Religious Studies, MA

The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies offers a program of study leading to the Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies. Emphasizing the comparative study of religions, the School seeks to understand the phenomena of religion across a wide spectrum of cultural contexts and historical periods.

Reflecting the different interests and areas of expertise of the faculty, the curriculum incorporates a variety of approaches to the subject, including the cultural, historical, literary, sociological, and theological aspects. Primary areas of emphasis include religion in the Americas (African-American, Latin American, Native American, and North American religions), modern Western theological and ethical thought, Buddhism, Christianity, East and Southeast Asian religions, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

Comparative themes and issues are central to the curriculum. These include: religion and gender, religion, nationalism and ethnicity, religion and science, religion and modernity, mysticism, popular religion, ritual studies, and symbolism. Although students often concentrate upon a single religious tradition for their thesis work, the program seeks to provide a broadly comparative understanding of religions, not simply a specialist's training in a single tradition. 

Religious Studies Graduate Faculty


Faculty Research Areas

Contact Information:

Graduate Coordinator

The MA in Religious Studies requires 30 credit hours, and is typically completed in 2 years.

 Program Milestones

  • Coursework
  • Foreign language requirement
  • Completion and final defense of a thesis or non-thesis portfolio

For more information, please review the Religious Studies MA Handbook, 2017-2018 or the SHPRS Graduate Resources Website.

The admissions committee in religious studies seeks applicants whose research interests can be well served by the members of our graduate faculty at ASU. We have a very diverse faculty with a wide range of interests, which you can explore on our website. Prospective students are encouraged to contact the faculty member(s) they may want to work with during their time at ASU. Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Transcripts must show evidence of having completed the equivalent of 15 credit hours of undergraduate work in the study of religions, including advanced courses in both western and Asian or other nonwestern religions. Applicants who have not met this requirement may be required to take additional coursework beyond program requirements to remedy this deficiency. Applicants must have a minimum of a 3.30 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of a student's first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program. The most competitive applicants will have a GPA of 3.50 or higher.  


  1. Online Electronic Application: Fill out Graduate Admissions application.
  2. References: The name, institution/company, and exact email addresses of three (3) electronic references from faculty or others qualified to provide an accurate evaluation of your potential as a graduate student.
  3. GRE: Official GRE Scores are sent to ASU code 4007 (leave department code blank). Scores should be no more than five years old.
  4. Statement of Purpose: Upload a statement of purpose of about 1,000 words (3-4 pages double-spaced) describing your academic background, reasons for wishing to pursue an M.A. in Religious Studies, the proposed area of specialization, and specific research topics you plan to engage in at Arizona State University.
  5. Writing Sample: A sample of the applicant's original scholarly writing should be submitted as part of the electronic application. The sample should be between 15 and 30 pages in length and represent the applicant's strongest academic writing.
  6.  CVUpload into online application.
  7.  Transcripts: Official transcripts must be sent directly to Graduate Admission Services from the issuing institution(s).
  8. TOEFL: An applicant whose native language is not English (regardless of current residency) must follow Graduate Admission guidelines for demonstrating English language proficiency. The religious studies program requires an iBT TOEFL score of at least 80 or a PBT TOEFL score of 550. TOEFL scores should be sent electronically from ETS (Educational Testing Services) to ASU.

 All uploads must be in either .doc or .pdf format.

The graduate program offers a curriculum that has six main areas of specialization. These six areas are not precise divisions of the curriculum, but represent main orientations of the program in terms of the combined research and teaching expertise of the faculty.

Religions in the Americas
The religious history and experience of Native Americans and immigrant religions from Africa, Asia and Europe, and their interrelationships in Central, South, and North America.

Comparative and Historical Studies of Religion
Historical studies of religious traditions and comparative studies of related phenomena and issues in two or more traditions. Particular emphasis, beyond the Americas, in Buddhism, Christianity, including Eastern Orthodoxy, East and Southeast Asian religions, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Russian religious history.

Critical Studies of Religion
Theoretical and normative studies in religion, including theological and ethical inquiry, critical theory and cultural studies.

Religion and Modernity
The impact of the Enlightenment, science and technology, colonialism, and other developments in the modern period upon individuals and religious communities around the world.

Religion, Society, and Power
The study of conflict and power in relation to religious movements and discourses, including issues of identity, gender, class, race, ethnicity, and violence.

Religion and Science
The historical and philosophical study of the relationship between science and religion during different historical periods and in different cultural settings.

Degree Offered

Religious Studies, MA
Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of


Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study

Application Deadline

January 15

Financing Your Education

Learn more about the financial support and graduate fellowships available.