Theology Degree

Hello all,

I am interested in receiving a theology degree from a strong Catholic college in America or Rome, in order to shore up my academic record when I apply to law school. The reason why I want a theology degree specifically, is to complement my future career in the law and in social service, but I am unsure which sort of degree would best accomplish this aim (MA/M.Div/STB?).

I was wondering if the members of the forum could help suggest a solid school, as well as a good degree–keeping in mind that I have a BA in philosophy and strong GRE scores, so it seems that the MA (Theo), M.Div, and even STB are all options. Still, I am unsure of the relative merits of each, and would appreciate the input of the forum members on this point.

The Roman Pontifical Institutes/Universities also look appealing, though I am not even sure how to go about applying there. I am currently looking into applying to the Dominican Third Order, so that I can increase my service and commitment to our Church, and perhaps this would help my acceptance to a Pontifical Institute? Though, again, I am very unsure of how one chooses one Institute over another: they all seem to be steeped in tradition, and have very sparse ‘Admissions’ pages! :stuck_out_tongue:

If you could please suggest schools with the following three criteria in mind:
-low-cost tuition (I am currently breaking my back, doing construction to pay for the last semester of my baccalaureate)
-orthodoxy and rigor of the program (no ecumenical, comparative religions or all-purpose pastoral degrees, please!)
-the reputation of the school in secular academia (keeping in mind that my ultimate aim is law school)

Hopefully someone can help me! :slight_smile:

God Bless you! Go for it.

Here’s one suggestion.

Thanks for the help, you put a new school on the table.

However, this passage from the FAQs makes me a little nervous:
"Is this an accredited degree?
The University of Sacramento is in the process of obtaining accreditation, which usually takes about 5-7 years. Once the University is accredited, however, it applies retroactively to all degrees issued. "


I would suggest either a M.A. in theology or a S.T.B. Then you would have adequate credentials to study canon law(in North America, C.U.A. and St. Paul in Ottawa both offer
doctorates and licentiates in that field, and there are no. of excellent schools in Rome, not to mention institutions like the Catholic U. of Louvain in Belgium). I think that it would be an excellent idea for one to practice both canon and common law. You already seem qualified for law school(i.e. studying a J.D.); I would not worry too much about improving my academic standing for that. The M.Div., on the other hand, is usually intended for those seeking ordination.


Hello!! I have just recently begun discerning whether I should study Theology after I finish undergrad, so I’m right in the middle of trying to find the same information you are!

Here are a few things to consider that I’ve found while inquiring/researching. (Though, since this is mostly information acquired second-hand, if anyone has anything to add/edit, I would appreciate the guidance–it will help with my own knowledge as well!)

Basically, you have to consider what you’re going to do with it afterwards–where are you going to law school? (Is this institution public? Private? Church-affiliated?) What is your ultimate aim in getting the degree? Are you doing it for your own knowledge, or to make you more attractive professionally?

From what I’ve heard, the MA is more widely recognized by the “world at large,” whereas the STB/STL/STD appear to be recognized solely/mainly by Church institutions. So if you’re going to work for the Church, you can get an MA or an STB…but if you’re hoping to work as a lawyer in the world, it seems like the MA would do you just as well.

It seems fairly obvious to us that getting a degree at a Pontifical University should be a pretty big deal. However, in preparations for my study abroad in Rome last semester, I mentioned the possibility of taking classes at the Angelicum, the Dominican Pontifical University, to my advisor at my public university. She responded that the school probably wouldn’t be able to take my credits from the Angelicum, since they would only accept credits from “more well-known schools.” Luckily, with the study abroad program I did, I got to take classes there and have them count as credits through an American 4-year university…but I still don’t think they’d take them if I just went to the Angelicum without the assistance from the American university. I’m pointing out this scenario to let you know that, depending on where you do it and what degree you get, a theology degree may not make that much of a difference professionally, but especially since you said you had good grades and high GRE’s, I don’t think you have to worry too much, and it still would be a valuable personal experience.

