Details at a Glance
Harvard Divinity School is a nonsectarian school of religious and theological studies that educates students both in the pursuit of the academic study of religion and in preparation for leadership in religious, governmental, and a wide range of service organizations.
HDS offers four degree programs: a Master of Divinity (MDiv) known for its multireligious approach and a curriculum that marries intellectual rigor with real world leadership training; a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) distinguished both by the diversity and by the interdisciplinary nature of its areas of focus; a doctoral program conducted in partnership with Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences through the University’s Committee on the Study of Religion; and a Master of Theology (ThM) for students who seek to gain additional competence for the ministry beyond that provided by the master of divinity degree.
Master of Divinity (MDiv):
Recognizing that the world is a religiously plural place, MDiv students of many faith communities, as well as students who are not religious, study side by side in order to foster a greater understanding of interreligious dialogue and work. The uniqueness of the HDS MDiv experience lies in the belief that to be a learned minister it is imperative both to study one's own religious tradition and to be exposed to others. MDiv students at HDS learn to let the knowledge gained in one's setting—a classroom or hospital or congregation, for example—inform and enhance the knowledge gained in another. Graduating MDiv students leave HDS with a toolkit that prepares them to serve within a religious community, to explore the spiritually formative dimension of intellectual work, to evaluate and act on the needs and questions of religious communities and beyond, and to speak with both a pastoral and a public voice.
This three-year full-time degree program is for those preparing for ordained or lay ministry and leadership in congregations and other religious communities, ministries in social service, hospital and prison chaplaincy, interfaith ministry on college campuses, and teaching and scholarship, as well as a range of other service-oriented leadership roles. Ministry is broadly defined at HDS, and there are a number of students in the program who do not identify with a particular religious tradition. Students in the MDiv program learn to work at the intersections of the academic study of religion and the practices of religious communities, the past and the present, classroom study and field study, and the convictions and practices of their own religious tradition and the convictions and practices of traditions other than their own.
Master of Theological Studies (MTS):
The MTS program is a two-year full-time degree that enables students to explore deeply and broadly the languages, literatures, thought, institutions, practices, normative claims, and structures of a variety of theological fields and religious traditions. It also enables students to think critically, with sophistication and self-awareness, about the scholarly study of these concepts and traditions. Eighteen areas of focus allow for diverse educational interests and vocational goals; in addition, students have the opportunity to design their own area in consultation with their advisor and the curriculum committee chair. The program may be preparatory work for a doctoral program in religion or related discipline, or as a means to approach another field or profession, such as law, journalism, public policy, education, arts, or medicine, from a perspective enriched by theological study.
The MTS degree provides knowledge of a wide range of academic disciplines related to the study of religion. The School expects graduates to articulate deep understanding of at least one major religious tradition, demonstrate broad familiarity with other religious traditions, theories, and methodological approaches, and be able to explain the ways that knowledge of religion is shaped by other human and societal factors. The course requirements for the MTS are extremely flexible.
PhD in Religion:
With around 40 students, HDS’s PhD in Religion program is one of the country’s most rigorous and selective. The School describes the program as focusing on global religions, religion and culture, and forces that shape religious traditions and thought with courses in the whole range of religious traditions from the ancient Zoroastrian tradition to modern Christian liberation movements, Islamic and Jewish philosophies, Buddhist social movements, and Hindu arts and culture. Moreover, doctoral education at HDS draws from a diverse range of disciplines and methodologies including history, philosophy, anthropology, and many others. A collaboration with Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the doctoral program consistently ranks among the top suppliers of tenured and tenure-track faculty both to departments of religion in research universities and to theological schools in North America.
Master of Theology (ThM):
The ThM program affords an opportunity for students who have received the master of divinity degree or its equivalent (three years of graduate theological study) to pursue advanced theological studies for one year. The program is especially recommended for students who seek to gain additional competence for the ministry beyond that provided by the master of divinity degree. It is equally appropriate for those who, after some years in ministry, teaching, or another field, wish to return to a theological institution to clarify their thinking, to prepare themselves for new tasks, or to acquire further competence in a specific area of study.
This one-year program offers 18 areas of focus, and includes course work, a language requirement, and an oral examination requirement. It is strongly recommended that applicants to the ThM have prior knowledge of the language they plan to use to meet the language requirement.
January 7, 2021
Clubs & Associations
A hallmark of HDS is our robust and vibrant community life and co-curricular offerings which provide boundless opportunities for engagement and learning. HDS has over 40 student organizations which produce over 100 programs and events in addition to weekly gatherings, socials, worship services, meetings, and more. While many organizations carry on from year to year, many new organizations form and others subside depending on the interests of current students. HDS also hosts regular community events, such as weekly Noon Service and Community Tea, town halls, and other ways to connect and engage with the community. HDS students are also able to join Harvard-wide organizations.
What Our Students Say
Spiritual innovation is as much about the process as it is about the product. It's being with the questions long enough to notice and embrace the answers when they manifest. HDS taught me how to think in this way.Rev. Erik Martinez Resly, founder & co-director of The Sanctuaries, an interfaith arts community in Washington DC, Master of Divinity ‘12
HDS was the first time I was surrounded by a community of people who didn’t see me as an exotic other. I could speak about my Sikh identity from its own perspective without feeling a need to translate, justify, or compromise. People genuinely wanted to know who I was and what animated and nourished my soul. It let me know that I could do this work in a way that felt true to myself and my community. That was really powerful.Simran Jeet Singh, writer, scholar, & activist, Master of Theological Studies ‘08
At HDS, I learned to take the pain that I had in myself, to connect it to a problem that we have in society, and to transform it into structures that lead to a better world. The meaning of leadership came alive for me while I was at the Divinity School. I discovered the kind of leader I wanted to be and what I wanted that leadership to look like.Karen Tse, founder & CEO of the NGO International Bridges to Justice, Master of Divinity ‘00
Spiritual innovation is as much about the process as it is about the product. It's being with the questions long enough to notice and embrace the answers when they manifest. HDS taught me how to think in this way.
HDS was the first time I was surrounded by a community of people who didn’t see me as an exotic other. I could speak about my Sikh identity from its own perspective without feeling a need to translate, justify, or compromise. People genuinely wanted to know who I was and what animated and nourished my soul. It let me know that I could do this work in a way that felt true to myself and my community. That was really powerful.
At HDS, I learned to take the pain that I had in myself, to connect it to a problem that we have in society, and to transform it into structures that lead to a better world. The meaning of leadership came alive for me while I was at the Divinity School. I discovered the kind of leader I wanted to be and what I wanted that leadership to look like.