Top Schools with Graduate Programs in Religion: List of Schools

Aug 17, 2018

Learn about highly ranked schools that offer graduate programs in religion. See what sets these schools apart, get program details, and decide if one of these schools is right for you.

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School Overviews

There are both master's and doctoral degree programs available in the field of religion at top schools in the country. Some programs center on general religious studies, while others focus on the philosophy of religion or theology. Students studying religion learn how to think critically about issues of faith, depending on the degree. Students are prepared for careers in education, counseling, religious teaching, ministry, and/or doctoral study. Three top schools offering programs in religion are particularly notable because they offer wide-ranging curricula, degrees, and concentrations, providing comprehensive training for students, regardless of their particular interest area. Two of the schools were also highly ranked by U.S. News and World Report in 2017.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt is located a mile from downtown Nashville, TN, and was tied for 15th among best national universities in the 2016 rankings of U.S. News and World Report. The Master of Arts degree in Religion at Vanderbilt is specifically for students who want to go on to doctoral studies or pursue a career in secondary education. Those in the program can choose from one of nine areas of concentration, including Hebrew Bible, Jewish studies, history, criticism, New Testament and early Christianity, theology, ethics and society, homiletics and liturgy, or religion, psychology, and culture. Students can also earn a cross-disciplinary master's degree in religion. Doctoral degrees are offered in Hebrew studies, religious theory and criticism, homiletics and liturgics, and early Christianity, among other related fields. The school also offers professional degree programs.

Claremont Graduate University

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) is a member of a consortium of colleges, called the Claremont Colleges, and lies at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, about 35 miles from Los Angeles, CA. The School of Religion at CGU offers five master's degree programs and four doctoral programs in religion. The master's degree programs in religion include women's studies in religion, religion for professionals, religion and American politics, Islamic studies, and a general degree in religion. All degrees include studies of religion through political, cultural, and economic contexts, as well as an overview of religion throughout history. In addition to master's degree programs, students can pursue doctoral degrees in such fields as the history of Christianity, religion and theology, comparative scriptures, and women's studies.

Baylor University

Baylor University in Waco, TX, is home to the Baptist Studies Center for Research and offers a Ph.D. in Religion program, which integrates advanced coursework with faculty-supervised research. Students can concentrate in the Old Testament, the New Testament, religious history, or theology, and they can also take courses outside of the religion department in order to broaden their education. In 2016, U.S. News and World Report ranked Baylor as tied at 71st among national universities.

Top Graduate Programs in Religion

Prospective graduate students who want to study religion may also consider these schools:

College/University Name Distinction Location
Boston University Students can apply for scholarly travel funding through the Graduate Division of Religious Studies Boston, MA
Drew University Graduate Division of Religion supports trans-disciplinary learning in topics like theology, philosophy, the sociology of religion, women, and gender studies Madison, NJ
Emory University The Graduate Division of Religion publishes a multimedia journal called Practical Matters; the Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology Atlanta, GA
Harvard University Graduate applications considered for the Ph.D. program only; students fulfill master's coursework to obtain the degree as part of the doctoral program Cambridge, MA
Loyola University Chicago Is a member of the Hispanic Theological Initiative Consortium Chicago, IL
Pepperdine University Offers master's degrees in ministry and religion as well as a joint Master of Science in Ministry/Certificate in Dispute Resolution program Malibu, CA
Temple University Bachelor's degree holders can apply directly to the Ph.D. program, adding master's requirements to the program and earning both degrees Philadelphia, PA
Union Theological Seminary Joint degree programs include the Master of Divinity and Master of Science in Social Work New York, NY

Graduate programs in religion at top schools vary widely in their curricula and specialization opportunities. Both master's and doctoral degree programs are available at secular universities and faith-based schools throughout the country.

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