Princeton University pioneered in developing the study of religion outside the context of theological seminaries and without formal ties to particular religious traditions. In 1946 Princeton founded a Department of Religion in the division of the humanities and nine years later began a graduate program in religion.
Graduate students in the Department are expected to work full-time toward their degrees, normally in residence, and to complete the program within five years. All students work toward the Ph.D., and there is no separate Masters Program. An M.A. degree is awarded after students pass the General Examination, normally completed by the middle of the third year of graduate work.
In any academic year approximately thirty-five candidates will be at different stages in the program. Five to eight students enter each year, admitted from a very large number of qualified applicants.