Why study Religious Studies?

Religions have been and remain among the most powerful forces shaping human history. Their discourses and practices inform the way we perceive ourselves, those around us, and existence at large, even when we are not actively religious. They are central to understanding both what divides us and what unites us. The academic study of religion is a trans-disciplinary endeavor to understand from an objective perspective how religious traditions shape the lives of their adherents, without seeking to promote or disprove any specific belief system. Religious Studies acquaints students with the diversity of religious cultures and introduces them to key methods and theories employed in their examination as "religion."

For those interested in working towards a Ph.D. in Religious Studies and a career in academics, or embarking on an equivalent level of training in a related profession, Religious Studies is equipped to help the individual student acquire the skills needed for advanced levels of study, whether it be specialized work in languages, methodological approaches, or area studies. The study of religion being an inherently interdisciplinary field, the Department faculty shares synergies with colleagues and programs across the campus that enable students to seek specialized training in a diversity of regions, cultures, and approaches to the study of religion. Our faculty is committed to help the individual student articulate the intellectual and professional objectives that have brought him or her to study of religion, and to acquire the training to see these goals to fruition. The Department of Religious Studies at KU is able to provide substantial financial support for students seeking the MA degree.

Admission to Graduate Studies

An applicant seeking to pursue graduate study in the College may be admitted as either a degree-seeking or non-degree seeking student. Policies and procedures of Graduate Studies govern the process of Graduate admission. These may be found in the Graduate Studies section of the online catalog.

Please consult the Departments & Programs section of the online catalog for information regarding program-specific admissions criteria and requirements. Special admissions requirements pertain to Interdisciplinary Studies degrees, which may be found in the Graduate Studies section of the online catalog.

Graduate Admission

Eligibility criteria for admission to the M.A.program follow Graduate Studies' admission policy.Non-native speakers of English must meet English proficiency requirements as described hereA Bachelor's degree in Religious Studies is not required for admission, but the department expects applicants to show on their transcripts significant exposure to the humanities and social sciences.

For all domestic or international M.A. applicants, please check the application requirements through the Religious Studies Admission page.

Potential students must submit a complete online graduate application. For additional questions regarding program requirements and application processes, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Jackie Brinton. Applicants may also contact the department directly: 

The University of Kansas
Department of Religious Studies
Smith Hall, Room 109A
1300 Oread Ave. | Lawrence, KS 66045

785-864-4341 | rstudies@ku.edu


M.A. Degree Requirements

The department offers thesis and non-thesis M.A. options. The requirements for these are:

1. 30 (thesis) or 33 (non-thesis) graduate credit hours, chosen in consultation with the student's advisor or the Graduate Director. Coursework must include the following:

(a) REL 601 Approaches to the Study of Religion (3 hrs)

(b) Three graduate seminars (courses numbered 700 or above, excluding REL 800 Readings and REL 899 Thesis), of which two must be chosen from the following set of theory and method-oriented seminars (9 hrs):

REL 727Seminar in Religion, Text and Textuality3
REL 737Seminar in Religion, Media and Performance3
REL 747Seminar in Religion, Society and Social Change3
REL 757Seminar in Religious Subjectivity, Experience, and Narrative3
REL 767Seminar in Theory, Method, and History in Religious Studies3

(c) One course focusing on Western Religious Traditions and one course focusing on Non-Western Religious Traditions (see Table below). (6 hrs)

(d) At least 12 hours (4 courses) in an articulated concentration of the student’s own design. These courses may overlap with those in (b) and (c) above.

(e) For thesis students, 1-3 credit hours of REL 899 Thesis.

(f) A total of at least 18 (thesis) or 21 (non-thesis) graduate credit hours in Religious Studies, including (a)–(e) above, plus electives if applicable. Remaining hours may be taken outside of the department.

2. A final examination:

(a) For the thesis option, the student must write and orally defend a thesis that meets minimum department and University requirements.

(b) For the non-thesis option, the student must produce and orally defend a research portfolio.

Graduate Handbook: Further information on fulfillment of degree requirements and other department and University policies and procedures can be found in the Department of Religious Studies Graduate Handbook, available on the department webpage.

Approved Courses for Requirement 1(c):

A. Western Religious Traditions
Select one of the following:
Studies in Early Christian Literature and History
Jews and Christians
Christian Origins: from the Beginnings to Augustine
Studies in Christianity
Studies in Islam
Modern Islamic Reform Movements
Modern Jewish Thought
Studies in Judaism
Seminar in Western Religious Texts: _____
Seminar in Western Religious Thought: _____
Seminar in Religion and Society in the West: _____
B. Non-Western Religious Traditions
Select one of the following:
Religion in India
Religion in China
Religion in Japan
Religion in Korea
Gods and Goddesses of South Asia
Hindu Epics, Past and Present
Yoga in Theory, Practice, and History
Buddhists and Buddhism in China
Seminar in Eastern Religious Texts: _____
Seminar in Eastern Religious Thought: _____
Seminar in Religion and Society in Asia: _____