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How do I Earn a Religion PhD?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in religion is typically earned by someone looking to become an expert in religious understanding and interpretation. Many different graduate programs offer coursework to receive a religion PhD, and this work can take a number of different forms depending on individual schools and what education you enter the school with. Some programs will accept students who just completed undergraduate work on a bachelor’s degree, while others require that entering students already have a master’s degree in a related field. You will likely need to complete a number of years of coursework, teacher’s assistant or research assistant work, and complete your own research work to formulate a dissertation that you will present and defend to receive your religion PhD.

Most graduate programs to receive a religion PhD require that you already have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as religious studies or philosophy. You should consider the requirements to enter such programs while you are still completing your undergraduate work. It may be necessary for you to take tests such as the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to be admitted to a graduate program. Letters of recommendation from a number of academic connections you have may also be necessary, and you should look at potential programs you are interested in for further specific requirements.

Once admitted into a religion PhD program you will then likely need to complete a number of years of coursework and research toward your degree. The full time required will likely depend on whether you are entering a program with a master’s degree, or if you are being awarded a master’s degree while completing coursework for your PhD. Most graduate students may be expected to work with professors in the religion program as a research or teaching assistant. You may also have to teach classes during your religion PhD coursework, though this is often rewarded by the school with a small stipend.

Your final work toward your religion PhD will likely be on your dissertation. This is a researched paper that can typically take several years for you to work on and complete. A dissertation for religious studies can take a number of forms, from translation and analysis of ancient texts, to exploring the connections and relationships between different religions throughout the world, or demonstrating how religion can evolve over time. You will be expected to thoroughly research your subject, prepare a lengthy dissertation on it, and then present and defend your work before a panel of experts and professors in the field, before finally receiving your religion PhD.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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