If you’re interested in becoming a religions leader, especially in the Christian faith, you’ll likely need to earn a Master of Divinity, or MDiv. This type of program is much more comprehensive than master’s degree programs in most other fields, so if you’re new to considering theology as a field of study, it can be a bit confusing to understand your options. Let’s take a look at what it means to earn an MDiv and whether or not this is the right program for you.
What is a Master of Divinity?
An MDiv program is for student who want to be ordained or appointed as pastors, priests, or other religious leaders. The classes you’ll take as part of such a course will depend on your religion and your specific college, but most Christian-based programs for MDiv students include coursework to teach you about history, philosophy, cannon law, evangelism, Latin and/or Hebrew, and Biblical studies, both in the New Testament and the Old Testament. Many MDiv programs are evolving to also include more modern courses in topic areas such as current events, government or political science, and church growth. MDiv programs may also include the option to take classes in Christian teaching or counseling, though most states have additional degree requirements you must meet in order to be certified in either of those fields.
Some MDiv programs require you to submit a thesis as the culmination of your education, while others concentrate solely on preparing you to work in the field. If you are required to submit a thesis, you’ll be able to work on a project that is important to you, which can include learning more historically or looking to the future and how religion fits into the modern world.
How Long Does it Take to Earn an MDiv?
At minimum, you can expect to earn 72 credits in order to complete this type of degree, though some colleges require many more – even up to 106. This typically translates to about 90 semester hours, which is much higher than the 40 hours required, on average, with most master’s degree programs. So, in order to earn an MDiv, you can expect to spend an additional four years in school, after completing a bachelor’s degree program.
Most MDiv programs are not available on a part-time basis, simply because you’re required to earn this degree to be ordained and work in the field. However, in some cases, you can begin work in another religious position while earning your MDiv on a part-time basis. Depending on your religion, you may also need to go through a “call” process, which is kind of like the clinical work you’d do as a medical student – you’ll work in a religious leadership role to gain experience, but usually under the supervision of a higher official. Every religious sect has its own requirements for ordination or appointment.
Other Religious Degree Programs
The MDiv route is best for students who want to work in a practical environment after graduating. While there are other religious graduate options, these degrees focus more on academic learning, so are best for those who want to take on scholarly or teaching roles after graduating. These other degree programs include the Master of Religion, Master of Arts in Theology, Master of Theological Studies, and Master of Sacred Theology. At some colleges, students from many different types of master’s degree programs in the field of religion take classes together for their first year before splitting into groups by degree to learn more about their field of choice.
Is a MDiv Right for You?
The best way to determine whether or not you should pursue a degree with this type of program is to examine your current strengths. Do you like to talk to others about your faith? Are you someone who is often an ear for friends who need advice about their problems? Are you interested in working in a leadership position? A MDiv might be right for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy exploring religious ideas, an academic might be better suited – and rather than an MDiv, one of the other master’s degree programs might be a better choice for you. Both are great for students with a strong faith. If you aren’t yet sure which program is best for you, start with a bachelor’s degree program and talk to your professors about your master’s degree option might work better for you.