visit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as part of a research seminar. The highpoint of her study experience was her semester abroad at the University of Chicago, during which she was able to obtain valuable knowledge on American Christianity. Julia found studying abroad extremely beneficial and recommends students of Religious Studies to do research at partner universities and go after such scholarships (offered by the University) so that they can have such experiences themselves.

Due to her job, writing her M.A. thesis was a longer process and Julia finally decided to take educational leave to finish it. She advises students—if possible—to write their M.A. thesis as soon as possible, and before starting a full-time job. At the same time, however, she emphasises the valuable support she received from the professors that made the work process easier. In 2017, she successfully earned her degree with a thesis (M.A.) on "Show me the Money: The Origins of the American Prosperity Gospel and Its Significance Today," under the supervision of Professor Hans Gerald Hödl. Julia highly values important principles of the field of Religious Studies: she mentions the value-free approach with which Religious Studies approaches its field of research. She is able to incorporate this outlook into her daily work, since it is crucial in this context to approach all political players in a value-free and respectful manner. The effort to understand people and their motives repeatedly proves to be a useful principle in her everyday work.

Quo Vadis VI (June 4, 2019)

Perspective 15: The Crisis Manager

Brigitte Holzweber started her studies at the age of 58 after retiring from her job as a medical-technical analyst at a rehabilitation centre in 2005. Prompted by personal hardship, she searched for ways to rearrange her life and enrolled for the diploma programme of history, which she completed in 2012 with a thesis on divorce in eighteenth-century Catholic Christianity. During the course of her research she became increasingly involved with canon law, and in consequence her interest in religious phenomena grew. In addition, she felt a similar interest on her many trips to Asia, Africa, and South America, upon which she started the Master's programme in Religious Studies in the autumn of 2012. After attending lectures and seminars for three years until 2015, she wrote her thesis titled Die okkulten Wege der Wiener Moderne: Eine religionswissenschaftliche Analyse der "Wiener Rundschau", supervised by Professor Karl Baier, successfully graduating in April 2019 (M.A.).

Brigitte particularly valued the diversity of courses to choose from as well as the lively contact with younger fellow students, who shared new perspectives and ways of thinking with her. On the one hand, she was able to actively support younger colleagues due to her life experience; on the other hand she appreciated their input, creating fruitful exchanges. Hence, she stresses the importance of networking and recommends all students to seek contact with their fellow colleagues, be it for course notes, group projects, or improving one's academic writing skills.

Through daily life as a student, Brigitte regained structure, meaning, and joy. Especially by studying the topics of dying, death, and grief she was able to better cope with another personal crisis. On further long-distance trips she realised how her studies reshaped her attitudes towards and improved her understanding of religious and cultural phenomena. As a Catholic Christian holding a degree in Religious Studies, she strongly believes that one's faith should allow for openness towards other belief systems.

Perspective 14: The Practitioner and Carer

Matthias Grümayer got started in Religious Studies after a few detours, but found himself inspired by the enormous variety of religious phenomena immediately. Due to his strong interest in Buddhism, he attended a number of seminars on the topic and began to practice it himself soon after. In his ten years of Buddhist practice, Matthias found his place in the Plum Village tradition and joined the Order of Interbeing—founded by Thích Nhất Hạnh—in October 2018. At present he is practicing with Wake Up Vienna, while also being involved in the Network of Young Buddhists of the Austrian Buddhist Society.

In addition to his focus on Buddhism, Matthias also appreciated other courses from the extensive range the programme offers, for example seminars on religious aesthetics or conceptions of the afterlife. Supervised by Professor Karl Baier, Matthias graduated in 2015 (M.A.) with a thesis on the history of reception of the Bardo Thödol (Vom Bardo Thödol zum psychedelischen Handbuch: Stadien einer Rezeptionsgeschichte). After having completed his studies, he was confronted with the fact that he had rarely looked beyond the programme itself, which is the reason why he only started thinking about Quo Vadis from that stage onwards. He first entered the workforce as a personal assistant along with other part-time positions, such as at the ticket office of the Vienna Planetarium, before finding his way into senior care. He is currently employed as a club supervisor, working with pensioners who are not in need of nursing care. In this context, he is able to employ his knowledge on religions by providing information for people with, in some cases, prejudiced views. Furthermore, Matthias is close to completing a three-year training in holistic bodywork by Avi Grinberg and will soon start working as an independent practitioner.

