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Columbia University Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :30 Mar 
International :30 Mar 

MA Religion (Part-Time)

 Course Level
Masters / PG
Part Time

4 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

29452 USD
29452 USD

Application fee

International 105 USD
National 105 USD
Departments of Religion
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)7.5
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
TOEFL-PBT (min)600
GRE (avg)315

World University Ranking

About this course

The graduate study of religion is a cooperative program among the Departments of Religion at Columbia University, Barnard College and Union Theological Seminary. The program engages students in the study of an area of specialization as well as rigorous instruction in comparative, methodological and theoretical issues. The latter topics are structured around a series of problems (organized in five Zones of Inquiry) in which different disciplines and traditions intersect. By emphasizing both careful historical, critical analysis and creative theoretical and cross-disciplinary investigation, the program prepares students to for a broad range of intellectual and teaching opportunities. Numerous faculty from other departments in the University participate in the program and students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich curricular and programmatic resources Columbia has to offer.

The following fields of study are offered: Buddhism, Christianity, East Asian Religions, Islam, Judaism, North American Religions, Philosophy of Religion, and South Asian Religions. Christianity includes the following subfields: New Testament and Christian Origins, Patristic and Early Byzantine Christianity, Medieval Christianity and Late Medieval and Reformation Christianity. Judaism includes the subfields of Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Studies. The study of religions in Late Antiquity is possible under the fields of Christianity and Judaism. The requirements in these fields of study are discussed in detail in the second part of this handbook. The Zones of Inquiry (described below) include: Time, Space, Body, Media, and Transmission.

The program offers courses leading to two degrees: the M.A. and the Ph.D. Students may apply for the M.A. only or for the Ph.D. program. Ph.D. candidates receive a M.Phil. upon the successful completion of language requirements, course work and general examinations. The Department also offers an M.A. as part of the dual Journalism-Religion M.S.-M.A. program. Many graduates go on to teach at colleges and universities throughout the world. Some graduates of our M.A. program go on for doctoral studies in religion while others turn to a career in other professions, such as law or medicine. Our dual M.S.-M.A. program in Journalism and Religion offers a unique opportunity to combine academic study with professional training.

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Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for admission, applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree by the date in which they enroll at the Graduate School.

Applicants who hold American doctorates or their international equivalents in the same or similar fields as those to which they propose to apply, or who have completed most of the work required to earn the PhD elsewhere, are not eligible for admission to the Graduate School.

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Course Modules


There are four subfields under Buddhism: Indian/Theravada Buddhism (not currently offered), Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, and Japanese Buddhism. Students are trained to teach and do research in the histories, languages and literatures, doctrines, and ritual practices of their chosen traditions. Aside from courses offered in the department on these subjects, students are encouraged to take related courses in Anthropology, Art History, History, EALAC and MESAAS to broaden their training. After one finishes the course work and passes the field exams, it is common to spend at least a year abroad to carry out research on the dissertation.


There are two main tracks in Christianity: New Testament and Christian Origins, and History of Christianity.  A Late Antiquity track is offered also.  See the Judaism subfield

East Asian Religions

This field seeks to train the specialist in the major religious traditions of East Asia. Emphasis is placed on the study of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism on the one hand, and their interactions with popular religious traditions. Those students who plan to specialize in the religions of Korea must consult with the examination committee member(s) for appropriate alterations of the regular examination topics.


This field seeks to train specialists in Islamic Studies. The program is designed to prepare students to teach and do research in the history, cultures, languages and literatures, doctrines and ritual practices, as well as the social and political articulations of Islam. A particular emphasis is paid to fostering an appreciation of the great diversity of the Islamic tradition, the numerous manifestations of Islamic religiosity and their interactions with other religious traditions, historically and in the contemporary world.


The program is designed to prepare students to do research and teach in Jewish studies, broadly defined as the study of the historical, philosophical, and religious experience of Jewish cultures and their dialogue with the non-Jewish world. Upon entrance students are expected to design a track of courses suited to their interests by consulting with the appropriate faculty member in the field. (Some students may wish to pursue a “Late Antiquity” track that combines the study of Judaism and Christianity. A description of that track can be found below.)

North American Religions

The history of religions in America examines both historical and contemporary patterns of religious life in America, approached by historical, sociological and ethnographic methods.

Graduate students in the history of religions of North America are expected to take 4-6 graduate courses in the field of American history of religion prior to the field examinations, in addition to course work required by the department. Those courses would include historiography of American Religion, Sociology of Religion and additional graduate courses related to the student's area of interest offered both by the department and by other departments, notably History and English, as well as Union Theological Seminary.

Philosophy of Religion

Language courses in the languages needed to fulfill requirements for Ph.D. (at least one of which must be French or German).

One course in at least two of the following areas: metaphysics, ethics, epistemology.

Two courses in the history of western philosophy.

One course in a non-western philosophical tradition.

At least four seminars in the philosophy of religion Students will normally take at least four courses in an appropriately defined area of specialization that may be identified either in topical or historical terms (e.g. religious ethics, medieval philosophy and theology), and at least two courses in a minor area. These courses may overlap with those listed above.

Instruction in special tools required for the specific area of research (e.g. additional languages, advanced logic, research methods from another discipline) to be worked out in consultation with the advisor.

South Asian Religions

Because students enter upon the study of Indian religion with different interests and backgrounds, one cannot specify any one calendar or trajectory for graduate study in the area. The general pattern, however, is something as follows:

Year 1: Complete departmental requirements in the history of religion worldwide, and in "theory and method."

Year 2: Round out course work in Indian religion; achieve sufficient clarity about the focus of the dissertation to complete applications for study in South Asia in Year 4.

Year 3: Complete the thematic comparative course required of all students; prepare for field examinations (usually in the spring).

Year 4: Engage in dissertation research in South Asia

Year 5: Write the dissertation.

Two variants are frequently introduced into this program. First, students may wish to avail themselves of the chance to do a course of language study in South Asia after their first or second year at Columbia, or to participate in intensive language programs in the United States. Second, they may find that it takes more than one year to write the dissertation. If two years are planned, a student could reasonably expect to act as a teaching assistant in one or both years of these final years in the program.

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How to Apply

All prospective students must apply using the online application. Printed applications are not available.

You must specify in your application the department, doctoral program subcommittee, or free-standing master’s degree program in which you wish to study. If required, you must indicate the sub-field of study and the term for which you are applying. A complete application includes: 

  • transcripts of all previous post-secondary education 
  • a statement of academic purpose
  • a curriculum vitae or résumé
  • three letters of recommendation from academic sources 
  • GRE scores and, if applicable, results of the TOEFL or IELTS examination to fulfill the English Proficiency Requirement
  • a sample of scholarly writing, if required by the department or program
  • payment of the application fee

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