MA in Interreligious Studies | Hartford Seminary

MA in Interreligious Studies



Learning Outcomes


The MA in Interreligious Studies (MAIRS) is a 36-credit-hour graduate degree that engages students in advanced academic study of the lived reality of religions in public multifaith contexts. It may also serve as a foundation for those pursuing other professional degrees or as a vehicle for the enhancement of one’s own faith and understanding. The MAIRS program provides a strong grounding in the foundational concepts and methods of Interreligious studies, relations between religions, and the study of lived religious traditions. Students may choose one of three specializations:

  1. Interreligious Studies, which provides a flexible course of study based upon the student’s area of interests;
  2. Islamic Studies, which focuses on the foundational texts of Islam as they are lived and interpreted by Muslims; and
  3. Ministerial Studies, which centers on the Christian tradition and provides initial studies in scripture, theology, history, and the arts of ministry for those who are preparing for ministerial professions or who seek to move on to a Masters of Divinity at a partner institution.

Gateway course (3 credits)

  • Introduction to Interreligious Understanding

Team Taught Seminars (6 credits)

Students select two of the following seminars:

  • The Changing Religious and Cultural Landscape
  • Sacred Texts as Living Documents OR Peace, Justice, and Violence in Sacred Texts
  • The Faiths as Formal Realities

Specialization (24 credits)

Interreligious Studies

Islamic Studies

Ministerial Studies

Students will select 8 elective courses (3 credits each) in consultation with their advisor according to the goals outlined in their Annual Advising Plan and Report. Foundational fields
(12 credits)
Scripture (6 credits)
Arts of Ministry (6 credits)
Beliefs and Practices
(6 credits)
Foundations of the Christian Faith
(6 credits)
Religious Pluralism
(3 credits)
Beliefs and Practices of the Christian Faith
(6 credits)
(3 credits)

Language Proficiency

It is highly recommended for students in the Ministerial Studies specialization or in the Islamic Studies specialization to demonstrate basic proficiency in reading scriptural texts, such as Hebrew, New Testament Greek or Qur’anic Arabic, prior to the completion of their final requirement. Demonstrating proficiency may be done through completion of Hartford Seminary courses with a “Pass,” transferred language courses from another accredited educational institution of a “B” or better, or certification from an outside language institute, or testing out through a seminary-proctored exam. The pursuit of language study should be part of the Annual Advising Plan and Report.

Final Requirement (3 credits)

Students will select between a final project or thesis. Completion of a thesis is strongly recommended for students considering further graduate study, particularly a Ph.D., at any point in their future. Students in the Ministerial Studies specialization who intend to transfer to one of our partner schools to complete the M.Div. will take an additional elective instead of completing a final requirement.

Specialization Requirements

Islamic Studies Specialization Courses (24-credits) allow the student to explore topics of interest. The number and type of courses will be delineated in the Student Semester Advising Plan, depending on the need and interest of the student and in consultation with their advisor.

  • Courses in the Foundational Fields of Islamic Studies introduce students to the Qur’an, Hadith, and Tafsir literature, the major legal schools, theological, philosophical, and pietistic traditions.  (12 credits)
  • Courses in Beliefs and Practices of Islam examine the ways in which Muslims of the past and present have understood and practiced their faith and continue to live out their faith tradition in specific contexts. (6 credits)
  • Courses in Religious Pluralism explore the how Muslims have thought about, interacted with, and understand themselves in relation with other religious traditions. (3 credits)
  • One Elective (3 credits) in any of the areas above or a course in the Arabic language.

 The Ministerial Studies Specialization

The Ministerial Studies Specialization is intended to provide students with a foundational study of the arts of ministry. Students may also utilize this pathway to complete a Master of Divinity at one of our partner schools through our Cooperative MDiv. Hartford Seminary has partnership agreements with Boston University School of Theology, Chicago Theological Seminary, Drew University, and Yale Divinity School, to accept up to 36 credits for those students who wish to complete a Master of Divinity at one of these schools. Finally, students may also wish to continue on with the professional Master of Arts in Chaplaincy. To do this they must also apply to the Admissions committee for that degree.

Ministerial Studies Specialization Courses (24 credits) allow the student to explore topics of interest in their preparation for ministry, or transfer to a Master’s of Divinity program at a partner institution, as outlined above. The number and type of courses will be delineated in the Student Advising Plan depending on the need and interest of the student, in consultation with their advisor.

