When you think of theology, there are likely a number of different thoughts that come to mind, most of which center around religion. The fact of the matter is that there are quite a few tracks one can take with a degree in theology, particularly at the graduate level. We recently caught up with DR. Randall Woodard, director of Saint Leo's Master of Arts in Theology program, to learn more about what this program offers and how it can prepare graduates for rewarding careers.

Q: When did Saint Leo begin offering this MA in theology program, and what were the reasons behind starting it?

A: We started this program about 15 years ago. There are lots of people out there who major in business or other areas unrelated to religion and theology in their undergrad, but then they get pulled into their kids' youth groups at church. They realize they haven't had a solid professional or academic look at the big questions about religion.

Within churches today, there is an overall push for ministers, deacons, and other top-level individuals to pursue continuing education and have a graduate degree. This helps them become more well-rounded professionals in terms of being prepared to handle a ministry, fully understand the breadth of the Bible, and have a solid grasp of the history of the church.

There's a big difference between someone who has a master's degree and is running a youth group compared to just someone who has a good heart. Both may be great people, but more knowledge and ability come with education.

Fifty years ago, if a leader or minister in a church said something, everyone took his word that it was the truth. Now, there's a little more respect for those who have advanced degrees and professional training

Q: What types of prospective students is Saint Leo's MA in theology program geared toward?

A: We have a large variety of students currently enrolled in this program.

About half of the students in the program are men looking to become an ordained deacon. We also have students who have volunteered in churches and have considered getting into a professional role. Plus, we have a significant number of non-Catholic Christian students who are looking for advancement opportunities within their own faith communities.

In general, there is a large mix of students coming from various backgrounds. Some are in their twenties, while others are in their sixties. Some want this graduate theology degree for professional work, while others are looking more at self-growth and are enrolled for personal reasons.

One class I taught had a medical doctor, a chief of police, and a judge. So, as you can see, there is quite a variety.

Q: How would you describe the religious approach taken in the curriculum?

A: I would consider it faith-filled, mainstream Catholic theology, but it helps students take a look at other religions with profound respect. We completely respect science, history, and other religions. So, if you're a non-Catholic, you can absolutely enroll in and flourish in this program.

Q: What topics are covered in this MA in theology program?

A: Some of the subjects covered are:

  • Major theological questions about God and the meaning of life
  • Ethical and cultural implications of a transcendent understanding of life
  • Contributions of and challenges to Catholic traditions
  • The role of humility and contemplative experience
  • The history of philosophy and how it relates to theology
  • Appropriate skills for leadership in liturgical and ministerial service

Q: Where is this program offered?

A: Most of the students can complete this program entirely online. However, if you are a deacon, there are occasional face-to-face classes held on Saturdays at Saint Leo's Tampa Education Center.

While this is a flexible online MA in theology program, there are live sessions held online on select Monday nights throughout the curriculum. These videoconferencing sessions help students stay more connected to their instructors and classmates.

Q: How long is this program, and how many credits is it?

A: This program consists of 12 classes for a total of 36 credit hours. The terms are 16 weeks long. So, if you take two classes per semester, you can complete the program in three years. Of course, it can be completed sooner as well.

Q: What are the admission requirements for this MA in theology program?

A: Prospective students must have a 3.0 GPA, a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, and two letters of recommendation.

Q: Who are the faculty teaching in this program?

A: We have 15 full-time faculty members and five adjunct instructors teaching in this curriculum.

We've chosen our faculty based on a few key traits. They must be an excellent instructor and scholar, focused on students, and should be devoted to serving the church and wanting to see it grow. All of our professors have a PhD.

Q: What types of skills should students walk away with upon completion of the curriculum?

A: Students should gain:

  • An ability to critically evaluate big ideas within theology
  • An ability to see and understand the broader picture and function of the church
  • An academic understanding of how the Bible connects to the church, life, and society
  • The ability to become more historically and philosophically grounded
  • A bigger picture of philosophical assumptions

Q: What separates this program from other graduate theology programs out there?

A: This program is mainstream and can benefit all students, regardless of their faith and background. There are other programs out there that are very agenda-driven politically. Our program is not liberal or conservative. Rather, it is just Catholic. This approach helps students maintain a more open-minded view of the church and allows everyone to be welcome.

Also, this is a student-focused program with faculty committed to teaching rather than only publishing or trying to acquire grants for their institutions.

Finally, I'd say that flexibility and affordability are two other appealing characteristics. No matter what your lifestyle involves, you should be able to handle the curriculum time-wise with the right amount of effort.

Q: What career opportunities may graduates of this program qualify for?

A: There are several career tracks graduates of this MA in theology program may qualify for, including:

  • High school teacher
  • Minister in a church or diocese
  • Youth minister
  • Director of religious education within various organizations

Learn the specifics about some of these potential roles in the 12 amazing careers that become possible with a master's in theology.

Of course, attaining this master's in theology can help you move into a doctoral degree program as well.

Q: How can prospective students learn more about Saint Leo's MA in theology?

A: You can contact myself directly at 352-588-8239 or by e-mail at Randall.woodard@saintleo.edu.

You can also check out the program page for further details.

Plus, you can also join us for a free, online Theology Roundtable on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. EST to discuss the intersection of Christology and the Christian Scriptures. This online event is free and open to the public. RSVP to Randall Woodard at the e-mail address above.