Religious Studies

The curriculum in religious studies includes the study of traditions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Native American and other traditional religions. The program examines topics such as ritual studies, peace studies, dance, religion and literature, women and religion, and religion and psychology.

The undergraduate degree in religious studies emphasizes knowledge and awareness of:

  • the academic study of religion and the related writing and critical skills directed toward one area of concentration (tradition, issue, or theme); and
  • different theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of religion.

In addition, students with a degree in religious studies are expected to acquire the ability and skills to:

  • identify textual, performative, and artifactual data relevant to the study of religion;
  • draw connections between different historical and/or cultural contexts of religion; and
  • communicate data analysis and interpretation competently in written form.

Course codes for this program are RLST and SNSK.

Bachelor's Degree Program(s)

Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies

Students must complete the general requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences and the required courses listed below.

Major Requirements

Students must complete at least 36 hours of religious studies course work including the following required courses and projects:

  • Two required seminars in the Academic Study of Religion:
    RLST 3020 Advanced Writing in Religious Studies (taken at the first available offering after declaring major and reaching junior status). This course, which also fulfills the advanced writing requirement, focuses the development of writing skills on the introduction and preparation of students for a major in the academic study of religion. Taught fall semester.
    RLST 4830 Senior Majors Seminar (taken the last year as an undergraduate after all other requirements have been met). This course involves students in an extensive exploration of the academic study of religion. The topic will be selected by the faculty person offering the course including a careful consideration of the theoretical dimensions of the work presented in historical context. Student papers culminating the concentration area are presented at the conclusion of this course. Taught spring semester. 
  • Concentration Area: three courses (9 hours). With the consultation and approval of an undergraduate advisor, three RLST courses are to be selected so that the courses build competence in a designated area of concentration. A 10-page paper reflects on the coherency of the select area including how the three courses taken interrelate and how the area of concentration relates to the academic study of religion. The paper is the basis for capstone discussion during the last weeks of Senior Seminar. 

Graduating in Four Years

Consult the Four-Year Guarantee Requirements for information on eligibility. The concept of “adequate progress” as it is used here only refers to maintaining eligibility for the four-year guarantee; it is not a requirement for the major. To maintain adequate progress in religious studies, students should meet the following requirements:

  • Declare the major at the beginning of the second semester of study.
  • Complete two religious studies courses each semester.
  • Take the senior seminar the last spring semester in residence.

Minor Program

Students must complete at least 18 credit hours in Religious Studies course work, including at least 6 hours of lower-division and 9 hours of upper-division work. At least 12 hours must be taken in the CU Department of Religious Studies. 

Graduation with Honors

The honors program in religious studies offers the opportunity for highly motivated undergraduates to undertake a deeper and more individualized study than is provided by the regular BA curriculum and to earn an honors designation on their diploma. Religious studies majors with at least a 3.300 overall grade point average and 3.500 in the major are eligible to participate in the program. Honors that may be earned are cum laude (with honors), magna cum laude (with high honors), and summa cum laude (with highest honors). 

Students interested in pursuing departmental honors are encouraged to consult with the departmental undergraduate advisor by the beginning of their junior year.

Concurrent Bachelor's/Master's Program

Concurrent Bachelor’s/Master’s in Religious Studies

A concurrent bachelor’s/master’s degree program offers a select group of exceptional undergraduates the opportunity to begin graduate work while still an undergraduate and thereby complete the BA and MA degrees simultaneously and on an accelerated schedule. The entire program normally requires five to six years and permits 6 credits to be double-counted toward both degrees. Otherwise requirements for the two degrees remain unchanged. 

Admission to the Program

Applicants to the program must be full-time, continuously enrolled students with a minimum overall GPA of 3.000, and a 3.500 GPA in RLST courses. They must have completed at least 24 credit hours prior to admission to the concurrent BA/MA degree program, and must have satisfied any MAPS deficiencies. Applications will include letters of recommendation from RLST faculty and will be evaluated by faculty as a whole, much as graduate applications are. 

