Master of Arts (Theology and Religious Studies)

The MA (Theology and Religious Studies) is a one-year (three semester) program offered jointly through Atlantic School of Theology and Saint Mary's University. This program brings together two complementary, interdisciplinary programs, Theology (AST) and Religious Studies (SMU). Graduate students will experience a diverse and rich field of expertise in the study of theology and religion.

Students will have a unique opportunity to explore and articulate the relationship between Theology and Religious Studies, especially as the fields have evolved both within Canada and internationally. The focus of the program will be research on religious and theological issues and religious communities regionally, nationally and internationally in order to recognize the importance of the multicultural, religiously plural realities of Canada, the Americas and many nations around the world. Students may also choose to study the traditional religious studies and theological areas, such as comparative religions, comparative ethics, biblical studies, systematic theology and pastoral theology.

Students will be able to pursue a thesis-based MA designed to qualify for admission to doctoral programs or a course only program designed for students wishing to develop theoretical and applied skills to work within churches and other religious institutions as teachers, pastoral care workers, or lay chaplains and to work in diverse religious communities to meet new demands as they settle in Canada, especially in the Maritimes. One of the objectives of the program is to provide the religious communities in the Maritimes with knowledge that could enhance their understanding of their place in a multicultural society.

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Admission Requirements

Students seeking admission to the program must meet the admission requirements outlined in the calendars of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research at Saint Mary’s University and Atlantic School of Theology. In addition to be eligible for admission, applicants must have an Honours B.A. in Religious Studies or Theology, or a first degree in Theology (Masters in Divinity, for example), or their equivalent from an AUCC accredited university or a similarly recognized institution. Students applying without these qualifications, but otherwise qualified, will generally be required to take additional courses related to their program as stipulated by the MA Program Committee. Applicants should review the Calendar for AST and for Graduate Studies at Saint Mary's University.

Application Deadline: March 1 to commence the program in the Fall Term. Applications received in full after March 1 may be treated as applications to the Graduate Certificate Program in Theological Studies and admitted by the Dean on that basis to register for courses in the Fall Term. During the Fall Term, late MA (Theology and Religious Studies) applications will be reviewed for admission to the program for the Winter Term. Courses completed as a GCTS student may be brought forward to the MA (Theology and Religious Studies) program at AST, subject to program requirements.

Financial Support

Full-time students admitted to the MA in Theology and Religious Studies may be eligible for funding of a student stipend through funds provided by AST or the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research at Saint Mary's University. Funding decisions are made by the Program Coordinators in consultation with the GTRS Program Committee and are provided on a competitive basis within the program.

Program Requirements

Credit requirements for the MA (Theology and Religious Studies):

Thesis Stream: Includes the completion of a traditional research-oriented thesis in preparation for Ph.D. studies. Students will be encouraged to do field based research with religious communities or complete library based theses. Over three semesters students will complete nine (9) credit hours of required courses, nine (9) credit hours of elective courses, and a thesis (six [6] credit hours). Thesis proposal submission and thesis writing guidelines will be designed to enable students to complete their programs within three (3) semesters.

Course Only Stream: Over three semesters students will complete nine (9) credit hours of required courses and fifteen (15) credit hours of elective courses. Students in this stream will be encouraged to include at least one practicum course (GTRS 6400, three [3] credit hours).

Part-time: Part-time students will be subject to the same admission criteria and will fulfill all of the requirements for the MA in one of the thesis or course streams. Part-time students are not normally eligible for MA fellowships.

Please note that a three [3] credit hour course (or a half-course) at Saint Mary's University is equivalent to a one [1] semester/term credit course at AST.

Language Requirements

Candidates for the MA in the thesis stream are required to demonstrate a reading proficiency in a modern language, normally French or German. Students may apply to the Program Committee to be examined in another modern language if it is more relevant to their specialty. Those entering the MA are expected to pass the modern language requirements by the end of their second semester. Exemption from these requirements is granted to those who have proof of a reading competence in the language. In fulfillment of a language requirement the acceptable standard of proficiency is the equivalent of a grade of “B” or higher in a SMU 2000 level undergraduate language course. This standard may be demonstrated by completing a university course or by an examination administered by the MA Program Committee. Students whose work concentrates on Biblical Studies must have completed, with a grade of “B” or higher, two full university courses of ancient Greek, Latin or Hebrew. Students in the course only stream will not be required to take a second language.

Program Duration

The program will normally take a student three semesters (or the equivalent for part time students). For a student meeting all the entry requirements, this will allow for two semesters of course work and one semester to complete a thesis or practicum course(s). The maximum and minimum times for completion of the degree program by full-time and part-time students is as follows:

MA (Theology and Religious Studies) (1 year)

Minimum number of years (semesters)

Maximum number of years (semesters)





1 (3)

2 (6)

4 (12)

6 (18)

For more information, please contact our Recruitment and Vocations Coordinator:
For an application to the MA Program, please see our Applications page.