Faced with the same choice, Matthias would enrol for Religious Studies again, albeit without a fear of graduation, and would study at a faster pace. He recommends students of Religious Studies to participate in the offered excursions extensively, stressing the importance of encountering religions outside the lecture rooms and engaging in conversations with members of different religious groups. A large part of what he experienced and learned during trips to Transylvania and Jerusalem is still in his memory today. Additionally, he recommends practicing academic writing during the course of the programme. Since he himself neglected that aspect a little, he was having trouble composing his Master's thesis at first. Moreover, Matthias finds continuous exchange and communication with one's supervisor to be of great value, because their feedback is essential for completing the thesis step by step, so as not to leave it unfinished for too long.

Quo vadis V (December 10, 2018)

Perspective 13: The Mediator in the Austrian Parliament

Andreas Thaler earned his degree in political science in 2006 (Mag. phil.) with a thesis on "'United People' or 'Coalition of States'? On the Question of a European Identity." As a result, he turned towards Religious Studies with a primary interest in the political sphere of religion, more precisely power, conflicts, and structures. Andreas started the individual diploma programme of Religious Studies in 2008; two years later, he moved to the Master’s programme. He considers the attainment of knowledge of religions as a fundamental part of the degree programme in Religious Studies and also an essential foundation for further debates and discussions, which was perfectly harmonised with his background in political science. The broad selection of courses and flexibility of the programme allowed Andreas to keep his job as an organiser of cycling tours throughout his studies. 

Andreas graduated in 2013 (M.A.) under the supervision of Prof. Birgit Heller with a thesis on "The Continuity of the Self: On Identity and Reincarnation Perceptions." After graduating, he worked as a freelance journalist for the Wiener Bezirkszeitung for one and a half years, where he was repeatedly challenged to successfully apply his knowledge on religious and spiritual topics. Andreas recommends writing for the Wiener Bezirkszeitung to students interested in journalism as an option for the practical implementation of Religious Studies. At present, Andreas is a mediator and event manager for the Austrian parliament, while also offering tours to student groups, diplomats, and politicians. During the application process, a strong interest in Andreas’ degree in Religious Studies was expressed since it significantly set him apart from other applicants with a background in political science. Besides this job, Andreas also manages workshops for the labour union. In the course of these three-day workshops, the interplay of politics and religion holds central position as a subject of discussion and examination. In this context, his competences in both Political Science and Religious Studies are essential. 

Andreas' advice for students of Religious Studies is to keep a set-goal in mind, asking themselves why they chose this field of study and what they want to achieve with it. Finding one’s academic focus, instead of viewing Religious Studies as merely an activity of interest, not only boosts motivation but also specifies potential career paths for the alumni, as he points out. Additionally, Andreas is positive that the scientific and—ideally—neutral approach to religious phenomena cultivated by scholars of religion can be of high interest and valuable for the economy. He pleads for choosing a specialisation as early as possible, perhaps by means of another fitting field of study as a method to develop one’s professional profile, which usually proves beneficial when looking for employment.

Perspective 12: The Administrative Assistant and Advisor for Questions concerning Ideological Issues (University of Vienna and Archdiocese of Vienna)

After studying Tourism and working for some years in the field of gastronomy, then 25-year-old Robert Wurzrainer made the decision to take up the individual diploma programme in Religious Studies as an additional educational qualification. During the course of his studies, Robert developed a strong interest in ethics and religious education, into which he concentrated writing his diploma thesis on "Denominational Religious and Ethics Courses in Austria from a Religious Studies Perspective."

Successfully graduating in 2015 (Mag.), Robert began his Ph.D. project on "Religious Education for all? The Contribution of Religious Studies to Religious and Ethical Education," supervised by Prof. Wolfram Reiss. Around that time, he applied for a part-time position (20 hours per week) as an administrative assistant at the Institute for Systematic Theology and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Vienna. Employed permanently from December 2016, large portions of his job consist of scientific work and other competences acquired during his studies, as well as administrative tasks. Robert considers the theological focus of his scholarly portfolio to be a crucial factor of his successful application. 

