The premise of the M.A. degree is that the work taking place in our field has wide relevance — promoting both critical analysis and innovative communication skills to convey the relevance of our work are therefore the cornerstones of the degree. Our 36 credit hour master of arts (M.A.) degree program (2 years of full-time course work, including a final thesis) therefore focuses on providing students with two critical foundations:

  • becoming conversant in contemporary social theory and applying it to their area of interest in the study of religion
  • developing competencies in the tools of the public, digital humanities

In their first semester students will not only be reading widely in social theory and applying it to an historical, regional, or ethnographic example of their choice, but will also be gaining familiarity with a wide variety of digital tools — from video and audio recording and editing, to making webpages and working with “big data” — that will assist them in sharing those findings.

Designed for students hoping to pursue doctoral work, the degree is also explicitly intended for those aiming to use these skills in any number of other professions — places where the analytic skills gained from working in social theory are enhanced by their communication skills and digital expertise.

Consult the requirements below or visit the Grad School’s online catalog for more information.

Degree Requirements

Students will usually enroll in 9 credit hours per semester.

Required Courses

1. Six hours of Foundation courses will be taken in the fall semester of the first year:

2. Nine hours of required courses will be taken in the spring of the second year:

  • Capstone Seminar
  • Six hours of Thesis Research

Elective Courses

In consultation with their advisors, students will complete an additional 21 hours of graduate course work, including independent study courses and seminars in REL, plus graduate courses from other departments (in consultation with advisor). For example, depending on the student’s program of study, courses in foreign languages, taught through the Department of Modern Languages and Classics, may be recommended.

Colloquium and Journal Group

In addition, a required (for first year MA students), non-credit Graduate Colloquium, led by the Graduate Director, meets monthly to discuss a variety of professional issues in the study of religion in particular and higher ed in general. The monthly journal group, also organized by the Graduate Director and attended by REL faculty and all graduate students, offers second-year MA students the opportunity to select an article of relevance to their thesis work and lead an informal discussion.


Students will also earn up to three additional certificates (none of which require a fee): one in online pedagogy, one in the digital humanities, and one in museum studies (if desired–the museum studies certificate is not required). Learn more about these certificates here.