Master of Science in Thanatology Degree – Online

MPath – Marian’s engaging online education platform

Earn your MS in Thanatology through MPath, Marian’s student-centered online platform.

Loss, grief, and bereavement are part of everyone’s life. Supporting individuals and families confronting these and other non-death loss issues requires dedication, compassion, empathy, and in-depth knowledge of psychological, spiritual, social, and cultural elements that impact death and grieving.  

Marian’s Master of Science in Thanatology prepares students for employment in organizations that focus on the delivery of care for individuals and families confronting end-of-life healthcare, bereavement issues, suicide, and more. Thanatology addresses grief and loss for varied populations including children, parents, military, and veterans. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue careers in churches, funeral homes, hospices, hospitals, and non-profit organizations.  

Students benefit from the accomplished thanatology faculty at Marian University. Faculty are leaders in the field regularly publishing in respected journals and trade books and speaking at national conferences. They bring years of experience working in professional settings and use that experience as they provide students with professional feedback and guidance. 

Earn Your MS in Thanatology – 100% Online – in 2 Years or Less

Our Partners in Thanatology Education

Marian University has partnered with national and international organizations, making those important connections that mean your Master of Science in Thanatology education is aligned with the body of knowledge of these important organizations.  Marian has educational partnerships with the National Alliance for Children’s Grief (NACG), the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, The National End-of-Life Doula Alliance, The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), and the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC).

Members of these organizations, plus members of the National Funeral Directors Association, are eligible for tuition discounts.

Applied Thanatology Capstone, 3 credits

The capstone project is designed to help students achieve their professional goals and therefore serves as a tool to begin to transform those goals into reality. As a student you will work with the program director or professor aligned with your area of interest and choose between a thesis or applied project approach.

Whether you choose to work on a thesis or applied project, the MS Thanatology Capstone topic is student-driven and designed to help you achieve your professional purpose.


Student can choose to research and develop a thesis based on their thanatology area of interest.


Students choose a project topic that will advance their future goals. Project ideas include:

  • Write a grant
  • Design a community in-service
  • Create a conference presentation
  • Develop a plan for a new project

Enhance your career with
advanced thanatology education.

Enhance your career with advanced thanatology education.

Careers for Thanatology Professionals

Marian University’s program attracts those with established thanatology careers or jobs in industries where knowledge in thanatology can enhance their professional abilities. Because a person who practices thanatology supports individuals and families of all ages, career options are vast.

Where You Can Work

  • Church

  • Funeral Services

  • Hospital

  • Independent Practice

  • Government Agency

  • Nonprofit Agency

  • VA Services

Become Certified by ADEC

Marian University’s degree and certificate programs meet the coursework requirements of the Association of Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) for graduates to sit for the exam to become Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement.

Association for Death Education and Counseling logo

Dr. Korie Leigh

“Our students come from diverse professional backgrounds and continue to expand professionally into a variety of thanatology driven careers. Our student-driven capstone allows students with distinct interests to develop a project or thesis that will serve to advance their goals post-graduation.”

Korie Leigh, PhD, CCLS, CT
Program Director, Thanatology
Associate Professor

MPath logo

MPath Online – Marian University’s Online 7-Week Course Format

The online Certificate in Thanatology is designed to prepare students to provide support for those facing end-of-life and bereavement issues. The certificate courses are offered in a concise 7-week format (MPath), specially tailored for busy individuals who wish to learn to provide compassionate care to people facing grief, loss, and death.

A graduate degree is not required for enrollment in this certificate, but students who do hold an advanced degree in a caregiving or a healthcare field, such as counseling, nursing, or faith and community leadership, are welcome and may benefit from adding to their skill set through education in thanatology.

In addition to small class sizes, faculty feedback, and engaging discussions on in-depth topics, you will:

  • Have Ultimate Flexibility
    100% online courses

  • Choose Your Start Date
    Start dates every seven weeks allow busy students to choose their best time to start.

  • Stay on Track
    Focus on one course at a time, without increasing time to completion.

MS in Thanatology Curriculum

Students in the MS Thanatology program will complete their coursework 100% online supported by expert faculty highly accomplished in their field. Completing the 30 credit hours usually takes 2 years if taking one course at a time. If taking two to three courses at a time, students can complete the program in less time. Personalized instruction helps students form connections and professional networks through hospitals, hospices, nonprofit organizations, and other employers.

