Religious Studies, PhD

The graduate program in Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania offers unique research opportunities for students to become first class scholars, teachers and expositors in the field. Our program is situated within one of the largest and finest research universities in the country, easily accessible to other research centers along the eastern seaboard. At the same time, the Department of Religious Studies provides students with a great deal of individual attention from faculty members, and the opportunity to interact with students from diverse subfields.

Within this context of extensive resources and personalized guidance, each student works with an advisor to design his or her own course of study. The structure of the PhD program currently consists of six core full time faculty members, and a graduate group comprised of faculty across the University of Pennsylvania campus whose research and teaching significantly involves the study of religion and who actively participate in the training of graduate students in Religious Studies.

The typical doctoral program in Religious Studies is funded over a five-year period, over which students are expected to engage in coursework, complete teaching assistantships, and attend the graduate colloquium. Requirements for the program include a minimum of two languages, qualifying examinations, preliminary examinations (with an oral examination component), and an oral dissertation defense.

Graduate students in Religious Studies have the benefit of a wealth of resources unrivalled by any major research university. In addition to possessing one of the best research libraries in the world, Penn is also home to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the oldest institution of its kind in the United States. Within the city of Pennsylvania, research centers include The Library Company of Philadelphia an independent research library specializing in American history and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

View the University’s Academic Rules for PhD Programs.

Required Courses

A total of 20 course units are required for graduation. A minimum of 12 course units must be taken at the University of Pennsylvania.

Methodology Requirement
RELS 5000Theory and Method in the Study of Religion (or equivalent)1
Select 5000-level or above (RELS course)1
Diversity Requirement
Select two course units 12
Area Specialization
Select 16 course units in consultation with the Graduate Chair16
Total Course Units20

Take at least one 5000-level or above course in a tradition other than area of specialty.

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.