Religious Studies Graduate Schools & Campus Religious Studies Programs
Religious Studies Graduate Schools award religious studies degrees at the Masters and Doctoral levels, as well as graduate certificates. At each of these levels, a graduate degree program in religious studies addresses complex religious, ethical, and social issues.
Religious Studies Graduate Schools & Religious Studies Degrees
Religious Studies Graduate Schools may house their programs in either a university religion department, divinity school, or behavioral sciences school.
Some departments don’t adhere to a specific faith tradition or teach from a theologically pre-set point of view. Students might therefore be encouraged to study a wide variety of religious traditions and forms of expression.
Other universities might offer programs that are faith-based. These graduate schools might help students grow their knowledge and skills in a religious framework or in an area such as pastoral counseling.
Interested students could look for religious studies graduate schools with the following program emphases.
- Biblical Studies
- Christian (Pastoral) Counseling
- General Religious Studies
Just What Is Religious Studies?
Religious studies graduate programs often explore religions, religious belief systems, and religious practices throughout history. They often delve into human motivation, and examine various forms of rituals and expression.
A religious studies graduate program might look at world religions as organic sources for values and ethics. The courses in religious studies might therefore focus on sources (texts), theories, and (comparative) religious traditions.
For some general examples of course topics, see below and then refer to individual Religious Studies Graduate Schools to review their syllabus.
- Religious Traditions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism)
- Theory (e.g. Psychology of Religion, Religious Ethics)
- Religious Texts (e.g. Old & New Testaments, Dead Sea Scrolls)
To Practice or Research?
Individuals who are keen on finding universities for religious studies graduate programs could find two rather distinct types of religious studies degrees. These are (1) research and academic programs and (2) practice and professional programs.
Students could therefore seek a program that fosters the scholarly study of religions, belief systems, and institutions. Or, they may choose to look for a program rooted in theology, Biblical studies, faith-based counseling and ministry leadership.
Some universities that offer religious studies degrees might also offer joint programs in religious and theological studies. As a degree seeker, you might therefore choose a graduate school in line with professional goals and or academic interests.
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Masters in Religious Studies Programs & Schools
Universities with Masters in Religious Studies programs might offer a Master of Arts (MA) in Religious Studies, Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling, or a Master of Theological Studies (MTS), among other possibilities. Applicants to most programs need to have earned an accredited Bachelors degree.
Master of Arts in Religious Studies
A Master of Arts in religious studies typically stresses breadth of knowledge in several religious traditions, but gives room for students to select a focused area of study. Because of the accent placed on intellectual and scholarly research, the MA is often a platform for a PhD. However, on its own, the MA might hone cross-cultural analytical skills, which could be useful in other endeavors.
The courses in an MA program vary between schools, though a curriculum could entail 36 to 45 credits that a full-time student might finish in two years. To complete the degree, students typically take required courses that might examine theory and methods in the study of religion.
From there, the MA is often flexible in that students get to choose the traditions they want to study as well as their intended area of emphasis. Areas of emphasis are different between Religious Studies Graduate Schools, so whether a school has yours might be a great differentiator for the seeker.
Some examples of focus areas include, but are not limited to:
- Theory of Religion
- Philosophy and Religion
- Religion and International Affairs
- Biblical Studies
- World Religions
- Jewish-Christian Studies
Students often cap their degree with a final thesis.
Master of Theological Studies
A Master of Theological Studies program usually provides participants with the chance to reflect on Christian life and the role of the church in present-day society. Also, it might help students to develop skills necessary for effective ministry whether in churches, mission agencies, or elsewhere. Consequently, some students might choose to complete field education electives in areas such as pastoral leadership, church administration, or student ministries.
While the courses vary between universities, in some theology schools, they are designed to help students build theological and research skills in three major areas of study: (1) Biblical Studies, (2) Theological Studies, and (3) Leadership Studies. Consequently, in their core coursework, students might examine topics such as:
- Old and New Testament
- Moral Issues
- Sermon Preparation
- Pastoral Care and Counseling
- Intercultural and Urban Ministry
To complete their degree, students may have a choice of an integrative seminar, directed reading, or thesis project.
PhD in Religious Studies Programs
Many universities offer terminal research programs in religious studies such as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Theology. Applicants to some programs may need an MDiv or equivalent degree; a master's degree in religion, theology, or philosophy; or a bachelors degree with a strong background in religion, theology, and/or philosophy. Other students might enroll in a joint Master of Arts/PhD, where some of the doctoral courses could be folded into the master's program.
The structure of a PhD in Theology could vary in each school. Most programs entail scholarship in the form of a dissertation, professional development, and teaching formation. Also, students typically select an area of emphasis. This could be in an area such as, but not limited to, the History of Christianity, Biblical Studies, or Theological Ethics. Beyond this, each doctoral student may need to pass examinations in at least two languages.