  • Courses in the Scripture requirement will introduce students to the scholarly study of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament as sacred Scriptures, and to their relation to the historic contexts out of which they arose. They will be introduced to the original languages and to the primary methods used by different faith communities to interpret them. (6 credits)
  • The Arts of Ministry requirement will introduce students into the theological rationale and demonstrate basic knowledge and skills in ministry, such as preaching, counseling, and the various requirements of congregational leadership within an ecumenical and multifaith setting. (6 credits)
  • The Foundations of the Christian faith requirement provides students the opportunity to examine the foundations and development of Christian faith, its major, doctrines, traditions, the important historical moments of the Christian tradition, and the ability to articulate the differences with other religious traditions (6 credits)
  • The Beliefs and Practices requirement provides students the opportunity to analyze how Christian communities of the past and present have understood and practiced their faith, and continue to live out their faith tradition in specific contexts.  (6 credits)
  1. Gain a strong grounding in the discipline of interreligious studies, being able to demonstrate fluency in the foundational concepts, insights and methods of interreligious studies and the application of those methods within contemporary lived multifaith realities.
  2. Benefit from the formal study of and immersion in interreligious studies within a multifaith classroom context, which requires the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for respectful and substantive dialogue.
  3. Be introduced to the interdisciplinary study of contemporary religious communities analyzing the impact of local, social and political contexts on beliefs and practices.
  4. Gain an understanding of the role of the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, being able to explain contemporary and historical approaches to the interpretation of scripture, as well as to recognize various communal and individual approaches to scriptures.
  5. Examine the lived and historic theological or legal traditions within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, being able to explain how communities move from the text to structured beliefs and traditions, approaches, and doctrines within various communities.
  6. Conduct regular, advanced level research in the field of interreligious studies that enables them to articulate their own experiences and understandings, using responsible research methods, proper citation methods, and careful judgement in selecting and interpreting sources.

Application deadlines:

  • July 15 for the Fall Semester; to be considered for financial aid, separate Applications for Financial Assistance must be completed and submitted to the Financial Aid Office by June 1st.
  • December 1 for the Spring Semester.

Application Requirements:

  1. Prior Education: Complete official transcripts from all previous undergraduate and graduate institutions must be submitted to the Admission’s Office. A bachelor’s degree (or its educational equivalent) at a high level of achievement from an accredited institution is a prerequisite for admissions. Admission is granted only on the basis of the terms stated in the Hartford Seminary Catalogue and in the admission letter. In unusual circumstances, a limited number of highly qualified students without the requisite Bachelor’s Degree will be considered for admission.Applicants possessing international education credentials are required to submit transcripts in English or accompanied by a certified English translation. Non-U.S. transcripts must be evaluated by a credential evaluation service such as or by a member organization of NACES (
  2.  Statement of Purpose: Each Statement of Purpose is unique and is meant to be an expression of the individuals that write them.  We want to know what is important to you, what has shaped you, and, ultimately, who you are. You have the opportunity to tell us about the aspects of your character and experience that help us understand why you are a good match with this program. We also want to know how you would both gain from and contribute to our unique environment.The Statement of Purpose should be four to five pages (typed, double-spaced) and should reflect on:
    * your goals in seeking theological education and the life experiences or values that have led you to do so;
    * the reasons you have chosen Hartford Seminary, in particular;
    * your educational/ vocational goals;
    * your perceived strengths and potential areas for development.
  3. References: 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 another person who can speak to the applicant’s potential for graduate level or a person from the applicant’s religious community or work place who can speak to the applicant’s potential for graduate level study.
  4. English Language Proficiency: Students who are not native English speakers or who have not had English as a primary language of instruction in their academic studies, are required to submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination and achieve a minimum score of 80 on the internet version of TOEFL or 550 on the paper based total; or 6.5 on the IELTS.

All completed applications are reviewed by the Admissions Committee.

Transfer Credit

Applicants who have previously taken graduate level courses in religion from an accredited institution may be eligible for a limited amount of transfer credit. Requests concerning transfer credit should be made at the time of application.

Ready to start your application? Click one of the links below.

Application for Domestic Students

Application for International Students

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