Continuation in the Program

Students enrolled in the concurrent BA/MA program must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.250, and 3.500 in the department. Concurrent degree students may not participate in the Time Out program; exceptions may be granted by the CDAC (Concurrent Degree Appeals Committee) based on a review of extenuating circumstances. Each BA/MA student will be assigned a graduate advisor with whom to meet regularly and will be required to demonstrate satisfactory progress toward degree to the advisor within the framework of the department’s graduate student assessment policies. 


Students enrolled in the concurrent BA/MA program are permitted to double-count 6 credits of course work, thereby reducing the total amount of RLST course work to (36 + 31 - 6 =) 61 credit hours. One of these courses must be RLST 6830 Intro to the Academic Study of Religion, which would replace Senior Seminar for BA/MA students, and the other must be in an area of depth concentration. Otherwise program students will fulfill all the normal requirements for the BA and the MA degree. 


Graduate Degree Program(s)

Master’s in Religious Studies

A graduate degree represents the mastery of a significant body of knowledge and interpretation within an academic discipline. A degree is not granted merely because a student completes a specific number of courses. Students should not expect to gain all knowledge and training necessary for the degree from formal courses alone. The student is expected to acquire both breadth and depth in religious studies. Breadth is achieved by satisfying two types of course requirements as set forth in 2 below, which include exposure to a diversity of approaches to the study of religion. Depth is achieved through three courses in a particular area or approach and by independent work related to the thesis or concentration, as set forth in 3 below. Listed below are the minimum formal requirements for the MA degree in religious studies. 

  1. The student must successfully complete 31 semester hours of academic work, at least 24 of which must be completed at the 5000 level or above.
    Up to 9 credit hours of course work may be taken outside the department or transferred from another accredited institution, consistent with the student’s special needs and interests and with the advisor’s approval.
    Independent study credit hours shall not exceed six hours. 
  2. To insure breadth of learning, the student must successfully complete two types of required courses:
    Approaches. RLST 6830 Introduction to the Academic Study of Religion, offered every fall term. This course should be taken the first fall term the student is in residence.
    Three seminars in the academic study of religion. At least one seminar will be designated each semester.
  3. To ensure depth of learning, the student must successfully complete two types of required courses:
    Three research concentration courses (to be determined in consultation with one’s advisor). These may be taken in or out of the department, as appropriate.
    In the final semester of graduate study, which must be taken in residence, students will select either a thesis or non-thesis research option. Those selecting the thesis option will take a 4-credit thesis course, which will culminate in the completion and defense of a thesis. Those selecting the non-thesis option will take a 4-credit directed readings course on secondary scholarship in a specific field (theoretical topic, geographic area, or religious tradition) which will culminate in the successful passing of a written examination on this topic. 
  4. A final oral comprehensive examination, given by the student’s research committee, will focus on three substantial term papers and either the thesis or the written examination in a specific field. 
  5. Courses for each term must be approved by the student’s faculty advisor and be in compliance with the requirements of the Graduate School where necessary. In order to register for any given term, the student must have the course of study for that term approved in writing by the advisor on the student’s “Record of Progress Toward the MA Degree” form. No changes can be made in registration without the advisor’s approval.
  6. In order to receive the degree a student must meet the foreign language requirement. The student must have a satisfactory reading knowledge of a language other than English, demonstrated by a B or better in the fourth semester of the language, or by successful completion of a translation exam on material related to the student’s field; and material in the language must be employed in a significant way in the thesis or other project. 
  7. All students must fulfill the residency requirement. In general this can be fulfilled by either two full-time semesters or four part-time semesters of study. A full-time program is defined as either five hours of course work at the 5000 level or higher, eight hours of total course work, or at least one hour of thesis research. 

A student who has not completed at least 12 semester hours, or the equivalent, of undergraduate academic course work directly related to the study of religion will be required to do remedial work to make up this deficit before beginning graduate study, or, with the director of Graduate Studies’ permission, after beginning the program. This can be done by attaining a grade of B or better in an appropriate 2000- or 3000-level course taken within the first year. Remedial courses may not be counted toward the degree. 

Dual Degree Programs

Dual Master’s in Religious Studies

The Department of Religious Studies also participates in a dual master’s degree program with the Departments of History and Asian Languages and Civilizations. Students interested in exploring this option should contact the graduate director of the department for specific requirements.