What Is Seminary?

What is seminary? You might find yourself asking this question if you're new to theological education or just aren't sure what's involved in preparing for ministry.

Seminary Defined

Simply put, a seminary is an institution of higher learning devoted to theological education. The vast majority of seminaries are Christian, specifically protestant. However, there's no shortage Catholic seminaries as well. Although the term is generally associated with Christian institutions, it can apply to Jewish schools of theological education as well. So, the answer to "What is Seminary" is simple - it refers to graduate theological education.

Focus of this Site

This site focuses specifically on Christian, Protestant seminaries in the United States. That's not to say, of course, that other seminaries aren't worth exploring or considering. However, I have specifically chosen to limit this site's focus because of my own experiences and areas of expertise. I'm a graduate of a mainline protestant seminary and those are the types of schools I generally researched, with one exception.

Difference Between Seminary and Divinity Schools

Although this isn't a hard and fast rule, generally "Divinity Schools," which are also part of this site's focus, have a broader, more ecumenical representation. A Divinity School, such as Harvard, Yale, or Vanderbilt, will have a wide range of students from many different theological and philosophical backgrounds, some who don't even espouse any religious belief but who are interested in studying theology from an academic standpoint.

Seminary Preparation

Traditionally, seminaries have prepared their students for various types of ministry. One may attend seminary to prepare for a career in ministry in various capacities, such as a senior pastor, youth director, or music minister. Others attend seminary as preparation for teaching in religious-based high schools or to prepare for further graduate study in theology or a related fields. Still others attend seminary to explore discovering their call, whether it be to traditional parish ministry or some other kind of service.

Degrees Offered

Traditionally, most seminaries offer a Master of Divinity degree (MDiv), a three year foundational degree in theology where a student takes a variety of courses, both practical and academic. Some schools offer the more easily-recognized MA in a variety of fields, with some schools even offering dual MDiv/MA programs.

Many seminaries and divinity schools also offer an MTS (Master of Theological Studies) degree, which is a specialized theology degree as well as a ThM (Master of Theology). For more advanced students, there is the DMin (Doctor of Ministry), ThD (Doctor of Theology), and PhD (Doctor of Philosophy).

A Versatile Degree

Although most students who attend a seminary do so to prepare for traditional church ministry, a seminary education is excellent preparation for further graduate work in a variety of fields or preparation for work in the non-profit sector. The education is varied enough that graduates find themselves working in areas they never dreamed of . . . including building websites such as this one. :)


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