The leading Master of Arts (Theology) in Washington D.C.
The M.A. (Theology) is a two-year program of theology in the Thomistic tradition. It was introduced in 1993 to better serve laypersons by facilitating further theological studies or the faithful service of the pastoral needs of the Church.
Program Quick Facts
Average Total Cost*
Upon the successful completion of this degree students should be able to:
Demonstrate a general and integrated foundational knowledge in Sacred Scripture, systematic theology and moral theology in harmony with the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Undertake Church-related work for which an M.A. is required at the diocesan or parish level, e.g. religious education, teaching at the secondary school level.
Begin a program of higher studies if so desired. This involves: (a) knowledge of necessary topics including philosophy pre-requisites, (b) an ability to engage contemporary modes of thought, (c) rootedness in both classical and modern Catholic theology.
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:
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
Superior achievement and the ability to pursue graduate work as indicated by the transcript of previous studies (with a minimum GPA of 3.00).
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.
Results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) indicating aptitude for graduate studies in theology if one has no previous graduate work. The PFIC is listed under Dominican House of Studies, code 2498.
An undergraduate foundation in philosophy, consisting of a minimum of 18 credit hours drawn from the following areas: history of philosophy, logic, metaphysics, ethics, philosophical anthropology, natural philosophy, and philosophy of knowledge.
A reading knowledge of Latin.
A minimum of 36 credit-hours of graduate coursework is required according to the following distribution:
Systematic Theology (12 credits)
- Nature and Method of Theology (3)
- Triune God (3)
- Basic Elements of Christology (3)
- Ecclesiology (3)
Moral Theology (6 credits)
- Principles of Christian Moral Life I and II
Sacred Scripture (6 credits.)
- Pentateuch or Prophets (3)
- Synoptic Gospels (3)
Church History (6 credits.)
- Two courses from the appropriate offerings
Electives (6 credits.)
- Six credit-hours must be spent in the student’s area of concentration: systematic theology, moral theology, or biblical theology.
Reading proficiency in Latin and a modern language (e.g. French, German or Spanish) may be demonstrated either by successfully completing two semesters of graduate coursework in the language or by passing a written proficiency examination, offered twice per semester. Since Latin is considered a prerequisite, this requirement must be satisfied within the first year of study.
To qualify for the comprehensive examination, the student must have satisfied the language requirements and have a grade point average of 3.00 or above. The student usually takes the comprehensive examination during the fourth semester of study although the Dean may allow students to take the exam at other times. The exam has a single written component and its subject matter includes material covered in the required courses in systematic theology, moral theology, and Scripture as well as topics indicated in a special packet that the student will receive during his or her first year in the program. In order to pass the comprehensive exam, a student must receive an average grade of 3.00 on the exam. During the exam, the student will have three hours to write on three themes (theses), one each from the assigned areas of sacred scripture, systematic theology, and moral theology. In each area the candidate will be able to choose from three possible questions.
The student must pass the comprehensive examination before defending his or her M.A. thesis. Students who fail the first attempt of the comprehensive exam, the thesis, or the thesis defense will be able to make a second attempt. However, they will only be able to receive the minimum required passing average grade of 3.0 on their second attempt and will be ineligible for academic honors. Candidates may not continue in the program after two failures of the comprehensive examination.
The themes for the M.A. (Theology) comprehensive exam can be found here.
Normally the M. A. (Theology) program will require a minimum of two full-time academic years or their equivalent. The program may be taken on a part-time basis, but must be completed in no more than six years. The residency requirement for the M.A. degree is four semesters.
Spring Semester of the First Year. An M.A. candidate should begin to discuss possible areas and topics for his or her M.A. thesis with a chosen director.
September 30 of the Second Year. This is the deadline for an M.A. candidate’s submission of a definitive proposal for a thesis, signed by the candidate and his or her director. The proposal should contain a brief description of the topic in one or two paragraphs, and a brief bibliography.
October—March of the Second Year. The Candidate and his or her director should be in frequent contact regarding the chosen thesis. The thesis is to be between 60—75 pages in length, demonstrating the student’s ability to identify and investigate a theological question, to carry out research appropriate to the topic, and to organize and present this material in a critical and coherent manner. The form to be used is that prescribed by Kate Turabian in A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations, 8th Edition (University of Chicago Press, 2013). The entire thesis must be approved by the director before the final draft is submitted to the Dean.
March 31 of the Second Year. Last day for submitting three unbound copies of the M.A. thesis to the Dean, as well as a written petition, signed by the director, for a defense. One copy of the thesis will be distributed to the director and two copies will be distributed to the two readers chosen by the Dean.
N.B.For students intending to complete their M.A. during the fall semester, the deadline for submitting three unbound copies of the M.A. thesis, as well as a written petition, signed by the director, for a defense to the Academic Dean is November 1.
Special Examination Week of the Second Year. The director and two readers assigned by the Dean examine the student on the thesis topic for no more than 90 minutes, the first 30 minutes of which is dedicated to the candidate’s exposition of the thesis. Each member of the board may then question the candidate for 20—30 minutes. After the defense, the director and two readers leave the testing area to determine the grade of the defense (the average of three scores). The candidate may field questions from the audience at this time, although this portion is not graded. When the director and readers return, the director announces the outcome of the defense (successful/unsuccessful) and communicates privately to the candidate the grade of the thesis itself (20% of overall academic assessment) and the grade of the thesis defense (20% of overall academic assessment).
N. B. Candidates must fulfill all of their academic requirements (60% of overall academic assessment), including their Latin and modern language requirements, before the thesis defense.
Grade Point Average
The student must maintain a grade point average of 3.00 or above throughout the M.A. program. Students are also required to receive an average of 3.00 on both their written thesis and a 3.00 on their thesis defense in order to complete the degree program.
First Year (Fall Semester)
- Elementary Latin I
- Synoptic Gospels
- Early and Medieval Church History
- Nature and Method of Theology
First Year (Spring Semester)
- Elementary Latin II
- Prophets of Israel
- Reformation and Modern Church History
- Triune God
Second Year (Fall Semester)
- Principles of Christian Moral Life I
- Basic Elements of Christology
Second Year (Spring Semester)
- Principles of Christian Moral Life II
- Latin Reading Comprehension Test (1st Year of Matriculation)
- Modern Language Reading Comprehension Test (1st Year of Matriculation)
- Thesis and Thesis Defense (2nd Year of Matriculation)
*Total or average cost does not include books, materials, or living expenses. This cost also assumes that appropriate philosophy studies have been completed.