So, you made the big decision to head to seminary. Congratulations! Now you’re faced with two big questions: 1) Where should you go? and 2) What degree should you pursue?
Here are five questions to help you find the right seminary to attend and the right degree to go after.
1. What church/denominational tradition do you want to be a part of?
The question of whether your degree should come from a denominational-specific seminary versus a non/interdenominational school is an important one to consider. There are significant advantages on both sides. If you have no leanings toward a particular denomination or church tradition, rely strongly on the Holy Spirit and wise counsel to guide you to the right school. Familiarize yourself with the seminary’s doctrinal commitments and understand clearly how that will influence the education and training you will receive. For those who do have strong denominational ties, you will want to look into whether or not your denomination has the requirement to attend an “approved” school in order to serve within that particular denomination.
2. What type of community experience are you looking for?
Consider what the make-up is of the school you are looking into. Are you looking for a seminary close by to commute, or would you prefer living on campus? Is the school made up primarily of single students, or are most of the students married with families? Will you be able to relate to your fellow-classmates? Again, diversity is good as it stretches our thinking and forces us to operate outside of our comfort zone, but it’s also important to have a sense of belonging and to feel that you connect and relate to the people around you. Relationships you make while in seminary will have a significant impact on your ideology and convictions.
3. What degree best fits my future and my calling? What is my purpose for the degree?
You may not yet have a clear image of exactly where or to what work the Lord has called you, but if you are considering seminary, you are looking to serve in some kind of ministry-level. What type of degree would best fit your unique gifting and calling? There are three basic degree options, the most common being the Masters of Divinity. This degree is the broadest in the subjects it covers and is typically sought by individuals who feel called to pastoral ministry within a church or church planting. This degree is a good fit for someone looking to become a senior/teaching pastor; youth or children’s minister; counselor; missionary; or other church staff position. Masters of Theological Studies is a much more scholarly degree, primarily pursued by persons wishing to enter into some type of Christian teaching or writing career, or who are looking to go on to earn their doctorate. This type of degree involves a longer time commitment and is not typically recommended for students pursuing careers in church life or other church-supporting organizations. The final basic degree option is a Master of Arts in Theological or Religious Studies. This degree is best suited for people who are seeking a strong theological foundation upon which they will build their future career and can also be used as a spring board for doctoral studies. Many seminaries offer up an extremely diverse array of specializations within this degree, making it a good choice to start with if you are unsure of the specific career path God has for you.
4. Are there ministry opportunities available for me to serve in the seminary’s local area?
When choosing the seminary, it is important to consider how the location may affect your ministry opportunities. Being a part of a local church community is a vital component of seminary life. These are days of preparation for your life’s work, and it is important to gain experience and perspective by getting involved with real people and doing real work. By nature, more ministry opportunities are available in larger metropolitan areas as opposed to smaller towns. However, consider how many other Christian colleges and seminaries are also in the area. Is the “market” for ministry opportunities already over-saturated? Is there a place where you will be able to jump into to connect and serve?
5. What is the seminary’s reputation and will my degree be accredited?
Accreditation does not mean everything, but depending on what the purpose and goal is for your degree, it may be an important component. Individuals wishing to further their education should especially make sure that their degree comes from a school with a well-respected accreditation to ensure that their credits will transfer and be accepted by another school. A seminary’s reputation can also leave a mark—for good or bad—upon a student. Will a degree from this seminary aid and assist you in your ministerial career, or will it cause you to have unpleasant stereotypes or connotations attached to you and your ministry?