Part I: Overview

The program

The graduate study of religion is a cooperative program among the Departments of Religion at Columbia University, Barnard College, and Union Theological Seminary. The curriculum is designed to provide:

  1. In-depth study in a particular area of specialization
  2. Understanding of various methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of religion, including comparative approaches
  3. Investigation of problems or themes in one or more of the five Zones of Inquiry

Students applying to the program must indicate their area of specialization and specify one or more Zones described in more detail below.

In addition to members of the Religion Department, faculty members from other departments in the University participate in the religion program and students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich curricular and programmatic resource Columbia has to offer. By emphasizing both careful historical and critical analysis as well as creative theoretical and cross-disciplinary investigation, the program prepares students to teach an unusually broad range of courses.

Fields of study: Buddhism, Christianity, East Asian Religions, Islam, Judaism, North American Religions and South Asian Religions.

Focus areas: Time (History, Modernity); Transmission (Tradition, Memory, Institutions); Space (Place, Geography, Virtual Space); Body (Materiality, Mind, Bio-ethics); Media (Transportation, Information, Communication).

Students admitted to the PhD program will receive a fellowship that covers tuition and fees plus a stipend for living expenses for up to five years. This support includes work as a teaching assistant for six semesters. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer financial support to students in the M.A. program.

Admission and degree requirements for admission

The student must hold a bachelor's degree 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. Submission of GRE scores with the application is required. Please note, however, that there is no subject test in Religious Studies. Only the general GRE test scores are required.

Students who have not earned an M.A. must do so in the program as a prerequisite for the M.Phil. and Ph.D degrees.

The application deadline is December 15th.

General degree requirements

  1. All incoming students should consult the Director of Graduate Studies and the faculty member(s) most closely associated with their particular area of interest
  2. Students will be appointed an advisor in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies based on interests no later than their second semester of the program
  3. The academic progress of every active student is evaluated by the faculty annually
  4. The progress of first year students will be evaluated by the faculty, based on work in GR6101 and GR6102 and other courses completed during the year
  5. Graduate Apprenticeship: Students on departmental fellowships are required to serve as teaching assistants for three years. This experience is a vital part of the education of teachers and scholars. Some outside fellowships do not allow students to serve as TAs, however, and the department will honor that. Check with the Director of Graduate Studies for details. No teaching is allowed in the first year, so that students can concentrate on their studies.