Master of Science in Thanatology Degree – Online

When a significant event shatters our world, we search for meaning. How do we make sense of our life when it has changed forever? That’s where Thanatology comes in.

What is Thanatology?

Thanatology is the study of death, dying, grieving and loss. It’s a practice of helping people make sense of those significant life events – a death of someone close, a suicide, a terminal diagnosis. Students in our MS in Thanatology degree program are hospice workers, doctors, nurses, funeral directors, clergy, teachers, therapists, linguists, and more.

Why choose Marian University for your Master’s in Thanatology Degree?

  • Contemporary courses. Explore the latest innovations and significant practices, including Green Burial Practices, Death Doula Support, and Pediatric Palliative and Hospice Care.

  • Trauma-informed approach. Marian University’s Thanatology degree program recognizes that students show up as whole people, sometimes bringing their traumatic experiences with them.
  • Designed for adult learners. The 7-week, online courses in Marian University’s Thanatology program are designed for full-time working professionals and those with families. Findings suggest that 7-week vs. 15-week online courses can be equally effective with regard to satisfaction and performance outcomes.” (Harwood, et al., 2018)

  • Accomplished Faculty. Learn from distinguished faculty who are leaders in the field of thanatology. Our faculty members are experienced practitioners, authors, and sought-after speakers on podcasts and at national conferences.

  • Personal and Professional Growth.  Connect with other thanatology practitioners from diverse backgrounds and experiences through engaging coursework, practical experiences, and a supportive learning environment.

Earn Your MS in Thanatology

in 2 Years or Less 100% Online

Applied Thanatology Capstone

Applied Thanatology Capstone, 3 credits

The capstone project helps transform professional goals in thanatology into reality. Work with the program director or professor aligned with your area of interest on an applied project that will help you achieve your professional purpose.


Choose a project topic that will advance you future goals. Project ideas include:

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

You have much more to offer
when you add Thanatology.

You have much more to offer when you add Thanatology.

thanatology careers

Careers for Thanatology Professionals

Marian University’s rigorous study in Thanatology attracts students from all over the world and brings together professionals from a wide variety of vocations and venues, such as:

Where You Can Work

  • Churches

  • Funeral Services

  • Hospices

  • Hospital

  • Government Agencies

  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • Independent Practice
  • Universities
  • Veterans Administration 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

MS in Thanatology Degree Curriculum

Students in the MS Thanatology degree program will complete their coursework 100% online, supported by experienced and expert faculty. Completing the 30 credit hours usually takes two 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.

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
  • 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.

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

The 7-week, online courses in Marian University’s Thanatology program are designed for full-time working professionals and those with families.

MPath offers:

  • 100% online courses

  • Multiple Start Dates

  • Small Class Sizes

  • Expert Faculty Feedback

  • Engaging Discussions

  • Ultimate Flexibility

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.

Graduate Success Stories

As someone in their mid-20s, who spends a large amount of time with the aging population, it’s really beneficial to have a cohort of friends who can share similar experiences. Ultimately, I feel that through this program I’m not only learning how to better serve my clientele, but I am continually learning on how to enhance my own experience of life.

Alumni Stories_Thanatology_Katherine McGrathKatherine McGrath, Thanatology, Current Student, Life Enrichment Coordinator and Music Therapist at a senior living facility, Rochester, NY

The community of professors and students created an incredibly creative and dynamic learning environment.

Jonathan Heller, who founded Casa Ahava, the first hospice in Mozambique

I would definitely recommend Marian’s program to prospective students from all over the world. Marian offers a solid graduate degree in Thanatology and is progressively becoming thanatology’s hub.

Dr. Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia , Peruvian Linguist and teacher of Chinese as a foreign language, Thanatology, Current Student

Dr. Korie Leigh

“Our professors are experts in the field of study they teach, often bridging the gap between academic theory and clinical practice. We offer a comprehensive program, all the while fostering a sense of community with students from all around the globe.”

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