Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion program.

What is the length of the program?

The MA is 36 units. If students attend fulltime, which is a course load of nine units each semester, the degree takes two years. In lieu of a thesis, students take Integrative Seminar during their final spring semester.

The PhD includes 36 units of course work, which take two years of full-time study; two comprehensive exams, which take one year; a dissertation proposal, which takes one semester, and a dissertation and dissertation defense, which take between one semester and two years. Therefore, the average degree takes between four and six years.

How many students are admitted to the program each year?

On average, we admit between three and six students each semester. However, we do not have a limit to the number of students we will enroll.

What kinds of students are attracted to this program?

People who are interested in the intersection of ecology and spirituality, as well as those who have an interest in the emerging field of religion and ecology, apply to this program. Students who wish to engage in cutting-edge research on some of the most important issues humans and the Earth community currently face (climate change, species extinction, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, ethnic and cultural apartheid, etc.), using interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methods, will find our program to be a supportive learning environment.

CIIS students are generally interested in the intersections of academics and activism and of social justice and diversity, and in how transformative inquiry, holistic learning, and academic rigor are integrated with spirituality.

Students in the program will develop their skills in critical thinking, public speaking, communication, research, teaching, writing, and creativity. CIIS offers a supportive learning environment and strives towards diversity and inclusion.

May I contact a graduate or current student? May I visit a class?

We would love to help you learn more about our program.

The best first step is to attend an info session. If you would like to connect with a student or graduate, or visit a class, please contact Richard Wormstall, our admissions counselor, or our program coordinator; they will help set that up.

You may also want to check out our YouTube channel or our Facebook page.

Can you provide career profiles for graduates of the program?

The program has been in existence for four years and has graduated two MA students. One graduate is now working with the Canadian government, developing water policies. The other is working with Interfaith Power & Light and is assisting with the No Coal in Oakland campaign. Both students write that their studies have helped them advance professionally.

A degree in Ecology, Spirituality and Religion will prepare you for the following careers:

  • Teaching in academia
  • Writing (journalism, novel, or nonfiction)
  • Work with Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Create your own non-profits
  • Creatively jump-start current careers, integrating ecological or spiritual models and methods
  • Ecological grief counseling work

Your studies will give you a broad understanding of the role of worldviews in the environmental crisis and of the prospects for change. You will be able to work toward greater sustainability through shifts in consciousness. You will generate new tools for addressing ecological devastation at personal and collective levels. You will have the ability to integrate multiple perspectives into your work, including those employed in environmental studies, religious studies, social sciences, and policy. You will create new careers, cultivating voices of change, pioneers of hope, and prophets of a planetary civilization.

How large are the classes?

Classes tend to be small, ranging from 5 to 30 students per class. Many courses are a combination of lecture, question and answer, and dialogue. CIIS prides itself in integral learning and works towards offering an inclusive learning environment to students.

When are classes held?

Classes are normally held on the weekdays. Each course meets one day per week for three hours. There are three available time slots for courses: 11:45am-2:45pm, 3:00-6:00pm, and 6:15-9:15pm. We try to schedule classes so that students need to travel to San Francisco for classes an average of two days per week.

Occasionally, we offer weekend intensive courses which will meet over the course of several weekends within the semester.

How much time should I plan for homework?

Generally, each hour spent in class generates three hours of homework. Therefore, if you are taking nine units per semester, you can expect to spend 36 hours on home reading and writing assignments.

Can I study from a distance? Are there any plans to offer this program online?

It is a long-term goal to offer online courses of study. However, currently our program only offers courses on campus in San Francisco.

Can I work full time while enrolled in the program?

Yes, it is possible. However, if you do choose to work full time, we recommend that you enroll as a part-time student (three units/semester instead of nine units/semester). This means it will take you much longer to complete the degree. Further, with fewer than six units/semester, you will not be eligible for financial aid.

Most students in the program work part time, around 20 hours/week, or fund their entire degree through loans and scholarships.

Is the GRE or similar exam required?

Our program does not require a GRE or similar entrance exam.

How competitive is the selection process?

Selection is dependent on demonstrated commitment to and experience with the topics and issues addressed in the our program, along with a good academic record and strong writing skills. Applicants do not necessarily have an undergraduate degree in environmental studies, religious studies, philosophy, or the humanities, but one's success in the program and ability to grasp content might be strengthened if these have been part of your studies.

For PhD students, it is essential that the applicant's proposed dissertation research be in an area that is congruent with the expertise of the faculty in the program.

How much does the program cost? Do you offer fellowships?

Both the MA program and the PhD program require 36 units of course work. Find information about the cost of attendance. For the PhD, there are also flat fees for the semesters spent writing your comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, and dissertation. (Our program is in the School of Consciousness and Transformation.) There are additional fees for registration, technology, and wellness.

We do not currently offer fellowships. However, please browse our financial aid page for information on how to secure fellowships from sources outside of CIIS.

For more information about costs, scholarships, and loans, please contact Richard Wormstall, our admissions counselor, or our Financial Aid office (415-575-6122 or

When can I apply?

Our fall semester begins mid-August and our spring semester begins mid-January. We begin accepting applications for the fall in November and for the spring in September. We recommended that you submit all application materials at least two weeks before the priority deadline. The deadlines vary from year to year and are earlier for international students than for students from the US. After the priority deadline, we accept applications on a rolling basis.

For more information on application policies, requirements, and deadlines, please visit the admissions website or email Richard Wormstall, our admissions counselor.

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