Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.)
school of theology and ministry
The M.T.S. provides students with diverse backgrounds, interests, and goals the opportunity to pursue a first masters degree in theology, one that exposes them to the various disciplines of theology. The program holds in balance two important purposes: 1) to enable students to develop a general theological literacy and competency by providing them with a basic background in the constituent areas of Catholic theology; 2) to afford students as much flexibility as possible to explore theological topics of interest to them.
The M.T.S. is a 48-credit-hour program of theological study. Students take sixteen courses overall: eight of them fulfill distribution requirements in the fields of biblical studies, historical-systematic-practical theology, moral theology and church history (two in each of these four fields); eight electives allow students to focus on topics of particular interest to them.
Many students pursue the M.T.S. as part of their preparation for applying to Ph.D. programs in religion or theology. Others may choose the degree out of intellectual curiosity, or to enrich their work lives by drawing connections between theology and previous course work or professional experience. Still others may pursue this degree to prepare them for work with religious or other non-profit organizations, social justice agencies, educational and community-based organizations.
While no requirements exist in the area of spiritual and pastoral formation, M.T.S. students are fully eligible and warmly invited to participate in the variety of spiritual formation activities (e.g., retreats, days of reflection, faith-sharing and prayer groups) offered by the school. To take advantage of such offerings, students may consult with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs or the Associate Director for Spiritual Formation.
To be eligible for the degree, students must complete forty-eight hours of course work, including these distribution requirements:
- Six credit hours in biblical studies
- Six credit hours in historical-systematic-practical theology
- Six credit hours in moral theology
- Six credit hours of church history
- Twenty-four credit hours of electives
In addition to the courses (typically, four per semester for four semesters), all students must complete a closure writing project. This project is a 10-page reflection paper on a set of five questions addressing the student’s experience of theological education. Students must register for this non-credit project (TM 629-01) in their final semester. One STM faculty member (chosen by the student) will meet with the student to review this reflection paper and engage in a colloquy about the student’s growth in theological understanding and overall personal learning experience in the M.T.S. program.
With approval, students have the option of writing a 30- to 50-page research thesis. Students desirous of choosing this option will develop and submit a thesis proposal with bibliography to two faculty members who, together with the MTS program director, must approve the proposal. The thesis and its oral defense are evaluated on a pass/fail basis for three credits in total.
The M.T.S. allows students to apply to their degree credit requirements up to nine credits in ancient or modern languages. These courses may be at the intermediate or beginner level, and may be taken at Boston College, other B.T.I. schools, or at other institutions, subject to the approval of the academic advisor and M.T.S. Program Director. Ancient languages include Hebrew, Greek and Latin; modern languages helpful for theology include German, French, Italian and Spanish. Languages other than those named in the previous sentence may be taken toward the degree, but only with the explicit permission of the student’s academic advisor and the M.T.S. program director. Students should be advised that most language courses run for a full year, that is, a fall and spring semester sequence for six credits. Great care should be taken to match a student’s genuine academic needs to these course selections. Students who plan to apply to doctoral programs in theology may be well served by language study relevant to their fields of particular interest (e.g., biblical studies, European or Latin American theologians), as proficiency in languages strengthens doctoral applications considerably.
M.T.S. students are eligible to take directed readings courses with members of the faculty who agree to work with them. Ordinarily, such readings courses are most appropriate for students in more advanced programs (Th.M., S.T.L., S.T.D. and Ph.D.), but M.T.S. students with a particular interest not covered in the course curriculum may approach a faculty member with a proposal for directed study. Such requests are best made well in advance of the start of the particular semester in which students seek to undertake a reading course. Reading courses are not recommended for M.T.S. students in their first two semesters. Reading courses count as electives; they do not fulfill area requirements for the M.T.S. degree.
Courses outside of theology
On rare occasions, the M.T.S. program director will approve a student’s request to count for the M.T.S. degree graduate courses that are not explicitly in the theological disciplines – for example, philosophy, literature, and history. A maximum of two courses will be allowed in this category. A student who chooses this option will graduate with at least fourteen courses in theology and at most two courses that demonstrably advance the student’s theological education through study of ancillary disciplines. Such courses will count toward a student’s electives, rather than fulfilling an area requirement. Before enrolling in such courses, students must request permission from the Program Director, who will review each request.
For M.T.S. students, courses offered in semester-length mode must be taken in that mode. Summer courses cannot be used to satisfy area requirements for this degree. Where appropriate, courses taken in the summer can be applied as electives. The student should consult the program director to determine such suitability before registering for any summer courses, either at Boston College or elsewhere. Two-credit courses taken in the summer must be taken as such; no provision will be made to convert these courses to three credits. A maximum of six credits from summer courses can be applied to an M.T.S. degree. See further treatment of this topic in the M.T.S. Program Handbook.