The Dominican House of Studies

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

The Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception offers an advanced and specialized research degree, the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S. T. L.).

The leading Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) in Washington D.C.

Lectures, seminars, research projects, and personal study are designed to promote theological competency in a particular area of scientific investigation. The Licentiate degree is granted by the authority of and in the name of the Holy See.

Program Facts


Enrolled Students

2 years

Average Duration


Average Total Cost

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this degree, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a thorough knowledge in a particular discipline of sacred theology (Sacred Scripture, Systematic Theology, or Moral Theology).

  • Practice theological scientific research.

  • Produce researched and documented analysis of issues within a particular discipline of sacred theology.

  • Lecture competently in the foundational areas of Catholic doctrine.

Getting started


The S.T.L. program is open to qualified clerical and lay students. The following prerequisites for admission will be evaluated by the Committee on Admissions which may, in individual cases, allow the student to remedy particular deficiencies during the first year of the program


  • The Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology. Holders of a Masters of Divinity or of another, similar first professional degree in theology will have their previous academic record evaluated to determine what further work is required to establish equivalence to the S.T.B. degree, and before beginning the S.T.L. program. In the case of those who hold only a Master of Arts degree in theology, this will typically involve at least one-and-a-half-additional years of full time study of theology before beginning the STL program.

  • Superior achievement and the ability to pursue graduate work as indicated by the transcript of previous studies (with a minimum GPA of 3.25).

  • Three letters of recommendation by persons who are in a position to judge the applicant’s ability in this academic area, along with a current photo and a completed application form.

  • A reading knowledge of Latin and Greek.

Course Work

A minimum of 36 semester hours of credit is required in twelve special courses of theological or allied studies, including courses in Sacred Scripture (3), Historical Theology (3), Systematic Theology (6), the Thomistic Seminar I and II (6), and Teaching and Learning (3) for those who have not taught.

The Faculty requires a comprehensive two-semester Pro-Seminar for the first S.T.L. year. This Seminar ensures that all students who fulfill all of the other requirements for the degree are adequately imbued with the theological understanding of Saint Thomas. The Seminar meets two hours per session twice a week over two semesters, and offers three credits per semester. The Seminar satisfies six elective credits in the S.T.L. program, the Dean granting exemptions on an individual basis.

Language Requirements

Reading proficiency in Latin, New Testament Greek, and a modern foreign language (e.g. French, German or Spanish) is to be demonstrated by written examination or six credits of graduate coursework. Since Latin and Greek are required for the S.T.B. degree, S.T.L. candidates must have satisfied the Pontifical Faculty’s requirements for these languages within the first year of matriculation in the S.T.L. program. The modern foreign language requirement is normally demonstrated within the first year of study as well. Language proficiency exams are offered twice per semester.

Grade Point Average

The student must maintain a grade point average of 3.25 or above through the S.T.L. program.

Lectio Coram

In early March of the Candidate’s second year, he or she must present to the Dean ten theses for the lectio coram. These will be reviewed and corrected by the Faculty. If necessary, they will be returned to the candidate to be redone. Each thesis should contain a bibliography of seven to ten items, generally as current as possible and clearly related to the point of the lectio. This indicates the candidate’s ability to pinpoint the relevant literature for the topic and guide those who will be following (and judging) the lectio. The lectio coram consists of a presentation of forty-five minutes before a board of four examiners followed by a ten minute period of questioning by each examiner. Follow up questions may be permitted after each examiner has completed his or her period of questioning. A minimum average grade of 3.25 is required for successful completion of the lectio coram.

Students who fail the first attempt will be able to present their lectio coram a second time. However, they will only be able to receive the minimum required passing average grade of 3.25 on their second attempt and will be ineligible for academic honors. Students may not continue in the program after two unsuccessful attempts.

Tesina (Thesis)

This is to show competence in methods of scientific research by completing a tesina under the direction of a member of the faculty on an approved topic relating to the student’s specialization. The tesina must represent a substantial and sustained intellectual endeavor in the student’s chosen area. Following the agreement of a faculty member to direct the tesina and the approval of the Dean, the student submits a tesina proposal. The proposal includes a statement and brief synopsis of the topic, reasons for the choice of the topic, a statement of methodology, a brief outline and preliminary bibliography. The proposal must be signed by the director and the candidate, and is sent to the Faculty for approval by the end of the first year of full-time study.

The tesina should be no less than 75, nor more than 100, pages of text in length. The tesina grade will consist of the average of the grades submitted by the tesina director, and a second reader appointed by the Dean. The tesina grade will be determined by satisfactory completion of the approved tesina proposal, thorough exploration of the state of the question within contemporary research, innovative reflections or approaches to the question, adherence to standards of graduate level scholarship and approved Faculty style regulations. Students who successfully complete a tesina receive three credits, which may be counted as part of the thirty-six required credits for the S.T.L. degree. The candidate is to submit three unbound copies of the tesina to the Dean by 1 April before anticipated graduation. No lectio coram will be scheduled before the completed tesina is submitted.

In order to complete the tesina portion of the degree requirements, the student must receive an average of 3.25 or higher.  Students who fail the first attempt will be able to submit their tesina a second time. However, they will only be able to receive the minimum required passing average grade of 3.25 on their second attempt and will be ineligible for academic honors. Students may not continue in the program after two unsuccessful attempts.


A Candidate for the S.T.L. should begin to discuss possible areas and topics for the tesina during September of the first year that he or she is enrolled in the program.

A definitive proposal for the tesina must be submitted by April 15 of the first year that the candidate is enrolled in the program. This proposal must be submitted to the Dean in writing, and must be signed by both the Candidate and his or her advisor.

A prospectus of the tesina must be submitted to the Dean by October 15 of the second year that the candidate is enrolled in the program. The prospectus is a formal proposal and outline of the tesina. It should include a concrete description of the tesina, an outline, and a selected bibliography. At this time, the Dean will appoint a second reader.

The completed tesina must be submitted to the Dean by April 1 of the candidate’s second year.

N.B. For students intending to complete their S.T.L. during the fall semester, the deadline for submitting the tesina proposal is April 15. The ten theses for the lectio coram must be submitted to the Dean by October 15, and the S.T.L. tesina must be submitted to the Dean by November 1.

Residency & Fees

The residency requirement for the S.T.L. degree is four semesters. Total or average cost does not include books, materials, or living expenses.


Life and Education at the Dominican House of Studies

Catholic theology in the Thomistic tradition for Dominican students and all who are interested in serving the Church, evangelizing the world, and growing in virtue, wisdom, and holiness.