Master of Arts Program Requirements

The Master of Arts in the Department of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University offers two options.

Option 1: no thesis

Following this option does not require preparation of a thesis or reading proficiency in a foreign language. It does require you to complete:

  • A total of at least 33 hours of course work, including 12 hours of required core courses and 21 hours of electives chosen from approved courses.
  • Comprehensive examinations.

Departmental reading lists for M.A. exams:

Complete comprehensive examinations

Qualifying examinations for the Department of Comparative Religion will be scheduled for either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday in the second-to-last week of classes during the fall and spring semesters. Each exam will be scheduled for four hours and in a space provided by the department. Exams will ordinarily require two to four essay responses, though the precise format of each exam will be worked out in consultation with the student and examining faculty member.

To schedule an exam, students must consult with their examining professors no later than the end of the semester prior to taking the exam (i.e., end of fall for a spring exam, end of summer II for a fall exam). It is preferable to have this consultation at the beginning of the academic year prior to the date of the exam (i.e., early fall for a late spring exam, early spring for a late fall exam).

An oral exam with both examining faculty will be held within one week of completion of the written exams. The oral exam is an opportunity for the faculty and student to explore the written responses in more depth and clarify questions raised by the answers. Students will receive an assessment of high pass, pass, low pass, or fail, according to the results of their exam (both written and oral). Examining faculty will notify the department chair of the result and the chair will submit the results to the registrar. If a student should fail an exam, the examining faculty may determine whether the student may be offered a one-time re-examination.

Option 2: thesis requirement

Option two requires a thesis and four additional requirements:

  • Complete a total of at least 27 hours of course work, including 12 hours of required core courses and 15 hours of electives chosen from approved courses.
  • Prepare a master's thesis (six hours) under the direction of a thesis advisor.
  • Demonstrate reading proficiency in one foreign language relevant to their research area.
  • Defend the master's thesis in oral examination.

Course requirements

Students are required to complete 33 credit hours of coursework consisting of core and elective courses.

Core courses (required of all students)

  • REL 6000 - Comparative Religion Professional Seminar
  • REL 6100 - Theory and Method
  • REL 6150 - Pedagogy: Teaching World Religions
  • REL 6200 - Advanced Writing Seminar in Comparative Religion

Elective courses

Students who choose the thesis option are required to complete 15 hours of elective coursework. For those who choose the non-thesis option, the requirement is 21 hours. Electives may be drawn from the following courses:

Cognate courses

Approved cognate courses may be drawn from related disciplines such as anthropology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, English, history and art history in consultation with the student's advisor.