The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia offers a comprehensive curriculum spanning traditions, geographies, and methodologies geared toward the MA and PhD degrees. Rooted in the humanities and liberal arts, our faculty train graduate students in historical, philological, philosophical, theological, ethnographic, and literary approaches to the study of religion. Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia as a non-sectarian institution dedicated to the “illimitable freedom of the human mind,” a vision he also promoted through his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The Graduate Program in Religious Studies draws on these legacies of intellectual rigor and freedom.
The Department offers graduate education dedicated primarily to the professional training of scholars. (Read about our current graduate students here.) Graduates of the Department have secured tenure-track employment at Michigan, Yale, Northwestern, Cambridge, William and Mary, Temple, VCU, University of Washington, Liberty, Naropa, University of Kansas, Davidson, Bates, Earlham, Gonzaga, Creighton, and many other universities, colleges, and divinity schools. Graduates also regularly pursue work in religious vocations, non-profits, higher education administration, government, and other related fields.
Our distinguished faculty include scholars of renown in their fields. Faculty in religious studies at UVA have served as President of the American Academy of Religion, and Editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, in addition to numerous other prestigious leadership posts in the profession. Our faculty is the largest of any stand-alone religion department in the United States.
Our MA is a flexible program designed for two sorts of aims: 1) to credential students academically so they may apply for further graduate study (e.g., in MDiv or PhD programs), and 2) to explore topics in religion for reasons of professional development or personal interest. The MA degree may be taken in the same fields as the PhD program (see below), or it may be tailored to reflect particular interests. The department offers specialized terminal MA programs at present. There are two such programs: MA Concentration in Religion, Politics, and Conflict; MA Concentration in World Religions/World Literatures (see under “Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice” area)
The Department offers an expedited admission process for UVA undergraduates seeking the MA degree in Religious Studies. This process both eases the admissions process and allows students to take courses that will count toward the MA while still enrolled as undergraduates. In some cases, this allows for the completion of the BA and the MA in a total of five years. Please see How to Apply, or contact the Graduate Coordinator for more information.
Our PhD program provides professional training for a career in the scholarly study of religion, usually through a college or university professorship. The program is divided into four major areas of study: Historical Studies (HS); History of Religions (HR); Theology, Ethics, and Culture (TEC); and Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice (SIP). Each of these areas has defined subfields. Students apply to one of these four broad areas for admission, though final admissions decisions are made by the Department through its Graduate Committee and Director of Graduate Studies.