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About Our Programs

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The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at UCR was founded in Fall 2005, with its first class of students entering in Fall 2006. It was the second graduate program in religious studies to be founded in the UC system; the first was at UC Santa Barbara, and UC Davis began admitting Ph.D. students in 2013. The program offers two degrees: a terminal M.A. and a Ph.D. While some of the requirements for the two programs overlap, these are separate degree tracks, and the M.A. does not automatically feed into the Ph.D. program (although see Section 4.F on changing degree track). The goal of both programs is to foster the critical study of specific religions as well as comparative themes, theories, and methods prominent in the academic study of religions. The graduate program has a great deal of flexibility, yet it also offers a guiding structure through the intensive theory courses and the Ph.D. concentrations.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) Program

The terminal M.A. allows students to explore the academic study of religions more broadly and is geared toward students who wish to expand their study of religions in an academic environment but may not, or not yet, wish to pursue a career in academia. Students completing a terminal M.A. may choose the M.A.-I, which requires an article-length Masters thesis suitable for publication and prepares students especially to continue on to a Ph.D. program, or the M.A.- II, which offers a flexible capstone experience suitable for those seeking training in the field for work in other areas such as museums, K-12 education, nonprofits, journalism, or public policy. NOTE: Per University of California regulations, students who already hold a masters degree in religious studies may not enroll in this program. This rule does not pertain to those holding advanced applied degrees in religion, such as degrees in theology (e.g., MTS) or ministry (e.g., M.Div., D.Min.).

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Program

The more specialized Ph.D. prepares students to enter into academia as researchers and/or university instructors in a specific field of expertise. In combination with additional resources offered by the Graduate Division, it can also prepare students for other careers that would benefit from advanced, specialized training in the study of religion. All applicants seeking to complete a Ph.D. at UCR should apply to this program, regardless of whether they already have, or are already in the process of completing, an M.A. in religious studies. Ph.D. students who enter the program without an M.A. are expected to complete the requirements for the M.A.-I in the process of obtaining their Ph.D. Per University of California regulations, students who already hold a doctoral degree in religious studies may not enroll in this program. This rule does not pertain to those who hold an applied doctoral degree in religion, such as a D.Min.