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Department of Religion

Consult the Course Catalog for specific requirements.

Sample Requirements for the Ph.D in Religion

Students are admitted to the Ph.D. program in Religion to conduct innovative and interdisciplinary research in one concentration and one traditional or regional religious culture (see the Graduate Program Description). They may choose a secondary concentration or religious culture as well.


The student seeking the Ph.D. in religion must hold the M.A. in religion (or its equivalent) and earn 48 additional credits:

  • 36 credits for course work in 3-credit seminars, 24 of which must be taken in the Department of Religion.
  • 12 credits for dissertation research.


Students must take the departmental seminar in their concentration during each semester of their course work.

Students must also enroll in REL 601-603 during both of their first two semesters, and then pass a proficiency exam in theories of religion at the end of the second semester in the Ph.D. program. (A student that has passed the exam while completing an M.A. in the Syracuse Religion Department is exempt from taking courses and the exam again).

Language Requirements:

The student must demonstrate competence in at least two languages other than English, one before matriculation into the Ph.D. program and the other before the beginning of the third year of study. Students will not be permitted to sit for comprehensive examinations until they satisfy the language requirement.

Comprehensive Exams:

After completing course work, students are required to pass a set of three comprehensive examinations on:

  1. their chosen traditional or regional religious culture,
  2. their chosen concentration, and
  3. a problem of their choosing, in consultation with their advisor.

The problem examination will be graded as a written exam, but also on the basis of an "oral review" with the examining faculty members.


The Ph.D. requires that students write a dissertation. Any Professor or Associate Professor in the Department of Religion may direct dissertation research.

Students must write a dissertation prospectus with their director’s advice that sets forth the dissertation topic and justifies its importance, describes the dissertation’s main lines of argumentation, provides a chapter-by-chapter projection of its contents, and contains a bibliography. The prospectus will be evaluated a three-person faculty prospectus committee.

Students must then write the dissertation. They will earn the Ph.D. degree after successfully defending it orally before a five-person faculty dissertation committee.

Teaching Assistantships:

Most students admitted to the Ph.D. program receive a Teaching Assistantship that includes a full tuition scholarship, an annual stipend, and health care benefits. The T.A. is for five years, contingent on the student making adequate progress towards the degree.

In the first three years of Ph.D. study, T.A. duties consist of being an assistant in a faculty member’s class. T.A.s get assigned to classes each semester based on class enrollments and on requests from faculty and students.

After students pass their comprehensive exams, they may teach an undergraduate course of their own design (REL 320) under the supervision of a faculty teaching mentor. In their fifth year in the program, they are asked to teach one lower division catalog course each semester in consultation with their teaching mentor and the faculty who usually teach that course.

Graduate School Rescources