Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.)

The Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) is the second in a series of three ecclesiastical degrees offered at STM. A two-year, thesis-driven degree, it enables both lay and ordained students to focus on the specialized theological topic of their choice.

Want to learn more?

Connect with us.

At a Glance

Program Duration

In two years of full-time study, students complete 24 credit hours and a nine-credit thesis.

Language Requirement

Proficiency in Latin, Hebrew, or Greek and in one modern research language (German, French, Spanish).

Area of Specialization

Take half of the program's course credits within the specific concentration of your choice.


Write a thesis on the topic of your choice and then present and defend your research. 

Ecclesiastical Faculty

These are faculty who can direct S.T.L. theses. In addition to those listed, all faculty may serve on thesis committees.

Academic Program

The S.T.L. enables both lay and ordained students to build upon their previous work and focus on a particular subject or field within a Catholic context. An advanced degree, it provides students with two full years of study beyond the S.T.B. or M.Div. and qualifies them to continue on to the Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.).

The S.T.L. is a thesis-driven degree that culminates in a research thesis of approximately 100 pages. Upon entering the program, S.T.L. students choose to focus on one of five branches of theology (see below), and they then narrow down their area of interest within that branch to concentrate more deeply on a specific topic area. Coursework is focused on supporting the student’s thesis.

The Licentiate is available in the following theological disciplines:

Biblical Studies

Systematic, Historical, and Liturgical Theology

Moral Theology

Church History

Spirituality Studies

stained glass

Career Paths

The S.T.L. is the academic degree that officially enables graduates to teach in a major seminary or at an equivalent school. Students use the degree to continue their work in Catholic theological studies, prepare for the Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) or other doctoral study, teach, or conduct other valuable work within the Church. 

The S.T.L. can open many doors for service within the Church, and graduates work in a number of official capacities within dioceses, religious communities, and institutions of higher learning.


Application Requirements



Spring 2024: November 15, 2023

Fall 2024 Priority Scholarship Deadline: January 11, 2024. Applications are still accepted after this date as space allows.

Application Form

The application to STM must be completed online.

Application Form

Admission Prerequisites for the S.T.L.:

  • Completion of the S.T.B. or its equivalent in credit hours and course distribution (often the M.Div. degree meets this requirement). 
  • 3.5 GPA (or its equivalent) in S.T.B or M.Div. coursework.
  • Those who do not hold an S.T.B., or its equivalent in credit hours, may still apply. If accepted, a student would first need to complete the equivalency work (82 credit hours in theology, with specific course distribution) before beginning S.T.L. coursework.

Since the S.T.L. is granted through the Holy See, S.T.L. students are not eligible for federal loans through the U.S. government. S.T.L. students are still eligible for STM scholarships, which are awarded at the time of admission.

Religious & International Applicants

Applicants who are Catholic diocesan priests or deacons or members of religious orders must submit a letter of approval and financial support from their bishop, major superior, or Provincial. Please select "Bishop/Major Superior" as the recommender type on the application form.

International Applicants

Application Fee

A non-refundable fee of $75 is required for every degree and non-degree application submitted.

Payment Options

  • Pay by credit or debit card via the web; You can pay the application fee at the same time your submit your application form.  However, if you do not pay the fee at the same time you submit your application, you can pay online at a later date through the Agora Portal. You must use your BC Username and password to log in.

  • Pay by check or money order made payable to Boston College, via regular mail.  Please include your check with a copy of your application form submission confirmation page and include your name and intended degree program.

Please note: The application fee cannot be refunded for any reason. If you qualify for a fee waiver, you should not pay the fee when you submit the application form. Fee waivers are granted to the following applicants: Jesuits, veterans, applicants currently completing a year of service or who are Pell Grant-eligible, and current STM students. We do not waive the application fee for other reasons.

Standardized Tests

GRE scores

GRE scores are wavied for S.T.L. applicants.

English Proficiency Exam

All applicants for whom English is not their native language must provide TOEFL or IELTS test score results. Read more about special instructions for international applicants here. This webpage will also indicate under with criteria a waiver may be granted. Waivers must be approved in writing by the admissions office.


We require transcripts from all colleges, universities, seminaries, or theological schools that you have attended. Each transcript should contain a list of all coursework taken, grades/marks received, and, if applicable, degree granted and date of degree confirmation. If your college or university will send official transcripts electronically, they can be emailed to  Otherwise, transcripts must be mailed and be contained in a sealed, signed envelope. If the official transcript is not English, a translation should be provided with the official document. Please alert us if your transcript will be arriving with a different name than the one you are using on your application (e.g. your maiden name). Please note that a transcript is only considered official if received directly from the institution issuing it.

Please note that your application may be reviewed with unofficial copies of your transcripts. If you send unofficial copies, know that if admitted, you must sent official copies before you begin coursework. In addition, if you are currently finishing a degree, you must send a final, official version of the transcript upon graduating, and before beginning coursework at STM.

Mailing Addresses
For applicants using the U.S. Postal Service:
Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Simboli Hall
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

For applicants using FedEx or UPS:
Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Simboli Hall
9 Lake Street
Brighton, MA 02135-3841


S.T.L. applicants are required to submit three recommendations using the online application system. 

Each recommender should be familiar with the applicant’s academic background and capacity to fully engage in this advanced degree, including writing a substantial thesis.

Applicants who are Catholic diocesan priests or deacons, or members of religious orders must submit a letter of approval and financial support from their bishop, major superior, or Provincial. This is in addition to the other three recommendations. Please select "Bishop/Major Superior" as the recommender type on the application form.

Please be sure that your recommenders are aware of the application deadlines and online process, and choose them carefully to ensure that they can write on your behalf in a timely manner.

Writing Sample

A writing sample must be uploaded as part of the application. The sample should be an academic paper of around 15 pages.


The resume must be uploaded as part of the application.  It is helpful if you highlight relevant ministry, service, research, teaching, and leadership positions you have held.

Personal Statement

The personal statement must be uploaded as part of the application.  The personal statement should be three pages in length, double-spaced.

Your statement should address the following:

  • The academic, professional, and personal development that has motivated you to apply to STM and the S.T.L. program. How has your experience and education informed this decision?
  • Information outlining your specific area and field of academic interest, a proposed topic(s) for your research and S.T.L. thesis, how your previous academic, professional, and/or pastoral experience has prepared you for studies within that particular field, and the STM faculty member(s) with whom you would like to work
  • Your understanding of theological education and ministry in the context of the Church's mission.
  • How you plan to apply your theological education.
  • Given your experience, how you assess your principal strengths for theological education and ministry as well as your areas of needed development.

Explore STM's hilltop home, Simboli Hall, virtually or in-person.


Quick Links