Skip navigation
Religious Studies

Religious Studies 2013-2014

Degree Requirements


The MA in Religious Studies requires a minimum of 45 hours of coursework, including one theory and methods course as well as three "traditions" courses, which provide a solid grounding in three of the five major world religious traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

Students must also take at least 16 hours in one of six areas of specialization:

  • Biblical studies. Students must take in addition to the core requirements at least one course in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam plus at least one additional course in either Judaism or Christianity. Students will also be expected to meet minimum competency standards in either Hebrew or Koiné Greek.
  • Theory of religion. Students must take approved courses in each of the three theoretical areas of the study of religion: philosophy of religion, psychology of religion, anthropology of religion. The remaining course, or courses, can be chosen from the department's approved list of courses for the area of specialization.
  • International and multicultural studies. This specialization focuses on the role of religion within the context of the globalization process. Particular attention may be given to certain regions such as the Americas, Europe, or Asia. Students must take at least one course in a specific religious tradition beyond the core requirements as well as one course in the theory of religion that pertains to international and multicultural studies. Finally, students must take at least four hours of course work (including independent study, an internship, service learning, or field work) at a location outside North America that meet the student's curricular and long-term professional goals. Depending on the program of study, the department may require a competency exam in a relevant language.
  • Philosophy of religion. Students must take at least two courses in the theory of religion plus one course in a specific philosopher, or philosophers, from each of the two historical periods: ancient and modern (Plato to Kant), late modern and postmodern (Hegel to the present). The remaining courses can be chosen from the department's approved list of courses for this area of specialization, and will likely involve additional courses taken in the Philosophy Department.
  • Islamic studies. This specialization introduces students to the textual foundations of Islamic theology and legal reasoning, as well as exposing them to major issues in the development of Islamic traditions, contemporary developments, and particularly questions of reform and fundamentalism. In addition to RLGS 3500, students must take a minimum of three additional courses dealing with Islam. Students must pass a competency examination in Arabic, equivalent to two years of coursework.
  • World religions. This specialization focuses on the major world religious traditions, as well as enabling students to look comparatively at these traditions. In addition to the core requirements, students must take at least four courses in the world's major religious traditions.

Students must declare an area of specialization after completing 32 hours of course work.
In order to complete the MA degree, students must revise a research paper into a journal article, write a thesis, pass a set of comprehensive examinations, or complete a substantive research project. To be eligible for the journal article, students must have a 3.5 GPA; to be eligible for the thesis option, students must have a minimum 3.3 GPA. Students pursuing the journal article option will research religious studies journals and select an appropriate target journal with their adviser's approval. They will expand a course research paper into an article appropriate for the selected journal. Students pursuing the thesis option will expand a course research paper into a graduate thesis of 50-60 pages. Both the article and the thesis should allow students to make an original contribution to the field of religious studies, as well as to demonstrate a mastery of relevant theories and background literature.

The comprehensive examination will consist of three written exams over two successive days. Exam questions will deal respectively with two of the five major religious traditions (one drawn from Judaism, Christianity or Islam; one drawn from either Buddhism or Hinduism) and the theory of religion. General bibliographies for the exams, on which the student will be tested, must be worked out with the instructor administering the exam. Students pursuing the project option will develop a project that will allow them to make an original contribution to the field of applied religious studies. It may take several forms but should include a substantive written component and a formal presentation. Please note that all completion option defenses may only be scheduled during the regular academic year: Fall, winter, or spring quarters.

The Department of Religious Studies allows graduate students to transfer up to 10 hours of previous graduate course work from another institution or another department at the University during the first quarter of the student's admission to the program. The transfer must be approved by the department as well as by the Office of Graduate Studies. Similarly, the Department allows students to earn waivers for the traditions requirements by submitting syllabi from similar courses taken at the undergraduate level.
Students may also take up to 15 hours in independent study outside the regular course listings of the Department of Religious Studies. These hours may include courses outside the Department as well.

In order for a course to fulfill degree requirements, students must earn a B- or better. The minimum grade for any elective course taken for the degree is a C.