Master of Arts in Religious Studies

This program is currently in teach-out status and are no longer accepting new applications.

We are transitioning the Master of Arts in Religious Studies to a Master of Arts in Interreligious Studies

The Master of Arts in Religious Studies degree program at Hartford International 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.

This degree program can be completed 100 percent online.

*Online program accredited by the Association for Theological Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Program of Study

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 International. 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.

Core Areas

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
Theology 3
Ethics 3
Spirituality, Liturgy, Worship* 3
Religion and Society 3
History 3
Arts of Ministry 3
Total Core Credits 24 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:

  • Islamic Studies/Christian-Muslim Relations
  • Religious Studies

Whenever possible, the faculty advisor for a student 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.

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 International 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 International 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 International’s Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. This center embodies Hartford International’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 International is a 72-credit program that combines academic study and practical training. See Islamic Chaplaincy Program section for details.

Religious Studies

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.

Electives 6 or 9 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.

Learning Outcomes

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 International 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
Arts of Ministry
Total Core Area Credits
Focused Area of Study Students select from  Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations or Religious Studies 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

Download MA in Religious Studies Program of Study Matrix 

Online Completion

Semester Core Area Offered
Even Year Fall Ethics (ET), Scripture (SC)
Odd Year Spring DI-540, Scripture (SC) , Worship and Spirituality (WS)
Odd Year Fall Arts of Ministry (AM), Religion and Society (RS)
Even Year Spring History (HI), Theology (TH)

For students who wish to complete courses for the MA in Religious Studies completely online, within a two year period, the following core area requirements schedule is provided for planning purposes:

While additional courses from the core areas of the MA in Religious Studies will be offered in each semester, the above core areas will be offered according to the schedule outlined above. Focused Area of Study, and Elective courses should be taken as they are available throughout the two year rotation.


Application deadlines:

  • 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:

  1. The application form and application fee of $50.
  2. 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.
  3. Complete official transcripts from all previous undergraduate and graduate institutions.
  4. 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.
  5. Personal Interview.

One can apply through either a paper-based or an online format, both available on our website 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.

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