FAQ- Degree Program Eligibility

Do I need to have an undergraduate degree in religious studies to be eligible for admission to a master’s program?

No, students come to the Divinity School from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds. This diversity of perspectives is a valued aspect of our community. While no specific undergraduate major is required, coursework should prepare you to think critically, engage with research, and write analytically at the graduate level. 

Do I need to have a well worked-out plan for my future ministerial work in order to be able to apply for the MDiv program?

While some applicants to the MDiv program have clear career or vocational plans, many do not. It is common for a student’s interests and goals to shift during the course of study. One of the many virtues of the MDiv Program’s cohort structure is that students are in conversation and intentional reflection with one another throughout the program. This is a venue and catalyst for the work of vocational discernment. 

What are the foreign language requirements for master’s program eligibility? Do I need to have knowledge of French, German, Biblical Hebrew, or New Testament Greek? Competency in these languages is not a prerequisite for application, but most students find it useful to have some prior knowledge of French or German (if applying to the MA) or of a foreign or ancient language relevant to one’s faith tradition (if applying to the MDiv). Students in master’s level programs demonstrate language competencies during their coursework. There are a range of options for gaining these competencies at the University. MA students demonstrate reading competency in either French or German by way of a timed comprehension examination or by taking a reading course. MDiv students pursue a two-course language sequence in, e.g., Greek, Hebrew, Qu’ranic Arabic, followed by a reading course that makes use of this language skill. 

What are the foreign language requirements for doctoral eligibility?

No prior foreign language experience is formally required, but competitive applicants in many Areas of Study often demonstrate a strong aptitude for language study. For example, competitive applicants to the PhD program in Bible should demonstrate significant skills and preparation in biblical languages, and especially in those that will figure in to one’s proposed course of study; eligibility for the PhD program in Islamic Studies presupposes the equivalent of three years of instruction in Arabic. The general expectation is that applicants to the PhD program will be well on their way to mastery of the languages they will need for their primary research. 

Can I apply to the PhD program directly from my bachelor’s program?

No, the application to the Divinity School’s PhD program requires a master’s degree in a field of study related to your intended area of application. If you are just completing—or if your prior degree is—a bachelor’s degree, you should apply to a master’s-level degree program at the Divinity School. Most commonly, students wishing to pursue doctoral work apply to the Divinity School’s two-year MA or three-year MDiv program. The AMRS program does not provide enough academic preparation for the PhD. 

I have a master’s degree in ______________, can I apply directly to the PhD program? 

This depends on how you fill in the blank. The coursework from your master’s program must be integrally related to the program of study you propose for the PhD, and your graduate coursework must include substantial foundational coursework in the academic study of religion. You are encouraged to contact faculty in your proposed area of study to determine if your graduate coursework provides sufficient preparation for doctoral study. The faculty many refer you to the MA program—owing to the need for either more foundational coursework in the academic study of religion, more time to focus the doctoral plan of study, or enhanced language skills.

In choosing between the MA and the MDiv, am I effectively opting for or against a future application to the doctoral program?

Alumni from both the MA and MDiv program have been admitted to the PhD program here and at other outstanding doctoral programs in religion and religious studies. Given that the MDiv curriculum is fairly specialized and that many MDiv students take substantial coursework in preparation for ordination in a particular faith tradition, MDiv students should think carefully about their professional aims and begin conversations with the Ministry Program Director, Professor Cynthia Gano Lindner about the prospect of doctoral work at an early stage in their degree program.

I’m thinking about future doctoral work; is the AMRS right for me?

The AMRS does not offer sufficient preparation for the doctoral application. The AMRS is designed for persons who want an ancillary credential in the academic study of religion to support their primary profession. AMRS students may petition to switch to the MA or MDiv program to provide additional preparation for the PhD program. 

What if I have a prior master’s degree in a field of study tangential to my intended area of PhD application but lack foundational, master’s level coursework in the academic study of religion? Can I use the AMRS as a bridge to the PhD application?

This might be possible in exceptional circumstances. You should contact area faculty in your intended area of study and the Dean of Students. In most cases, students in this situation are referred to the MA program.

I already have a PhD but want to do a second PhD at the Divinity School. Should I apply?

You are welcome to apply, however the University of Chicago does not award fellowships to students pursuing a second doctorate. 

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