Seminary FAQ

The Seminary FAQ here should answer some common questions that prospective seminary students often have, but if you have more, please let me know!

What kind of a degree can I earn in seminary?

The "standard" seminary degree is the MDiv (Master of Divinity), which is a three-year degree offering courses in biblical studies, theology, church history, pastoral counseling, homiletics, and the like. Many seminaries offer MA degrees in a variety of fields. For advanced students, there is the ThM (Master of Theology), ThD (Doctor of Theology), and PhD (Doctor of Philosophy).

Is seminary just for people who want to be pastors?

Although most people go to seminary in order to be pastors, people attend seminary for a variety of reasons. Some use seminary to prepare for further graduate study in theology or a related field. Others plan to become professional counselors. There are even quite a few people who go to seminary simply to "test the waters" to see if ministry or further study is for them.

How do I pay for seminary?

Most students pay for seminary using a combinations of scholarships, grants, loans, and work funds. The amount of institution-based aid depends, of course, on the school itself. Some schools have a generous endowment and are able to offer students quite a bit of financial aid while others are less able to do so. It's wise to investigate the schools you're interested in and look at the type of aid they can offer.

How long does seminary take?

It depends on the degree. An MDiv generally takes three years while an MA takes two. For more advanced degrees, a ThM (which builds upon an MDiv) takes only a year whereas a doctoral degree can take anywhere from five to ten years.

How do I choose a seminary?

Choosing a seminary can be a difficult task. You want to make a list of factors that are important to you in the decision process. Does your church or governing body have a seminary that they prefer? How important is financial aid? Are there particular faculty members you admire or would like to study under? Do you want be surrounded by like-minded students or a more diverse student body? Is there a certain part of the country you would like to live in (or avoid)? These are just a few questions to consider.

Are seminaries accredited educational institutions?

If they are reputable, then yes. The vast majority of seminaries and divinity schools are accredited both by regional accrediting agencies (the same bodies that accredit credible colleges and universities) as well as the ATS (Association of Theological Schools). If a seminary lacks regional accreditation, run away . . . fast!

What's the difference between seminary and divinity school?

I already have a page that details the differences, but generally the difference is that seminaries are independent or denominationally affiliated institutions whereas divinity schools are tied to universities and do not generally have denominational ties.

Do you have to be "religious" to attend seminary or divinity school?

To be sure, the vast majority of students at seminaries and divinity schools would count themselves as believers in God; however, how these students understand the divine will differ from place to place. That's all to say, a student at Harvard Divinity School will be more likely to define God as an amorphous higher power than a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

How difficult is it to get accepted?

Compared to most professional graduate schools, seminary admissions are competitive but not ridiculously so. More competitive seminaries fall into the 40 % - 50% acceptance rate.

Where will I live during seminary?

Almost all seminaries offer on-campus housing for both married and unmarried students. If on-campus housing is not available or offered, most (actually, all that I know of) will offer assistance in procuring off-campus housing. Once you've been accepted to your school of choice, it's best to procure housing as soon as possible.

What admissions tests are required for seminary admission?

Some seminaries and divinity schools require the GRE for admission, though they tend to favor only the verbal and analytical sections. Most schools do not require the GRE though many university-affiliated institutions do require it.

Do seminaries have doctrinal statements or statements of faith that students have to sign?

It depends on the theological slant of the institution. To be honest, required declarations of faith are sometimes required at very conservative institutions (e.g. Dallas Theological Seminary) and usually not at others.

If I'm [insert denomination here], do I have to attend a seminary associated with my denomination?

Generally speaking, no. However, depending upon your denomination and the governing body you are subject to, they may strongly suggest that you attend a denominationally-affiliated seminary  if you wish to pursue ordination under their care. As always, it's best to check with your local church or governing body to see what they recommend.

Is seminary good preparation for further graduate work, a PhD for example?

Absolutely! In fact, many people attend seminary and then pursue graduate or professional work in a variety of areas, not just theology or religious studies. Many people attend law school or pursue graduate study in a related field such as philosophy, literature, history, or psychology. The versatility of a seminary degree makes it an excellent stepping stone to further graduate work.


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