What are the qualifications for being a professional Catholic apologist? What level of education needs to be achieved? Where does one study? Is there a specific degree?
Unfortunately, to the best of our knowledge, there is not yet a good Catholic university program that systematically teaches apologetics, although some universities do teach apologetics as a single course in a theology degree program. You can formally study subjects a good apologist needs to know (e.g., Scripture, theology, history) in college, and then apply them to apologetics work. Catholic Distance University and Franciscan University of Steubenville may also have some helpful course work. The good news is that you can study the art of apologetics on your own.
Some helpful articles on developing skills as an apologist:
A subscription to Catholic Answers’ magazine This Rock is strongly recommended. One of Catholic Answers’ staff apologists credits This Rock with teaching her much of what she knows about the art of apologetics. If there is a “trick” to it, it is to analyze how the writers present the information and try to imagine how you would apply that information to your presentation of the faith. There is no need to memorize the information in each issue – memorization is oftentimes entirely unnecessary.
If you are interested in speaking publicly about the faith, you will probably need to take a few adult education classes in public speaking. You could also look into organizations such as Toastmasters for help in learning public-speaking skills. If, on the other hand, you prefer writing about the faith, you may need to brush up on your writing skills through adult education classes in creative writing (non-fiction emphasis).
With minimal computer skills, you can set up a free web log (e.g., Blogger) where you can practice writing about the faith. For an introduction into the Catholic online blogging community, log onto St. Blog’s Parish. It’s a directory of Catholic weblogs (more commonly known as “blogs”). Browse around and analyze carefully the strengths and weaknesses in fellow Catholics’ writings about the faith. Catholic Answers’ Director of Apologetics Jimmy Akin has a web log at [www.JimmyAkin.org](“http://www.jimmyakin.org/”).