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.

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. Every effort is made to give students the best information for securing these teaching positions.

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.

Academic preparation is also extremely important, and… Read more about What is most important in the Ph.D. application process?

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 required for application to the Ph.D. program?

The program is highly competitive – we can accept only 5-7% of applicants to the PhD. For that reason, we look for the most capable applicants, with excellent credentials in all areas.

  • A writing sample of no more than 10 pages in length.
  • Transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate programs attended.
  • Recommendations from three faculty members who can speak to your academic capabilities.
  • GRE's. The basic exams (verbal, analytical, and math), but not any specialty… Read more about What is required for application to the Ph.D. program?

What are the costs and benefits of spending a term or a year abroad?

The Study of Religion program encourages study abroad, but students should plan carefully in order to complete requirements in a timely manner. Religion does grant concentration credit for work done abroad, but students have to seek approval for such courses before they leave. Sophomore, junior and senior tutorials must be taken at Harvard. Other arrangements are possible—though we discourage study abroad for seniors. Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more information. See all the Junior Tutorial section for more information.