Religious Studies, PhD

The academic study of religion is a central component of the humanities and has become increasingly recognized as a critical tool in understanding society and politics in a globalized world. The religious studies doctoral program at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies strives to train graduate students for careers as scholars and teachers in an intellectually enriching program and provide supplementary training for graduate students who would benefit from a greater understanding of religion’s role in the world in a range of related disciplines, such as history, anthropology, political science, journalism, secondary education and justice studies.

Candidates work hand-in-hand with a distinguished faculty in order to prepare for careers such as professors in higher education, journalists, lawyers, anthropologists and clergypeople. With multiple tracks to choose from, candidates are able to choose a field of study that most interests them and meets their needs for career preparation. 

7 years to degree
24 faculty members
90% of students funded

Degree Overview

The 84-hour doctoral program includes coursework towards religious studies MA or Master's in Passing, a foreign language requirement, comprehensive examination, dissertation prospectus and the completion and final defense of a dissertation.


Religions in the Americas
Students in this track focus on a religious tradition or traditions within one of the regions of the Americas, such as North America, Central America, or South America, as appropriate to the focus of the dissertation project.

Religions in Asia
Students in this track focus on a religious tradition or traditions within one of the regions of Asia, such as South Asia, Southeast Asia, or East Asia, as appropriate to the dissertation project.

Islam in a Global Context
Students in this track will study Islam as a living tradition and will develop a transdisciplinary approach drawing upon our faculty's expertise in anthropology, sociology, history, and religious studies.

Global Christianity
Students in this track will critically examine Christianity as a global religion, both in its long historical context and in the contemporary world. Students will also consider the academic, intellectual, theological, and missiological dimensions of Christianity and its global extension. 

Anthropology of Religion
Students in this track will learn to account for and engage in research and teaching about the complex and dynamic roles of religion in the world today and develop mastery in: Social theories, as well as ethnographic methods used in order to understand the religious idioms and cultural practices that underline many contemporary political expressions and ideologies.

How to apply

When considering the Religious Studies PhD program at ASU, know that in the admissions process SHPRS looks for students whose research interests can be well served by the members of our Graduate Faculty at ASU. Prospective students are encouraged to contact the faculty member(s) they might want to work with while they are at ASU. 

A full application requires:

Application deadline is January 15. 

For more information on the application process and requirements, please click here

SHPRS has helped me prepare for my future career by giving me teaching and funding opportunities and by enabling me to explore my post-PhD options, both academic and non-academic.

Alexandria Griffin, current PhD candidate


The doctoral degree is separated into three phases, the first of which is to earn a Masters in Passing in Religious Studies. Upon admittance, applicants who already have an MA degree in Religious Studies or a related discipline enter the PhD program beginning in Phase 2 of the program and bypass the Masters in Passing.

Phase I – Meet Requirements of MA Degree
Phase II – Coursework & Examinations
Phase III – Candidacy

Anthropology of Religion Track

Requirements and ElectivesHours
Core Courses21
Total Required Hours84

Global Christianity Track

Requirements and ElectivesHours
Core Courses18
Total Required Hours84

Religions in the Americas, Islam in a Global Context & Religions in Asia Tracks

Requirements and ElectivesHours
Core Courses12
Total Required Hours84

*Students entering with an MA may apply 30 credit hours toward the 84 required credit hours with approval of the academic unit and the Graduate College. These 30 credit hours will be applied toward elective requirements.

Courses and electives

Candidates in the program choose courses based on what best match their track requirements. Courses and research hours are approved by the student's supervisory committee.

REL 501: Classical Theories of Religion (3 credits)
REL 502: Research Methods in Religious Studies (3 credits)
REL 700: Introduction to College Teaching (3 credits)
CDH 501: Digital Humanities (3 credits)


REL 598: Special Topics
REL 591 or 691: Seminars
Courses from a related discipline – 500 level or above –which support student’s research (up to 6 credits) (For example, seminars from SHESC relating to Anthropology)
REL 690: Reading & Conference Course (up to 3 credits) 


REL 792: Research (12 credits)
REL 799: Dissertation (12 credits)


Anthropology of Religion Track

  • REL 620 Anthropological Theories of Religion (3 credits)
  • REL 621 Ethnography of Religion (3 credits) 
  • REL 626 Topics in the Anthropology of Religion (3 credits)

Global Christianity Track

  • REL 510 Religion and Globalization (3 credits)
  • REL 570 Global Christianity (3 credits)
  • Minimum of 12 hours of graduate courses that have Christianity as a primary focus. Examples of such courses include: Missionary Encounter, Mission and Indigenous Christianity in Latin America, and Eastern Christianity.

Religions in the Americas Track: None

Religions in Asia Track: None

Islam in a Global Context Track: None