Master's Degree in Catholic Theology
Master's degree programs that focus specifically on Catholic theology are available in various formats from several different institutions, including those associated with the Catholic faith. Learn about common courses for these programs and how to apply.
How to Earn a Master's Degree in Catholic Theology
Master's degree programs in Catholic theology are usually offered as a Master of Arts (MA) in Catholic Theology or an MA in Theology from a Catholic institution that focuses its coursework in the denomination. Some of these master's degree programs can be completed in full- or part-time formats with on-campus, hybrid, and/or online coursework and may require students to complete around 36 credits of coursework. Depending on the program, students may also need to meet a foreign language requirement and/or complete a final exam, thesis, capstone, and/or final project along with core and elective courses in the subject, some of which we examine in greater detail below.
History of the Church
Students usually take one or more courses that explore the history of Christianity or the church, and these courses may be broken up into time periods, such as early Christians to the middle ages and into contemporary church history. In general, these courses explore the development of various concepts in Christianity and major theological developments. Usually, these courses focus on Catholic history and Catholic theology, but some may also include major Protestant theology. Some programs may even include a course that specifically examines the history of the Catholic church in the United States.
Students may take a broad course in the history of Biblical interpretation or more specific courses that examine the interpretation of the Old and/or New Testaments. Broader courses in the history of Biblical interpretation aim to equip students with knowledge of the guidelines of interpretation and the critical methods used in the field. Courses in Old Testament interpretation and New Testament interpretation examine various methods of scholarly analysis for these pieces of religious literature, including modern methods and medieval interpretation.
Students may take a course in moral theology or theological ethics that examines how Christians should live following the example and teachings of Christ. These courses may discuss the Bible and other theologians' work to understand how a person is converted and transformed. These courses may also explore Christian applications to current questions and issues in areas like racism, environmental ethics, and gender and identity questions.
Students generally take multiple courses in various areas of theology, including broader areas like fundamental theology and systematic theology or more specific areas, like the theology of the church. More general courses aim to provide students with an overview of the methods used in systematic theology and may cover topics in God, the development of Christian doctrine, Biblical interpretation, and the church. More specific courses focus on the role of the subject in Christian theology. For example, courses in church theology explore the church's role in salvation and its structure.
Courses in Catholic sacraments or sacraments and liturgy provide students with an overview of how sacraments are used in worship. Students in these courses analyze the sacraments and study the role of these traditions in the faith, as well as theological issues surrounding the sacraments. Other topics for these courses may include sacramental theory and the concept of a worshipping community.
Admittance Requirements for a Master's Degree in Catholic Theology
Admission to master's degree programs in Catholic theology or theology may be noncompetitive (meaning most are accepted), but typically require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. Some of these programs are more competitive and may require applicants to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and/or complete specific prerequisite coursework in areas like theology or religious studies. There is at least one program that requires students to take a specific course in the Catholic Theological Tradition prior to admission and make a grade that equates to a 3.0 or higher. Some programs may require applicants to take the GRE exam and submit their test scores with their application, along with items such as official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of intent, a resume, and/or a writing sample.
Students interested in studying Catholic theology can pursue an MA in Catholic Theology or an MA in Theology at a Catholic institution that includes coursework that focuses on the Catholic faith. These degree programs are often offered in flexible formats and may require some sort of culminating project or experience for graduation.