Master of Arts (MA)

Encounter Franciscan Theology In a New Light

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Master of Arts Program Overview

The Master of Arts in Theology (MA) is an academically rigorous degree that allows for specialization in Franciscan studies — especially Franciscan theology, history, and spirituality. Such specialization prepares students to work in programs of religious formation, in the translation and publication of theological and historical texts, and in preparation of printed and electronic resources to enhance awareness of significant authors, texts, and themes of the Franciscan Tradition.

The Franciscan Catholic tradition is a joy-filled faith study that promotes a heart of service, solidarity, and compassion. The Franciscan School of Theology faculty is committed to embodying this tradition in our increasingly diverse and connected world, using faith studies to enact positive change in communities from local to global.

Master of Arts Program Goals & Learning Outcomes

The goals of the MA program are to prepare students to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the basic documents and heritage of the Roman Catholic Church through instruction in Scripture, church history, systematic theology, liturgy, and moral theology within diverse cultural contexts
  • Demonstrate advanced graduate skills in research, multiple languages, sustained augmentation of a thesis, and skills in communicating a position in both oral and written form
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge in the sources and themes of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition

Upon program completion, MA program graduates will be able to:

  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of major theological disciplines (Scripture, Systematic Theology, Historical Studies, Moral Theology/Ethics)
  • Exhibit focused knowledge in an area of specialization within the Franciscan tradition (theology, history, spirituality)
  • Conduct research and construct a coherent, sustained theological argument in the form of a thesis
  • Use a foreign language in conducting graduate-level research
  • Communicate coherently, effectively, and persuasively in writing and speaking

Ideal candidates for this program include:

  • Those interested in Franciscan history, spirituality, and languages
  • Those who wish to pursue further advanced degrees
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Career Paths with a Master of Arts Degree

A Master of Arts in Theology provides a robust foundation of knowledge for a range of professions and vocations, in and beyond the church. Graduates with an MA degree have gone on to find work in:

  • Religious formation programs
  • Translating theological and historical texts
  • Religious text publication
  • Theological research and writing
  • Parish ministry
  • Religious education
  • High school teaching
  • High school or university ministry
  • Hospital chaplaincy
  • Prison ministry

Bear in mind that, while an MA degree helps students build a strong intellectual skill set, some of the professions listed here require additional training or licensure.

See what FST graduates have accomplished with their degrees


Step 1: Connect with an FST enrollment advisor. An enrollment advisor can guide you through the process, help request your documentation, and even get your application fee waived.

Step 2: Create an online account to apply for FST graduate programs. The easiest way to apply to FST is to complete the online application, uploading the supporting documents as they are ready.

Step 3: Gather your application materials. These include your official transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, Statement of Purpose, and resume.

Step 4: Complete and submit your application. Applications for admission are accepted on a rolling basis. A decision will be recommended by the Review Committee within one week of your application being submitted.

Please remember to review all admissions requirements carefully before applying.

Steps to Apply

Master of Arts Program Requirements

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Applicants for the MA Program are required to submit results of the GRE for evaluation before admission.
  • Credit Hours: All students are required to complete 42 credit hours for the MA degree including coursework, online and in-person, and thesis preparation.
  • Grade Point Average: Students are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0 while enrolled in the MA program.
  • USD Requirement: Students must take at least one course at USD.
  • Foreign language requirement: Each student must demonstrate competency in a second language to be used for research in preparation of the thesis. Competency will be determined by passing of courses at the appropriate level (at USD or other approved institution), or by written or oral examination. No more than three units of language study may be applied to the degree requirements. The language requirement must be completed before the beginning of the second year in the program to aid in the preparation of the thesis.

Master of Arts Program Curriculum

Students in the MA program will encounter courses like Writings of Francis & Clare (SP 501), Intercultural Theology (ST 603), Modern Social Justice Prophets (HS 505), and Spirituality in the Time of Climate Crisis (CE 615). Special Reading Courses may be designed by a student in collaboration with a faculty member to allow deeper investigation of an individual author, theme, or work. 

FST faculty members are also available to work with students using Franciscan research materials in Latin, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, and English.

A careful reading of the complete writings of Francis and Clare of Assisi, exploring their Gospel form of life, the bases of Franciscan spirituality; images of God, Christ, Church, and the human person. All texts available in English translation. No previous study of Franciscan sources necessary.

This basic course in Christology focuses on the particular contribution of Franciscan thinkers, the importance of the intercultural dialogue today and the significance of Franciscan spirituality for the third millennium. Student work includes regular reflection papers, one major paper/project and one midterm exam.

