Degree Requirements

Required Courses

The Master of Liberal Arts, Religion degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), three of which are required on campus. You choose a thesis or capstone track.

12 Graduate Courses

The degree is customizable. Within the program curriculum, you choose the religion and elective courses that meet your learning goals.

  • Proseminar
  • 5 religion courses
  • 1 religion seminar
  • 2 general electives
    • EXPO 42a is an elective option

Additional Thesis Track Courses

  • Thesis proposal tutorial
  • Master's Thesis (8 credits)

Additional Capstone Track Courses

  • An addition general elective
  • Precapstone:
    • Bridges to Just Peace
    • Social Reform Movements in America
  • Capstone:
    • Social Justice: Bridges to Just Peace
    • Social Reform Movements in America

Eight of the above courses (32 credits) need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard-instructor designation. The thesis course is taught by a Harvard instructor. Capstone topics are subject to change annually. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in the same topic, in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring), and in your final academic year.

Search Religion Degree Courses

Admissions: Earn Your Way In

To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following three, four-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online):

  • HUMA 100 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in the Humanities
    • Before registering, you'll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities.
    • You have two attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
  • 1 religion course
  • 1 religion elective (e.g., EXPO 42a)

While the three courses don't need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with the proseminar. All three courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Eligibility: Before you enroll in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor's degree. You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master's degree in Religion or a related field. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated, and the Admissions Office makes final determinations about eligibility. Refer to Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your third degree course, submit the official application to the program. 

Don't delay! To achieve academic success and meet your expected graduation date, it is critical to prioritize the three degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll avoid the delayed application fee and gain access to exclusive degree candidate privileges.

If you submit a complete and timely application—which includes required Harvard courses, grades, and cumulative GPA—you will be admitted, after which you’ll have nine more courses to take to earn the degree.

For more details about eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Admissions.

Admissions

The Harvard On-Campus Experience

Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least three courses (12 credits), which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

On-campus course requirements can typically be completed through:

  • 15-week fall or spring semester courses that meet only on campus. Courses with the format "on campus or online" do not fulfill this requirement.
  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • Three-week January session courses that meet only on campus.
  • Three- or seven-week summer courses that meet only on campus.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School's three- or seven-week sessions. For more information, see the important visa information on the International Student Study Options page.

To Complete Your Degree

Maintain a Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or Higher

Earn a B or higher in each of the three degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses, but be sure to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher. You are allowed to receive two withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years

You have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins once you complete any three degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to the program. Moreover, courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the five-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work. Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the five-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied.

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Religion. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May. 

Degree Guidelines and Policies

For information about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree.