Religious Studies Graduate Program

The Master of Arts in Religious Studies is composed of two distinct, though mutually informative, concentrations. The first concentration is in “Contextual Theology,” and the second is in “The Study of Religions.” Students in our program are expected to immerse themselves within the contexts of local communities, theorize the connections and global implications of local experiences, and utilize both to shape their scholarship. The department has a core group of faculty and visiting professors that provide continuity for the program and competency in specific fields of inquiry.

Each concentration has a 36-unit requirement to degree, which can be completed in 2-3 years. *Students must choose one of the two concentrations by the second semester of their studies.

Contextual Theology

The concentration in Contextual Theology focuses on Christian theological theories and methods with special attention paid to the ways that these theologies have been intimately shaped by socio-cultural and geo-political contexts. The concentration in Contextual Theology provides a core foundation across the primary areas of study in the discipline of theology: Systematics, Ethics, and Scripture, while also providing elective course offerings that speak to the signs of the times.

The Study of Religions

The concentration in The Study of Religions is inherently interdisciplinary and interreligious, and employs social-scientific methods and theories to study religion. The Study of Religions concentration seeks to understand and analyze the meaning and function of religious traditions and practices over time, with particular attention to, and analysis of, religious phenomena emerging from specific socio-cultural and geo-political contexts.

Learning Outcomes


While each concentration has specific goals and learning outcomes, the program also has the following general learning goals and outcomes:

1. To effectively communicate the prominent theories and methods within the student's area of concentration in oral and written forms.

2. To demonstrate the capacity for critical thinking through systematic analysis and synthesis of content.

3. To engage a diverse society through practical application of knowledge in the program to real-world setting with sensitivity to race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality.

Religious Studies MA

Admission Requirements

Completion of a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies or a related field with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 from an accredited institution. 

Degree Requirements:

  • After the completion of one semester in the MA in Religious Studies program, students must declare a concentration in one of the following two areas: Contextual Theology or The Study of Religions
  • Each area of concentration requires the completion of 36 units to degree constituted by 21 units of concentration specific required courses, 12 units of concentration specific elective courses, and 3 units of the Capstone Project. Upon approval by the Director of Graduate Religious Studies, students may take one 3-unit elective course offering outside of their declared concentration. 
  • Contextual Theology
    • 21 units of Required Courses (3-unit courses). Each of the following courses are required: 
      • RST 202A: Introduction to Theology 
      • RST 203: Hebrew Scriptures 
      • RST 205: Christian Scriptures
      • RST 209: Historical Theology 
      • RST 214: Foundations in Theological Ethics
      • RST 220: Theories and Methods in Religion and Theology
      • RST 221: Religion, Theology, and the City of Los Angeles 
    • 12 units of Contextual Theology Electives (3-unit courses)
    • 3 units Capstone Project
    • 36 units total
  • The Study of Religions
    • 21 units of Required Courses (3-unit courses). Each of the following courses are required: 
      • RST 202B: Introduction to Religious Studies 
      • RST 204: Sacred Texts
      • RST 220: Theories and Methods in Religion and Theology
      • RST 221: Religion, Theology, and the City of Los Angeles
      • RST 231: Sociology of Religion
      • RST 233: Comparative Religious Ethics
      • RST 234: World Religions
    • 12 units of Study of Religions Electives (3-unit courses)
    • 3 units Capstone project
    • 36 units total

Religious Studies MA Capstone Project:

In order to receive the M.A. in Religious Studies the student must successfully complete the Capstone Project.

The “Capstone Project” is the terminal research exercise consisting of:

Any exceptions must be approved by the Director of Graduate Religious Studies program, the Graduate Dean, and/or the Provost. 

Religious Studies MA Transfer of Credit

A student may transfer six (6) units of graduate religious studies credit from an accredited institution of higher learning towards the completion of the MA in Religious Studies. The student must first successfully complete six (6) units of Mount Saint Mary’s University Graduate Religious Studies credit before formally petitioning for unit transfer.

The acceptance of transfer credit is subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Religious Studies, the Graduate Dean, and/or the Provost. Credits cannot predate admission to Mount Saint Mary’s University by more than seven (7) years.