Master of Arts (M.A.)

Dr. John Barnet
Dr. John Barnet, Director of the Master of Arts Program

The Master of Arts program in general theological studies is intended for those wishing to explore the major academic areas within the theological curriculum without the professional preparation demanded of M.Div. candidates. It can provide appropriate preparation for further graduate study in theology or simply a framework for lay theological study on a disciplined basis. Additionally, M.A. students may choose a concentration in either General Theological Studies, Theological Scholarship and Research, or Sacred Arts. (The M.A. program does not provide the educational qualifications needed for priestly ordination. Students considering ordination therefore are directed to the M.Div. program.)

The program is designed to be completed in two years by full-time students, who take an average of twelve credits in course work per semester. Only if warranted by exceptional circumstances, such as illness, disability, or employment, and with permission of the Faculty Council, may the program be spread over a longer period of time. The degree must be completed within four years of entrance into the program, after which time the student is normally required to fulfill new requirements that may then be in force. All credits applied toward degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

Note: Students who are admitted with advanced theological study, normally an earned graduate theological degree, may complete the program in one year of course work, in addition to the thesis.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary seeks to equip M.A. students to:

  • Read Scripture and the Church’s tradition with discernment;
  • Think theologically and pastorally about the world and their cultural context, addressing contemporary realities in a manner faithful to the Church’s tradition; and
  • Research and write at a scholarly level, in order to grow in faith and spiritual understanding, witnessing the gospel of Jesus Christ.


The core of the Master of Arts program provides students with a grounding in all major theological disciplines. Within this framework, students choose one of three concentrations:

  • The Concentration in General Theological Studies is intended for those wishing to explore theological study on a disciplined basis, whether for personal spiritual development or to supplement a professional vocation.
  • The Concentration in Theological Scholarship and Research is intended for those preparing for further graduate study in theology.
  • The Concentration in Sacred Arts is intended for those wishing to explore the sacred arts in a theological curriculum. More information may be found on the website of the Seminary's Institute of Sacred Arts (ISA).

A student entering the M.A. program normally must have the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree or the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from an accredited college or university.

The seminary does not prescribe a specific program of pre-theological studies, but it does encourage potential students to gain a broad liberal arts education while in college. Studies in the humanities and the natural and social sciences should prepare the student to think clearly, to speak and write correctly, and to understand not only the world of today but also the cultures of the past. Also useful are studies in languages, particularly in Greek. Potential students are also encouraged to read the Bible and sing in their parish choir, thus acquiring a basic knowledge of the language and chant tradition used in the ecclesiastical jurisdiction in which they wish to serve. Students are voiced-tested during orientation.

Credit for work completed at other accredited graduate institutions—up to twelve credits applied against electives—may be accepted at full value on a transfer basis (a) if work done parallels courses in the St. Vladimir's M.A. program and is otherwise compatible with the objectives of that program; (b) if the courses in which the credits were earned were eligible for graduate credit in the institution at which they were taken; (c) if the work was completed within five years of matriculation at St. Vladimir’s; and (d) if the grade earned for the eligible courses was 3.0 (B) or higher. Transfer course grades are not included, however, in seminary GPA calculations.

Undergraduate work, graduate-level work completed at unaccredited institutions, or graduate-level work for which transfer credit has been accepted may qualify a student for advanced standing in subjects in which he or she shows proficiency. In these cases, students will be permitted to enroll in advanced courses or complete advanced assignments while remaining enrolled in core courses.

Requests for acceptance of transfer credits or advanced standing should be directed to the Academic Dean, who in turn submits them to the Faculty Council for consideration and approval.

In order to provide proper and full education of M.A. students, and in accordance with program standards of the Association of Theological Schools, students are required to be in residence for two full academic years.

A minimum of 48 credits in course work and thesis, with a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.3 (C+), is required for the M.A. degree. This includes:

  • 15 credits in 100-level “foundational” theology courses: Biblical Languages 100, Church History 110, Liturgical Theology 102, New Testament 102, and Old Testament 100. These courses serve as introductions to the fields in question. They are designed to provide sufficient background for all higher-level courses.
  • 15 credits in 200-level courses, which include higher-level courses in the academic areas mentioned above and courses relating to the practice of ministry: Biblical Studies (New Testament 203), Historical Studies (Church History 200, Patristics 204), and Systematic Theology (Systematic Theology 201, Systematic Theology 202).
  • 3 credits in Liturgical Skills 101.
  • 3 credits in thesis (TS 306 or TS 310).
  • 12 credits in 200-, 300-, or 400-level elective courses.