Furthermore, Robert works as an advisor for questions concerning ideological issues at the pastoral office of the Archdiocese of Vienna (20 hours per week). Being involved with the academic study of religion in Vienna, the vacancy came to Robert’s attention and, soon after he had sent in his application, he received an invitation for an interview. At the interview a considerable emphasis was put on his broad knowledge in the fields of both Religious Studies and Theology, underpinned by the diverse courses he had attended as a student at the University of Vienna. His main tasks include not only website maintenance and related research, but also the editorial development of brochures. Thus, he is able to make use of his education in Religious Studies in this context daily. Robert remembers the writing of a chapter on religions of past cultures for a textbook series published by Österreichischer Bundesverlag (ÖBV) as one of his biggest achievements in the field so far. He is convinced he got this opportunity explicitly due to his degree in Religious Studies, rather than because of his background in Theology.

Robert recommends to students of Religious Studies to look for a beneficial way of combining theological expertise with their studies on religion, since he himself experienced an improvement of his scholarly understanding through such a combination. Additionally, he stresses the importance of keeping up with current events as well as debates on issues relevant to the field, in order to develop a scholarly view on present matters and communicate it.

Quo vadis IV (June 12, 2018)

Perspective 11: The Ayurveda Instructor (Chairwoman of the Austrian Ayurveda Professional Association)

From 2001 to 2007, Leona Mörth-Nicola studied in the Individual Diploma Programme in Religious Studies (Mag.) and, in parallel, she began to work with her mother in the Ayurveda Association Nexenhof. Due to this simultaneous occupation, both the specialisation on Indology as well as the choice of Sanskrit as an additional foreign language were obvious choices for her. During her religious studies, Leona also completed additional training as an Ayurvedic practitioner. In 2007, she wrote her diploma thesis with Professor Birgit Heller on the conflicting fields of conventional medicine and spirituality, entitled "Spirituality and Conventional Medicine: Theoretical and Qualitative Exploratory Approaches to a Conflicting Field in Postmodernity." After completing her diploma studies, Leona decided to pursue further research in a doctoral programme with Birgit and Andreas Heller at the IFF (Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Further Education) at the University of Klagenfurt. Her dissertation, which she defended in 2016, dealt with the topic of Ayurveda in the context of dying and death, entitled "Ayurveda, the Knowledge of Life – and of the Approach to Death? A Qualitative Study on Spirituality and End of Life in Traditional Indian Medicine."

Since Leona is a mother of two children, she works less as an Ayurvedic practitioner, but more in teaching and the organisation of the Ayurveda Association Nexenhof. Due to her professional experience as a chairwoman in the Ayurveda Association (since 2011), and her relevant scientific knowledge, she is also the current chairwoman at the Austrian Professional Association of Ayurveda (ÖBA). In addition to her work as a yoga and Ayurveda teacher, Leona also gives lectures, she is the contact person for various matters concerning Ayurveda trade licensing and, for 2018, has organised the first Ayurveda trade fair in Austria (in Vienna's Museumsquartier) with the ÖBA. Leona emphasises that the study of religion has offered her great knowledge which she can now apply successfully in areas of her responsibility. For example, her regular oral presentations in a wide range of courses helped her to prepare for speeches in front of a large audience—a skill that she finds extremely useful in her work in Ayurveda and Yoga nowadays. As further competence, she mentions the successful integration of objectivity, tolerance, and versatility in her personal worldview. In this respect, her former activity as a student representative was an indirect preparation for her current position as chairwoman of two professional associations. In particular, the focus on gender issues was for Leona fruitful during her study.

If she were to study religious studies again, she would probably focus more on method (or theory) oriented courses, since relevant knowledge in scientific work (represented, for example, in the context of a diploma thesis and dissertation) would have been essential. She would also volunteer for presentations from the beginning of her studies, since this would be helpful for job interviews, and she would refuse to be intimidated by difficult or complicated texts, as well as by more educated fellow students.

