Religious Studies, PHD

At a Glance: program details

Gain a firm understanding of the role religion plays in today's world and the expertise that prepares you for careers in academia and beyond.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Religious Studies

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 PhD program in religious studies helps graduate students develop greater expertise regarding the nature and role of religion around the world. The program provides supplementary training that includes history, anthropology, political science, journalism, secondary education and justice studies.

Doctoral focus areas in the study of religion approach the study in a variety of contexts. Specifically offered are areas in:

  • anthropology of religion
  • global Christianity
  • Islam in global contexts
  • religion in Asia
  • religion in the Americas

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 84 credit hours, foreign language exams, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core (6 credit hours)
REL 501 The Study of Religion I: Genealogies, Disciplines and Power (3)
REL 502 The Study of Religion II: Epistemology, Practice and Mediation (3)

Other Requirement (3 credit hours)
REL 700 Research Methods (3)

Electives (51 credit hours)

Research (12 credit hours)
REL 792 Research (12)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
REL 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
Students must choose one of the five focus areas that are listed in the program description, and they select courses for the focus area as part of their electives in consultation with their supervisory committee.

As part of electives, students may include up to three credit hours of REL 690 Reading and Conference. Additionally, students may select up to six credit hours of graduate-level courses from a related discipline that support the student's research.

Other requirement course REL 700 may be substituted with approval of the academic unit.

When approved by the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program may allow up to 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree to be used for this program. If students do not have a previously awarded master's degree, the remaining coursework will be made up of electives and research.

Admission Requirements

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 in any field 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 cumulative GPA of 3.30 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.30 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program. The most competitive applicants have a GPA of 3.50 or higher.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. statement of purpose
  4. curriculum vitae
  5. writing sample
  6. contact information for three references
  7. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

The statement of purpose should be approximately 1,000 words describing the applicant's academic background, the reasons for wishing to pursue a doctorate in religious studies, the proposed area of specialization, and specific research topics the student plans to engage in at Arizona State University.

The writing sample should be a work of original scholarly writing, approximately 15 to 30 pages in length. It should represent the student's best academic writing.

Students are required to submit contact information for three academic references who are qualified to provide detailed, accurate evaluations of the applicant's potential as a graduate student in religious studies. Professors, particularly faculty advisors, are preferred. Recommenders are contacted by the Graduate College with a request to complete a reference questionnaire. Letters of recommendation can be submitted in addition to answering these questions online.

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Application Deadlines



Session A/C
In Person
January 15th

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will analyze and present theories and methods in the study of religion through in-class discussion, oral presentation and submission of an original written seminar paper.
  • Students will critically analyze religions by formulating research questions, examining various kinds of qualitative data, and drawing connections to relevant secondary literatures.
  • Students will conduct original research through a doctoral study drawing connections to relevant secondary literature, collect and analyze primary data, communicate, and defend responses to research questions.

Career Opportunities

Graduates possess training and knowledge relevant to careers in a variety of different roles and in a range of employment sectors. Some typical employers include government agencies, especially the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; nongovernmental organizations; schools, colleges and universities; charities and nonprofit organizations; social services; and churches and other religious organizations.

Career examples include:

  • book editor
  • case management director
  • church administrator
  • foreign service employee
  • global affairs writer
  • nongovernmental organization professional
  • nonprofit manager
  • professional researcher and writer
  • university instructor

Global Experience

With over 250 programs in more than 65 countries (ranging from one week to one year), study abroad is possible for all ASU students wishing to gain global skills and knowledge in preparation for a 21st-century career. Students earn ASU credit for completed courses, while staying on track for graduation, and may apply financial aid and scholarships toward program costs.

Program Contact Information

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