For those eager to be of service and answer God’s call, seminary offers countless opportunities to deepen and expand one’s faith and provides numerous avenues for burgeoning faith-based careers.
What is a Theological Seminary?
The most common understanding of a theological seminary is that of a place where students learn to become ministers in a church setting. While that’s not untrue, it’s also not the entirety of what students can study in a seminary. There are many types of ministries that extend beyond Sunday services. Seminary students can gain the knowledge and skillset to serve God and others in numerous other ways, including leadership roles, counseling, and teaching.
A theological seminary is essentially a graduate school program with learning based in faith. Seminary students graduate with the skill set necessary to fulfill their God-given purpose through the ministry of their choosing. Though seminary programs may have once been perceived as limiting, the inverse is true today. Seminary programs empower graduates to be of service to God and others in an endless assortment of ways.
What is a Seminary Degree?
Just like there is no one-size-fits-all approach to answering God’s calling, there is no one-size-fits-all seminary degree. There are several different programs available at theological schools and United Theological Seminary offers the following paths. The majority of these programs can be completed in person or online and many are flexible for those who have busy lives and families to attend to as they pursue their seminary education.
Master of Arts (MA)
The Master of Arts program is perhaps one of the most flexible, intentionally designed to adapt to a wide range of interests. Students can specialize in biblical interpretation, ministry leadership, church planting, pastoral care ministry, or build their own curriculum. Active pastors or those seeking to become pastors can benefit from a Master of Arts.
Master of Theological Studies (MTS)
Students who pursue their Master’s in Theological Studies will develop a strong academic foundation and see tremendous growth in their understanding of faith and religion. They study the Bible, faith through history, and theological traditions and witness the Church today. Students are encouraged to take electives to strengthen their education.
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
The Doctor of Ministry program was designed for active religious leaders called by God to expand their ministry and produce change for the glory of God. Students work with a peer group and a mentor on a targeted area of ministry to develop an original research-based thesis project to address a specific need unique to their ministry.
Master of Ministry (MMin)
For those who are preparing to work as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church or are interested in eventually pursuing further study in the Doctor of Ministry program, the Master of Ministry program is the perfect fit. This program helps students develop a strong theological, biblical, and historical foundation in religious studies and prepares them for modern-day ministry.
Master of Divinity (MDiv)
The Master of Divinity program is for those seeking ordination in many major Protestant denominations, but this program is also suited to those who wish to serve as lay professionals in fields that include chaplaincy, nonprofit leadership, education, and social work.
Read our article to learn more on the difference between a MMin and MDiv degree.
Master of Arts in Christian Ministries (MACM)
For seminary students who wish to pursue community-based leadership and service roles, the Master of Arts in Christian Ministries is designed to prepare them for their ministries. Students can also add a House of Study to their curriculum, including Black United Methodist, Fresh Expressions, Global Pentecostal, Global Wesleyan, and Mosaix.
What can you do with a Seminary Degree?
There are so many career opportunities available to seminary graduates, both inside and outside the church. Seminary graduates go on to pursue both academic and professional paths, and the possibilities are endless.
Both the Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Theological Studies (MTS) programs at United Theological Seminary provide students with a deep theological foundation from an academic perspective. Those who graduate with these degrees may be called to teach in classrooms, as keynote speakers, and through the written word. Seminary graduates with academic concentrations go on to become leading experts in theological studies, publishing various works in the areas of study. Teaching and educating God’s disciples is its own ministry and academic seminary programs give many students the skills to be of service in this way.
The other degree programs offered at United Theological Seminary focus heavily on the practice of ministry and Christian leadership. Graduates from these programs tend to be career-focused, and each student cultivates their specialized ministry, whether it’s in or out of the local church. A popular route taken by seminary graduates is that of chaplaincy, in which organizations like the military, hospitals, and other private institutions hire chaplains to serve the religious needs of their members. Other graduates may go on to work with nonprofits or as social workers, both of which provide the means to do deeply meaningful work with people in local communities. Social workers often minister to those who are experiencing profound suffering and can use their faith and training to make a direct impact. It’s also not uncommon for seminary graduates to pursue careers spreading ministry through art, such as music, theater, fine art, writing, and poetry.
For more information, read our article on what you can do with a seminary degree.
What are the Requirements to get into a Seminary?
While each theological seminary program has different requirements, there are certain factors that will likely play a role in graduate admissions across the board.
Depending on what type of seminary students aspire to attend, there will be varying academic requirements. For seminaries that are affiliated with larger universities, prospective students will need to meet the university’s academic admissions standards.
Students applying to master’s programs are required to have a bachelor’s degree and students applying to doctoral programs are required to have a master’s degree. At United Theological Seminary, students will have to provide previous academic transcripts. While perfect grades are not required, a commitment to academics that demonstrates a preparedness to embark on a graduate-level program is necessary.
Students entering a seminary are expected to have a strong understanding of their own personal faith and beliefs. Seminaries look for a commitment to those beliefs and a spiritual maturity that reflects a dedication to studying the variety of religious subjects that comprise the curriculum.
At United Theological Seminary, students are asked to write two short essays as part of the application process relating to what their faith means to them. They will also be required to supply letters of recommendation.
If you would like to read more, check out our blog post on seminary school requirements.
While academic and faith-based requirements are considered a given, seminaries are also keen on assessing the character of each prospective student. Seminaries value students that reflect strong personal character on a whole, ensuring that conscientious spiritual leaders of the future.
For seminaries, assessing character does not mean that past mistakes are disqualifying. Seminaries practice forgiveness and believe in the redemption that they teach, so even those convicted of crimes or have served time in person may be granted admission.
Many seminary programs may ask for background checks, character references, and for students to participate in a psychological evaluation to make sure that stable, mature students are admitted.
Final Words on Seminary
A seminary is so much more than a school for teaching ministers. A seminary is an institution where future career paths and religious studies intersect, all based on a strong foundation of faith. Seminary graduates have endless opportunities to honor God’s calling, whether it’s in church, in their vocation, or in their community.