Department of Religious Studies


The graduate program in Religious Studies at Brown is one of the finest in the nation.

From among a large pool of highly qualified applicants, the department admits four to six doctoral students a year. Our students receive six years of full funding. Current graduate students have distinguished themselves by publishing, presenting papers at international conferences and earning recognition and support from prestigious external funding organizations. The department's graduates have an excellent placement record, teaching in such institutions as Harvard, Stanford, Indiana University, University of California, Brooklyn College, Reed College, Haverford, Rice University, University of Washington - St. Louis, and University of Wisconsin (Madison). Although most of our graduates will pursue work in academia, some will pursue professional careers outside academia. The Department is supportive of such career diversity. Doctoral applicants who wish to pursue a career outside academia may indicate this in their “Statement of Academic Purpose,” describing how a doctoral degree in Religious Studies will contribute to a particular career goal.

Rigorous Training

In all programs, our goal is to combine specialized, rigorous training with a common and more general disciplinary approach to the study of religion. We do not offer a general Masters program, although under exceptional circumstances we will consider applications for a specialized MA program in one of the three designated areas.


Doctoral students are normally expected to complete two years of coursework beyond their Masters degree (or three years post-baccalaureate). These courses are primarily drawn from seminars offered by departmental faculty, but also include individual reading courses as well as courses in other departments, such as Classics, Philosophy, History, Comparative Literature, Anthropology, Political Science, and the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.  The third year is spent preparing for and taking Preliminary Exams, and the remaining years are devoted to developing the dissertation prospectus and researching and writing the dissertation.  


Masters of Arts

We do not offer a general masters program, although students can be admitted for terminal Master's study only under exceptional circumstances. Eight graduate level courses are requires, including RELS 2000, "Theory of Religion." Students must demonstrate competency in French or German, as well as in whatever other languages are relevant to their research interests. A thesis is required.

Additional Information

We offer Ph.D. study in four areas: Asian Religious Traditions, Islam, Society and Culture, Religion and Critical Thought, and Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean.
Regardless of the specific focus, all Ph.D. work in Religious Studies at Brown has the same general five part structure.
Listing of advisors by area and the advising structure.