Perspective 10: The Tour Guide (Studiosus Reisen)

Verena Stabauer completed the Individual Diploma Programme in Religious Studies (Mag.) in 2011. Initially she understood it to be a study stemming from broader interest in the topic, with the intercultural aspect in particular motivating her decision. At that time, her primary interests were the musical and religious culture of Latin America and Africa. From the beginning, foreign languages were a second major focus for her. She therefore attended language courses in Spanish and Portuguese and at the same time focused her research on Afro-American religions. She combined and consolidated these important skills in the course of a six-month field research in Honduras. Finally she wrote her diploma thesis with Professor Birgit Heller on concepts of afterlife along the Caribbean coast, with the title "Nueva Vida: Afterlife and Matrifocality at the Garifuna."

Another milestone during her studies was Verena’s participation in an excursion with Professor Hans Gerald Hödl to Togo and Benin. Due to this experience she got her first job after graduation as a travel companion for a German company in Togo and Benin. Three weeks after finishing her studies, she was on a plane once again, this time not as a participant in a guided journey, but as the main tour guide. Currently, she has been working as a tour guide for Studiosus Travels for more than six years, since her knowledge on culture specificities and her language skills have opened many more destinations for her: Portugal, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Azores, and Austria. Studiosus Travels is a provider of study tours for the most discerning clientele, and therefore expertise in knowledge transfer and organisation is of essence. In addition to other knowledge areas, the topic of religion is important, regardless of the destination.

In her second job, Verena also deals with intercultural knowledge transfer. As a teacher of DaF (German as a foreign language) and DaZ (German as a second language), she teaches people with different cultural backgrounds who all have the same goal: to learn German. For this, she completed her one-year training at the Goethe Institute immediately after finishing her diploma thesis. In the current modern conditions, her area of expertise is particularly in demand, as many refugees and migrants want to take German lessons. Teaching is therefore not limited to language alone. Intercultural competence is also part of the curriculum.

Thanks to her studies in religious science, she not only has religion-specific knowledge but also, in diverse cultural respects, enough scientific background to easily master the transfer of knowledge—both while traveling and in the classroom in Vienna. For Verena, the study of religion was the ideal starting point for her professional life. Since the academic study of religion is highly interdisciplinary, it is her opinion that graduates gain a wide range of competencies that can be used in different professional areas. However, Verena also emphasises the increased opportunities in the labour market if this interdisciplinarity is combined with further training to create a very special competence portfolio that can enhance the scope of professional versatility.

Quo vadis III (November 21, 2017) 

Perspective 9: The "Ombudslady" (Wiener Krankenanstaltenverbund) 

Elisabeth Hofstätter was originally trained as a Biomedical Analyst and has been working for many years—currently as Ombudslady—at the Vienna Hospital Association (KAV), a company with more than 30,000 employees. She had always seen the religious themes of death and the hereafter as directly related to her work in health services. She therefore decided in 1993 to pursue a degree in Religious Studies. However, at that time, the Individual Diploma Programme in Religious Studies had not yet been initiated, which was the reason she initially enrolled in Indology, Tibetology, and Buddhist Studies (with a religion-specific focus). In 1999, Elisabeth was one of the first to seize the opportunity to enrol in the Individual Diploma Programme in Religious Studies. Three years later, she was the first to graduate with her diploma thesis on "Die Göttin Kālī in Ost und West: Von der blutrünstigen Stammesgöttin zur Galeonsfigur der Frauenemanzipation" [The Goddess Kālī in East and West: From the Bloodthirsty Tribal Goddess to the Galeon Figure of Women's Emancipation]. She completed her academic career with a Doctorate in Indology, an additional Diploma in Psychology of Religion, and a Doctorate in Palliative Care and Organisational Ethics. In her second dissertation, she wrote about "Spiritual Care" with a religion-specific focus.

Elisabeth reports that during her career she has sought coping strategies for the multicultural diversity of staff and patients, with the aim of minimising or preventing conflicts. In achieving this, the topics of religion and intercultural communication have always played a major role. When the need for appropriate training was recognised, she was able to establish herself as an expert in the intercultural and religious field, becoming responsible for covering this topic in the KAV. She compiled a corresponding course and offered training for KAV employees—especially for nursing staff, who were most confronted with the patients. Subsequently, a series of presentations entitled "Intercultural Competence Through Encounter with the Religions of the World" was launched. Various religions have been part of this hugely popular series: from Abrahamic religions, Hindu religions, and Buddhism to Sikhism and Chinese and African religions. In terms of content, a brief insight into the various doctrines was given, but the focus was then on the medical context (taboos, purity regulations, food bids), the topic of dying/death/grief, medical ethics (ingredients of medicines, handling autopsy, euthanasia), as well as the topic "women and religion." In 2006, Elisabeth received the Health Prize of the City of Vienna for this training series. Due to her high competence in religion, she was subsequently entrusted as a member of the palliative team at the Empress Elisabeth Hospital with the task of equipping two interreligious mourning rooms. In the course of this task, she personally approached many religious communities in order to present the intercultural and interreligious project and finally established herself as the direct contact person for the respective religious representatives. Finally, Elisabeth organised a grand dedication ceremony for these farewell rooms, during which representatives of the large religious communities present in Vienna handed over the premises to their purpose with a small ritual. Another milestone was a decree issued in 2003 on the wearing of religious headgear in the working environment of the Vienna KAV, to which she contributed significantly with her expertise and which continues to be valid at the KAV.

Today Elisabeth works in quality and complaint management at the KAV. When applying for this position, her religion-specific knowledge and her intercultural competence, which she had acquired in the course of her studies, had been the crucial elements that gave her an advantage over the other candidates. Intercultural and religious problems were the order of the day, and she was supporting their solution with her expertise. Consequently, she now acts as the expert and the first point of contact for religious and intercultural topics within the KAV. During her further success in her professional career (i.e., a position at the Directorate General in the administrative service), she was grateful to be able to rely on qualifications acquired during her studies. As in the past, she regularly holds her successful training for medical doctors and nursing staff, mainly on the topics of "Islam," "Intercultural Competence," and "Dying, Death, and Grief." Currently, relevant training courses are also being considered for the Medical University of Vienna.

In conclusion, Elisabeth describes Religious Studies as an initial mere interest and hobby. However, she knew how to turn her interest into a profession, because she recognised the need for qualified intercultural and religion-specific personnel for trainings within the KAV and could thus benefit from her studies on religion.

Perspective 8: The Language and Education Trainer (Don Bosco Refugee Work)

From 2002 to 2008, Cornelia Krisper was in the Individual Diploma Programme in Religious Studies and graduated with a thesis on "Herrgott und Brautseele: Die Geschlechterbeziehung als Metapher für die Gott-Mensch-Konstellation in der mittelalterlichen Frauen- und Männermystik des Christentums" [Lord God and Bridal Soul: The Gender Relationship as a Metaphor for the God-Man Constellation in Medieval Women's and Men's Mysticism of Christianity]. As a trained bookseller, she worked in bookstores while studying and subsequently was employed by a book publisher. After completing her studies, she trained as a teacher for German as a second and foreign language (DAF/DAZ), and as a basic education and literacy trainer for non-German speakers. She understood the latter as a kind of 'second pillar' in addition to her studies. At this point, Cornelia emphasises the importance of interweaving Religious Studies with other fields of knowledge and/or with practical experience. This serves to create a distinctive profile necessary in the present job market. Cornelia is currently leading an educational project at the Don Bosco refugee centre, which provides young refugees with basic education and German language skills. For Cornelia, the study of religion was initially born out of pure interest, without special career aspirations. However, her current professional activity allows her to reclaim study-specific skills, especially when dealing with the religious diversity that she and her staff face. Although Islam was not a focal point of her studies, now that the majority of her clients have Muslim background, she was able to independently specialise in the subject based on her wider Religious Studies competence. In general, Cornelia is frequently consulted by colleagues in an advisory capacity for everyday issues relevant to religion, especially when they are overwhelmed by situations in the classroom or are interested in background information on the religion of their pupils.