A course exploring issues of Catholic theology, mission and indigenous culture, designed to complement Global Theological Education Initiatives. 

An introduction to the Letters of St. Paul, their historical context, theological message, along with questions for their significance for the development of early Christian communities.

This seminar will explore the rich tradition of hagiographical texts dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. Beginning with the earliest Vita (1228), the members of the seminar will read the major texts of the 13th and 14th centuries dedicated to the Poverello of Assisi. All sources are available in their original Latin and modern translations (English, Spanish, etc.). Special attention will be dedicated to the newly-discovered Vita brevior by Thomas of Celano (1239 ca.), Bonaventure’s Major Life, (1260) and Bartholomew of Pisa’s Conformity. (1390) Each seminar member will choose one text for an oral and written presentation, culminating in a final research paper on the chosen text.

What is a prophet? What is a prophet of social justice in the modern world? This course examines practitioners of social justice through a biographical lens. Walter Rauschenbusch, Mother Jones, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Cesar Chavez, the Berrigan Brothers, A.J. Muste, Oscar Romero and others are presented as models of serious prophetic engagement with the modern world.

Our disruption of Earth’s life support systems poses existential threats to human society and its future. How can we nurture innovation and leadership to create equitable solutions? How can we reimagine ethics and spirituality in service of social transformation?

As a result of this class, students will design, develop and articulate their personal leadership philosophy, rooted in ethics and spirituality, and create a toolkit of practices that will nurture that philosophy over time. The final project will support and deepen a real-world entrepreneurial initiative in socio-ecological change, such as those on the Laudato Si Action Platform.


The Franciscan School of Theology is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

The Franciscan School of Theology regularly assesses its academic programs to ensure that they continue to provide the desired depth and breadth of theological education and that they conform to the standards of the WASC and ATS accrediting agencies.

Program Faculty

Students of the MA program study with renowned scholars whose teachings are drawn from lives of active service in parishes, schools, and community involvement. With a small student-teacher ratio, every student gets access to a wealth of knowledge and lived experiences.

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Tuition & Financial Aid

The Franciscan School of Theology utilizes the University of San Diego’s financial aid department to provide financial aid guidance and support to our student body.

FST offers scholarships based on financial need and academic merit. Additionally, we offer two special programs for employees of Catholic institutions and professed members of the Secular Franciscan Order (full-time, on-campus degree programs only). 

FST also participates in the Federal Direct Loan Program, open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. 

We recommend that applicants begin the financial aid process when applying for admission.

Financial Aid

Why Choose The Franciscan School of Theology?

Discover the Franciscan Difference

The Franciscan School of Theology is committed to embodying Franciscan theology in a religiously and culturally diverse world. Based on the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, Franciscan theology offers an optimistic and hope-filled view of this world and Christ’s central presence within it.

In our living, our learning, our relationships, and our community, we address both the head and the heart by integrating the pastoral and academic dimensions of theological studies. In partnership with the University of San Diego, we share an affinity in Catholic identity, commitment to academic excellence, dedication to social change, and awareness of the unique challenges of living in a global world.

Learn with us and become part of the Franciscan Difference.

On-campus FST students can take advantage of:

  • An immersive and unique career and personal-building education
  • Accomplished professional faculty with extensive education/teaching experience
  • Small class sizes with a small instructor-to-student ratio
  • A strong community of dedicated, passionate, open-minded peers
  • Access to numerous USD services and resources

Other Degrees & Programs

MTS - Francsican Theology

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Master of Divinity (MDiv)

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MTS - Francsican Theology (Online)

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FAQs About the Master of Arts Program

Yes! The Franciscan School of Theology is unique in that lay people attend class alongside seminarians. Lay men and women may earn any of the degree programs offered by FST.

No. Persons of any faith background can apply to FST; however, applicants with in-depth knowledge of the Catholic faith, specifically the Franciscan charism, are given first consideration for the Master of Arts in Theology degree program. 

A Master of Arts holder can enter a wide range of careers with their degree, provided they have any additional required preparation. MA graduates have gone on to become theological researchers, PhD students, religious or secular secondary school teachers, diocesan catechetical leaders, lay ecclesial ministers, and community ministers.

FST offers scholarships to on-campus students. Applicants are also encouraged to speak to their enrollment advisor about financial aid options, which may include completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Franciscan School of Theology is authorized under federal law to enroll international, non-immigrant students. International applicants follow the same application procedures as other prospective students with a few added steps, including obtaining official English translations of transcripts (if written in a language other than English), a TOEFL score, and a financial declaration form for international students.



Contact us today to learn more about FST!