The doctoral program involves three years of course work, followed by a qualifying examination in the subfield and area of specialization, and writing the dissertation. Total time to degree varies considerably, but most students take at least six years. (To fund extra years, many students apply for outside fellowships.)

Please note that the most up-to-date requirements are listed in the Stanford Bulletin.


Although course requirements may vary according to field, in general, the doctoral program encourages students to design their own curriculum, including work outside the department. All students take

  • two seminars in theories and methods,
  • a reading course on recent scholarship in religious studies,  
  • two courses in a subfield outside their own
  • a pedagogy seminar, and
  • must take courses with at least 5 different faculty

Foreign Languages

Students are required to demonstrate reading knowledge of at least two modern foreign languages. The languages chosen, in consultation with their primary advisor, should be those in which there is a significant body of scholarship in the student's field.


The program emphasizes preparation for both scholarship and teaching. During the third year, students work with the faculty to prepare a publishable paper in their area of specialization. 

Teaching Requirements

In addition to working as Teaching Assistants, they will also at some point serve as a Teaching Intern for a course in their field.

Graduate Handbook