M.A. in International Studies

M.A. – Comparative Religion

M.A. in Comparative Religion Handbook

The Comparative Religion Program at the University of Washington is one of several interdisciplinary programs in the Jackson School of International Studies which leads to a Master of Arts in International Studies. Developed out of the study of a wide spectrum of cultural traditions in the area studies programs of the Jackson School, the program’s focus is highly international and trans-cultural in nature.

The faculty of the Comparative Religion Program, which includes appointments in the Jackson School as well as several other units of the University, covers a wide variety of religious traditions and theoretical approaches in the study of religion. The University’s Language and Literature/Civilization programs, particularly in areas represented by the regional programs within the Jackson School, offer unusually deep resources for students and faculty interested in the comparative study of religion.

This Master’s program provides a particularly strong foundation for those students headed toward Ph.D. programs in religion. For those interested in Ph.D. work in religion only at the University of Washington, doctoral-level study is available through the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Near and Middles Eastern Studies, Asian Languages and Literature, and in other related departments such as Anthropology, Ethnomusicology, Political Science, History and Sociology. For details, interested students should contact those units directly.

– James Wellman, Chair

Admission Requirements

Applicants must meet the basic Graduate School requirements which include a 3.00 grade point average for the last 90 quarter (60 semester) credits, a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution, and test results from the general Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Applicants must also meet all application requirements and deadlines set by the Jackson School and described in its application guidelines. Meeting minimum standards, however, does not ensure admission. The Comparative Religion faculty reserve the right to determine in each case whether an applicant has sufficient language preparation and background in the study of religion for acceptance into the program.

Degree Requirements

All students must complete at least 39 credits in addition to fulfilling the language requirement. Generally this program is completed within two years.


The program places a very high priority on the acquisition of language skills, particularly for students who aim eventually for graduate study at the Ph.D. level. Students must demonstrate the equivalent of two years of proficiency in their primary research language either by examination or successful completion of appropriate course work. Students do not have to demonstrate proficiency prior to entering the program. Students can complete the language requirement during the M.A. program.

Basic Competency Certification

Students must achieve a basic competency in the history of world religions. This can be done either through examination or by completing JSIS C 201 and 202 or their equivalents.


Required Coursework:

  • RELIG 501/The Study of Religion (5 credits)
    Examines scholarly approaches used in the study of religion.
  • RELIG 502/Religion in Comparative Perspective (5 credits)
    Comparative study of several religious traditions, organized around a specific theme or topic, e.g., “ritual,” “gender,” etc.
  • RELIG 598 Colloquium in Comparative Religion (1 credit per quarter, 6 quarters)
    Colloquium. Introduction to faculty research and to major methods and disciplines in the study of religion. Introduction to major methods and disciplines in the study of religion.  Students organize and contribute to the series with participation by UW faculty members and visiting guest speakers. Required each quarter of enrollment in the graduate program. Credit/no credit only.
  • Historical Relations Between Religious Traditions-Elective
     Selected from courses on the history of regions where two or more religious traditions have come into contact with one another.

Other Coursework:

  • Major Concentration
    Students complete 4 to 5 courses in a chosen major. Major options are: Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Religion, or Religion and Culture.
  • Minor Concentration
    Students complete two or more courses in a chosen minor. Options are: same as major plus Religions in America, Greco-Roman religions, East Asian indigenous religions, African religious traditions, and Native American traditions.

Final Papers and Oral Exam

Students submit either one or two research papers to a supervisory committee, which also oversees both a written and oral exam.