Pastoral Ministry (M.A.)

Our program will prepare you for ministerial professions, especially for positions identified as lay ecclesial ministry within the Roman Catholic Church.

The program's basic requirements offer you a comprehensive introduction to the theological, ethical, historical and Biblical resources that ground a Christian minister's work. The additional requirements introduce you to the principles of pastoral theology and selected pastoral skills that are applicable in most ministerial settings.

We integrate the study of theology with the general principles and effective practices of pastoral ministry. This provides you with an opportunity to prepare for a variety of service careers emerging in the contemporary church, including pastoral positions in catechetics and religious education; family, parish and campus ministry.

We are constantly working forward. Our courses in religious education and telecommunications, family and parish ministries, and the social teachings of the church ensure the vitality of our program.

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Admission Requirements

Applicants to the pastoral ministry and theological studies programs should submit the following information in addition to the online application:

  1. Official academic records of all previously attended colleges or universities must be submitted directly from the colleges or universities to the Office of Graduate Admission Processing. Hand-carried transcripts, official copies marked Issued to Student and unofficial copies are not acceptable.
  2. Three letters of recommendation from professors or employers.
  3. A personal statement explaining the applicant's desire to study theology at the University of Dayton.
  4. Results from the GRE are not required for applicants to the M.A. programs. However, candidates are welcome to submit a score in support of their application.

Additional requirements apply for international students.

Academic Requirements
Twenty-four semester hours of undergraduate course work in philosophy and theology/religion with a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is recommended. Those with limited or no academic background in theology may be admitted on a conditional basis.

Graduate Assistantships
Assistantship opportunities are available for students in the Pastoral Ministry program. 

Academic Requirements

Program requirements can be found in the online Catalog. Simply select the area of study and click "Explore".

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with an M.A. in theological studies?
Many things! Those with experience in ministry pursue the degree in order to enhance their understanding of the tradition and advance their working knowledge of youth ministry and religious education. Others use this program to develop a content area for teaching, or as a springboard into a Ph.D. program. Still others use the master's program as a way to explore their own faith.

Does the M.A. in theological studies require a thesis?
No. Students may choose to complete a six-credit thesis, a three-credit comprehensive project or 36 semester hours in course work with a faculty-reviewed research paper. Those going on to a Ph.D. are encouraged to do a thesis. Others find the other final projects more rewarding.

What can I do with an M.A. in pastoral ministry?
The M.A. in pastoral ministry is designed to give the academic and practical basis for acquiring the competencies outlined for lay ecclesial ministers. In the Roman Catholic Church, the degree is the standard training required for pastoral associates in parishes. Pastoral associates undertake many ministries under the direction of the pastor or parochial administrator.

Does the M.A. in pastoral ministry require a thesis?
No. The M.A. in pastoral ministry does require a practicum experience and ongoing participation in the Pastoral Ministry Ongoing Seminar, as well as other practical courses.

I have heard that the Ph.D. is in "American Catholicism." Is this correct?
Not quite. The degree is a Ph.D. in Theology, with a focus on the U.S. Catholic experience. We think of theology as the organizing center of a web of the disciplines of religious studies, including historical, sociological, ethnographic, cultural and literary approaches. Our program requires basic competency in biblical studies, the history of Christianity, and theology and ethics. These are tested by general exams. Our program requires advanced competency demonstrated through a qualifying exam in the area of the dissertation and in the U.S. Catholic experience, the latter meant not to be a limit but a focus.

Are there language requirements for the degrees?
The M.A. degrees do not have language requirements, although languages other than English are useful both for research and for ministry. The Ph.D. requires rudimentary knowledge of Latin, a research language or languages appropriate to a student's research.

Can non-Catholics take these courses?
Yes. The University of Dayton is proud to be a Catholic and Marianist institution. As such, its academic posture has been called an "open circle" centered on the Roman Catholic tradition but certainly not limited to it. While the M.A. in pastoral ministry is shaped for those planning to do ministry in the Roman Catholic Church, the M.A. in theological studies and the Ph.D. in theology can be structured with somewhat different foci. A significant number of faculty and students in the Ph.D. program are non-Catholics.


Amy Doorley
Administrative Support Staff; Coordinator of Graduate Studies
Contact >>

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