degree programs & certificates
The School of Theology offers seven degree programs with the possibility of specialization in a number of academic disciplines. Degree program learning outcomes for all degrees can be found here
First Level Masters Degrees
Master of Divinity (MDiv) Degree
If you feel called to serve a local church or seek ordination within your denomination, our MDiv is the right degree program for you. Even if ordination is not your calling, do not count out the MDiv as an option – it can serve as a platform from which to jump into many different journeys. As a professional degree, the MDiv offers a wide-ranging curriculum that touches on every aspect of religious service. Receiving an MDiv prior to seeking a doctoral degree can prepare an academic for a professorship in a seminary or denominationally based college or university. Or perhaps you would like to serve a faith-based nonprofit agency as its director. Seminary administrators and deans, human rights activists, missionaries, deacons, writers, bishops and ecclesial leaders, and many others have started their journeys by earning our MDiv degree. The 73-credit-hour program will take you three years of full-time study to complete.
The MDiv program at the Boston University School of Theology is unique. Whereas most seminaries offer only one generalized MDiv curriculum, our MDiv program can be customized toward your own vocational calling. All of the five MDiv Tracks offered share a common core set of requirements in areas such as Biblical Studies, Theology, and Church History, as well as Contextual Education, and so any of the Tracks can fulfill denominational ordination requirements. Our faculty offer personalized advising support each semester as you navigate the curriculum toward your goals. The five MDiv Tracks are as follows:
- Pastoral Ministry – This is the most traditional curricular track for those whose calling is to local church ministry. Beyond the core courses required (such as biblical studies, theology, and history), this track’s curriculum emphasizes seven competencies of church-related ministry: Worship, Preaching (Homiletics), Ethics, Religious Education, Mission and Evangelism, Pastoral Care, and Spirituality.
- Pastoral Ministry “In-Service” – The pastoral ministry track may also be spread across five years for those who are approved to enter the MDiv degree program as “in-service” students – persons who are already in pastoral positions half-time or more and for whom commuting to STH is more of a challenge. The degree requirements includes an online seminar each semester, though the basic requirements are similar to the regular pastoral-ministry track. For more information, contact the STH admissions office at email@example.com.
- Global & Community Engagement – This track is appropriate for students pursuing vocations in conflict transformation, mission and evangelism, ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, ecological justice and sustainability, trauma healing & theology, social and economic justice, and non-profit leadership. Because this track is highly flexible, it is particularly good for entering MDiv students still seeking clarity of call, as it affords the opportunity to explore interdisciplinary coursework without endangering progress in the program.
- Religion & The Academy - This track is appropriate for students in any academic discipline who are seeking to pursue doctoral studies to teach in the academy. This track relies heavily on advisor mentoring to help each student know what courses are best to prepare for doctoral work in a chosen field. When appropriate, language studies are part of the coursework for this track.
- Church & The Arts - This track is designed for students pursuing sacred music, music ministry, church architecture, liturgical studies, homiletical arts, literature and religion, sacramental theology, aesthetics and the visual arts, or the dual degree program with the Master of Sacred Music. Students in this track will find coursework at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts helpful toward shaping their curricula, while others may be engaged with individual University departments such as: Department of Comparative Literature, Department of History of Art & Architecture, or the Department of Romance Studies.
- Chaplaincy – This track aims to prepare students for religious leadership within settings traditionally understood under the rubric of chaplaincy. These include: prisons, the military, hospitals, hospice, retirement communities, police stations, airports, workplaces, and educational institutions (private high schools/colleges/universities). The design of the track assumes that students need to be equipped to minister within religiously pluralistic and ‘secular’ contexts, will have the necessary skills to provide spiritual care within those settings, and will be conversant in the primary policy/advocacy discourse within the setting in which they intend to minister.
Master of Theological Studies (MTS) Degree
We have nearly as many MTS students as MDiv students at the School of Theology, creating a lively classroom exchange to the benefit of both sets of students. The MTS program attracts those for whom the academic study of theology is itself a fulfilling and perhaps even spiritual exercise. An MTS student might be preparing for doctoral studies and an academic vocation, for service to the church as a deacon, or for work in a nonprofit setting. We know there is no “typical” MTS student, however, and at BU School of Theology no matter what theological discipline interests you, it can be studied here. Our outstanding faculty set demanding academic standards, and offer opportunities for interdisciplinary study through the wider University and Boston Theological Institute. MTS students complete 49 credits of coursework over two years of full-time study.
