The purpose of the licentiate program is to help the student become acquainted with the whole corpus of church law, understand it in terms of its theological, philosophical, and historical background, and learn the method and practice of scientific research.

The level of research for the licentiate is that expected of professional canonists, specifically the exacting investigation of canonical questions encountered in curial, tribunal, and similar practice, and the articulation of one's findings in written opinions and briefs.

Students may choose to complete the program in two years, i.e., six consecutive semesters (fall, spring, and summer), in three years, excluding summer semesters, or in five summers.