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Many people who choose to answer God’s call embark on their journey to do so by attending a seminary program. A popular misconception about seminary school is that every program is the same, and all graduates become pastors or priests. In reality, each course of study is quite different, and seminary education looks different for each student.
At United Theological Seminary, six different degree programs are available to students with a wide array of experience, educational backgrounds, goals, and interests. Some programs take only a year or two to complete, while others may take longer. While some students may choose to seek ordination after graduation, others may pursue God’s calling in various other ways. In the same way God created no two people exactly alike, the path of seminary education is different for every student.

How long does seminary take?

If you are considering enrolling in a seminary program, you may be wondering how long it takes to complete your seminary education. The answer varies depending on what program you attend, what degree you pursue, and whether you are a part-time or full-time student. Studying part-time will naturally extend the overall time it takes to complete your degree than if you were to study full-time. Of course, a doctoral program is more challenging than a master’s or bachelor’s degree, which will also impact the time it takes to complete your program.
Another factor contributing to how long it takes to complete your seminary education is the coursework required to complete your degree before applying for graduation. Some seminary schools may require you to attend a mission trip or complete an internship in a church before you graduate. Depending on your program of study, you may be required to prepare a thesis project or dissertation for up to one year before graduation.
United’s FlexChoice scheduling plan allows students to study at the pace that best fits their lifestyle. Master’s students may choose from three FlexChoice plans:

  • FlexChoice Accelerated enables students to move quickly through their seminary program by taking advantage of United’s year-round schedule.
  • FlexChoice Traditional is for students taking 6-9 credit hours per term. Students who prefer to earn a degree at a more conventional pace may prefer this pathway.
  • FlexChoice Balanced allows students to take a reduced course load for optimal work/life balance. This option is ideal for working pastors or professionals.


What will I study in seminary school?

The specifics of your education will differ from program to program, from seminary to seminary. Generally, seminary students study biblical interpretation, ministry leadership, and faith through history. At United Theological Seminary, each course of study speaks to the student’s personal post-graduate goals.

Master of Arts (MA)

The most flexible master’s degree program, the Master of Arts, is adaptable to a broad array of interests, allowing students to build their own curriculum. Those who are already pastors or wish to become pastors can all benefit from this course of study.
Culminating in a capstone project in your area of study, this 36-hour degree  program typically takes one to two years to complete..

Master of Theological Studies (MTS)

Students in this degree program focus on building a solid academic foundation through Bible study, history, and theological traditions and develop a thesis in one of two focus areas: Biblical Studies or Church History and Theology.
This 48-hour degree program can be completed at the traditional pace of three years, an accelerated pace of two, or a more balanced pace of four years.

Master of Ministry (MMin)

Those who have set their sights on becoming ordained in a denomination that does not require a Master of Divinity, a Deacon in the United Methodist Church, or who wish to go on to study in the Doctor of Ministry program should consider the Master of Ministry degree. This program is designed to help students build a strong foundation in religious students and provides the fundamental skills for modern-day ministry.
This 36-hour program can be completed at the average pace of one and a half years, accelerated pace of one year, or at a more balanced pace of two full years.

Master of Divinity (MDiv)

This program best suits those seeking ordination in many of the major Protestant denominations and those who want to serve as lay professionals in various fields, including chaplaincy, education, and social work.
This 72-hour program can be completed at the traditional pace of three years, an accelerated pace of two, or a more balanced pace of four or more years.
Read our article for more on the difference between MMin and MDiv.

Master of Arts in Christian Ministries (MACM)

Students pursuing leadership and service roles within the community would benefit most from the Master of Arts in Christian Ministries program. Students in this course can also add a House of Study to their curriculum, including Fresh Expressions, Hispanic, Global Pentecostal, Global Wesleyan, and Korean.
Students can complete this program in one and a half years at an accelerated pace, two years at a traditional pace, and two and a half years at a more balanced pace.

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

This program was designed explicitly with religious leaders in mind, especially those who have been called by God to expand their ministries and lead change for God’s glory. Students in this program develop an original research-based thesis project to address needs specific to their communities. This mentor-based degree program culminates in an original research project designed to address a need within your unique ministry context and is completed in six semesters.

How long does it take to become a priest or a pastor?

Receiving your degree is not the only step to becoming a priest or a pastor. Once you’ve completed your seminary education and graduated, the next step is becoming an ordained minister. Depending on your church and religious denomination, the process for ordination will differ; however, it typically begins with a candidacy period. In some cases, this candidacy period will be completed in tandem with your ministry degree program, but in other cases, you must serve them one after the other.
During your candidacy, you will likely be partnered with one or more mentors who are experienced pastors and are there to guide you through your journey to ordination. They will provide you with instruction that extends beyond the lessons taught in the classroom and give you opportunities to practice leading. Once you’ve completed this phase of your education, you will be ordained as per your church’s guidelines and traditions.
For information on how to become a pastor, read our article to learn more.

How United Can Help

Each theological seminary student will have a journey that is as unique and individualized as they are. The amount of time it will take to attend seminary and complete your education varies depending on your goals, calling, and schedule.
United Theological Seminary is here to provide those that want to pursue God’s calling with post-graduate degrees to take their path to the next level.  We offer all of the degrees mentioned above.  View an overview of our degrees here.
At United, we are always here to help serve our student’s growth.  Please feel free to continue browsing our website for more information and if United is right for you.  Contact our helpful team today.

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