Of course, the Master of Divinity is normally the linchpin degree for any seminary. The M.Div. degree is designed to train pastors and is normally a three-year degree programproviding a heightened focus in biblical studies, systematic theology, church history, the biblical languages (Greek and Hebrew) and practical theology, including courses on Christian living and growth. Every seminary campus will include Master of Artsdegrees in Bible or theology, since the courses for the M.A. degrees are the same as those offered in the M.Div. degree. The M.A. degree is a great means of preparation for someone wanting to become a Christian schoolteacher, serve on the mission field, or pursue other church positions that might complement a senior pastor. Normally, however, I advise students to strongly consider the M.Div. degree, no matter what their long-range goals are, since that degree opens up so many doors of opportunity in ministry and is respected around the world. The M.Div. is also great preparation for those interested in doing future Ph.D. work. You may also want to ask about how many courses or credit hours are required to graduate, how many years does the average student take to graduate, how many credits are required in comparison to other seminaries, and the value of a more extensive curriculum.
“…the long-range or life goal you have for your ministry, assuming you know it, could be a factor in your selection of a seminary.”
Other programs a seminary might offer include missions and/or intercultural studies, counseling, marriage and family therapy, a Master of Theology (Th.M.), Christian education, Christian leadership, urban studies, evangelism, Christian thought, archaeology, philosophy of religion, etc. Many degree programs include specializations or emphasis tracks in which you might be interested. An emphasis track is created either by using elective courses in an area of special interest or by swapping out some required courses for these specially designed electives. These specializations could include youth ministry, counseling, worship, missions, campus ministry, chaplain ministry, urban studies, leadership, exegesis and/or a focus in the use of languages. Specializations are only a small factor in choosing a seminary, as the bulk of the curriculum is the most crucial aspect of your training, but the long-range or life goal you have for your ministry, assuming you know it, could be a factor in your selection of a seminary.
Accessibility and Flexibility
Other questions you should try to answer are whether or not the courses offered by the seminary are accessible to you. For example, can you take the courses in a convenient manner? Is the course schedule conducive to a commuter? Is it sensitive to one who works part time or full time in ministry? Are there evening and/or weekend classes? Does the seminary have a quality virtual campus or multiple virtual courses, and how helpful and comprehensive are those virtual course offerings? Will those virtual courses fit into your chosen curriculum and thus help you fulfill degree completion? Is the curriculum flexible enough to enable you to take courses out of sequence if necessary?