FAQs

Must I have an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies in order to be considered for admission?

No, an undergraduate major in religious studies is not required for admission to graduate work in religious studies, although some previous course work in religious studies will prove initially helpful. Given the inherently interdisciplinary nature of the field of religious studies, those who majored in other humanities or social science disciplines like English, classics, comparative literature, history, philosophy, art history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, or modern languages should not hesitate to apply.

How does and M.A. in Religious Studies advance my career goals?

Those who aspire to conduct original research and teach at the university level will find the M.A. program in religious studies to be a valuable stepping-stone toward the eventual acquisition of a Ph.D. degree. The M.A. program’s requirements and expectations will acclimate students to the more rigorous standards of graduate culture and will prepare them for the demands experienced at the doctoral level of study. The M.A. degree also functions as a basic credential for those seeking employment as an adjunct instructor at many colleges, universities, or community colleges. An M.A. in religious studies can enhance or attractively focus certain professional programs, such as in journalism or in area studies. Finally, the successful pursuit of an M.A. degree (regardless of discipline) can be intellectually rewarding in its own right.

What does the M.A. in Religious Studies require?

The Master of Arts in Religious Studies requires the completion, with a GPA of 3.0 or above, of a minimum of 30 semester hours of approved graduate coursework. All M.A. candidates must complete RELS 6101 (Approaches to the Study of Religion) and RELS 6102 (Teaching in Religious Studies and the Humanities) with a grade of B (3.0) or above within three semesters of their initial admission into the program. At least 15 hours of this total must be in courses open only to graduate students (i.e., at the 6000 level or higher).  Students have two options for completing their degree. First, students may complete an MA Thesis option that consists of 24 hours of coursework and 6 hours of thesis work. Second, students may complete a comprehensive examination option, consisting of 30 hours of coursework and comprehensive examinations in three areas. All degree requirements must be completed within six calendar years of first enrollment in the program.

How many hours of course work are requires for the M.A.?

At least 30 hours of approved course work are required for the M.A.

Can I pursue the degree part-time?

Yes, the degree can be pursued either full or part-time, provided that all degree requirements are completed within six years of initial enrollment. The Graduate School defines a full load as 9 hours per semester. As the Catalog states: ‘this is lower than the normal undergraduate load because of the extensive reading, independent thinking and individual research required of graduate students. Generally, graduate students should not register for more than 12 semester hours during a semester.’  Most graduate students in the M.A. program take no more than 9 hours of course work per semester.

Am I required to study language in order to receive the M.A. in Religious Studies?

No student is ‘required’ to study ancient and/or modern languages as part of their degree program. The department however expects students to recognize that the acquisition of competence in certain sub-disciplines of the field may necessitate the study of one or more languages during their M.A. tenure. It is unlikely, for example, that a thesis proposal involving significant textual or literary analysis of a particular religion’s ‘scriptures’ would win approval if the proposal’s author had not engaged in the formal study of the relevant scriptural language(s).

Am I required to pass a modern language proficiency exam before receiving the M.A.?

At present no such examination is required. Students should however bear in mind that the study of religion and religions is an international enterprise: much significant scholarship in the field of religious studies has been and continues to be produced in both western and non-western languages (German, French, Italian, Spanish, modern Hebrew, Arabic, etc.) and that most doctoral programs will require the demonstration of at least a reading knowledge of two or more of the traditional European ‘languages of scholarship.’

Are there specific "tracks" or concentrations available within the M.A. program?

All M.A. students in religious studies are required to complete (with a course grade of B or higher) RELS 6101 Approaches to the Study of Religion and RELS 6102 Teaching in Religious Studies and the Humanities within the first three semesters of their initial enrollment. Other than this core course, students are relatively free to develop and pursue their own emphasis or ‘track’ in graduate study with the advice and active cooperation of the graduate director and affected faculty. Our graduate faculty possess expertise in the subjects of religion in the United States, ancient Mediterranean religions, Christianity from inception to the present, African American religions, “new religions,” media and religion, and the critical roles played by social factors like race, gender, class, and politics in the study and practice of religion. We are also well versed in the methods of queer theory, social theory, literary theory, post-colonial theory, historiography, theories of ideology, and psychoanalysis. Prospective students desiring to pursue specific interests (e.g., religion and popular culture) or to develop special competencies (e.g., Semitic language studies) are encouraged to contact the relevant departmental faculty to determine whether their envisioned program will be a feasible one at UNC Charlotte.

