May 25, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Increasingly, seminary students opt to leave the Master of Divinity behind.

Traditionally, after seminary students complete a three-year course of study, they also receive their Master's of Divinity. Now many seminary students opt for a different degree: a Master's in Ministry and Leadership.

According to an article in Religion News, Sean Robinson a May 2018 graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary said, "People are trying to get the training they need and get out. It all boils down to time and convenience and the culture and lifestyle we see today.”

Why the decline in the Master's of Divinity?

The Association of Theological Schools (ATS), the main accrediting body for US and Canadian seminaries expects that more seminary students will opt for the Master of Arts degrees over the Master's of Divinity degrees for the reasons Robinson suggests, and something bigger.

Most main denominations, including the Catholic Church require the Master's of Divinity for anyone seeking a position as a pastor, but the number of seminaries for evangelical and Pentecostal denominations is growing. 

Some traditional seminaries have even changed the requirements for the Master's in Divinity, but it hasn't helped.

Chris Meinzer, senior director of administration and chief financial officer at ATS said, “There’s no indication that reducing Master of Divinity credit hours leads to increased enrollment."

Some programs have even offered an online option. ATS has approved about 30 seminaries for online options, and some students are taking advantage of the opportunity. 

While the degree is still a useful one to have, especially for those going into pastoral ministry or missions, many seminary students feel that they can get what they need from the Master of Arts degree and move on.

Learn more about studying theology.


Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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