Master of Sacred Theology
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One must normally have an M.Div. or an M.A. in a theological field before being admitted to study for the S.T.M. The S.T.M. typically is designed to enhance a student’s academic credentials for entrance to a doctoral program.
S.T.M. degrees are typically awarded after having completed twenty-four hours of study at the Master’s level beyond that required for the first theological degree. In some programs this degree may be awarded solely on the basis of taught academic courses. However, many S.T.M. programs require or permit the student to write a thesis as a part of the degree requirements. The thesis is especially helpful for those individuals who wish to use the S.T.M. to further their qualifications for doctoral study and who did not complete a thesis as a part of the first professional degree. Some seminaries will also credit part of the work done for the S.T.M. towards a student moving on to the Ph.D. in theology degree once the S.T.M. has been awarded.
In Roman Catholic universities with pontifical charters, the equivalent is the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.), the intermediate degree between the S.T.B. (bachelor's) and S.T.D. (doctorate). The S.T.L. is an additional two years of study beyond that required for the S.T.B. However, McGill University's graduate school of religious studies, considered partly a Catholic school of theology, offers the academic S.T.M. similar to the Protestant one.
In addition, the title "Sacrae Theologiae Magister" (S.T.M.) or "Master of Sacred Theology" is also the name given to an honorary title bestowed by the Roman Catholic Order of Preachers (Dominicans) on its most distinguished scholars. Thus it is a "master's degree" in the most ancient sense and thus can be likened to an honorary doctorate conferred only upon Dominicans who are already scholars of theology. The recipient must be a full-time professor for ten years and have published books and articles of international scholarly repute. The initial nomination is made by the friar's own province (local distrinct) and then must be approved by the intellectual commission of the Generalate in Rome. The final decision is then made, after review, by the Master of this Order and his council. The regalia of the S.T.M. is a four-finned black biretta today usually trimmed with scarlet, and a ring, which may be set with an amethyst. The S.T.M., has the perpetual right to the title "very reverend." The Dominican archbishop of Cincinnati, John T. McNicholas, OP, was famous for refusing to use "D.D." (Doctor of Divinity) after his name; he insisted on using "S.T.M." because it was the more distinguished academic title.