Program of Study
The Master of Arts in Religious Studies degree program at Hartford Seminary provides an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their faith understandings, to reflect on the challenge of diversity in a dialogical setting, and to meaningfully relate religious theory and spiritual practice to the context in which faith communities exist in daily life, community, and the world at large.
The program is designed for people who want to increase their knowledge and develop their skills in religious leadership and the practice of ministry in daily life while pursuing specific interests in a focused area of study.
Starting in 2017, this degree program will be offered fully online, as well as on campus, or as a combination of the two.
At the time of admission, students are assigned a faculty advisor. Students work with their faculty advisor and within their selected area of focused study to design a program tailored to meet their educational objectives. Students, in consultation with their faculty advisor, complete a Program of Study Worksheet outlining their courses and selected area of focused study.
Program of Study Worksheets must be submitted to the Dean no later than the completion of 24 credits.
Students who have not selected a focused area of study at the time of their application and admission should declare one no later than the completion of 24 credits. At that point, students will be reassigned, if necessary, to a faculty advisor in the area of focused study.
The Master of Arts in Religious Studies degree requires successful completion of the 48 credit components detailed below.
Core Course Dialogue in a World of Difference 3 credits
The core course, offered each fall semester, is foundational to the Master of Arts teaching goals and curriculum at Hartford Seminary. The course, which is team taught by two or more faculty members, provides an introduction to the lenses and disciplines of contextual, dialogical and interfaith engagement and discourse. The core course is required of all students enrolled in a Master of Arts degree program. Students are strongly urged to take the course during the first fall semester after admission to the program.
Students are required to take the designated number of credits in each of the core areas listed below:
|Scripture (Required: one course in each of two scriptures)||6|
|Spirituality, Liturgy, Worship*||3|
|Religion and Society||3|
|Total Core Credits||21 credits|
*For the required course in Spirituality, students should take the course that has the most meaning for them (in practice this should be in a tradition with which the student most closely identifies.)
Note: Students completing a Focused Area of Study in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations select from appropriate courses in each of the core areas.
Focused Area of Study 9 credits
For the focused area of study, students work with their faculty advisor to select courses tailored to meet their educational goals within one of the following areas:
- Biblical Studies
- Islamic Studies/Christian-Muslim Relations
- Theology and Ethics
- Religious Studies
Whenever possible, the faculty advisor for a student selecting one of the five remaining areas of focused study will be a faculty person within that academic area. That faculty person is the one who gives final approval to the course of study their student advisee has proposed and completed, in consultation with the Dean.
This focused area of study provides familiarity with the content of the books of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and critical exploration of specific books, genres, themes and historical and cultural contexts. Students choosing a focused area of study in Biblical Studies are encouraged to take Biblical languages. Up to 12 credits of language courses taken at Hartford Seminary may count toward the 48 credits required for the M.A. in Religious Studies degree.
Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations
Students completing this focused area of study will have knowledge of the history, beliefs and practices of Islam including the life of the Prophet, the Qur’ān as sacred scripture, law and tradition, theology, philosophy, and the schools of mystical thought. They will also be acquainted with the major social, political and intellectual trends in contemporary Islam, and theological and social interaction between Islam and Christianity.
Students in this focused area of study are encouraged to widen the core curriculum through independent study, including the study of Islam in the Middle East, Africa, South and East Asia, Europe and North America, using the extensive resources available in the special collections of the Hartford Seminary library.
Students choosing Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations are strongly encouraged to take Arabic. Up to 12 credits of language courses taken at Hartford Seminary may count toward the 48 credits required for the M.A. in Religious Studies degree.
The Macdonald Center
The Master of Arts program focusing on Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations utilizes the resources of Hartford Seminary’s Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. This center embodies Hartford Seminary’s 100-year commitment to the study of Islam and Christianity in their complex relationships throughout history and in the modern world.
Islamic Chaplaincy Program
The Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary is a 72-credit program that combines academic study and practical training. See Islamic Chaplaincy Program section for details.
This focused area of study is intended for students who desire the greatest flexibility in their program of study in order to accomplish particular educational goals. Students completing this focused area of study will have constructed their program to deliver a coherent set of educational objectives in collaboration with the faculty advisor.
Students completing this focused area of study will have grown in an understanding of spirituality as a way of life that intentionally integrates behavior and belief while honoring one’s personal search for meaning. Core to the program is exposure to a rapidly changing world and its multifaceted implications, diversity in understanding and relating to the Divine, a deepening of one’s awareness of God’s presence in everyday life, and an application of theoretical learning to reflective prayer and practice. Students will work with a faculty advisor in the field of spirituality to design a program tailored to meet their personal and educational goals.
