The Master of Liberal Arts, Religion degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), 3 of which are required on campus here at Harvard University. You choose a thesis or capstone track.
- Explore the required course curriculum.
- Determine your initial admissions eligibility.
- Learn about the 3 degree courses required for admission.
- Search and register for courses.
12 Graduate Courses
The degree is customizable. Within the program curriculum, you choose the religion and elective courses that meet your learning goals.
- HUMA 100 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Dramatic Arts, English, and Religion
- 5 religion courses
- 1 religion seminar
- 2 religion electives
- EXPO 42a is an elective option
Thesis Track: Additional Courses
The thesis is a 9-month independent research project where you work one-on-one in a tutorial setting with a thesis director.
- HUMA 497 Crafting the Thesis Proposal in Dramatic Arts, English, and Religion Tutorial
- RELI 499AB ALM Thesis in Religion (8 credits)
Recent Thesis Topics:
- Horatio Alger Jr. and Dr. Russell H. Conwell: Protestant Prescriptions for Social and Economic Mobility
- Reverend Theodore Judson Jemison: The Man Who Revolutionized the Civil Rights Movement
- A Comparative Analysis of the Transmission and “Translation” of Tibetan Buddhist Teachings in the American Context
Capstone Track: Additional Courses
- An addition religion elective
- GOVT 597A Precapstone: Strategies to Advance Social Change
- HIST 597 Social Reform Movements in America Precapston
- GOVT 599A Social Justice Capstone: Equity and the Struggle for Justice
- HIST 599 Social Reform Movements in America Capstone
The capstone experience. First, in the precapstone, you gain foundational preparation through critically analyzing the scholarly literature. Then, in the capstone, you execute a semester-long research project with guidance and support from your instructor and fellow candidates.
Capstone sequencing. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in the same topic, in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring), and in your final academic year. Capstone topics are subject to change annually.
The Harvard On-Campus Experience (3 Courses)
Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard University campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least three courses (12 credits), which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.
On-campus course requirements can typically be completed through:
- 15-week fall or spring semester courses that meet only on campus. Courses with the format “on campus or online” do not fulfill this requirement.
- Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
- Three-week January session courses that meet only on campus.
- Three- or seven-week summer courses that meet only on campus.
International Students Who Need a Student Visa
To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa for 3- or 7-week courses through Harvard Summer School. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.
Harvard Instructor Requirement
Eight of the above courses (32 credits) in either track need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard-instructor designation. The thesis course is taught by a Harvard instructor.
Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Be sure to visit Degree Program Admissions for full details.
- Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated for equivalency.
- You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in religion or a related field. Check your eligibility.
The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.
Earning Your Way In: Courses for Admission
To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following three, four-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online):
- HUMA 100 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in the Humanities
- Before registering, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities.
- You have two attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
- 1 religion course
- 1 religion course or elective (e.g., EXPO 42a)
The courses above, including EXPO 42a, count toward the degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses.
Course sequencing. While the three courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with the proseminar. All three courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.
Applying to the Degree Program
During the semester of your third degree course, submit the official application to the program.
Don’t delay! You must prioritize the three degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:
- avoid the delayed application fee or the loss of credit for expired course work.
- ensure critical and timely enrollment in degree-candidate-only courses.
- gain access to exclusive benefits (see bottom of page).
Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 9 more courses after admission to earn the degree.
For details about full eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Degree Program Admissions.
Search and Register for Courses
The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round. You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).
To find degree courses in the DCE Course Search and Registration platform:
- Under Search Classes, scroll to Browse by Degree, Certificate, or Premedical Program.
- Select Graduate Degrees.
- Choose Religion to explore program courses.
To Complete Your Degree
Required 3.0 GPA, 2 Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Course Policy
GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the 3 degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.
Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive 2 withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.
Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.
Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under 5 Years
Courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree. As noted above, the proseminar cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.
You have 5 years to complete your degree requirements. The 5-year timeline begins once you complete any 3 degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to the program.
Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the 5-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work.
Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the 5-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).
Graduate with Your Harvard Degree
When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Religion. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.
Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits
When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.