Master of Sacred Theology (STM)
The Master of Sacred Theology (STM) is an advanced graduate professional degree for those who wish to pursue a year of more advanced coursework focusing on a particular discipline or ministerial and other religious leadership practice. The degree is not considered probationary for the doctorate. Applicants must hold a first-level graduate professional degree in theology, religion, or other discipline appropriate for advanced theological study, and have a minimum grade point average of 3.0.
The primary learning outcomes of the STM are:
- For those pursuing the STM in Theological Studies: advanced competency in one area or discipline of theological study and a capacity to conduct original research in that area.
- For those pursuing the STM in Religious Leadership: advanced competency in ministerial or religious leadership practice within a particular area of focus and an advanced capacity for integrating theology and practice.
The STM program requires eight semester courses (24 credits). A minimum of five semester courses are required in the student’s specialization, plus three electives. Six of the eight required courses must be taken at Boston University. All courses must be taken at the 800 or 900 level. Courses at the 700 level are not open for credit to STM students.
A maximum of three of the eight semester courses may be fulfilled through directed studies (including one for thesis writing, by approved Thesis Petition).
Students in the STM program may enroll in formal study of any biblical, classical, or ancient Near Eastern languages appropriate to their major for full credit toward the degree, up to a maximum of 9 credits (the requirement of 800-level or higher courses does not apply in these cases).
STM students who are registered full-time must complete the degree within two semesters. In all cases, STM students must earn the degree within two years (four semesters) of the semester of matriculation.
For all classes, a minimum grade of B− is required. No grade lower than B− is acceptable for use in satisfying the requirements for the Master of Sacred Theology.
Tuition Scholarships are awarded for the academic year, September to May. They are contingent upon the recipient’s grade point average (2.7 minimum), character, and overall standing. All awards are for a maximum of one academic year of full-time STM study.
Students focusing on advanced competency in a particular academic discipline of theological study are required to complete a minimum of five courses in that discipline. The student’s advisor has authority to approve the courses considered to be within the discipline in order to allow for maximum breadth and interdisciplinary competence. All STM students are required to pass a written, two-hour comprehensive exam or to write a thesis. The presumed culmination for all admitted STM students is the written comprehensive exam. Students who want to write a thesis must petition to do so using the STM Thesis Petition Form (Appendix A in the STM Handbook). Students must complete this form, which includes the signature of an advisor willing to support the thesis-writing process (note: no advisor is obligated to supervise a thesis). Each student must submit the completed Petition Form, a brief proposal of the topic of the thesis (up to two pages in length), a one-page bibliography, and an academic writing sample (fewer than 20 pages) to the School of Theology thesis coordinator during the first semester of STM coursework. The deadline for submission of the Petition Form is December 5 for students who matriculate in the Fall Semester, and April 5 for students who matriculate in the Spring Semester. The thesis coordinator will file the request with the thesis advisor and the ASC. Students pursuing the thesis option may count it as equivalent to one course (3 credits) if they register for a directed study with the major advisor/professor. The thesis is graded; a minimum grade of B− is required. The thesis must be submitted in approved format.
Further courses may be required for certain disciplines. For example, candidates in biblical studies may be expected to have at least one year of Hebrew or Greek before admission or to include it in their course of study and receive one-half the credit for the number of hours.
Religious Leadership Concentration
Students who wish to focus their degree program toward the aims of ministerial or other religious leadership may undertake a specialization that seeks to cultivate advanced understanding and competence in a particular form of ecclesial ministry (for example, preaching, liturgy and worship, mission and evangelism, social justice, religious education, spiritual formation, etc.) or other forms or religious leadership (for example, urban or multicultural ministry, interfaith leadership, religion and conflict transformation, ecological justice, etc.).
Students pursuing the Religious Leadership specialization need not concentrate in any one theological discipline, but may instead create a unique plan of study to meet their professional aims. At least five courses (15 credits) approved by the student’s advisor make up that plan of study, including up to 6 credits of supervised practica. An additional three courses (9 credits) may be taken as electives. Students pursuing the Religious Leadership Specialization should complete a 25-page “(Ministerial) Religious Leadership” paper, which may be completed as part of a supervised practicum. The purpose of the paper is to demonstrate an advanced understanding of ministerial or religious leadership in a particular area of focus. The paper should outline challenges and opportunities raised by leadership within a particular context and suggest practical strategies for addressing those challenges and seizing those opportunities.