MTS Requirements

MTS students focus their studies around a central area of interest within the 18 established areas of focus or by designing their own area in conjunction with their advisor and the curriculum committee chair. Note, individually designed programs should be created based on the course offerings and capacity of HDS to support that area as a field of study.

Not all courses available and of interest belong to an area of focus. The program was designed with sufficient flexibility to allow selection from among all course offerings. Students are encouraged to select these courses when appropriate to their interests or program.

Below are the basic requirements of the degree. Additional requirements, policies, and details of the below may be found in the HDS Handbook for Students.

  • Two years of full-time study
  • Sixteen half courses (64 units)
  • Completion of "Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion" in the first term of enrollment
  • Six courses within the student’s declared area of focus, three of which must be HDS courses. The courses must be taken for a letter grade and the student must receive grades of B- or higher.
  • Three courses significantly outside the student’s declared area of focus, two of which must be HDS courses
  • Six electives (may be within the student’s area of focus)
  • Intermediate level reading competency in a language that is relevant to the student’s area of focus determined by either course work or through examination
  • Residency requirement: students must complete four courses each in two of their first three consecutive terms
  • Thirteen of the sixteen required classes must be taken for a letter grade, three may be taken on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis
  • "B" average must be maintained throughout the program

Language requirements

MTS students must satisfy a language competency requirement by demonstrating intermediate reading competency in a language of scholarship in theological and religious studies. Students in these programs are not limited to the seven languages examined by the School and may meet their requirement with another language subject to the approval of the appropriate curriculum committee. There are four ways MTS students may demonstrate intermediate-level reading competency to satisfy the language requirement with one of the seven languages examined by HDS:

  • By passing an HDS language qualifying examination (given in September and April; in addition, French, Spanish, and German will be offered in January). Samples of previous qualifying exams are available for practice.
  • By completing with a grade of B- or better the second semester of an HDS intermediate-level course in Greek or Hebrew (e.g., 4021 Intermediate Classical Hebrew II or 4221 Intermediate Greek II) or one semester of an HDS advanced intermediate-level course in Latin (e.g., Readings in Christian Latin: Hildegard of Bingen and the Gospels).
  • By receiving a grade of A- or higher on the final exam in a modern language course in the School's Summer Language Program.
  • By receiving an A- or better in 4414 Advanced Intermediate German Readings or 4454 Advanced Intermediate French Readings or 4464 Advanced Intermediate Spanish Readings.

For languages taught at Harvard University other than the seven offered and examined by the Divinity School, the same principles will apply for satisfying the language requirement. Students must achieve intermediate competency, which is usually measured as finishing with a B- or better the fourth semester of a language course that follows the four-semester model. For languages that do not fit the four-semester model, the student should consult with the director of language studies and provide a description of the courses from the FAS catalog or from the instructor.

For languages outside the purview of any instructor at Harvard University, intermediate competency will be demonstrated by a satisfactory grade (B- or better) in a language examination. The procedure for this is as follows: The student will contact and secure agreement for an exam from a faculty member of another university. The student must then submit a petition signed by his/her advisor to the MTS Committee that details the reasoning for the student's choice of language, and the name and institutional affiliation of the proposed examiner. If the MTS Committee approves of the petition, the student will arrange the administration of the exam with the HDS registrar, and consult with the faculty director of language studies about academic guidelines for the exam.

HDS Voices

Kate DeConinck, ThD student

HDS does not teach you what to think but, rather, how to think. You learn how to get to the heart of important issues and how to identify the difficult but necessary questions. Furthermore, in supporting interdisciplinary scholarship, HDS allows you to work creatively within and across traditional academic boundaries.
—Kate DeConinck, ThD candidate
More on the Religion and Society doctoral program