Program Director: Remwil Tornalejo

The MA-R program is intended for persons wishing to obtain an academic degree in religion at the master’s level, with a concentration in some field of religious studies. It is designed primarily for students who wish to qualify themselves for teaching religion.

The MA-R also prepares the student for entrance into the PhD or MTh program. Because of this, care has been taken to provide an academically demanding curriculum, including a thesis or comprehensive exams. The academic departments will carefully screen applicants, giving special attention to the student’s demonstrated academic ability.

The MA-R is offered with two options for the culminating phase. (1) Specialized Research or (2) Comprehensive Research.  The Specialized Research option is designed to prepare the student for further studies at the doctoral level (PhD) by writing and successfully defending a thesis. The Comprehensive Research is geared towards professional careers and/or teaching at the undergraduate and college levels. This option includes six additional semester credits from the student’s area of study, and two comprehensive examinations. 

Outcomes and Competencies 



Educational and spiritual strengthening in the area of concentration

·   Graduate demonstrates advanced theological knowledge in the major area chosen for study (biblical studies, biblical languages, theological-historical, mission)

·   Graduate has a deepened spiritual understanding in major area of study and sustains a vibrant intellectual and relationship-oriented life as part of an ongoing commitment to Christ

Teaching for college level

·   Graduate demonstrates knowledge, understanding, and professional skills in religious studies and is prepared to teach religion courses at college level

·   Graduate is able to interact with the broader philosophical community and minister effectively in academic and church related settings

Research and writing in preparation for doctoral studies

·   Graduate demonstrates mastery of the methodological and theoretical frameworks employed in religious studies research

·   Graduate has analytic discursive skills at a high level of proficiency, has conducted research, and successfully defended a thesis in the major area of study

·   Graduate is qualified for studies on the doctoral level

Areas of Study 

The MA-R degree is offered in the following areas of concentration:

Biblical Studies

  • Biblical Languages
  • Old Testament
  • New Testament

Theological-Historical Studies

  • Theological Studies
  • Historical Studies
  • Adventist Studies

Applied Theology Studies

  • Church Ministry
  • Intercultural Studies and World Mission
  • Church Leadership and Management

The entry point for the MA in Religion is June (the first semester of the school year).

At the beginning of the student’s coursework, the department chairperson and program director will meet with the student to plan a program of study that will be implemented by the program director. 

Credit Load

The maximum credit load is 12 semester hours per semester (6 semester hours during the intersemester). MA-R students may take some courses with students in professional programs but may expect to be given additional class assignments in reading and/or writing due to the different levels of the prefix numbering of the courses. Since the MA-R is a research degree, most courses require a major paper as part of the coursework to help prepare the student for writing the thesis. The normal duration of the program is two years. Students should plan additional time to complete any prerequisites, including the English language proficiency requirements. 

All matters pertaining to a student's program will be handled by the program director in consultation with the department of the student's concentration and/or the student's thesis committee. 

Admission Requirements

  1. Hold a baccalaureate degree in religion or its equivalent from a recognized institution, or 72 semester hours in religion with any baccalaureate degree or its equivalent.
  2. A minimum GPA of 3.00 on a four-point scale.
  3. Demonstrated proficiency in English.
  4. Three satisfactory recommendations showing strong potential for academic development and service.  The recommendations should come from a former teacher or work supervisor, a pastor, and other church leader.
  5. A written statement (500-600 words) of purpose for graduate study in the MA-R program. 


MA-R applicants are required to demonstrate proficiency in both Greek and Hebrew grammar readings by taking proficiency exams at first availability in the schedule. The minimum pass for the Grammar level is 73%. The passing grade for the Reading level is 83%. AIIAS Seminary offers proficiency exams for Hebrew and Greek before the beginning of each semester. Students with a concentration other than Biblical Studies will choose only one reading prerequisite.

Program Requirements

Complete a total of 42 semester hours by taking courses at the 600 level with a maximum load of 12 credits per regular semester and 6 credits during the intersemester, with a cumulative GPA of not less than 3.00 for graduation. Each major area of study requires the successful completion of the following courses: 

Program Requirements
Three Core Courses 9
GSEM 608 Advanced Methods of Teaching Bible (3 units)
OTST/NTST 612 Biblical Hermeneutics (3 units)
One of the following research courses:
GSEM 630 Documentary Research and Writing (3 units)
GSEM 600 Applied Theology Research and Writing (3 units)
Six concentration courses                 18

Taken from the area of concentration, these should include seminars. 
For majors in the Biblical Studies Department the seven courses should be primarily exegesis courses and seminars.

Three cognate courses 9
  May be chosen from an area different than the concentration.
One research option 6
  Specialized Research (includes MA-R thesis) or Comprehensive Research (includes two courses and two comprehensive examinations from the major area of study)


Except for the three core courses (GSEM 608 Advanced Methods of Teaching Bible, GSEM 630 Documentary Research and Writing, and OTST/NTST 612 Biblical Hermeneutics) up to two courses may be taken as Direct Research or Direct Study. 

Register for the course GSEM 630 Documentary Research and Writing in the very beginning of the course work (first or second semester). Students with Applied Theology majors who prefer to do quantitative research may take GSEM 600 Applied Theology Research and Writing in lieu of GSEM 630. The grade earned in this course must be a B (3.00) or above. If a student fails this course he/she may retake it once. Failure to pass this course the second time will disqualify the student from continuation in the program. However, the student will not be able to register for other courses in the MA-R program until he/she passed the course with a B.


