5 Career Settings of a Seminarian

5 Settings Where Seminary Graduates Work

  • Parishes or Dioceses
  • Chaplaincies
  • Schools
  • Universities
  • Community Organizations

The different career settings of a seminarian depend on the specific nature of the degree. Some individuals graduate from seminary with master’s degrees while others continue on for doctoral degrees. In terms of field of study, divinity degrees prepare students for the priesthood while theology and other related specializations can serve as preparation for a wider range of academic and other positions. Seminaries are divided into three categories: denominational, which prepare students for careers in one specific religious denomination, inter-denominational or multi-denominational. Five of the major career settings of a seminarian are discussed below.

1. Parishes or Dioceses

Many students attend seminaries because they are called to the ministry or priesthood. Divinity degrees prepare such students to become candidates for ordination. After graduation, they can serve as ministers, priests, or pastors, depending on their denomination. According to the Association of Theological Schools, they may serve as the sole minister of a small parish or as parts of a team at a large parish or a cathedral. Churches with an episcopal form of organization, such as Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, have complex hierarchies including roles for deacons, priests, deans, and bishops.

2. Chaplaincies

Graduates of seminaries can serve as chaplains in several settings. Those who are called to serve their countries can act as military chaplains, ministering to members of the armed forces. Hospitals and prisons also employ chaplains to minister to the spiritual needs of their communities. Many universities also have chaplains who minister to students who may be far from their home parishes during the school year.

3. Schools

Seminary graduates can teach in religious schools. Depending on their academic qualifications, some may teach classes in religion while others can teach general academic subjects that they may have studied in other degree programs. Seminarians may also serve as administrators at religious schools.

4. Universities

A doctoral degree from a seminary can qualify a graduate to teach at the university level. Some doctoral degrees qualify students to teach at seminaries in a specific denomination. Other doctoral specializations such as church history or Biblical languages can qualify a graduate to teach at a wide range of public and private universities as well as religious institutions.

5. Community Organizations

Seminaries can prepare students to work in lay ministries or community organizations. Some seminaries offer degrees focused on counseling or social work informed by Christian principles. Graduates with this focus might work with at-risk youth, homeless shelters, food kitchens, or other community-based service organizations. Some seminary graduates may become nuns or monks living in religious communities while others might live independently and may marry or have children.

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Although all seminarians share a sense of vocation, different graduates are called to different careers. Some may be parish priests while others may become missionaries. Some may have careers in Biblical archaeology while others might teach in an elementary school.