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Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the Ph.D. program in Theological and Religious Studies normally require a master's degree for admission?  Why doesn't it admit candidates with only a bachelor's degree?

The reason for requiring a master’s degree for admission into the doctoral program lies in the size and the special approach of the program. We prefer a small program, offering full tuition scholarship and a relatively generous stipend (currently $25,000) to four students a year. Furthermore, the program requires a comparison between at least two religious traditions. Candidates with a master's degree often already possess a significant competence in one religious tradition, and this will facilitate the comparative task as they will have to study in depth only one other tradition. However, applicants with only a bachelor's degree and with excellent undergraduate work in religious studies will be considered.

Does this master's degree have to be in a religious tradition?

No.  The ideal candidate will bring substantial competence in one religious tradition to the program.  However, students holding a range of degrees and from a variety of programs will be considered, for example, a master's degree in divinity, rabbinical studies, religion, or theology.  Students intending to focus on the cultural analysis of religious pluralism may come from different educational backgrounds (such as anthropology, history, or sociology) or from programs focusing on the cultural aspects of religion.

Why should I choose Georgetown's Ph.D. program in Theological and Religious Studies?

Georgetown University has established itself as one of the finest American institutions of higher learning, featuring distinguished schools, institutes, departments, centers, and programs.  Among these are Georgetown College, the School of Foreign Service, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute; the Departments of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Arabic and Islamic Studies, Government, History, and Philosophy; the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and the Program for Jewish Civilization.   The doctoral program draws from the rich resources of Georgetown, and students in the program are strongly encouraged to take courses offered in these areas and to cultivate a lively intellectual exchange with other doctoral students.

What is distinctive about Georgetown's program?

The program is unique in that it focuses on the phenomenon of religious pluralism in all its ramifications and implications for the academy, religious communities, and society.  Religious pluralism is studied in three areas: theological reflection, ethical discourse, and the relation between religion and culture.  In addition, this phenomenon is studied by comparing at least two religious traditions. Thus, the program brings together the disciplines of theology and religious studies and combines theological reflection, ethical discourse, and perspectives of religion and culture.

Which religious traditions are studied?

In principle, all religious traditions may be studied.  However, our current faculty's expertise is predominantly in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Asian religions.

What are the course requirements of the program?

The program requires 36 credit hours in graduate courses, distributed as follows:

  • Two introductory seminars in religious pluralism, one from the religious studies perspective, the other from the theological perspective.
  • Three specific seminars on religious pluralism in three foci: theological reflection, ethical discourse, and religion and culture.
  • Three tradition courses in the "major" religious tradition (normally, the one in which one holds the master's degree) and five tradition courses in another tradition (the "minor").

Note that one course is double-counted to fall within the specific seminars or the tradition courses, depending on its contents.

What about language requirements?

A reading knowledge of two foreign languages is required. The choice of the language depends on the area of one's dissertation. Students who need to develop language skills in order to pass proficiency examinations or to pursue their research goals can enroll in Georgetown University language classes without charge. On the enrollment procedure to be followed, see "Graduate Student Enrollment in Language Courses" on the Graduate Admissions Office website.

What else is required?

Comprehensive examinations are to be taken after completing the course work.  Four areas are examined: religious pluralism, the major religious tradition, the minor religious tradition, and the topic of the projected dissertation.

How long does it take to complete the degree?

Usually, the degree is completed within five years of full-time study, including two years of course work, six months to one year to prepare for comprehensive exams, and two years for the dissertation.  There is no part-time option.

What guidance can I expect from the professors?

Each entering student will be assigned a faculty advisor whose expertise and interests match those of the student.  Together with the Director of Graduate Studies, the faculty advisor will help the student select the appropriate courses within and outside the department.  Normally, though not necessarily, the faculty advisor will also help formulate the dissertation proposal and direct it.

Can I have a professor from outside the department on my dissertation committee?

By all means.  Although the director of the dissertation is preferably a member of the Department of Theology, the participation of external faculty as readers is desirable.

Are there opportunities for teaching in the department?

Yes.  One of the requirements of the stipend is 15 hours of work a week for the department.  In addition, after the successful completion of the comprehensives, students are expected to teach a course in the department as part of the program.

How do I apply and what must I submit?  What is the deadline?

The application must be made to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and it must be done on-line.  The "Fact Sheet" on the school's website (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences) specifies the items to be submitted. The deadline to apply for admission with scholarship and stipend is December 15.  Applicants are strongly urged to visit the Graduate School website for information on other matters, especially the Frequently Asked Questions section.

What will happen to my application after it is received?

When the application is completed, the dossier is sent to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will make it available to all theology faculty for their comments.  Early in January, the Graduate Committee will meet to rank the applicants.  The list will be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, who will make offers to selected applicants.

How soon must the student respond to the offer?

The student has until April 15 to accept or refuse the offer.

What can I expect in terms  of  job opportunities after graduation?

The program intends to develop expertise in both religious studies and theology in two religious traditions, with a special focus on religious pluralism.  Usually, scholars with this kind of expertise go into college and university teaching.  It is interesting to note that colleges and universities increasingly seek scholars with competence in more than one religious tradition.  However, graduates should not limit themselves to the teaching field.  Other areas of professional opportunity include governmental and religious organizations.  The important point is that graduates continue to do advanced researchin their areas of expertise and contribute to scholarship and interreligious understanding through high-quality publications


Department of TheologyBox 571135New North 120Washington D.C. 20057-1135Phone: (202) 687.5846Fax: (202) 687.8000

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