Master of Arts in Religious Studies (AMRS)

The AMRS program is a concentrated program in the academic study of religion for those in other fields or professions (e.g., law, medicine, business, journalism, the arts), or those who seek greater knowledge in the study of religion. The AMRS program can be completed in one year, or students may choose to pursue the degree by enrolling in no less than one course per quarter over a period of no more than nine academic quarters

In consultation with the faculty advisor and the Dean of Students, AMRS students are free to choose from the course offerings of the various areas of study in the Divinity School and other parts of the University to meet these requirements. In some cases, the consent of the instructor may be required.

Students from a variety of professions have pursued the AMRS degree, each focusing his/her coursework in one or more of the Divinity School’s eleven areas of study.  These students also take advantage of related coursework available across the University of Chicago, e.g., courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions. For some, the goal is focused study in one area.  For others, their course selections reveal a desire to study broadly in the field of religion to learn more about particular religious traditions as well as developing skill in the theories and method that undergird the academic study of religion as a human phenomenon. Faculty may recommend language study as deemed appropriate for the student’s course of study.

AMRS students may pursue the degree in one, focused full-time year of study.  Given the demands of their current professions, many more will choose to pursue the degree at a slower pace, earning 9 course credits over as many as three academic years. Tuition is charged on a per course basis, making this option attractive for active professionals who must balance their studies with a busy career. AMRS students are also encouraged to take advantage of graduate student workshops, lectures and academic clubs.

Recent alums and current AMRS students discuss their experiences:

Judith Sherwin
Rachel Leslie
Paul Higdon 




1. Registration for, and completion of, a minimum of nine courses. Students may be enrolled for no more than the equivalent of 3 academic years.

2. Satisfactory completion of the course "Introduction to the Study of Religion."

4. Satisfactory completion (B- or above) of courses in at least three areas of study in at least two of the committees of the faculty. Students should consult with the Dean of Students and their faculty advisor concerning an appropriate range of course work that meets this requirement.

5. Completion of a one-hour oral examination based on a paper that represents the student’s interests in the study of religion. This document is normally the revised version of a paper the student wrote to complete the requirements of a course. The oral examination is convened by the Dean of Students, and includes the student and two faculty members with whom the student has worked. The examination paper is chosen by the student, but the student’s choice must be approved well in advance by the faculty member under whose direction the paper was originally written. A student scheduling his or her examination must make application to do so no later than the third week of the quarter in which he or she intends to take it.

Introduction to the Study of Religion

All students in master’s programs at the Divinity School are required to take this course.

The academic study of religion(s) is complex not simply by virtue of its diverse subject matter, but because of the many different perspectives from which scholars investigate and define the subject. Scholars of religion throughout the academy engage in research that emphasizes historical, comparative, literary critical, philosophical, social scientific, or ethical methods and questions. The Divinity School faculty believes that the capacity to engage in this interdisciplinary conversation will enrich the student’s scholarly agenda. For that reason, the Divinity School's three master's programs (AMRS, MA, MDiv) require enrollment during the first year of the program in the “Introduction to the Study of Religion” course. Using a selected text, faculty from a variety of disciplines engage the text in dialogue with the lead instructor and students. This course accomplishes three purposes. First, it illustrates the types of questions that are pursued within the ten areas of study of the faculty. Second, it situates these methods and questions in the wider sweep of Western inquiries into the nature of religion. Third, it assists students in defining their own research agenda for their course of study and ongoing work.

Because students in all master's programs at the Divinity School are required to take this course, the conversation is enriched by the diverse perspectives of scholars who plan careers across a variety of fields, from the academy to religious organizations and beyond. Requirements for each course will be determined by the instructor.  This course may not be taken pass/fail. Successful completion requires receipt of a letter grade of B- or higher.  Requirements for each course will be determined by the instructor. This course may not be taken pass/fail. Successful completion requires receipt of a letter grade of B- or higher.