UMKC Catalog


Religious Studies
Discipline Coordinator
Gary L. Ebersole, (816) 235-5704,

Click here to see Religious Studies faculty who are members of the doctoral faculty.

Religious Studies is a discipline in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program administered by the School of Graduate Studies.

Note: The discipline-specific requirements listed here are in addition to the requirements listed in Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Application Procedure and Minimum Criteria for Admission and Minimum Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Academic Regulations and Degree Requirements.

Discipline-Specific Admission Requirements

Generally, students who select religious studies as a discipline must begin their work during the fall semester. Applications received by February 1 will be eligible for fellowship and scholarship consideration. Applications received after that date will be considered on a rolling basis. Except in very special situations, applications that are incomplete as of April 1 will not be considered until the following year.

In addition to the general admission criteria required of all applicants, those who choose religious studies as their primary discipline must:

  1. Possess a master's degree in religious studies or theology, or a master's degree in any of the disciplines of the humanities or social sciences (under certain conditions, a master of divinity degree is acceptable).
  2. Have earned a grade-point average of 3.5 in graduate courses.

Students who choose religious studies as a co-discipline must meet the criteria for admission specified by the School of Graduate Studies and should have some academic experience in religious studies or career experience related to religion.
All applicants must submit:

  1. One or more samples of written work.
  2. A brief statement of academic and professional goals.
  3. A one- or two-page proposal outlining an interdisciplinary plan of study that tentatively specifies a dissertation topic or area of specialization.

Applicants are advised that meeting the criteria of the School of Graduate Studies and the discipline does not automatically result in admission to the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. When making recommendations to the School of Graduate Studies, the discipline's faculty steering committee considers other factors as well, particularly the availability of faculty qualified to work in the applicant's area of interest and the existence locally of necessary archival and library facilities.


Provisional Admission

Applicants who do not meet the requirements specified above may be recommended for provisional admission by the religious studies faculty. An applicant admitted provisionally will receive notification of deficiencies and of the conditions which must be met before full admission will be granted.


Suggested Compatible Co-disciplines

Curriculum and instruction, English, history, art history, and political science.


Core Program Requirements

The total number of courses and credits on the plan of study will vary depending on the student's degree of preparation prior to admission. All students are urged to take coursework in comparative studies of religion, as well as in cognate fields.

The core program requirement for a student whose primary discipline is religious studies includes a minimum of 21 hours of coursework in religious studies, including the five core courses listed below, plus coursework in the student's co-discipline(s) [not to exceed 60 percent of the total coursework in Religious Studies on the plan of study], and at least 12 dissertation credits.

Core Courses: 

  • RELIG-ST 5510 - Religions of the World (three credit hours)
  • RELIG-ST 5584RS - Sacred Narratives and Texts (three credit hours)
  • RELIG-ST 5586RS - Methodological Approaches to the Study of Religion (three credit hours)
  • RELIG-ST 5587RS - Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Religion (three credit hours)
  • RELIG-ST 5680RS - Doctoral Colloquium (three credit hours)

The discipline's core requirement for a student whose co-discipline is religious studies includes four of the five courses listed above, plus other courses recommended by the religious studies member(s) of the student's supervisory committee.

Students who have taken any of the above required 5500-level core courses prior to admission may substitute other courses approved by their supervisory committee to satisfy the core course requirement. Graduate courses offered by other area institutions that have been approved by the student's supervisory committee may also be used to fulfill the core course requirements in religious studies.


Other Discipline-Specific Special Requirements

Foreign Language Requirement

All students with religious studies as either primary or co-discipline and whose dissertation requires work in foreign language sources must demonstrate the requisite language competency through a special examination approved by the student's supervisory committee or an alternative demonstration of competency. In addition, all Ph.D. students must demonstrate a reading ability in either French or German.

Requirements for Retention

A doctoral student with religious studies as a discipline must maintain a 3.0 (B) grade-point average in each semester of coursework taken. A student whose term GPA falls below 3.0, or whose work is deemed unsatisfactory by his or her supervisory committee, may be placed on probation for one semester. A person receiving an F grade in a class normally will not be retained in the doctoral program.


Requirements for Comprehensive Examinations

The student with religious studies as his or her primary discipline must take three comprehensive examinations in religious studies containing both a written and an oral component, plus an examination set by the co-discipline. The three religious studies examinations are: history and methods of the study of religion, comparative studies of religion, and special area. A student's special area may be defined by religious tradition (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism) or by geographical area (e.g., American religious history, religions of Africa, Chinese religions). The content of the comprehensive examinations will be determined by the student's supervisory committee and will vary somewhat according to the religious studies component of the student's plan of study. Students will be provided with the requirements for the comprehensive examinations at the time of admission to the Ph.D. program. Students who have religious studies as the co-discipline will take two comprehensive examinations: History and Methods of the Study of Religion and Comparative Studies of Religion. Complete information on comprehensive exams, including previous exam questions, may be found on the Religious Studies web site.



Religious studies is an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and comparative field of study. All students are expected to take coursework in a variety of traditional disciplines and to integrate the knowledge and methodological approaches used in these disciplines in their own research and writing during their graduate career and in the dissertation.