Students are required to complete an introductory course or course sequence in one of the ancient languages offered by the seminary. Students fulfill the requirement by successfully completing one semester of New Testament Greek (Biblical Languages 100) or two semesters of Classical Armenian (Classical Armenian 203–204).

Students entering the M.A. program at St. Vladimir's are required to take a music proficiency examination during the orientation period. The purpose of the examination is to assess the student’s ability to match pitch, read music, and sing, and to determine the student’s vocal range for placement in seminary choirs. On the basis of the examinations, the Faculty Council may require an M.A. student to do remedial work.

Each candidate for the M.A. degree is required to prepare and submit a thesis under the supervision of a member of the seminary faculty. Normally written in the form of an extended essay, the thesis must show the student’s ability to understand and express issues related to Orthodox theology, history, and/or contemporary witness.

The following thesis registrations are possible:

1. Extended Essay (TS 306 [3 credits]). M.A. students who do not write an honors thesis (see TS 310 below) are required to write an extended essay of 25–35 pages in length (not to exceed 14,000 words, including foot/endnotes, appendices, excurses, table of contents, and bibliography), normally in their final semester. Prerequisites for writing an M.A. extended essay are::

  • successful completion of the research-writing seminar; and
  • submission of an acceptable thesis proposal.

2. Honors Thesis (TS 310 [3 credits]). Invited M.A. students may fulfill the thesis requirement by writing an honors thesis of 40–50 pages in length (not to exceed 20,000 words, including foot/endnotes, appendices, excurses, table of contents, and bibliography). Prerequisites for writing an honors thesis are:

  • minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 at time of registration;
  • successful completion of the research-writing seminar;
  • submission of an acceptable thesis proposal; and
  • invitation, normally toward the end of the research-writing seminar, by the course instructor and the Academic Dean. TW 205 students who are not invited to write an honors thesis may appeal to the faculty council for permission to do so. The decision of the faculty council is final.

Important Note: Although honors thesis is not required to fulfill program requirements, it is required for graduation honors. However, an honors thesis receiving any grade lower than B from the thesis advisor will be treated as an extended essay: 1) the student will not be eligible for academic honors; and 2) the thesis will not be bound and deposited in the library.

Degrees are awarded annually at the close of the spring semester. (However, see also September Graduates on the Commencement page.) After a final review and vote of recommendation by the Faculty Council, the candidates’ names are submitted to the Board of Trustees for their approval.

Academic Honors. Academic honors are reserved for students who complete all academic requirements at a high level and submit an honors thesis. Upon recommendation of the Faculty Council and approval by the Board of Trustees, the following citations may be given at graduation:

  • For a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.90, summa cum laude;
  • For a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.80, magna cum laude;
  • For a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.50, cum laude.

For the determination of honors, only courses taken at St. Vladimir’s are included in the calculation of the cumulative grade point average.

Commencement Speakers. Student commencement speakers are selected by the faculty council from among the graduating students of both the Master of Arts and Master of Divinity programs. The valedictorian, who delivers the valediction or parting words at commencement, is normally the student who has earned the highest grade point average, with consideration also being given to performance in all other aspects of seminary life. The salutatorian, who delivers the salutation or greeting at commencement, is normally the student who has earned the second-highest grade point average, with consideration also being given to performance in all other aspects of seminary life. Commencement speakers must have completed at least 48 credits at St Vladimir’s Seminary as full-time degree candidates. Neither the valedictorian nor the salutatorian is required to write a thesis.

Commendation for Service to the Community. Upon recommendation of the Director of Residential Life and approval of the Faculty Council, a student may receive commendation for service to the community.

Commendation for Thesis. Upon recommendation of the candidate’s thesis readers and approval of the Faculty Council, the student may receive commendation for thesis.

Requirement To Satisfy Financial Obligations. No degree will be awarded or final transcript issued unless all financial obligations to the seminary, library, and bookstore have been satisfied. In the case of outstanding loans or other obligations not then due and payable, appropriate agreements must have been drawn up and all payments must be current.