Master of Arts in Religious Studies

Our graduate students are:
— diverse: they come from a variety of professional and personal backgrounds;
— engaged: they attend and present at regional and national Religious Studies conferences; and
— enthusiastic: they contribute to the life of the Department through the Religious Studies Student Forum, Brownbag Presentations, and the annual Symposium.

Graduates of our program:
— have been admitted to doctoral programs at Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, Brown, Virginia, Chicago, Berkeley, Emory and Duke;
— pursue careers in education, non-profit management, law, and business; and
— return to established careers with a better understanding of religion and culture.

Degree requirements

In order to receive the Masters of Arts in Religious Studies, a student must complete a minimum of 36 or 30 credit hours depending upon the course of study she chooses. The Masters of Religious Studies offers two tracks: a coursework intensive track (36 hours) and a thesis track (30 hours including thesis research, writing, and oral defense). Students typically declare which track they intend to pursue near the end of the first semester.
In addition to coursework requirements, students must earn a 3.0 GPA at the end of their first term and a 3.2 GPA in subsequent semesters.

Writing a thesis

Prior to writing a thesis, students should draft a tentative abstract and meet with any faculty they would like to invite to join their committee. Historically, some of the best theses written by students in our program have developed out of papers written in courses. As you select paper topics in your classes, think about how they might develop into longer projects.

Thesis committees consist of a Director and at least two additional committee members. Directors and one committee member must be tenured or tenure-track faculty in the Department of Religious Studies. The third committee member may be graduate faculty from another GSU department or another university.

Any graduate student who elects to write a MA thesis may enroll in RELS 8998, “Prospectus Research and Writing,” with her Thesis Director as she crafts the prospectus. A prospectus is a plan for research and writing that includes specific elements, such as an abstract, description of methodology, annotated bibliography, and explanation of the project’s significance. Students present their prospectus to the faculty and any committee members from outside the Department in August, November, or April. These are normative timelines for writing a thesis in our Department.

After he successfully presents the prospectus to the faculty, the student may enroll in RELS 8999, “Thesis Research and Writing,” with his Director. Thesis track students must complete at least 6 hours of 8999, and they may be taken in a single semester or over multiple semesters. The latter is typical and recommended. Prior to graduating, thesis students submit drafts of their work to their committee members for feedback and to Graduate Services for formatting review. Writers defend their theses to their committee in an hour-long conversation. Each semester Graduate Services sets deadlines for thesis format reviews and for defenses.

For more information on thesis research and writing, follow this link.

Edward Van Herik, “Moral Injury on the Home Front: Can a New Approach Provide Fresh Insight into Spirituality and Alcoholism?,” 2015

Karli Robinson-Myers, “Sankofa Healing: A Womanist Analysis of the Retrieval and Transformation of African Ritual Dance,” 2015

Natalie Barber, “The Way They Never Were: Nationalism, Landscape, and Myth in Irish Identity Construction,” 2014

Suzanne Degnats, “Dispositional Religiosity: Religion in the Context of Life Narratives,” 2013

Kelly O’Riley, “Hagiography, Teratology, and the ‘History’ of Michael Jackson,” 2011

Stay in touch

Keep up with current events in the Department by subscribing to the religious studies graduate listserv.

To subscribe, send an email message to: listserv(at)
In the body of the message (not the subject line) include -only- two words:

subscribe relgrad

You should receive a welcome message confirming your subscription.
If you put in any other text (such as a message at the bottom automatically inserted by your email program), you will receive a set of error messages, one for each line of additional text.