A variety of opportunities exists for students who would like to enroll in a Catholic theology graduate program; these programs are most commonly available at the master's degree level. Prospective students can learn more about some of the common requirements of these programs below, including common coursework, information about the thesis or dissertation, and what components are necessary in a complete application file.
Information about Catholic Theology Graduate Programs
Master's degree programs in Catholic theology can typically be completed in two years. Students typically spend the first year and a half of a master's program completing required coursework and electives. After the majority of coursework is completed, students are able to begin working on their thesis given the approval of their advisor. In terms of course offerings, master's degree programs in Catholic theology generally offer similar courses, five of which are discussed below.
The Old Testament
Graduate programs in Catholic theology generally include a course or courses that cover the writings of the Old Testament. This course may be more general in nature, covering overarching themes of the Old Testament, or it may focus on specific aspects or parts of the Old Testament, like the Prophets, the books that are focused on themes of wisdom, or early Bible history. Generally, students will be required to take multiple courses that cover the Old Testament, given its length and diversity of content.
Teachings of the New Testament
It is very common that students will be required to take a course that focuses exclusively on the teachings of the New Testament of the Bible. In this course, students may study the teachings of the New Testament in general in order to understand their relevance to Christian life today, as well as an in-depth study of certain books or themes of the New Testament. Some possible topics of study include the Apostles, teachings about the poor, and the nature of the Holy Spirit.
Students in graduate programs in Catholic Theology will also likely take a course that focuses on some aspect of the Trinity and its importance in the teachings of Catholicism. Students will learn about the doctrinal support for a Triune God in Christianity, as well as the characteristics that are often used to describe the nature of God. In addition, the course may cover the concept of God or gods in general as they are portrayed in Christianity, as well as other religious traditions.
These programs often include a course that is focused on the sacraments and the sacramental aspect of faith. In this course, students will learn about the seven sacraments - baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation, the anointing of the sick, marriage, and holy orders. They will learn about the sacraments from a variety of perspectives, both in how they are described and portrayed in religious texts, as well as their role in modern life and Christian living.
Catholic Church History and Tradition
It is also common that these programs include in their curriculum a course that focuses on the history and traditions of the Catholic Church. In this course, students will gain an understanding of how the Catholic Church developed over the centuries, as well as pre-church history in Judaism and the Passion of Christ. Students will also learn about movements and figures that had a major impact on Christianity and Catholicism as well as past and current Catholic traditions.
Admission Standards for Catholic Theology Graduate Programs
Students who are interested in being admitted into a graduate program in Catholic theology will need to submit a complete application file in order to be considered by admissions committees. In this file, they must include a completed application form, letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, a personal statement or letter of intent, and a CV or resume. Programs may also request that students take and submit scores from the GRE examination, as well as an academic writing sample. In terms of prerequisites, students are expected to have completed a bachelor's degree by the time of enrollment, though it is not required that this degree be in any particular field. However, some programs may require that students without an adequate history of courses in religion or philosophy take a number of foundational courses before beginning the core program curriculum.
To summarize, graduate programs in Catholic theology are available as both master's and doctoral programs. These programs allow students to achieve advanced knowledge in this field, as well as the opportunity to conduct research in an area of their choosing towards the completion of a thesis or doctoral dissertation.