Master of Arts Degree

This degree program is conferred by the Graduate Theological Union.  It is also known as the Common M.A. because it is offered in cooperation with the nine member schools of the GTU.  You are required to affiliate with a member school, such as Starr King or a participating academic center or institute. The primary academic base for your MA is your chosen school of affiliation.
The Common MA provides

  • an opportunity to explore and enrich assumptions about theological and ethical issues inherent in life and work
  • an academic structure for personal, sustained inquiry into theological questions
  • a high level of competence in a specific area of study preparing you for doctoral studies

Degree and Residency Requirements

  • apply directly to the Graduate Theological Union, since the degree is conferred by the GTU
  • a minimum of two years of in-residence
  • a minimum of 48 units of credit (42 units of coursework and 6 units of thesis preparation)
  • proficiency in at least one modern language
  • a master’s thesis


Choose an area of concentration as a focus of study and for your thesis work. A Starr King faculty member with expertise in your concentration serves as your primary thesis advisor.

Concentration areas available through Starr King faculty include:

  • Art and Religion
  • Christian Spirituality
  • Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions (including Asian Studies and Islamic Studies)
  • Ethics and Social Theory/Religion and Society
  • History
  • Homiletics
  • Liturgical Studies
  • Religion and Psychology
  • Systematic and Philosophical Theology (including Theology, Process and Relational Theology, and Religious Humanism)


M.A. students are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one modern language other than their first language:

  • by passing a language exam,
  • by petitioning the GTU to accept 4 semesters (or 6 quarters) of coursework in the language,
  • by petitioning the GTU to accept a successful semester of graduate study at a foreign univesity where the language was used in lectures and written work.

Coursework undertaken to meet the language requirement is not counted towards the 48 units of credit required for completion of the degree. Students are encouraged, whenever possible, to complete your language study before beginning the M.A. degree.


Determine your thesis topic in consultation with the thesis committee, the approving body. The thesis committee chair must be a Starr King faculty member, who will also serve as your primary thesis advisor. The committee must include at least one faculty member from another GTU school. The committee works with the you during the writing of the thesis and then meets with you for an oral examination on the completed thesis.

Your thesis must demonstrate competence in independent investigation, scholarly judgment and creativity. It should demonstrate that you are able to manage research materials and to organize a problem in acceptable academic form. A general understanding of the problem is required as well as knowledge of the standard reference works and journals that focus on the subject. An adequate bibliography must be included.

The committee may designate a pass with honors, a pass, a pass with minor revisions, a pass with substantial revisions, a failure with possibility of revisions, or a failure.

Additional Resources

Because of a long-established, free cross-registration system, SKSM-affiliated M.A., you can draw on Starr King and Graduate Theological Union resources, GTU-affiliated advanced centers for research and study, as well as the course offerings, libraries, research institutes and faculty of the University of California, Berkeley.

You may begin your Starr King-affiliated Common M.A. program in either the fall or spring.

M.A. application deadlines:

  • Fall enrollment: Feb. 15
  • Spring enrollment: Sept. 30