The Program

Marian’s Master of Science in Thanatology can be completed in less than two years through a flexible course sequence. Students will enroll in a 12-credit core curriculum with 15 credits of electives and 3 credits for the capstone. The program combines rigorous study across the spectrum of end-of-life studies. Students may choose from emphasis tracks such as:

  • Child and Family
  • Social Justice
  • Transpersonal
  • Pediatric Palliative and Hospice
  • General Thanatology Practitioner
  • Death Doula

Degree requirements

To receive the Master of Science in Thanatology, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Completion of coursework with a minimum GPA of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale)
  • Submission and approval of the final capstone project

Core Courses

Thanatology majors will take courses covering topics such as:

  • Principals and history of thanatology
  • Grief theory and practice
  • Cultural humility in thanatology
  • Applied healthcare ethics

Learning Outcomes

  • Graduates of this program will recognize and articulate the foundational assumptions, central ideas, and dominant criticisms of contemporary thanatology theory and practice.
  • Graduates of this program will demonstrate competence in applying thanatology evidence-based best practices in needs assessment and support services/program development, delivery and assessment for individuals and families confronting the end of life, death, loss and bereavement including bereavement after natural death, traumatic death, in various cultural contexts, and across the life span
  • Graduates of this program will design and implement educational programs on death, the dying process, end-of-life decision making, and bereavement topics for communities and professional audiences.
  • Graduates of this program will analyze, synthesize and evaluate the relationship between religious and spiritual belief systems and the reaction to and coping with death, and incorporate these elements appropriately into service delivery.
  • Graduates of this program will conduct and evaluate thanatology action research critically and reflectively.
  • Graduates of this program will participate effectively in the academic and professional community.
  • Graduates of this program will identify and discuss common ethical issues with individuals and families.


The mission of the Edwin S. Shneidman Program in Thanatology is to educate students from diverse backgrounds in the fundamental concepts, knowledge, research, techniques and skills of thanatology in order to (1) prepare them for employment in a wide variety of thanatology-related positions and (2) prepare them to contribute to the discipline of thanatology academically and professionally.

Professional Standards

The Master of Science and Graduate Certificate in Thanatology programs offer a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and scientific study of the dying and grieving process; cultural attitudes towards death and loss; spirituality and ethical standards; suicide prevention education; applied research; and the spiritual, social, psychological and medical aspects of dying, death, loss and grief. Our curriculum is aligned with the Association for Death Education and Counseling’s (ADEC) Body of Knowledge, and prepares students to take the ADEC certification examination. As a graduate, you’ll be prepared to find employment in areas like churches, funeral homes, hospices, hospitals and non-profit organizations, among others

Our graduates are prepared with the skills and practical experience needed for success. After graduating from our programs, alums have embarked on a variety Thanatology related career paths including;

  • Bereavement Coordinator Hospice, Wisconsin
  • Private Practice Focusing on Non-Death Loss
  • Bereavement coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
  • Owner of Grief Hermitage Center
  • Bereavement Coordinator Palliative Care Team, New Hampshire
  • Bereavement Coordinator Hospice, Illinois
  • Director & Founder of the First Hospice in Mozambique
  • Private Practice Focusing in end of life & grief plant medicine specialist
  • Author & Artist focusing on grief
  • PhD Student in Religious Studies focusing on ‘death phobic cultures’

In addition to the alumni represented above, many of our alum’s continue on in their current profession by adding layers of depth and expertise to their career. Examples include

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Anthropologist
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • Certified Child Life Specialists
  • Palliative Care Physician
  • Funeral Director
  • Death Doula

Admission Requirements:

To be considered for admission into the Master of Science in Thanatology, the applicant must submit the following:

  • A completed Marian University application form
  • Apply online for free at APPLY
  • An official transcript from each college or university attended; Applicants must have an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Students may be considered for admission on a probationary status with less than a 3.0 GPA
  • Career goal statement

To apply for the Masters of Science in Thanatology, use the Admissions Checklist. This document will guide you through the process and ensure that you have submitted all of the necessary materials.