Religion, MA

Program Category: MA Programs
Chair: Courtney Bender
Director of Graduate Studies: Clémence Boulouque
MA Program Director: Zhaohua Yang
Degree Programs: Full-Time/Part-Time: Free-Standing MA

The Graduate Program in Religion is a cooperative program between the Departments of Religion at Columbia University, Barnard College, and Union Theological Seminary. It is designed for the study of the history, literature, theory, and functions of religion, in its various forms, within different societies and cultures. A distinctive feature of the program is the opportunity for students not only to gain advanced training in specific fields of religious studies, but also to acquire a basic knowledge of the world’s major religious traditions and of the principal methods and theories employed in the study of religion. Such knowledge is useful as preparation for teaching courses of broad scope and as a background for more focused study.

The Religion department offers a free-standing MA in Religion that may be completed on a full-time or part-time basis. Students enrolled full-time complete the degree in two or three semesters. The part-time MA provides a period of graduate study in religion, including research experience, at the same level as the full-time MA. Part-time students are allowed eight semesters for completion of the degree. It is primarily intended for mature students with established careers who do not intend to go on to the PhD. Prospective students should note, however, that most of the required courses are offered during the day rather than the evening, and participation thus presupposes some flexibility in work hours for students who are otherwise employed.

In addition to the ten million volumes available in Columbia’s Libraries (including Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary), students have access to the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Columbia students may also avail themselves of the resources of the New York Public Library, one of the finest in the country. Many other intellectual and cultural resources, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Asia Society, enhance the opportunities for creative research in New York City.

The Department of Religion also offers a dual MS/MA degree in Journalism and Religion in cooperation with Columbia’s School of Journalism.

Fields of Study

Buddhism, Christianity, East Asian Religions, Islam, Judaism, North American Religions, Philosophy of Religion, South Asian Religions

For Admission

The student must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in the United States or the international equivalent with a record that indicates capacity for graduate work of high quality. Preparation should include language study as may be required for work in the proposed area of specialization. There should be extensive work in the liberal arts, including history, literature, and philosophy, as well as in the social sciences. If the proposed area of concentration is a social-scientific approach to the study of religion, there should also be extra work in the social sciences.

Special Admissions Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a writing sample (a course paper, term paper, etc.), a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation from academic sources. Students accepted into the program must submit official transcripts.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.