One purpose of the thesis is to demonstrate the student’s ability to conduct research and to express the results clearly and logically in writing. Early in his/her program, the student should select a broad area of interest for a thesis topic. Then the following steps should be taken:

  1. The student should undertake research on the topic as early as possible in order to discover its viability and to narrow and refine the topic.
  2. After successfully completing at least 24 semester hours of required coursework, the student should submit to his/her department chairperson a topic request of 1 to 2 pages, focusing on the statement of the problem and the purpose of the study. The department will decide either to approve the topic or ask the student to submit a new topic request.
  3. Once the topic request is approved by the department, the department chairperson informs the student of the approval of his/her topic request and recommends to the Programs Committee the chairperson, who as the advisor will guide the student in the process of developing a formal proposal, and another member of the student committee from among the faculty of the Department. Upon the recommendation of the department chairperson, the Programs Committee, selecting the third member from another department, officially forms the student thesis committee. The program director informs the student of the composition of his/her thesis committee.
  4. When the thesis committee is assigned, the student writes a formal thesis proposal (including a timetable for completion) under the guidance of the thesis advisor. The proposal should (1) define and state the problem clearly, (2) include a review of literature that puts the research problem in perspective with the current body of knowledge and practice and justifies the significance of the problem, (3) outline the purpose(s) of the research and the significance of the answers to be discovered or proposed, and (4) describe the Theological Seminary 175 methodology and approach that will be used to solve the research problem. The methodology should be described in sufficient detail to demonstrate that a successful conclusion can be obtained within the resources available (indicated by a bibliography) within the allotted time frame of 9-16 months. The proposal should also identify, if possible, the researcher’s unique and original contribution.
  5. Once a draft of the proposal is approved by the advisor, the student circulates the proposal to the other members of the thesis committee. After any revisions are made, the draft is again circulated and a proposal defense scheduled. The student orally presents and defends the proposal to the thesis committee, chaired by the program director or designee (i.e., another faculty member). Based on the proposal defense, the thesis committee may accept, suggest modifications or reject the proposal.
  6. Once the student has completed all required coursework, he/she must complete the “Student’s Report of Research Progress” form and submit a copy to the program director one week before the end of each semester. Failure to submit this report on time may delay registration and result in a late registration fee being charged to the student’s account. The advisor reports on the student’s research progress by filing a copy of the “Advisor’s Report of Research Progress” form with the program director at the end of each semester. This report is reviewed by the department.
  7. Once the proposal has been accepted, the student works on the thesis under the supervision of the thesis advisor and committee. The thesis committee must meet at least twice more prior to the final defense. When the work is approved by the thesis committee and the thesis editor has cleared it for defense, the advisor asks the Programs Committee to schedule a public defense. At least two weeks before the defense, unbound copies of the thesis should be distributed to the committee members and the program director. The defense should take place not less than four weeks before graduation.
  8. The program director, or designated faculty member, chairs the defense including the executive session. The acceptance or rejection of the thesis is decided by the consensus of the thesis committee. In the case of acceptance, the thesis may be accepted as presented, accepted subject to minor revisions or accepted subject to major revisions. Then five final copies of the thesis (one is for the research advisor), approved by the thesis committee, the thesis editor, and the dean, should be turned in to the Dean’s office not less than one week before graduation. An electronic copy must also be filed with the Library. In the case of rejection, the Programs Committee decides whether another thesis can be written and submitted.

Comprehensive Examinations 

The MA-R program with the Comprehensive Research option requires two comprehensive examinations (3 hours for each exam, taken on the same day). These examinations test the student’s comprehensive knowledge in the area of concentration, determine familiarity with the pertinent literature relating to the field of study, and the student’s powers of criticism and analysis.

Scheduling and Preparation. At the time of registering for the last semester of coursework the student shall apply for the comprehensive examination. The exam will take place no earlier than upon completion of the student’s coursework and an appropriate period of intensive preparation (normally four to six weeks). The program committee will assign the examination date and two professors from the area of concentration who will provide the student with detailed information and guide him/her in the preparation for the exams.

Grading and Reporting. The MA-R director will officially notify the student of his/her performance on the comprehensive examination within two weeks. Each exam is evaluated and graded individually.

  • A score of 90% and above is considered a high pass.
  • A score of 80% and 89% is considered a pass.
  • A score of 75% to 79% is considered a conditional pass. In the case of a conditional pass on any of the exams the student may be asked for an oral examination on that exam.
  • A score of 74% and below on any comprehensive exam is considered a failing grade. In the case of a failing grade the student will be asked to re-take the failed exam. A student who fails the re-take exam will be given the opportunity to repeat both comprehensive examinations at a time determined by the Program Committee, usually within four to six weeks.

If the student fails any of the individual examinations on the second attempt s/he will be dropped from the program.

Academic Standards 

The MA-R program at AIIAS Seminary follows high standards of scholarship. Among these are the following:

Timeline and Limits. The time limitation for the MA-R program is four years from the beginning of the first semester of class work.

Transfer Credit and Challenge Examination. The student may request to transfer credits and take challenge examinations up to the limit stated in the general policy (i.e., 25%), see p. 30.

Overload. Normally, the MA-R program at AIIAS Seminary does not allow an overload of semester hours.

Assignments. A MA-R student may take classes with students in professional programs (MMin, MDiv), but will be given additional class assignments in reading and writing. The reason for additional assignments is that the MA-R is a research degree, in which most courses require a major paper as part of the coursework in order to sharpen the student’s research skills and to help prepare for the writing of the thesis.

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