Cornelia could also bring in relevant skills as a graduate in a part-time job, which she was offered on the basis of her expertise in Religious Studies. Specifically, she teaches a module on "Religion" at the Berufsförderungsinstitut (BFI; Vocational Training Institute) as part of the course for future DAF/DAZ trainers. In this module, the participants will acquire a rich overview of different religious traditions, especially regarding their situation in Austria. A particular focus is put on the subject of Islam. However, religious rituals, religious pluralism in the classroom, and a general sensitivity to religion are topics that she generally turns to in her teaching. This shows that the high value religion has for many students is taken seriously by the educational institutions and is communicated through appropriate training schemes. 

Perspective 7: The Social Worker (Social Insurance Institution of Farmers)

Between 2006 and 2015, Franziska Altenhofer was in the Individual Diploma Programme in Religious Studies (MA). She wrote her diploma thesis on "Bestattung ohne Glaubensbekenntnis: Eine Analyse der Möglichkeiten von Bestattungen für Personen ohne Bekenntnis im ländlichen Raum Oberösterreichs" [Funeral Without Creed: An Analysis of the Possibilities of Burial for Persons Without Confession in the Rural Area of Upper Austria]. The media sector was an industry she was very interested in at the beginning of her studies. Therefore, she successfully applied for a four-month internship at the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) in the Department for Religion. After this internship, she had decided against a career in the media, since her interest in religion had been further amplified. She therefore abandoned her initial study of journalism in order to concentrate exclusively on her Individual Diploma Programme in Religious Studies. Franziska reported some critical reactions in her environment due to the supposedly poor job perspectives stemming from such academic studies. However, she always confidently replied that she had to follow her interests already during her studies in order to find a job later on that would correspond to those interests. Another early focal point of her interest was the area of social work, which she also studied at the University of Applied Sciences in Linz. In addition, she worked in a shelter where she could introduce her religion-specific knowledge into the care of children from different cultures.

In general, she had been very active during her studies on religion outside from the seminar rooms as well, having participated in many field trips and weekend seminars, such as in the army or in prison, while also being an active participant in excursions abroad (Jerusalem and Togo / Benin). Each of these experiences offered important elements to her career path. It was specifically those excursions into the field which always aroused great interest in career discussions.

Both at the Department of Religious Studies and at the University of Applied Sciences in Linz, the topics of death, mourning, and the otherworld were recurrent themes in her studies. She also dealt with these topics in her final thesis. Her fieldwork-based religious studies ultimately were directly related to her first job after graduation at the Funeral Agency Linz AG. Despite the termination of employment, the profession of undertaker still represents a kind of dream job for her because of her interest in death and mourning, which resulted from the study of religion.

Finally, Franziska got a job as social worker at the Farmers’ Social Insurance Institution. She was offered the job because, on the one hand, she fulfilled the basic requirements for social worker education and rural background and, on the other hand, because of her studies and her previous knowledge on mourning, death, and related coping strategies. In her current job, Franziska is a rehabilitation consultant and works with clients who are seriously or terminally ill. For this reason, her studies focusing on death, grief, and otherworldly notions was particularly well-received in her application and ultimately constituted the decisive qualification over the other candidates. Religious scientific knowledge is extremely sought after and applicable in her professional field; especially since her clientele comes from a very tradition-conscious milieu, for whom religion still plays a crucial role. Many sick people are comforted when talking to someone who has completed a degree in Religious Studies. Of course, issues of religious criticism would also arise, since many clients would consider themselves to be in an unfortunate situation, often referring to themselves as “godless.” In such sensitive situations, content-related expertise is, of course, essential in addition to practical skills. Franziska sums up that she receives very positive feedback from her clients, their relatives, as well as from her employers about her competence in Religious Studies.

Quo vadis II (June 20, 2017)

Perspective 6: The Cultural Mediator (KulturKontakt Austria)

Sabine Forstner-Widter completed her individual diploma in Religious Studies (Mag. 2008) with a thesis on "Religiöse Elemente in Fantasy-Literatur als Bezugsquelle religionskompositorischer Weltanschauungen [Religious Elements in Fantasy Literature as a Source for Composite Religious Worldviews]." During her studies, she already started to work in the cultural sector and earned a great deal of professional experience, which helped her greatly to find a job following graduation. Her crucial advice for everyone who plans to work in the cultural field is to build a comprehensive professional network. Sabine tells that, in general, it is very difficult to gain a foothold in the cultural scene without having access to relevant networks. A first possible door opener could be an internship, which, however, all too often is on a voluntary basis. Generally, she states that the competences she gained through Religious Studies furnished her with a variety of skills that are conducive when working in the cultural sphere; such as the abilities of critical thinking and independent work, but also intercultural and religious expertise.

