Master of Arts Requirements

The application deadline for Fall 2021 entry is June 15, 2021. All MA students begin in the Fall semester.

Students must complete 42 semester hours, including prerequisites and nine hours on the thesis project. In addition, many students must fulfill a language requirement; this will demand extra time and work.

Residency requirements for ACCESS students include 4 residential courses (during Intensives or during semester) and 4 "blended" courses. Residency requirement affecting transfer students stipulate that at least twelve semester hours must be taken at ESR, and that the thesis must be done under the guidance of ESR.

1) Foundational Courses (9 hours)

Upper level course work requires a basic foundation in Biblical and Theological Studies (BS 101, B 102, and TS 101). Students who have studied in these areas have the option of fulfilling the credit requirements by satisfactorily passing a proficiency exam for that course

2) Core Requirements (9 hours)

Biblical Studies (3 hours)

Advanced Biblical courses at the 300 level or higher.

Theological Studies (3 hours)

Advanced theology courses at the 300 level or higher. One course must be Constructive Theology.

Historical Studies (3 hours)

These will be chosen from among the following three major periods of church history: History of Christianity I, History of Christianity II, or American Religious History.

3) The M.A. Guidance Committee and the Thesis (9 hours)

Upon the completion of eighteen semester hours, a student may petition the faculty for the appointment of an M.A. Guidance Committee, and present a thesis proposal. Approval of the thesis and the appointment of such a committee by the faculty constitute the student’s admission to degree candidacy.

The thesis project may take one of two forms, each worth nine semester hours of credit. It may be a major, single piece of research, which results in a monograph with a single, unified thesis. Or it may be three separate but related papers, which together form a single monograph with three related theses, but not a single unified thesis. Whichever route taken, the final monograph will normally come to about 25,000 words – a significant amount of research and writing.

In the case of the single thesis, the student will register for thesis credits and perform independent research under the guidance of the chairperson of their M.A. Committee. Students should expect a minimum of two major revisions of their research before achieving the quality expected of a thesis.

In the case of three related papers, the student must base their research on three additional courses beyond the normal M.A. requirements. In this case, the student begins the research with the instructors of the classes forming the context for the original papers. While offering the benefit of a course structure to facilitate research, this option contains the difficulty of showing unified interrelationships among the three papers when they are brought into the thesis project. Students should understand that a high evaluation of a paper in a class does not mean it will receive a high evaluation for the thesis project. Typically, students will have to do major expansions and revisions on their papers before they become acceptable parts of a thesis.

As contrasted with the M.Div./M.Min. degree, it is difficult to predict when the M.A. will be completed, as this depends not on when a certain set of courses is finished but when the student produces a thesis project of sufficient quality to warrant awarding the degree. However, the M.A. must be completed within five years from the time of the residential student’s first class at ESR; Access students must complete their M.A. within seven years.

4) Elective Course (3 hours)

Students choose an elective. Course work needed to satisfy language or research skills may be used to fulfill the credits for the elective course.

5) Area of Concentration (12 hours)

At the time of petitioning the faculty for an M.A. Guidance Committee, the student will choose to focus his or her work in one of the following areas of curricular concentration: Biblical Studies; Christian Theology Studies; Quaker Studies; or Peace and Justice Studies. Together with the chairperson of the student’s M.A. Committee, the student will develop a program of study through 300 level elective courses in the area of concentration. This program should be designed to offer a solid foundation for thesis research.

6) Language Requirement and Research Skills

Students in the Biblical Studies area of concentration are normally required to demonstrate reading proficiency in Hebrew or Greek. Students in Theological Studies, Peace Studies, Quaker Studies, or Historical Studies are normally required to show reading competence in a foreign language if they do research that draws upon primary sources in that language. A requirement in the language can only be fulfilled by examination. However, faculty may require certain competencies in research skills. Students undertaking research with human subjects must assume the obligations for the welfare of those research subjects.

7) Oral Examination

Upon satisfactory completion of the M.A. thesis as judged by the M.A. Guidance Committee, the student will take a comprehensive oral examination with the Guidance Committee. It will focus both on the student’s general knowledge and understanding of the major field of emphasis, and also on the student’s particular project represented in the thesis or three research papers. This examination must be completed successfully by the date as specified in the academic calendar.

Registration for Thesis Credits

M.A. students are expected to register for the thesis no later than the semester following the one in which all of the core courses and concentration courses are completed.

Continuing Research

The M.A. student who has completed the required courses, who is not regularly enrolled in course work or for thesis credit, and who continues in residence at ESR, will be charged a “Continuing Research Fee.” This will formalize the student’s continuing participation in the ESR community, including community activities, mail box, library privileges, and consultation with faculty.


Interested in learning more? You can see an overview of the M.A. program here, objectives here, and a full listing of completed student M.A. theses here.

Request more information or apply online.