How Long Does Seminary Take?
August 25, 2023
Most people are aware that a seminary education requires a considerable financial investment. What is often overlooked and underappreciated is that it is also a considerable time investment as well. We at Westminster have gone to great lengths to alleviate the financial obstacles to your seminary education. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to shorten the time that it takes to complete your seminary education. Ministry is a high calling that requires robust training which should not be shortcutted. In order to know what you would be getting yourself into, this article will provide a breakdown of the time requirements for each of our degree programs and will also cover full-time study compared to part-time study.
The MDiv program takes a minimum of three years to complete when enrolled full-time. However, the 3-year track is quite grueling and requires students to undergo coursework every summer. This means that there are few breaks and will be three years of nearly continuous study. With that in mind, most students opt for the four year track. The exception to this is if you have credits that can be transferred in from another graduate seminary program or if you have advanced placement in either Greek or Hebrew. You can see the recommended course schedule for the residential MDiv General Ministries here and the online MDiv General Ministries here.
The time commitment of the MDiv Pastoral Fellows program can be thought of as the three year MDiv track with a pastoral residency and some courses in the fourth year. This means that it is a rather grueling program, but it comes with the benefit of a closer-knit residential community and increased access to the faculty among other perks. The recommended course schedule can be found here.
The MAR is a shorter degree program that shares much of the coursework of the MDiv. It is meant to be a more streamlined program that serves students preparing for further academic degree programs. To this end, the pastoral theology courses are omitted. It can be completed in a minimum of two years of full-time study. You can find recommended course schedules for the residential MAR here and the online MAR here.
The MAC is only offered online, and can be completed in as few as 2.5 years of full-time study. However, it is designed with flexibility in mind and can be undertaken in 3-5 years. The maximum amount of time in which the MAC must be completed is 10 years.
The MATS is another exclusively online degree. It can be completed in one to two years of full-time study. Like the MAC, it is also designed with flexibility in mind and can be completed in a total of three years. Westminster allows a maximum of 10 years for students to complete this degree.
The ThM can be completed in two and a half to three years with a maximum time limit of six years. The ThM requires a capstone project which can take the form of either a two-course capstone where students take two additional courses and write major papers, or a thesis capstone where students research and write a thesis which serves as a miniature dissertation. In both instances the core courses are completed in one and a half years. For the two course capstone, the additional courses take another year to complete resulting in a two and a half year program. For the thesis capstone, students typically take another one and a half years to complete, resulting in a three year program.
The maximum time limit of the PhD is seven years. The program is split into two phases: the coursework phase and the dissertation phase. The coursework phase must be completed in three years and the dissertation phase must be completed in four years. Students can appeal for a program extension of one year if necessary.
The DMin can be completed in as few as three years with a maximum time limit of six years. Most students finish in five years. Like the PhD, the DMin is broken into two phases: a coursework phase, which should be completed within the first four years, and a post-coursework phase, which should be completed in the remaining two years.
The theological Studies Certificates are offered entirely online and are designed for maximum flexibility. They are made up of three certificates, each composed of three courses. The maximum time to complete the Theological Studies Certificates is 10 years.
Full Time vs Part Time
All of the above programs have allotments for students to undertake them in either full or part-time capacity. However, some are more flexible than others, with the most rigid being the ThM, DMin, and PhD. For the rest of the programs, we typically advise students to devote themselves to their studies in a full-time capacity, but recognize that that is not always possible. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances will force students into unexpected delays. That is understandable and our programs can allow for such delays. Our online programs are especially flexible in that regard.
While seminary is an investment of both money and time, the investment is one that is not without returns. We encourage you to use this information to help you soberly assess your approach to attending seminary, and whether the time commitment matches the season of life you are in, along with your ministry goals. If you have more questions about these programs, the length of time needed for them, or anything else, our admissions team is happy to discuss these things with you. Contact them here.
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