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M.A. – Grad

The M.A. Program

The M.A. degree provides a broad background in the study of religious traditions and theoretical orientations in the discipline. An M.A. student can choose whether s/he will concentrate in one of the five areas of study. If s/he chooses to do so, s/he needs to take the courses recommended for that field of specialization. If s/he chooses not to, s/he can pick courses from across the fields. Course work usually culminates in a thesis and an oral examination on the thesis and course work.

Total credits

Thirty credit hours are required. These include Method and Theory I & II, the Interdisciplinary Seminar, the recommended course(s) of the student’s major field (or equivalent for those not in one of the five fields), and six hours of thesis research credits (or, for non-thesis, a written and oral examination). The additional hours shall consist of further courses in the area of specialization, other graduate seminars, and up to six hours of advanced research language study.

NOTE: in special circumstances, such as fulfilling an out-of-department environmental science credit or acquiring needed background training, undergraduate 4000 level courses can be taken for graduate credit.


Each student, guided by a supervisory committee which she or he has designated by the end of their second semester, will prepare a Master of Arts thesis, acceptable to the Department of Religion and the Graduate School, The student is expected to present the completed thesis and defend it at a public oral defense conducted by all members of the supervisory committee. Each member must certify on the signature page that he or she has read the final version of the manuscript and found it acceptable in scope and quality. All members must sign the Final Examination Report. The entire supervisory committee must attend the thesis defense (student and chair or co-chair must be physically present; all others may attend remotely).


Students who choose the non-thesis option, will take a final written and oral exam. The written exam is “closed book” and six hours in duration. Students with special needs and those whose native language is not English can petition for special accommodations. The petition will be reviewed by the graduate committee. The oral exam lasts between an hour and a half and two hours. The oral examination will be based on the answers to the written examination. Grading and criteria for grading will be the same as for the Qualifying Examinations.

Language study

All M.A. students are encouraged to demonstrate competence in a scholarly language other than English relevant to their area of research and teaching prior to beginning the thesis. The chosen language and how the student’s competence will be judged must be approved by the student’s supervisory committee chair. Frequently, language competence is met through (1) taking an appropriate course or courses in the language with a grade of B or better or (2) passing a language comprehension exam (usually administered by a department member or a language department at the University). Basic course work for scholarly languages will not count toward the required 30 credit hours. However, students studying a scholarly language connected to their research needs, above and beyond basic competence, can receive six or more credit hours for such specialized courses toward the required 30 total credit hours with approval of the student’s supervisory committee chair and the graduate coordinator.

NOTE: The Graduate School requires that all work counted toward the master’s degree must be completed during the seven years immediately preceding the date on which the degree is awarded.

Promotion to doctoral status

The Department anticipates admitting only the best qualified M.A. students to the doctoral program, except in cases of an exceptional undergraduate major in religion. Resident graduate students who wish to apply for doctoral status (i.e., permission to fulfill requirements leading to doctoral qualifying examinations) must apply during the semester before they wish that status to be changed. A review and decision will be made by the field faculty and the graduate committee.

NOTE: Students admitted to the doctoral program prior to completion of the M.A. will be admitted provisionally and their application reviewed following successful completion of the M.A. degree.