University of Pittsburgh
three small photographs depicting various religious icons

Department of Religious Studies


Master's Program

The Master of Arts degree typically takes two years of full-time study to complete and requires 27 credits of course work beyond the BA. Students entering the graduate program with a bachelor’s degree earn an MA before continuing in the PhD program.

Our director of graduate studies is Dr. Adam Shear (2603 CL, 412.624.2280).

East Jerusalam market
Course Work

MA course work includes the core theories and methods course on Perspectives on Religion (3 credits); one course on theories or methods related to the student’s primary methodological focus, e.g., anthropology, history, philosophy (3 credits); four courses in the area of concentration (12 credits); two courses outside the area of concentration (6 credits); and three credits devoted to preparation of the comprehensive examination and/or the research and writing of the MA thesis.

Language Training

There are no formal, departmental language examinations for the MA. For students anticipating a PhD as the final degree sought, when applicable, an intermediate level of reading competency in a modern and/or classical foreign language judged necessary for research and standard in a student’s area of concentration is required for admission into the MA program. Additional modern and/or classical language study, as appropriate, may be required as part of the student’s professional training.

Comprehensive Examination

Students take a two-part comprehensive examination within the first 18 months (three terms) of entering the program. Students complete Perspectives on Religion and one other methods and/or theories in the study of religion seminar and submit a research paper (6,000 word minimum, exclusive of bibliography) from each seminar demonstrating command of at least one of the methodological approaches introduced in the seminar or applying that methodology to a problem or issue in the academic study of religion. One paper of the student's choosing is defended at a one-hour meeting before a three-person committee. Learn More


Students begin formulating a thesis topic with their advisor early in the program. The thesis is an original, article-length research essay in the student’s area of concentration (generally a minimum of 9,000 words, exclusive of bibliography) and may be developed from a seminar paper or as an independent research project. Learn More

Continuing in the PhD Program

The MA is awarded upon the successful completion of the thesis. Students in good standing and with the requisite language training for PhD work can expect to continue in the PhD program.

More on Procedural Issues

Religious Studies Graduate Student Handbook (PDF)

Revised 07/27/12 | Copyright 2007 | Site by UMC WebTeam