How to Choose a Seminary Degree: Which Path Is Right for You?

by Tobin Perry

When God calls you into ministry, you want to be ready for everything He has planned for you. Whatever ministry path you choose to pursue, completing a seminary degree can be an important part of your education and journey.

Heading to seminary is an exciting prospect, but it also takes some careful thought. No two schools or programs are alike. Your first important decision when considering seminary education is making sure you choose the right school for you. John Ragsdale, PhD, associate dean of Azusa Pacific Seminary, recommends thinking about four key questions as you prepare to choose a seminary degree.

Questions to Consider Before Picking a Seminary Degree Program

  1. What are the theological convictions that have shaped your journey so far? Ragsdale noted that every seminary has a certain approach to theological questions. Take the time to understand where the school you’re considering is coming from. The question of “fit” is just as important in seminary education as it is in ministry or work contexts. That said, students should realize that theological stretching and growth is part of the seminary experience. And, just like physical stretching, theological stretching can be uncomfortable at times, but you actually want and need the school to stretch you in your theological thinking, cultural perspectives, and ministry practices. That knowledge expansion will provide long-term benefit to you and to the ministry contexts in which you serve.

  2. What are your ministry goals? You’ll want to make sure your goals line up with the institution’s focus. “Each seminary has a personality, a niche if you will, that is their sweet spot,” Ragsdale said. “Ours is educating people for ministry. That’s what we do, and we’re good at it.”

  1. Is the school accredited? You’ll want to know whether the school is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). That accreditation allows the school to participate with other thought leaders around the United States and Canada, which will improve the quality of your education. Azusa Pacific Seminary is accredited by the ATS.

  2. Will this school provide the flexibility you need? Oftentimes, seminaries embedded within larger universities provide you with more flexibility and options as you study. This is true for Azusa Pacific Seminary, which encourages students to achieve a healthy balance through the use of its many available resources.

Azusa Pacific Seminary Degree Options

Azusa Pacific Seminary has four different programs to consider as you pursue your seminary degree. Each program includes a different emphasis and prepares you for a different career and different ministry objectives. If you’re trying to decide between programs, Ragsdale suggested talking with students, faculty, and alumni. Providing information about your career and ministry goals can help them steer you in the right direction.

Here’s a rundown of the four seminary degree options offered at Azusa Pacific Seminary:

  • Master of Divinity: In this program, APU will help you prepare for a vocational ministry career through rigorous coursework that includes basic training in theological and ministry studies. It’s a great academic program to tackle if you’re looking to satisfy ordination requirements as you start a professional ministry career. The curriculum includes courses in the Bible, biblical languages, ministry, and ethics. You’ll also be involved in on-site internships, so you’ll know what to expect as you transition into future ministry.
  • Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies: If you’re a pastor or lay leader looking to take your ministry skills to the next level, this 48-unit degree may be a good fit. Through the program, you can concentrate on a particular area of ministry, including church leadership and development, urban studies, youth ministries, or general electives.
  • Master of Arts (Theological Studies): The MA(TS) degree helps graduates journey down two related paths: If you’re interested in preparing for doctoral studies in biblical studies, theology, or ethics to pursue a career in teaching at Christian schools or colleges, this program is a great option. Or, if you want to enhance your existing teaching ministries in your church, consider pursuing this degree with a concentration in Bible and Theology.
  • Doctor of Ministry: This degree is the highest professional ministry degree you can pursue. Building upon the Master of Divinity degree, the program focuses on specific skills for spiritual formation and ministry leadership. It’s the ideal program to tackle if you have a graduate seminary degree and some ministry experience already, and you want to continue your education.

Are you looking for more information about Azusa Pacific Seminary? Learn more about the seminary’s offerings and chart a course toward graduation.