Furthermore, Sabine stresses the relevance of appealing applications and recommends to directing one's attention on a well-structured and generally aesthetic form; a criterion she herself applies today in her reviewing of job applications. Given that the field of Religious Studies is sometimes understood in a distorted manner, it is worthwhile—especially regarding the preparation for a job interview—to enlist the various competences one has achieved during one's studies and to name them appropriately. Sabine also advises all students to make use of courses in foreign languages offered by the university. Something she, unfortunately, omitted during her studies, and now regrets.

Perspective 5: The Art Historian (ÖAW)

Stefanie Linsboth completed her diploma studies in Religious Studies (Mag. 2011) with a thesis on "Todespersonifikationen und Geschlechterbilder in der Grafik des 20. Jahrhunderts [Personifications of Death and Gender Images in the Graphic Arts of the Twentieth century]" and she also holds a diploma in Art History (Mag. phil. 2012). During her studies, Stefanie began to work at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW)—first in the administrative and, later on, the scholarly area. Currently she is employed as a Ph.D. Fellow in a research project on the representation of Maria Theresia’s reign and works on her dissertation on the topic "Religiosität und Frömmigkeit in der visuellen Herrscherrepräsentation Maria Theresias [Religiosity and Piety in the Visual Representation of Maria Theresia’ Reign]."

Stefanie explains that it was very important for her to explore the vocational world already during her studies. Regarding her current employment, her background in Religious Studies trained her primarily in respect to methodology and theorising, since the discipline is excellent in training the students on how to appropriately handle religious diversity as well as culturality. In particular, her interdisciplinary experience—enabled by her two different degrees—was a most important element in enhancing her profile, which is highly appreciated in the professional arena, especially as an art historian. During one's studies, she stresses the need for a thematic focus on the one hand, and to work on the learning and practicing of "soft skills" on the other. As a student in a "protected habitat," one should thus learn to set aside any fear of public-speaking and making presentations and contribute as actively as possible in the various class discussions and during course seminars. This is especially relevant to students pursuing an academic career, because such skills are often needed in academe. Finally, Stefanie emphasises the importance of expanding any knowledge of foreign languages at an early stage (primarily English, and beyond, according to individual aims).

Perspective 4: The Newspaper Journalist (News)

Valerie Krb completed the individual diploma in Religious Studies (Mag. 2010) with a thesis on "Motive des Religionswechsels zur Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage [Motifs of Religious Conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]." Already during her studies, Valerie realised that she has a predilection for treating religious topics through the lens of a journalist, wherefore she completed several internships at Der Standard, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and also at the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF). These experiences confirmed her career aspiration. Presently, following a stop at Wiener Bezirkszeitung, Valerie is an editor for domestic politics at News, where she regularly introduces topics of her field of interest. She explains that during the application processes she frequently stood out because of her relatively uncommon area of expertise, since in journalism pertinent knowledge is of high value. Yet, her journalistic skills were not gained only by practical work; she also visited the Austrian Medienakademie (KfJ) in Salzburg, where she earned her degree following her studies.

Valerie's recommendation for those who are also interested in working as a journalist is to actively generate a network of contacts since many jobs are not being allocated as is common, that is, via public advertisements, but by word-of-mouth recommendations. For the very same reason, she suggests submitting unsolicited applications. As she maintains, in order to properly shape one's own career profile, it is crucial to set a topical focus during one's studies and take additional training into account. Concerning one's résumé, Valerie advises to make sure to list all personal accomplishments, which have been gained throughout one's studies and—where applicable—fieldwork experience. She holds this to be invaluable, for more often than not, Religious Studies is mistaken for Theology and people (among them, of course, also prospective employers) are positively surprised when learning about the actual breadth and identity of our subject.