How do I apply to the program?

The Graduate School application package is completely electronic. Their staff oversees and administers the application and all of its component parts. Please do not mail or forward any application materials to the Department of Religious Studies.  The Department of Religious Studies will only view and assess complete applications once the Graduate School has received and processed all of its component parts.

What is required in the application?

The application package must include: (1) an electronic application form submitted to the Graduate School accompanied by the application fee; (2) official transcripts of all previous academic work attempted beyond high school; (3) official agency reports of test scores on the GRE or M.A.T. (these must be less than five years old); (4) at least three letters of reference from persons familiar with the applicant's academic prowess and qualifications (these too must be less than five years old); and (5) an essay (statement of purpose) that specifically addresses the applicant’s motivation for pursuing the M.A. in religious studies, with some discussion of the applicant’s research interests and career or professional goals.

When are the application deadlines?

The deadlines for applications are May 1 (for the following fall semester) and October 1 (for the following spring semester). Given the high demand for this program and the keen competition for the few available openings, complete application materials must be received by these dates. Partial applications and applications submitted after the posted deadlines will likely not be reviewed for the desired date of admission.

It should be noted that individual applications are submitted to the Department for assessment once they are complete: they are not collectively held by the Graduate School until after the deadline date has passed and then delivered en masse. This means that the earlier you submit your application before the posted deadline, the better your odds for securing a place in the entering class.

If I meet the admission requirements, can I assume I will be admitted?

Given the competitive nature of the admissions process and the limited number of space available each academic year, it should be understood that simply meeting the requirements for admission doe snot guarantee acceptance into the M.A. program in Religious Studies.

Can I pursue the M.A. in Religious Studies while simultaneously working on a degree in another graduate program at UNC Charlotte?

Generally speaking, the department discourages dual enrollment of this type.

Can you please tell me more about the thesis option?

Students who elect the thesis option (all students planning doctoral study should prepare a thesis) should prepare and submit a thesis topic proposal for departmental approval. This involves (1) selecting a suitable topic and preparing a thesis proposal in accordance with the departmental template; (2) securing the formal cooperation of three graduate faculty members to serve as Thesis Committee for the selected topic, two of whom must be from the Department of Religious Studies (one of these two will serve as principal reader/advisor for chapters in progress, whereas the other members of the Committee will serve as readers of the final drafts of the ‘finished’ thesis); and (3) communicating the results of these deliberations to the director of graduate studies. Upon the director’s approval, the student then files a Petition for Topic Approval with the Graduate School. Once the Petition has been accepted, students are required to maintain continuous registration (fall and spring) until the thesis is completed.

Once the completed thesis has been approved by all three members of the Thesis Committee and this decision has been communicated by the principal thesis advisor to the graduate director, the graduate director schedules an oral defense date for the thesis. This defense takes place no less than three weeks after the graduate director receives approval notification from the Thesis Committee. The defense takes the form of an oral presentation by the student wherein the topic of the thesis is introduced, outlined, and expounded before an audience consisting of the departmental faculty, other graduate students in the program, interested undergraduate or graduate students or other faculty from the UNC Charlotte campus, and invited guests (e.g., faculty from area institutions). The presentation concludes with a lengthy question-and-answer period. Following the completion of the presentation, the master’s candidate is responsible for preparing and submitting three unbound error-free copies of the approved thesis to the Graduate School no later than the filing date specified in the University Calendar.

Can you please tell me more about the comprehensive written examination?

Students may complete a comprehensive examination option, consisting of 30 hours of coursework and comprehensive examinations in three areas. Students will create reading lists based on a specific area or theoretical approach in conjuction with three faculty members. After obtaining reading lists, students should begin to study for their exam. Their exam will be based on a customized reading list generated in consultation with three graduate faculty members. One of these faculty must be that student’s RELS 6101 instructor, whereas the other two are chosen by the student (based presumably upon the student’s program of study). Each of these faculty prepare several questions which will form the content of the exam.

The comprehensive examination is administered by the director of graduate studies. The examination takes place on a fixed date each fall and spring. The examination is assessed by the three participating faculty using the rubrics high pass, pass, or fail. The student may meet with the participating faculty after receiving the grade in order to review the exam and receive feedback on it. The examination itself is not released to the student.