What is a Master of Divinity?

Master of Divinity Those looking to go into professional Christian ministry may find themselves looking into the master of divinity degree. Abbreviated M.Div, this is a professional, graduate level degree that is required by a number of Christian denominations if you are looking to become a become a pastor or a priest. The degree is generally offered at a seminary or a school of divinity, and those who pursue it must hold a bachelor’s degree.

General Description and Types of Coursework

The Master of Divinity degree generally takes about three years to complete. Depending on where you pursue the degree, you will take at least 72 credit hours (the minimum number of hours for the program required by the Association of Theological Schools, which accredits seminaries). Some programs may require more credit hours, depending on how they structure their overall curriculum. Roman Catholic and different Protestant denominations all have different theological emphases and ideas regarding pastoral preparation, so coursework will vary. The various Christian traditions have developed their own seminaries that prepare students in ways distinct to that tradition. Even if you attend an interdenominational seminary, it is likely that your coursework will need to adhere at least in some way to the path set by whatever examining board is in charge of your specific denominational ordination process.

With all that said, there are certain types of courses you will almost certainly encounter within an M.Div degree. These will include, but are not limited to, courses in biblical languages, theology, church history, pastoral care and leadership and liturgical studies. All of these courses are designed to help you become an effective pastoral and spiritual leader of a congregation within your tradition. Depending on your denominational emphases, you may study other subjects as well. For example, certain Protestant evangelical denominations might be likely to feature courses in evangelism and missiology, while Roman Catholic seminaries may require courses in canon law or Latin.

Other Things to Know

Although an M.Div is an academic degree, it may or may not require students to write a thesis. Much may depend on what you plan to do after completing your M.Div. While most students getting an M.Div become ordained or licensed by their denomination, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all will go into congregational leadership. Some who hold the M.Div go into teaching or theological research through an advanced degree like the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) or another master’s degree such as the Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.). Other ministry paths that someone with an M.Div might pursue could include leadership in a parachurch organization or work on the mission field. While an M.Div would not necessarily be required for those positions, the preparation provided through the degree could prove invaluable and could also come in handy on down the road if someone in a lay leadership position recognizes a further call to ordained ministry.


Although M.Div programs will look somewhat unique, depending on your denominational affiliation, there are certain important learning goals and outcomes that are evaluated by all accredited programs. When you attend such an accredited Master of Divinity program, you will undoubtedly work hard, but you will receive education and training that equip you to minister effectively within your particular religious and cultural context.

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