Quo vadis I (January 16, 2017)

Perspective 3: The Administrator (Microbial Ecology)

Barbara Urbanic completed the individual diploma in Religious Studies (Mag.a 2014) with her thesis "Apocalypse Now-ish: Protestantischer Fundamentalismus in den USA und das Ende der Welt [Apocalypse Now-ish: Protestant Fundamentalism in the USA and the End of the World]" and currently works as administrator at the University of Vienna’s Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science. As a student, she began to work as student representative and at Student Point, which forced her to productively combine working and studying. In hindsight, she sees this as an advantage because it helped her to develop useful organisational skills. Furthermore, she regards internships, working (full- or part-time), etc. as almost indispensable for every student’s career because it allows them to obtain important qualifications for professional areas that complement their studies. It is hard to compensate for this later in life. In Barbara’s experience, employers react very positively to a degree in Religious Studies. It shows them that the candidate is able to be self-organised and work independently; having written a thesis further emphasises this. During job interviews, the degree in Religious Studies often sparked a genuine interest in the discipline itself and herself as a graduate. Barbara would like to recommend to the Religious Studies students to go after the various opportunities at the University of Vienna—for example, the plethora of courses available throughout the University.

Perspective 2: The Radio Journalist (Ö1)

Kerstin Tretina received her degree in Religious Studies (M.A. 2016) with a thesis on "Sehnsucht nach Ganzheitlichkeit: Weshalb sind Formen von holistischer Spiritualität für Frauen besonders attraktiv? [Yearning for Wholeness: Why are Forms of Holistic Spirituality Particularly Interesting to Women]." Kerstin has always seen herself as a journalist (she began to work for the Kurier newspaper at the age of 18), which is why she enrolled in an undergraduate degree in Journalism at the FH Wien. There, the head of the programme drew her attention to the possible avenues in regard to future studies. A university degree seemed very attractive to Kerstin and, after enrolling at the University of Vienna, she quickly discovered her passion for Religious Studies. Internships at a television station and the ORF radio’s information division followed. Kerstin stresses that she always had a job, including while studying. At Ö1 she was introduced to the Religion division, became a freelance employee, and has been a member of the permanent staff since 2015. Among other things, she develops reports and shows focusing on the topic of religion. Her advice to Religious Studies students: Think about and, ideally, practice to present yourself in an effective way. She finds that supplementary qualifications, particularly in the areas of integration and migration, are extremely beneficial for a successful career. Students of Religious Studies are already experts in these fields; they just have to position themselves within these areas in a clear and precise manner. Furthermore, Kerstin emphasizes the need to show initiative, as well as be attentive and receptive. The media industry views Religious Studies very positively, notably regarding the objective way of thinking: students are well-advised to adopt this unbiased approach, to know one’s own position, to avoid drawing hasty conclusions, and instead forge a personal opinion and remain critical.

Perspective 1: The Librarian (Vetmed)

Georg Zippenfenig completed the individual diploma in Religious Studies (Mag. 2012) with a thesis on "Religion am Rand des Feldes? Eine Untersuchung zu funktionalen Elementen von Religion bei Fußballfans [Religion at the Edge of the Field? A Study on Functional Elements of Religion Among Soccer Fans]." He now works at the journal division of the library of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, as well as for several working groups of the Austrian Libraries. His interest in Religious Studies and religions in general emerged when he was very young. His answer to students of Religious Studies who are dealing with their future prospects is to get a clear sense of what this discipline actually is about and what it can be for you: This understanding is what you can build upon, using your own strengths while continuously trying to improve yourselves. Like Barbara Urbanic, he emphasises the broad spectrum of courses available to students at the University of Vienna. Georg stresses the need to have a good command of English for any future career, and advises students to take courses in English or improve their language skills in other ways. Ever since his transition from the University to the professional world, Georg has received only positive reactions to his academic expertise. When it comes to job applications, he recommends to highlight the advantages (utmost objectivity, general knowledge, intercultural competence) and uniqueness of an education in Religious Studies. Ideally, you will also manage to enhance your resume by becoming an expert in an additional field. In his case, this was a degree in Library Studies.