Program Overview

The Department of Religion offers full-time graduate programs leading to master’s (M.A.) and doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees. All applicants to the Graduate Program in Religion at Temple must apply either for admission to the M.A. or to the Ph.D. program, and a student’s admission will be to one or the other of these. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program directly may pick up the M.A. degree on the way to their Ph.D. when they have fulfilled the M.A. requirements. Students admitted only to the M.A. program may apply for the Ph.D. program separately upon completing their M.A.; such applications are considered on the same basis as all other new Ph.D. applications.

As a component of a large state-related university, the Graduate Program in Religion at Temple deals with religion as an academic discipline without bias or favoritism for one religious or philosophical tradition over another, nor for any particular form of spirituality or secularism. While part of the program’s purpose is to offer a broad coverage of the phenomena of religion in the world in general, it also possesses certain areas of greater strength according to the specializations and knowledge of its faculty. One area of major emphasis is Religion, Race, and Ethnicity.

Students will encounter two broad categories of graduate courses at Temple. First are general introductory courses, called Foundations courses, for specialists and non-specialists alike. These cover a broad spectrum of religious traditions. Each course covers the basic thought, practices, and history of one of the following: African religions, African American religions, Buddhism, Chinese religions, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, or Judaism. Other Foundations courses deal with methodologies in the study of religion, including historical-textual, social scientific, and philosophical approaches. Foundations courses are designed to provide a broad background both in discrete religious traditions and in methodology for students in the M.A. program or in the first two years of the Ph.D. program. Second are advanced or specialized seminars in the areas of expertise of the professors. These include in particular courses dealing with religion, race, and ethnicity in various traditions, time periods, and areas of the world. Other courses outside of this area are also available. Some specialized seminars may be counted on a case-by-case basis as Foundations courses at the discretion of the director of graduate studies.

Program Goals

After completing this program, students should be able think critically, write well and engage with diverse communities around the globe. Students leave the program with an appreciation of the diversity of religious expression and an understanding of some of the world’s most important traditions. Because virtually all of our students take our most popular course, Death and Dying, they are able to deal with the persistence of loss in their everyday lives and the lives of their family, friends, and community. Many of our graduates go on to become leaders in their communities. They are teachers, administrators, doctors, and lawyers.

Degrees and Programs of Study

The Department of Religion at Temple University offers a 30-credit master’s degree program designed for the following students:

  • For those seeking to qualify for a Ph.D. program in religion or a related field. (Note: Admission to the Temple Ph.D. program requires a new, separate application. See below under “Requirements for Admission into the Ph.D. Program”).
  • For those who plan to teach study of religion subject matter in community colleges or high schools.
  • For those in various forms of religious ministry who wish to pursue further postgraduate training and exposure to the newest research methods and developments in the understanding of their own or other religious and cultural traditions.
  • For those who wish to bring cultural and cross-cultural analytical tools to professions such as business, social work, medicine, government and journalism.
  • For qualified persons in the general public who would like the opportunity to acquire competence in the study of religions, values, and cultures broadly defined, and in areas of special interest to the student.

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Students take at least 12 credits of relevant foundations courses, 12 credits of elective seminars and/or individual study, and 6 additional credits. 3 or 6 credits of this work may be taken in graduate courses outside the department in a cognate field at Temple University. Up to 6 credits may be transferred from approved graduate study elsewhere if relevant to the student’s program. Upon entry to the M.A. program, the new student should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies for advice on the best choice of courses to meet that student’s needs.

No later than at the completion of their first 18 semester hours of coursework the student should choose either the thesis or portfolio option, as well as an advisor for the final project. This choice must be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee. The advisor will have primary responsibility for supervising the student’s work for the remainder of the program and will be the primary reader of the thesis or portfolio. See the graduate bulletin for more information.

The 60-semester-hour (s.h.) Ph.D. program generally includes the following types of courses:

  • Foundation courses
  • Advanced or specialized courses
  • Courses outside religion studies
  • Dissertation research (after preliminary exams)

The Ph.D. program is divided into three sequential units of studies:

  • Unit I: The first 24 s.h. of courses, including all the required foundation courses, and satisfying a first foreign language requirement. These courses are intended to provide a firm and broad academic base across the field of religious studies. The foundation courses must include 12 s.h. of courses in the basic thought, practices, and history of three particular religious traditions and 3 s.h. in an introductory methodology course. The remaining 9 s.h. consist of advanced or specialized courses chosen by the student for the benefit of his or her program after consultation with the advisor.
  • Unit II: The remaining courses and second language competency to complete the required specialization in preparation for the preliminary examinations and the dissertation proposal. These include 24 s.h. of further advanced or specialized courses and 6 s.h. of courses taken outside of the department, for a total of 30 s.h.
  • Unit III: The writing and defending the dissertation. The student registers for 6 s.h. of dissertation research, usually one s.h. per semester.

Admissions Process

Admission requirements to the graduate program in religion follow the general requirements established by the Graduate School at Temple University. Please see the Graduate School Bulletin.


Graduate students who have successfully completed the master’s program or the doctoral program in religion have a host of opportunities for employment awaiting them. Based on the data the Department of Religion has collected over a 20-year period, the clear majority of graduates have found jobs in higher education, with most of them finding tenure-track positions in colleges and universities. Others have secured employment in higher education administration; as full-time clergy combined with administration of theological centers or theological schools; in chaplaincies in health care facilities or the armed services; as senior technical writers at private sector corporations or foundations; and as administrators at interfaith centers. Those who pursue a graduate degree in religion have a solid foundation to translate their degree into a wide variety of jobs.

Graduate Resources