FAQ's: Doctoral

Is a Master's degree required for application?

While a master's degree is not a requirement, it is a distinct advantage in the application process, and in fact, most students admitted to the Ph.D. program have already earned master's degrees. The background gained from one or two years of study beyond the undergraduate level allows a student to enter a doctoral program prepared to do the advanced work required for a Ph.D. Students with an undergraduate record of high quality and extensive academic preparation relevant to their statement of purpose may be admitted with only a B.A.

What is most important in the Ph.D. application process?

It is very important that you write a clear and informative statement of purpose. You should be able to talk in some detail about your academic interests, what led you to them, and what you envision the focus of your program at Harvard would be. As much as possible, you should familiarize yourself with the faculty and resources at Harvard in your proposed area of study. Reviewers of your application will look for a good "fit" between what you want to do and what Harvard has to offer.

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What are the opportunities for teaching?

As part of the funding offered to admitted students, teaching fellowships are made available beginning in year three. Teaching experience is integral to the doctoral program. Teaching Fellowship positions are most often found through the Divinity School and in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Additional teaching opportunities include work as junior and senior tutors with small groups or individuals majoring in religion, as well as work with HarvardX and the Harvard Extension School.

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What is the average length of study for doctoral candidates?

Program guidelines stipulate that students should complete their degrees in seven years. Some students may complete their doctoral programs sooner. Various factors, such as language study or research abroad, will affect the length of a student's program.

Do I need to mail my transcripts by the application deadline?

When applying to the Doctoral Program, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires that you upload a copy of your transcript from each college/university attended with your online application. An official transcript showing the conferral of the undergraduate degree is required to register in the Graduate School. An official transcript that differs from the application copy may bar an admitted candidate from registering.

Can I pursue a degree in Law and the Study of Religion?

Harvard offers a coordinated JD/PhD Program which is designed for students interested in completing interdisciplinary work and is founded on the belief that students’ legal studies and their arts and sciences graduate studies can be mutually enriched through this pursuit. Students completing the coordinated program receive a JD from Harvard Law School (HLS) and a PhD from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).

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When are stipends disbursed?

Incoming new graduate students receive their stipend disbursement on orientation day. Returning graduate students are issued stipend the first of September for the fall term. If you have not set up direct deposit, the check will be mailed on that date.

Is a writing sample required for applicants?

For applicants to the Ph.D. program in the Study of Religion, a writing sample is required. The 10-page limit/2500-word limit refers to the main body of the paper and does not include bibliographies.

Can I teach in years G5 and G6, as a priority student?

GSAS made some recent changes which allow students to shift their priority years to any combination within G3, G4, G5, and G6 years. This allows students in the Study of Religion to do research work earlier in their program, if they have secured alternative sources of funding. Read the guidance here: https://gsas.harvard.edu/news/stories/gsas-implements-enhancements-funding-packages.