The Master of Arts in Religious Studies requires a minimum of 30 credit hours. There are two paths: 1) twenty-four graded credits, six credits of non-topical research hours, and a thesis; or 2) thirty graded credits and an exam. MA students usually take three (but sometimes four) three-credit courses per semester. Acquisition of reading competence in one research language in addition to English is required. The typical duration of the MA program is two years but may be completed more quickly. GSAS imposes a five-year deadline for completion of all MA degree requirements.
The MA is a flexible program designed for two sorts of aims: 1) to credential students academically so they may apply for further graduate study, and 2) to explore topics in religion for reasons of professional development and/or personal interest. The MA degree may be taken in the same research areas as the PhD program, or it may be tailored to reflect particular interests. Students generally take at least three courses in one religious tradition or cultural area and at least two courses in method and/or theory. With the permission of their academic advisors and course instructors, students may take graduate courses in any appropriate department.