The School of Theology offers seven MTS specializations, which are:
- Open Format MTS Program – customizable toward one’s own interests
- Religion and Conflict Transformation
- Transcultural Studies
- Religion and Science
- Ecological Theology & Ethics (new as of 2014-15)
- Spirituality Studies (new as of 2014-15)
Master of Sacred Music (MSM) Degree
BU School of Theology values and celebrates the role the arts play in theological education, particularly the transformative and redemptive power of music. The MSM degree program, offered jointly with the University’s School of Music, is at the forefront of professional training in the field. The program has two concentrations: organ and choral conducting. Music can also be taken as a special track in the MTS, Masters of Sacred Theology, and doctoral programs, and we offer a joint MDiv/MSM degree (see below). Students are prepared for leadership roles in communities of faith, and as performers, scholars, and teachers, using the incomparable resources of the BU School of Music and School of Theology. The 43 credit program takes two years of full-time study to complete. The option to complete the MSM in conjunction with the MDiv as a dual degree program in only four years allows those with a calling to church music to prepare for ordination or to broaden their understanding of professional ministry.
The distinguished faculty at Boston University includes:
Advanced Degree Programs
Master of Sacred Theology (STM) Degree
The STM is a completely customizable, eight·course degree program that allows those with previous graduate theological study to focus on one academic discipline full-time for one year. There is a thesis option, which makes this an excellent second-level master’s option for MDiv, MA, or MTS graduates anticipating doctoral study. The STM is ideal for those wanting to strengthen their knowledge in a specific subject area to the benefit of their journey in ministry, the academy, or both, without the commitment to a lengthier program.
- The STH Bulletin contains the official description of the degree program along with admissions and financial information.
- The STM Handbook contains the policies and procedures by which the degree program is governed.
- The Advanced Studies website (forms, dates, degree guides, and dissertation guides).
- Information on the Military Chaplaincy STM
Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in Transformational Leadership
The Doctor of Ministry degree (D.Min.) in Transformational Leadership is a professional doctoral degree meant to enrich religious leaders in traditional and non-traditional settings, to deepen their understanding of and commitment to ministry, and to refine its practice. The focus of the Boston University DMin is Transformational Leadership, and persons admitted into the degree program may develop a specialization within this track based on their particular interests. Current students in the program are specializing in areas such as Religious Education, Transcultural Studies, Congregations & Community, Evangelism & Church Growth, Homiletics (Preaching), Liturgy and Worship, Spirituality Studies, Global Mission, and Environmental Ethics. Other specializations are available depending on the research interests of our students.
The degree is composed of 4 in-person seminars that meet in Boston for one week of intensive work (with preparatory assignments and follow-up work), one in August and one in January, in each of the first two years of the program. The intensive seminars provide a rigorous academic foundation in the study of religious leadership, community transformation, and contextual theological analysis, as well as grounding in research methods and opportunities to discuss and shape research projects with faculty and peers. Other cohort and elective courses for the program are offered online, though a student might petition to take an elective course on site at the School of Theology if they are local and/or able to travel to campus more frequently. All courses contribute to the research and professional goals of doctoral students by including reflection opportunities that are directly or indirectly preparatory for the DMin project.
The DMin program is designed for persons who have been in ministry for at least three years and who want to support their professional lives with further academic study. The degree requires 4 intensive seminars, 4 online courses, 2 project-focused directed studies, and a final DMin project. The final project required of DMin students can serve as a contribution to the larger dialogue in ecclesial and public life, as well as a deepening of one’s own ministry.
Learn more about the program here.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree
The PhD degree program is offered to students wishing to enhance their knowledge and competence in teaching and research and to contribute to scholarship in a specialized area of theological studies. The PhD is a research doctorate, and requires students to give evidence of the highest standards of scholarship at every stage of the degree program. STH PhD degrees are to be distinguished from other PhD degrees by their focus on theological approaches to the histories, communities, practices, beliefs, and ethical values of Christian institutions and traditions (and the institutions and traditions of other faiths, resources permitting); and by their intention to prepare students for scholarship and teaching in a broad range of institutions, including seminaries, schools of theology, divinity schools, and religiously affiliated colleges.
