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

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

One of Boston College School of Theology and Ministry’s unique offerings, the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.), is an ecclesiastical degree offered only by Catholic ecclesiastical faculties. The S.T.L. is the second degree in a three-degree progression of ecclesiastical degrees that begins with the Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) and ends with the Doctorate of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.), which is also granted by STM.


The S.T.L. enables students to build upon previous work and focus more on a particular subject or field within a Catholic context. An advanced degree, it provides students with two full years of work above and beyond the S.T.B. or M.Div.

Students use the S.T.L. to continue work in Catholic theological studies, prepare for doctoral work, teach or build competence for working within the Church. Officially, it "is the academic degree which enables one to teach in a major seminary or equivalent school." The S.T.L. can open many doors for service in the Church, in a number of official capacities within dioceses, religious communities and institutions of higher learning.


The S.T.L. is a thesis-driven degree. All work culminates in a thesis of approximately 100 pages. Upon entering the program, S.T.L. students focus on a specialized topic area in a particular branch of theology, such as Biblical Studies, Systematic and Historical Theology, Moral Theology, or Church History. Students usually enter the program focused on one of these branches and then narrow down their area of interest within that branch to concentrate more deeply on a specific area. Course work is focused on supporting the student’s thesis.


  • Two years of full-time study (limit of four years of part-time study to finish the degree)
  • One year in residence at STM
  • 24 credit hours completed, in addition to nine credit thesis
  • Half of credits taken in student’s concentration
  • Proficiency in Latin (or, Hebrew or Greek for Scripture concentration)
  • Proficiency in one modern research language (German, French, Spanish), in addition to English
  • Successful defense of an 80-100 page thesis

At a Glance

How long will it take?

This 84-credit program is typically completed in 2 years of full-time study

Residencecy Requirement

One year in residence at STM


Successful defense of an 80-100 page thesis

Our Faculty

Common Career Paths

Ecclesial ministry in a parish, high school, university, or diocese

Social justice agencies

Religious and other nonprofit organizations

Doctoral work

Hospital chaplaincy

High school teaching

Prison Ministry


Application Information



  • 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 (84 credit hours in theology) before beginning S.T.L. coursework.

Please Note:

We are still accepting applications for Fall 2018.



Fall 2018
February 1, 2018
Spring 2019
December 1, 2018

Application Form

The application to the STM must be completed online.

Start Application

Make sure you click the "Submit" button on the last page of the application.  You will receive an email confirming that your application has been submitted.  Within 48 hours of submitting your application, you should receive an email with your Boston College credentials (your Eagle ID and BC username) so that you can login to the BC applicant system and check the status of your full application. If you have been a BC student before, your credentials will be the same and you may not receive a credentials email.  If you have not been a BC student before, and do not receive your credentials email, please contact the admissions office for help: or 617-552-6506.

Additional requirements for international applicants
Additional requirements for religious 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 automatically granted to the following applicants: Jesuits, applicants currently completing a year of service, 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.

TOEFL scores
All applicants for whom English is not their native language must also provide TOEFL test score results. An acceptable TOEFL score is 85 or above on the internet-based test. When taking the exam, include STM’s institutional code – 3971 – so that your scores may be sent directly to the school. Learn more about the TOEFL and about qualifications for a TOEFL waiver.


One copy of each transcript is required 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).

Mailing Addresses
For applicants using the U.S. Postal Service:
Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Processing Center
P.O. Box 67406
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

For applicants using FedEx or UPS, please use this address:
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 competence. For applicants who have been out of school for a significant amount of time, the recommenders should be familiar with the applicant's professional competence. Applicants to our certificate programs are required to submit one letter of recommendation. 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.


The admissions office may contact applicants to set up an interview by Skype.


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. Include a sketch of your educational background and interests, any experience you have in ministry and/or religious education, and any other relevant professional and volunteer experience
  • Your understanding of theological education and/or 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/or ministry as well as your areas of needed development
  • 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