Religion in

M.A. in Religion in Culture

Prof. Merinda Simmons
Graduate Director


Students seeking an M.A. degree in the study of religion at The University of Alabama must first have earned an undergraduate degree in either the academic study of religion or related field; they must also:

• earn an acceptable score on either the Graduate Record Examination or the Miller Analogies Test.

• submit a complete, official transcript.

• submit a current resume/c.v.

• submit a statement of purpose/planned program of study (in addition to the cover letter).

• submit a writing sample.

• submit 3 letters of reference.

Only qualified students whose areas of interest intersect with REL faculty expertise will be admitted to the program; a supervisor will therefore be assigned as part of the admission process.

Learn more about UA's graduate admissions requirements.



What will you learn...?

1. Academic and technical writing skills that will be useful in both post-graduate and professional contexts.

2. Analytical proficiencies that will develop by working with nationally and inter-nationally recognized scholars in areas of social theory as applied to the academic study of religion.

3. Skills in technology (including a certificate from the Alabama Digital Humanities Center at the University of Alabama) that will increase competitiveness for a wide variety of job opportunities and professional settings.

4. Teaching experience both in the lecture classroom and in online courses (earning for them an additional certificate in online pedagogy from UA's College of Continuing Studies).

5. Grant-writing skills that will serve them in a variety of academic and professional settings.


REL Graduate Handbook
(to be posted)

Read our announcement


Unlike other graduate programs in the study of religion, the M.A. in Religion in Culture at the University of Alabama presses beyond description and comparison to use social theory to understand the effects that narratives, practices, classification systems, and institutional structures have on social groups and their members -- doing so with an eye toward training students to use innovative technologies to effectively communicate their findings to wide audiences.

The premise of the degree is that the work taking place in our field has wide relevance -- promoting both critical analysis and innovative communication skills to convey the relevance of our work are therefore the cornerstones of the degree.

The 36 credit hour graduate degree (2 years of course work, including a final Thesis) therefore focuses on providing students with two critical foundations: (i) becoming conversant in contemporary social theory and applying it to their area of interest in the study of religion and (ii) developing competencies in the tools of the public, digital humanities. In their first semester students will not only be reading widely in social theory and applying it to an historical, regional, or ethnographic example of their choice, but will also be gaining familiarity with a wide variety of digital tools -- from video and audio recording and editing, to making webpages and working with "big data" -- that will assist them to share those findings.

Designed for students hoping to pursue doctoral work, the degree is also explicitly intended for those aiming to use these skills in any number of other professions -- places where the analytic skills gained from working in social theory are enhanced by their communication skills and digital expertise.


Degree Requirements

Students will usually enroll in 9 credit hours per semester.

Required Courses
1. Six hours of Foundation courses will be taken in the Fall semester of the 1st year: (Social Theory Foundations & Public Humanities Foundations).

2. Nine hours of required courses will be taken in the Spring of the second year (Capstone Seminar & six hours of Thesis.

Elective Courses
In consultation with your advisor, students will complete an additional twenty-one hours of graduate course work, including independent study courses and seminars in REL, plus graduate courses from other departments (in consultation with your advisor). For e.g., depending on the student's program of study, courses in foreign languages, taught through Modern Languages and Classics, may be recommended.

In addition, a required, non-credit Graduate Colloquium, led by the Graduate Director, meets monthly, to discuss a vareity of professional issues in the study of religion in particular, or higher ed in general. REL faculty are invited as well.


Financial Assistance

A limited number of Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA), awarded on a competitive basis, and including a tuition waiver and stipend, are available. Partial GTA positions are possible and all GTAships are awarded on an annual basis.


What will you be able to do with an MA in Religious Studies?

Our MA program prepares students for continued academic work at top flight Ph.D. programs. Rigorous course work, original research, and close mentorship by our faculty means our graduates are competitive applicants, gaining experience in publishing, digital tools, teaching, & grant writing throughout the program.

But not everyone seeking a Masters degree wants to pursue a Ph.D. Graduates will therefore also be prepared to seek job opportunities in both the business and non-profit sectors, as many careers now require the sorts of skills in critical analysis and innovative communication that our program emphasizes.

Graduates will therefore present to prospective employers outside academia a valuable set of skills -- skills all the more remarkable if we add to this their ability to assist others by means of the practical digital skills thye honed not just in the Foundations course but all across the program. In keeping with the degree's public humanities component, specific kinds of employment beyond our discipline might therefore include: non-profit fundraising, web development, marketing research, writing, and editing, among others. This list is only a sampling, of course, since the practical, communication skills that this program emphasizes, alongside social theory, are applicable to many other careers.