Master of Science in Thanatology

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NEW program! Accepting applications for Spring (January) 2023! Click here to apply.

Thanatology is the study of dying, death, loss, and grief and is both an academic and applied discipline. Thanatologists are individuals who have been specifically trained about the dying and grieving process.

This program prepares you for employment or volunteer work in a variety of settings where care for the dying and/or grieving are important including hospices; hospitals; faith communities; non-profit organizations; family, children and teen grief centers; funeral homes; and academic settings.

The program philosophy is that dying, death, loss, and grief are primarily human experiences with medical aspects, and not merely medical events that affect humans.

Program Highlights

  • Learn directly from internationally renowned Thanatologist and former ADEC board member, Dr. Janet McCord
  • Achieve 30 credit MS, Thanatology in 2 years or less
  • 100% online courses
  • Competitive tuition ($600/credit, including out-of-state)
  • Experience a one-of-a-kind curriculum aligned with the ADEC Essential Body of Knowledge
  • Prepare yourself to work in grief counseling in healthcare, education, therapy, or non-profit settings


What is Thanatology and What Does a Thanatologist Do?

Thanatology is the systematic study of dying, death, loss, grief, bereavement, life-threatening behavior, traumatic death, suicide, euthanasia, physician-assisted death, and the associated anthropological, developmental, historical, ethical, legal, philosophical, educational, psychological, scientific, sociological, spiritual, and theoretical elements.

Thanatologists are specialists who are knowledgeable about the dying and grieving process including evidence-based practices for family care, cutting edge literature, and thanatology research.

As a person is actively dying, families and individuals must navigate decision-making regarding end-of-life care. In the Western world, the guiding philosophy of care is highly medicalized, meaning that medical caregivers are primarily concerned with the medical, physical, and clinical aspects of care. After a death, family members, friends and members of communities must engage in decision-making around funeral rituals, navigate the process of grief, and find ways to emotionally support one another, all in a world where talking about death remains taboo. Thanatology and death education can humanize dying, death, and grief support in ways that lead to better outcomes for patients, families, and communities. 

Thanatology Industry Information

Students in thanatology programs view becoming a thanatologist to be a calling, a ministry, something they are passionate about – and so all who graduate from this program can and will actively extend the mission of Edgewood College’s core values of truth, compassion, justice, partnership, community, and action.

Here is a sampling of organizations and employment placements where a degree in thanatology can give someone an edge or can enhance the care given to individuals and families confronting the end of life:

  • Hospices
  • Hospitals (including medical caregivers at all levels)
  • Non-profits that serve grieving families
  • Funeral directors
  • Active duty military and veterans
  • Counselors and therapists
  • Organ and tissue procurement/recovery coordinators
  • Colleges
  • Chaplains and clergy
  • Faith communities

The Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) is the leading professional association in thanatology and death education. ADEC offers certification on two levels: Certified Thanatologist (CT) and Fellow in Thanatology (FT). Our curriculum prepares students to take and pass the ADEC certification exam on the first try. 

Thanatology Degree Requirements

THN 600: Introduction to Thanatology (3 Credits)
THN 610: Applications in Thanatological Theory (3 Credits)
THN 615: Family Systems and Thanatology (3 Credits)
THN 620: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Thanatology  (3 Credits)
THN 625: Spiritual Dimensions of Care in Thanatology (3 Credits)
THN 630: Ethics in Death and Dying (3 Credits)
THN 635: Developmental Thanatology: Research Methods Across the Lifespan (3 Credits)
Thanatology Comprehensive Exam Not credit bearing

You will also choose 9 credits of electives as part of this program:

THN 701: Thanatology Portfolio (not credit bearing) 
THN 702: Compassionate Cities: Movement and Mechanisms (3 credits)
THN 703: Developmental Perspectives in Thanatology: Children, Teens, and Emerging Adults (3 credits)
THN 704: Developmental Perspectives in Thanatology: Middle to Older Adulthood (3 credits)
THN 705: Hospice & Palliative Care at the End of Life (3 credits)
THN 706: Suicidology (3 credits)
THN 707: Suicide and Children, Teens, and Young Adults (3 credits)
THN 708: Traumatology (3 credits) 
THN 709: Death and Grief in the U.S. Military Context (3 credits) 
THN 710: Complicated Grief (3 credits) 
THN 711: Death and the Creative Imagination (3 credits)
THN 715: Special Topics in Thanatology (3 credits)
THN 720: Field Experience/Internship (3 credits)

Thanatology Tuition & Financial Aid

Graduate tuition for the 2022-23 year is $600 per credit (effective Summer 2022).  Please note that costs are expected to rise. The Master of Science in Thanatology degree requires completion of a total of 30 credits. 

Members of ADEC (Association for Death Education and Counseling) and National Alliance for Children’s Grief are eligible for a scholarship towards the MS in Thanatology program at Edgewood College. Students at half time enrollment will receive $300 per semester and students at full time enrollment will receive $600 per semester towards their graduate tuition. Please talk with your admissions counselor for more details.

Financial Aid

Graduate students are eligible for financial aid in the form of Federal Stafford Loans. Learn more about Stafford Loans, including eligibility requirements and application instructions.

Graduate Student Financial Aid

Our admissions and financial aid counselors have worked with thousands of students who have questioned how they could afford to complete their graduate education. They will use their experience to suggest creative solutions for financing your education. We work with students and organizations to manage tuition reimbursement plans, extend tuition discounts to various corporate partners in the region, offer third party billing and monthly payment plans, and work with veterans to maximize their available aid.


Thanatology Admission Requirements

Applicants to the Master of Science in Thanatology program will be required to have: 

  • completed application;
  • Official transcripts reflecting completion of a bachelor’s degree or its international equivalent with a 2.75 GPA. Transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate academic credits must be submitted;
  • A personal essay (500-1,000 words) articulating why the applicant wishes to study thanatology and relevant career goals;
  • The Test of English as a Foreign Language may be required. 

Admissions will be rolling until the first day of classes.

Meet the Program Director

Janet McCord

Janet McCord, PhD, FT, has been a thanatologist and suicidologist for nearly thirty years, and has educated hundreds of master’s level students around the globe in graduate thanatology programs. Among her publications, she is lead author of Chapter 18: Death Education (with Drs. Rebecca Morse and Norma Hirsch) in the Association for Death Education and Counseling’s (ADEC) Handbook of Thanatology (3rd Edition, 2021). She has served in various leadership roles in ADEC including President (2016-2017), and was invited to join the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement (IWG) in 2016. She embraces the IWG’s vision as her own: a world where dying, death, and bereavement are an open part of all cultures. Her research interests include the investigation of global and cultural perspectives of trauma, dying, death, grief, suicide, and loss; and expressions of dying, death and grief in literature and the arts. Finally, she serves as a section editor for the Routledge Online Resources: Death, Dying, and Bereavement. She lives in east central Wisconsin with her family, and relaxes by riding her horse Blu, gardening, and hanging out with her cats, dog, and chickens.

Program Accreditation

Edgewood College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The program curriculum is guided by the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) Body of Knowledge, ensuring that graduates are prepared to take and pass the certification exam offered by ADEC.

The philosophy of the program is that dying, death, loss and grief are primarily human experiences with medical aspects, and not primarily medical events. The curriculum is designed to prepare individuals to create, implement and provide non-medical support services for the dying and the bereaved, including suicide prevention and postvention support services, and community death education.

Links of Interest
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