University of California at Santa Barbara


The Department of Religious Studies offers education in the religious dimensions of the human experience in diverse traditions and cultures around the world and through time. The department encourages a cross-cultural comparative and multidisciplinary approach to the study of religions. Our graduate program is designed to provide students with an understanding of classical and contemporary theories of religion, the linguistic and methodological skills to develop and carry out rigorous and significant research, and in depth education in the religious dimensions of particular regions and/or traditions. The department embraces both humanistic and social scientific approaches to the study of religion and emphasizes the importance of advanced study of relevant languages. Faculty members employ a variety of methods in their research and draw from a wide range of theoretical perspectives.

The graduate curriculum provides students with essential preparation in theory and method in the study of religion and specialized training in languages, traditions, and religious cultures. The department has particular strengths in in five cultural areas (East Asia [China & Japan], South Asia [India], and Central Asia [Tibet & Mongolia], North America, and the Mediterranean Basin) and a range of traditions, including Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Native American. The department offers language courses in Arabic, Coptic, Hebrew, Hindi, Pali, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Syriac, Targumic Aramaic, Tibetan, and Turkish. Students are expected to use multi-disciplinary approaches, drawing on philological, philosophical, historical, literary, anthropological, sociological, and psychological theories and methods as appropriate to their research. Students pursuing a doctoral degree in Religious Studies may petition to add the following optional Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Emphases: Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Cognitive Science, European Medieval Studies, Feminist Studies, Global Studies, Translation Studies.

The master’s programs provide a general orientation toward religious studies. The MA, Plan I, is earned in the process of completing the Ph.D. The MA, Plan II, is a terminal MA intended for students who desire training in religious studies, but do not wish to pursue doctoral study in our department. The doctoral program is intended for students preparing for university teaching and research or other careers for which a doctoral degree is desirable.

Departmental and Area Specific Requirements: Doctoral study in the department is structured in terms of general departmental requirements, including core courses required of all students, and additional requirements specific to each of the formal areas of study within the department: Buddhist Studies, Christian Traditions, Islamic Studies, Native American Religions, East Asian Religions,
Mediterranean Religions, Religions in North America, South Asian Religions, Philosophy and
Religion, and Religion and Culture. Area-specific requirements spell out faculty expectations beyond the departmental minimum for students specializing in the area: language and other course work, and doctoral exams. The MA-PhD program has two tracks, depending on the amount of language study required in the different areas. Track 1 students are expected to complete the Ph.D. in seven years; Track 2 students in 8 years.

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