Women’s Leadership Institute
Up to 6 credits of the Women’s Leadership Institute may be applied toward the M.A. in Religious Studies degree program with a focus in spirituality.
The drumming circle, offered through Hartford Seminary’s educational outreach program typically in the fall and winter/spring semesters, is an accompaniment to the course offerings in the area of spirituality, liturgy and worship.
Spiritual Life Center
The Spiritual Life Center is a resource for spiritual programs in the Hartford region and throughout Connecticut since 1982.
Theology and Ethics
Students completing this focused area of study will deepen and extend their theological understanding and analysis of biblical sources, historical traditions, and contemporary construction in theology and ethics. Students will be able to develop their own theological interpretations and discern their own ethical positions surrounding current issues.
Electives 9 or 12 credits
Students work with their faculty advisor to select the remaining courses from the curriculum to complete their educational objectives for the Master of Arts in Religious Studies degree program.
Final Paper/Project or Thesis (students select one) 3 or 6 credits
Completion of the final requirement for the M.A. in Religious Studies degree provides an opportunity for the student to demonstrate her/his capacity to apply and reflect on the perspectives addressed by the Master of Arts program within the focused area of study. Those perspectives may include both scholarly and practical approaches encountered in courses and independent study, the student’s own vocational understanding, and the experience of living in a faith community.
The precise form of the final paper, project or thesis can vary within certain guidelines. Students should discuss with their faculty advisor which type of component would best suit their needs, desires, and future academic and vocational plans. Students completing a final paper, project or thesis will be required to take an oral examination on their work with their faculty advisor and one additional faculty member. Completion of a thesis is strongly recommended for students considering further graduate study, particularly a Ph.D., at any point in their future.
Students who have completed the Master of Arts in Religious Studies program will be able to:
- Demonstrate foundational and critical knowledge of one’s own religion.
- Demonstrate the knowledge, capacities, and willingness to respectfully engage other religions and world views.
- Demonstrate knowledge of the practices of one’s own religious tradition and the capacity to appreciate the practices of other religious traditions.
- Demonstrate knowledge and skills for dialogical and constructive engagement with diversity.
- Demonstrate the ability to relate theory and practice in the social contexts in which a religion’s communities exist
The M.A. in Religious Studies program requires 48 credits. A minimum of 30 credits must be taken through Hartford Seminary and all degree requirements must be completed within six years.
Note: At least one course in the program — other than a course in scripture — must be taken in a faith tradition other than the one with which the student is most familiar. Students work with their faculty advisor to determine the appropriate course selection to meet this requirement.
|Number of Credits|
|Core Course||Dialogue in a World of Difference (DI-530)||3|
|Core Areas||Sacred Scripture (Required: one course in each of two scriptures)
Spirituality, Liturgy, Worship
Religion and Society
Total Core Area Credits
|Focused Area of Study||Students select from Biblical Studies, Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Religious Studies, Spirituality, or Theology and Ethics||9|
|Electives||9 or 12 credits depending on final requirement selection of final paper, project or thesis||9 or 12|
|Final Requirements||Final Paper/Project (3 credits) OR Thesis (6 credits)||3 or 6|
|Total Credits – Master of Arts||48|
- July 15 for the Fall Semester; to be considered for financial aid, a separate Application for Financial Assistance must be completed and submitted to the Financial Aid Committee by June 1st.
- December 1 for the Winter/Spring Semester.
An applicant’s file is complete when the following items have been received by the Admissions Office:
- The application form and application fee of $50.
- A personal statement of four to five pages identifying the applicant’s personal goals for the M.A. in Religious Studies program, his/her perceived strengths, and his/her potential areas for development.
- Complete official transcripts from all previous undergraduate and graduate institutions.
- Three letters of recommendation. At least one letter must be from a faculty member of an institution from which the applicant has earned a degree or a person from the applicant’s religious community or work place who can speak to the applicant’s potential for graduate level study.
- Personal Interview.
One can apply through either a paper-based or an online format, both available on our website www.hartsem.edu/admissions/apply-online/. Detailed instructions for completing the application are also provided at this link. You may also request a paper application by calling our Admissions Office at 860-509-9512.
Interview: Applicants will be contacted by the Admissions Office to schedule an on-campus or phone interview.
A bachelor’s degree (or its educational equivalent) at a satisfactory level of achievement from an accredited institution is a prerequisite for admission. Admission is granted only on the basis of the terms stated in this Catalogue and in the admission letter.
Students who have previously taken graduate level courses in religion from an accredited institution may be eligible for transfer credit.
Students who have undertaken significant learning outside the context of a traditional graduate degree program may be eligible for Advanced Standing.
Readmission: Please see Readmission policy.