USML | Doctorate of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.)

Degree Programs and Application

Doctorate of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.)

Doctor of Sacred Theology

The doctoral program is a two-year program of specialized research in systematic theology. At the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, the doctoral program, like the licentiate, offers concentrations in the doctrine of God, Christology, theological anthropology, theological method, sacramental/liturgical theology and the spirituality of diocesan priesthood.

The Doctoral program ordinarily extends over two years and aims at the completion of the student’s scientific formation especially through the writing of a doctoral dissertation. The program presumes superior achievement at the licentiate level.

The Doctorate in Sacred Theology is the terminal research degree. Its focus is to perfect the skills of the candidate in the study of theology and to develop the research skills necessary for treating theological questions in depth. As a terminal research degree, the doctorate prepares students to be university professors, researchers and expert resource persons.

I. Admission

Currently two candidates are admitted annually. 

Applicants must present evidence of possessing a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) and competence in the languages and other research tools needed for their research.

Applicants with an STL degree from another faculty will have their work evaluated to assure that their preparation is substantially equivalent to the University of Saint Mary of the Lake STL degree. In addition to the requirements connected with the dissertation, there may be further requirements (e.g., course work, examination) according to the decision of the dean in consultation with the graduate board (Statuta, Art. 57 b).


II. Length of Program

The program is normally two years in duration with at least one year devoted full time to research.

III. Dissertation

 The dissertation must be on an important theological question, selected by the candidate and approved by a professor who is expert in the field with the consent of the Graduate Board.The dissertation must be a specimen of the candidate’s erudition, judgment and knowledge of Catholic doctrine, demonstrating his or her skill in positive and speculative theology and the ability to do scientific investigation which is original and contributes to the advancement of theological knowledge. It must be of sufficient length to constitute a truly scientific study. Normally, the dissertation will be not less than 150 pages or more than 400 pages. Any exceptions must have the approval of the President of the Ecclesiastical Faculty.

It is normally expected that the candidate will write the dissertation in English. With the approval of the director and the President of the Faculty, he or she may write in a language other than English. Currently, the approved languages of the faculty are English, Spanish, Italian, French or German.

Five copies must be submitted to the President of the Ecclesiastical Faculty at least two months before the public defense. The President, in consultation with the Director, will appoint two readers, experts in the field. The dissertation must be approved by the Director and at least one of the two readers.

IV. Public Defense

The candidate must pass an examination on his or her dissertation given by five professors appointed by the dean. Three of these professors will be the director and the two readers. The examination will be public, last at least 90 minutes and include questions ex corona. Successful completion of the examination requires a passing grade from at least four of the five examiners. The Chancellor of the University or his delegate will be invited to preside.

VI. Final Grade

In the case of those simply completing the dissertation, their grade will be based on the dissertation and its defense. In the case of those who earned their S.T.L. elsewhere, if further course work and/or an examination were required by the dean (see above), then the final grade for the students’ work will be based on the grades received in the seminars (¼) and the grades received for the special examination and the public defense (¾).

VII. Publication

The candidate is to consign five copies of the hard bound dissertation to the library. One copy will be sent to the Congregation for Catholic Education. The doctoral candidate publishes the corrected dissertation with University Microfilms (UMI), Ann Arbor, Michigan.


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