All that set aside, I am most definitely not trying to discourage you! I am only sharing the information that I know–I am pondering much of this myself at the moment. If nothing else, a degree in theology would give you a firm grounding in the Catholic Faith, therefore making you a lawyer dedicated to the Truth, which is a very good thing, and I can see it helping you to serve the Lord in your profession.

As far as good schools to look at–I really enjoyed my experience at the Angelicum! Other places I am looking at right now are the Dominican House of Studies in DC (they actually have an MA-STB dual degree program) and CUA (which actually has a canon law program, I think). I’ve also heard that various seminaries have programs for lay students, but I don’t remember whether they offer MA’s or only STB’s.

Hope this helps!

Christ’s peace,

P.S. If you are considering studying in Rome, here’s a helpful website that one of my friends published:

I received on of my MAs at a seminary open to lay students. Also something to consider is that for the STL you have to be able to read in a number of languages. One friend of mine needed Latin, Greek, German, and French in addition to learing Italian since the courses were taught in Italian.

If you are interested in secular law and are open to attending non-Catholic but still sectarian schools, Baylor University offers an MA in Church-State Relations. Granted, it is not a theology degree per se, but it may help you to bridge your studies in law and the church (religious society in general). As mentioned above, some universities with both canon law and civil law faculties will offer joint degrees: you will need to complete cycle one, which includes studies in theology and philosophy before advancing to canon law proper, but some courses in canon and civil law will transfer into the other school. That being said, CUA is the only canon law school in the U.S. Also, this may not help your academic record before applying to law school, but if you are interested in going to Europe, Cardiff University offers an LLM for civil law graduates with a concentration in canon law (focusing on Anglican as well as Catholic canon law)—it is not a Catholic university and consequently the degree is not an ecclesiastical degree. Godspeed to whatever you choose. :slight_smile:

As far as acceptance to one of the Pontifical Universities goes, I don’t think you would have much of a problem. As I understand it (a member of my province is a professor at the Biblicum) there are no real admission “standards” to the Pontifical Universities, save for having the degree necessary for admission to the first cycle of studies (a BA in most cases for those sitting for the STB) and knowledge of the necessary languages.

The Pontifical Universities tend to take the position that if you have the degree needed to get into a program, then you should be capable of doing the work required for the degree. This is discerned through the single oral exam (per class) with the professor at the end of the semester (save for the Angelicum, which uses the American model of study). Those who do not do well on the exams are simply not allowed to sit for classes the following semester.

These universities let most everyone in, the difficult part is staying in.

Thank you for your thoughtful response(s)–all and sundry–and KGot in particular. I apologize for my slow reply, as I have just moved out into the ranch-country of Texas (like the 3% of America that the major ISPs don’t cover), and will have to revise the line in my initial post where I write ‘breaking my back doing construction to pay for my last semester…’ to ‘breaking my back as a Stable Foreman to pay for my last semester…’. :slight_smile:

anywho, the Dominican House of Studies really looks like my best option. I am not entirely certain about the dual degree, MA-STB program, as it looks a little pricey for so many years. The MA only requires a short 1.5-2 semesters, when last I looked.

On the other hand, I really would prefer the ecclesiastical degree to the civil MA–I know secular schools will likely be slightly more reluctant to recognize it, but it would add an interesting bulletpoint to my transcript and make people ask questions. And–of course–it is a Church degree in theology, the value of which goes without saying.

The law program at CUA, which a few of you mentioned, offers the very enticing dual canon/civil JD/JCL, but unfortunately I think CUA is a little too high above my price range. The Dominicans, on the other hand, apparently have not lost touch with a good, solid, low-cost education. :slight_smile:


This post was extremely interesting, as I had no idea how the Pontifical Universities made selected applicants to sit for degrees. Although, I do have the following question: if an applicant is accepted, around how much do these universities cost for Americans?

Thanks for the tip about Baylor; its law school is on my list, so perhaps a solid performance in an interesting MA program will improve my chances for acceptance.

The other program you mentioned, comparative canon law, sounded really interesting. Even though they are less significant than the good ol’ 1917 Codex, the legal systems of the heretics and sectarians (only joking!) really capture my interest. Unfortunately, as you noted, I should probably work on getting a JD before I can do anything as interesting as Cardiff’s LLM program :\

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