Religion, PhD

Program Category: PhD Programs
Chair: Courtney Bender
Director of Graduate Studies: Clémence Boulouque
Degree Programs: MA/MPhil/PhD

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.

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.

Fellowships are awarded for the PhD program in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Teaching and research experience are considered an important aspect of the training of doctoral students. Thus, fellowships for students in the PhD program include up to six semesters of teaching apprenticeship. 

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.

Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society

The Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) awards a certificate in Comparative Literature and Society. For more information, see the ICLS website.

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 personal statement, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

Application Requirements

*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.