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School of Theology and Ministry

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

school of theology and ministry

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S.T.L. Program Handbook and Academic Forms

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


  • 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 in course work at the S.T.B or M.Div. level or the equivalent of this average
  • For those who do not hold an S.T.B. or its equivalent in credit hours, you may still apply. If accepted you would first need to complete the equivalency work (84 credit hours in theology) before beginning S.T.L. course work.


Total credit hours – 84 credit hours

  • Biblical Studies – 15 credit hours
  • Church History – 9 credit hours
  • Historical-Systematic Theology – 15 credit hours
  • Moral Theology – 9 credit hours
  • Pastoral Studies – 12 credit hours
  • Word and Worship – 18 credit hours
  • Electives – 18 credit hours

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