Graduate Certificate in Religious Studies
In some universities, students who want to pursue graduate studies might opt for a graduate certificate program. These shorter, non-degree programs could award a certificate in addition to a Masters program in a related topic, or as a stand-alone credential. Most certificates entail fewer courses than a graduate degree in religious studies, and focus on a single topic. For instance, students may have to complete about six courses.
In some schools, a Graduate Certificate in Religious Studies could include introductory graduate-level courses in some of the major religious traditions. Students might also gain some exposure to various theories and might engage with major issues in a religious tradition or aspect of religion.
Why Attend a Campus Religious Studies Program?
Students who pursue their degree on campus often do so with a cohort of classmates and plenty of interaction. In-person lectures could also bring opportunities for mentoring and professional development. Most universities have ample resources for research, which could be an asset when it comes to literary review and thesis preparation for your religious studies degree.
Accreditation for Religious Studies Graduate Schools
Degree seekers could look for regionally accredited Religious Studies Graduate Schools. This third-party review is voluntary, and shows that a school has met or surpassed quality measures. Also, accredited schools could be eligible for federal financial aid.
At another level, approved schools may have individually-accredited programs by agencies who themselves are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This type of quality control speaks to a program’s curriculum and may be important for students who will seek ministerial credentials post-degree.
Some of the possible programmatic accreditors for religious studies graduate programs might include the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the Association for Biblical Higher Education, or the Association of Theological Schools accreditation commissions. It is, however, up to the student to see if a school has kept up their status.
Find a Religious Studies Graduate School
Ready to select a Religious Studies Graduate Program? Easily compare sponsored Religious Studies Graduate Schools with the help of the on-page filters. Start out with your subject – Biblical Studies or Theology for example. Then, choose the degree level – Masters, Doctorate, or PhD, or just look for graduate schools with a campus in your preferred location.
Find a great program? Take the next step and contact the university with the provided form right here.
- Costa Mesa, CACosta Mesa, CA
Vanguard’s graduate religion faculty challenge students to engage their professional discipline passionately and contemplatively. With each passing class session, you will gain Biblical knowledge and skills that will inform your work and service...
- South Orange, NJSouth Orange, NJ
Seton Hall University
Since 1975, this program has taught students the history, theology, ethics and scriptures of the Jewish and Christian faiths...
- San Francisco, CASan Francisco, CA
California Institute of Integral Studies
Explore worldviews, philosophies, and religion in understanding and responding to interconnected global ecological crises.
- Boulder, COBoulder, CO
Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality
The Fox Institute is the first university to offer a doctoral degree in spirituality...
- Chestnut Hill, MAChestnut Hill, MA
Historical Theology/History of Christianity, Systematic Theology, Biblical Studies, Theological Ethics or Comparative Theology...
- Columbia, SCColumbia, SC
Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary
The Master of Divinity, or M.Div. degree is earned in a four-year curriculum: three years in residence and one year of supervised internship.
- Springfield, MOSpringfield, MO
Assemblies Of God Theological Seminary
The Master of Theological Studies is 48 hour degree for those who wish to enhance their effectiveness in ministry, including specialized areas such as...
- Springfield, MO
- Kobe, JapanKobe, Japan
Kwansei Gakuin University
- Saint Louis, MOSaint Louis, MO
Aquinas Institute Of Theology
We are a Dominican-sponsored school partnering with the Jesuit-run Saint Louis University.
- Montgomery, ALMontgomery, AL
Amridge University (formerly Southern Christian University)
This program is specifically designed to provide our graduates with a wide variety of management skills that include team building, leadership develop...
- Montgomery, AL
- Bangor, MEBangor, ME
Bangor Theological Seminary
An ecumenical seminary in the Congregational tradition of the United Church of Christ, training ministers and providing for the study of religion in N...
- Philadelphia, PAPhiladelphia, PA
La Salle University
La Salle's Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry provides a solid theological education, preparing students for lay ministry in the church, as well as providing a foundation for more advanced studies.
- Philadelphia, PA
- Auckland, New ZealandAuckland, New Zealand
Bible College of New Zealand
- Princeton, NJPrinceton, NJ
Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton Theological Seminary is a professional and graduate school of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.
- Prague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech Republic
International Baptist Theological Seminary
Both MTh courses are administered in cooperation with Spurgeon`s College, London, and validated by the University of Wales.Each course takes 48 semest...
- Anderson, INAnderson, IN
The School of Theology is a graduate professional school of Anderson University, rooted in the heritage of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), prep...
- Seoul, KoreaSeoul, Korea
Seoul National University