The STH Bulletin contains the official description of the degree program along with admissions and financial information. The current Bulletin will be revised during the Summer of 2014 to reflect the expansion of the STH PhD degree to include all STH tracks and concentrations.
The PhD Handbook contains the policies and procedures by which the degree program is governed. The handbook, along with other forms, dates, and guides to the program can be found at the Advanced Studies website.
Information on Individual Tracks:
In this track, students can specialize in the following concentrations:
▪ Biblical Studies (with a hermeneutical and Christian canonical focus)
▪ Church History (including Denominational History and History of Doctrine)
▪ Liturgical Studies (including Sacred Music and Hymnology)
▪ Mission Studies
▪ Note: Students interested in other approaches to Hebrew Bible, ancient Christianity and Christian origins, and the history of Christianity are encouraged to apply to the Boston University Graduate Division of Religious Studies (GDRS), Track 1. Students are advised to contact faculty in the School of Theology prior to applying if they have questions about whether to apply to STH or the GDRS.
In this track, students can specialize in the following concentrations:
▪ Constructive Theology (including Systematic Theology and Comparative Theology)
▪ Theological Ethics (including Environmental Ethics)
▪ Note: Students interested in philosophy of religion or religious ethics are encouraged to apply to the GDRS Track 2; students interested in social ethics are encouraged to apply to the GDRS Track 3; students interested in religion and science are encouraged to apply to the GDRS Track 4. Students are advised to contact faculty in the School of Theology prior to applying if they have questions about whether to apply to STH or the GDRS.
In this track, students can specialize in the following concentrations:
- Congregation and Community – Focuses on the study of congregations in relation to their immediate and wider community contexts
- Church and Society – Focuses on the relationship of the church to pressing social and cultural issues (for example, the church’s position on sexuality, the church and medicine, theology of culture, theology and popular culture, etc.)
- Evangelism and Missiology
- Leadership and Administration
- Pastoral Theology and Psychology
- Religious Education
- Spirituality Studies
Master of Divinity & Master of Sacred Music (MDiv/MSM)
Theology and Social Work Dual Degrees (MDiv/MSW, MTS/MSW)
This is theology on the front lines. The School of Theology and School of Social Work offer two joint degree programs: the MDiv/Master of Social Work (MSW) and the MTS/MSW for students seeking to mix theological study with professional social work practice. Students choose between clinical or macro practice options. There is room for students with a long-standing interest in the urban environment and for those new to the field who wish to explore the dynamic realm of urban social work practice.
Please see the full description of the degree program in the STH Bulletin
- Sample Plan of Study: MDiv/MSW Dual Degree
- Sample Plan of Study: MTS/MSW Dual Degree
- Social Work Guided Electives for the Dual Degree Program
All certificate programs listed below may be pursued independently or as part of other STH degree programs. The purpose of STH Certificates is to help students deepen their knowledge and expertise in a particular area and to document their specialized preparation for ministry.
Boston University School of Theology offers the following three certificates both for United Methodist Students (in coordination with the General Board of Higher Education) or independently for students who are not United Methodist.
Evangelism (Meets United Methodist Certification Requirements)
Music Ministry (Meets United Methodist Certification Requirements)
Spiritual Formation (Meets United Methodist Certification Requirements)
United Methodist Students pursuing the above certificates are eligible to be certified through annual conference boards of ordained ministry after completing the academic courses for each certificate, and by fulfilling the additional church and personal requirements. The School of Theology’s procedure for documenting students’ specialized academic work is to provide a letter of completion. For questions related to admissions into a certificate program, please contact the School of Theology Admissions Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. For all other questions about the certificate program not related to the admissions process, please contact Dr. Wanda Stahl, Co-Director of Contextual Education.
In addition to the above certificates, the Boston Theological Institute (bostontheological.org) offers two certificate programs through the School of Theology:
International Mission and Ecumenism
Religion and Conflict Transformation
Other Boston University certificates that may be of interest to School of Theology students: