Graduate Degree Requirements

Currently enrolled students can find detailed information about graduate program policies and procedures in the Graduate Student Handbook. Please contact the Graduate Chair for the most up-to-date version of this manual.

The coursework component is normally two to three years in length, with the potential for transfer credit to be awarded for previous graduate courses within the field. Students are required to complete 20 credit units (c.u.), with at least six c.u. in courses at the 500 level or above in their area of specialization. During the coursework period, graduate students also participate in the theory reading group, mastering a designated list of important works in religious studies.

Attendance in the Graduate Colloquium is required of all students who have not completed their preliminary examinations. The colloquium consists of discussions of articles and methodology from across the various fields of Religious Studies. We also host a variety of presentations/discussions from graduate students, Penn faculty, and visiting scholars. The colloquium also serves as forum for mentorship and professionalization within the field. Students are expected attend colloquia regularly, and to present a paper to the Colloquium before the completion of their examination process.

All students are expected to complete four semesters of teaching assistantships within the Department of Religious Studies or related departments.

Normally held in the second year of study, the qualifying examination measures the students ability to design two semester long courses in their field of study. The exam is an oral exam, administered by three departmental members. In the course of the exam, students will be asked to explain their rationale for the course design, readings, and assignments for the two courses.

Each professor in the respective field of study determines language requirements; however, the minimum requirement is reading proficiency in two languages, usually German and French. Other fields of study, particularly in Ancient Mediterranean Religions, Asian Religions, Buddhism, and Islam may require more language training, or a different set of examinations. These examinations however, must be completed before sitting for the Preliminary Examinations.

After completion of all the above requirements, the student’s dissertation committee designs three examination areas. Committees in Religious studies are comprised of three faculty members from within the Graduate group, but the dissertation advisor must come from the core faculty of Religious studies.

The three examinations have an oral and a written component, and the student compiles the bibliography for the examination with input and approval from the committee. Before being cleared to sit the written portion of the examination, students must turn in a set of three bibliographies that the exams will be comprised from, plus a pre-dissertation proposal, before examination dates can be set. The student then sits for the written portion of the examination the month after turning the month before the examination these materials in.

Once the written portion of the examination is completed, student must sit the oral examination within two weeks from the written examination date. At the oral examination, all dissertation committee members participate, as well as the Graduate chair. The committee at the oral exam will ask questions of the student that come from all examination materials, including the pre-proposal. At the successful completion of the Oral Examination, the student is advanced to Candidacy. Please note that if the examination process is not completed within five years of entrance into the program, a student will be dropped from the Graduate school rolls.

After completing the oral examinations, students then file a formal dissertation proposal with their committee members. The student is then expected to undertake their dissertation research, and with the committee’s approval, will be scheduled to defend their dissertation orally.

The University’s maximum time limit for completion of the degree is ten years after matriculation. Should the degree not be completed in this time limit, the student will be dropped from the graduate school, and will have to re-apply for admittance to our program. Readmittance is not guaranteed.

For further rules and regulations of the graduate school, please consult the University-wide academic rules.

For more information on the graduate program in Religious Studies, please email Katelyn Stoler.