Major: Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies

Degree Requirements

The curriculum for majors is designed to lead students through a course of study which begins with laying foundations, then moves on to building expertise, and finally culminates in a capstone experience. The foundational courses aim to introduce students to the academic study of religion through the exploration of a particular religious tradition, issue, or methodology. Students build expertise in more advanced courses offering in-depth investigation of specific topics, such as mysticism, gender, or violence/nonviolence; of particular texts, historical periods, or figures of a given religious tradition; or of distinct approaches to the study of religion, such as the philosophy of religion, ritual studies, or ethnography. Students consolidate the knowledge and skills acquired in the major through an integrative capstone experience consisting of either a senior essay or an honors thesis, completed in conjunction with three supporting capstone courses.

Students who have declared the major prior to Autumn 2019-20 may choose to follow the Degree Requirements listed in either the current Bulletin or the 2018-19 Bulletin.

WIM & Capstone
Required classes


Building Expertise

Greater than or equal to 6 courses numbered 100-289

(At least 2 courses must be at the 200-level)

Laying the Foundation

Greater than to equal to 3 courses at the 1-99 level 

(No more than 1 IntroSem)

Required Courses

A Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies requires 60 units of course work, distributed as follows:

Core Program Requirements: 

  • Three courses (3-5 units each) from courses numbered RELIGST 1-99, only one of which may be an Introductory Seminar.
  • Six courses (4-5 units each) from courses numbered RELIGST 100-289, of which at least two must be at the 200-level.

WIM: Majors' Seminar

  • RELIGST 290: Majors' Seminar: Theories of Religion (Winter Quarter; junior year; fulfills WIM requirement) | 5 UNITS

Capstone Experience:

  • RELIGST 297: Senior Essay/Honors Thesis Research (minimum 5 units; up to 10 units over two quarters; graded 'N' until completion of essay or thesis) | 5-10 UNITS
  • RELIGST 298: Senior Colloquium (Spring Quarter; grading option S/NC) | 4 UNITS

The remainder of the coursework needed to bring the total Religious Studies unit count to 60 to be chosen according to interest, in consultation with the student's advisor, and with an eye to the senior capstone requirement.

Additional Regulations

  1. With the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, up to two language courses relating to the student's program of study (such as Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Chinese, Persian, or Japanese), but not counted towards the University language requirement, may be counted toward the major.
  2. No more than ten units of the total 60 (excluding RELIGST 298) may be taken for the grade of 'S/NC' or 'CR/NC.'
  3. Students must ensure that their total complement of Religious Studies courses is not focused on a single religious tradition.
  4. Variations to the required distribution may be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies on an individual basis.
  5. All units must be in RELIGST courses unless an exception is made by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Capstone Experience

The capstone requirement in Religious Studies is fulfilled by the writing of either a senior essay or an honors thesis, which provides students with the opportunity to pursue independent research on a topic of interest under the direction of a Religious Studies faculty member. Two required courses support the successful completion of this senior project: RELIGST 297 (Senior Essay/Honors Thesis research) and RELIGST 298 (Senior Colloquium).

Senior Essay

A 25-30 page essay on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the advisor upon receipt of a student's proposal by the end of the third quarter prior to expected graduation. The character and content of the essay, which is meant to allow the student to call into play knowledge and skills learned in the course of the major, may take several forms. For example, a student may return to a subject studied earlier but now pursued in more depth or from a new perspective, research a recent or new topic of interest in the field, or offer a carefully framed critical assessment of what has been learned in the major based on review of influential sources, theories, and methods of studying religion. The senior essay is read and graded by the student's advisor and one other member of the Religious Studies faculty.

Honors Thesis

A 40-80 page research paper on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the advisor upon receipt of a proposal in the fourth quarter prior to expected graduation. The paper, supported by mastery of primary and secondary scholarship, advances a well-reasoned, supportable thesis. Writers of honors theses must have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 in Religious Studies courses, and at least 3.2 overall, and are expected to have already demonstrated success in writing research papers. The honors thesis is read and graded by the student's advisor and one other member of the Religious Studies faculty. Theses earning a grade of 'B+' or above receive honors.