What Makes Our MA Program Distinctive

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.

While these theoretical skills can be put to use in studying groups that fall broadly within the expertise of the faculty, in our program you’ll also learn a variety of practical skills as well:

  • academic and technical writing skills that will be useful in both post-graduate and professional contexts
  • analytical tools that will develop by working with nationally and internationally recognized scholars in areas of social theory as applied to the academic study of religion
  • 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
  • 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)
  • grant-writing skills that will serve them in a variety of academic and professional settings

To learn more about our program, explore this website or contact our Graduate Director, Prof. Merinda Simmons.

Meet Our Inaugural Class

Heard of Our M.A.? from UA Religious Studies on Vimeo.

Career Opportunities

Our M.A. 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 master’s 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 they 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.

Admissions and Financial Support

Application Process

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

Learn more about UA’s graduate admissions requirements.

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.

Part-time enrollment is possible; contact the Graduate Director to discuss this.


The application system is open and has no end-point; however, for full consideration of possible funding (on this, see below), applications to begin the following Fall semester must be completed by December 1.

Applications to begin in the January semester are possible and must be submitted by October 15. Funding opportunities for a mid-year start, however, cannot be guaranteed.

Part-Time Studies

Pursuing an MA in the Department of Religious Studies on a part-time basis is possible; speak with the Graduate Director for more information.

Financial Assistance

A limited number of Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA) in REL, awarded on a competitive basis, and including a tuition waiver and stipend, are available. Partial GTA positions are possible. All GTAships are for one year and thus are awarded on an annual basis. The full GTA comes with a full tuition waiver (for Fall/Spring), health care, and a monthly stipend (in exchange for up to 20 hours per week assistance in undergrad REL classes). REL GTAs do not teach their own classes but gain supervised teaching experience.

Note: a half GTA position, if awarded, includes half of the above benefits and up to 10 hours work per week.

Exceptionally strong applicants can be nominated, by the Department, to the Graduate School, for consideration as possible recipients of Graduate Council Fellowships. The GCF, awarded on an annual basis, is worth more than a GTA stipend and comprises an outright scholarship (that is, GCF recipients do not have GTA duties) plus tuition for Fall/Spring and health care benefits. GCF recipients are mainly incoming graduate students but a student receiving a GCF can be renominated to hold the position the following year.

The nomination process involves no work on the part of the applicant and relies on the Department to submit a nomination letter along with the applicant’s already-submitted letters of reference. Nominees must have been accepted to the program and receiving a full GTA position. If successful, the recipient will retain the GCF only, thereby enabling the Department to use the GTA position to support another student.

More information on GCFs can be obtained here.