What Can I Do with a Master of Theology?

August 25, 2023

The ThM at Westminster is an advanced degree program that is built for those who are seeking a career in academia and desire a stepping stone toward further post-graduate doctoral education. Its focus is on developing research skills that will serve further academic work. In this article we will explore the skills that are cultivated through our ThM program, along with the benefits of this course of study. We’ll also cover the ministry opportunities that the ThM opens, as well as the differences between the ThM and other Westminster degrees.

Skills of ThM Graduates

The ThM is tailored to convey a number of academic and research skills. Chief among them are the research skills necessary to produce and publish scholarly work that is original in its contribution to your particular chosen theological discipline. To that end, you will develop a breadth of knowledge in your field as well as a working knowledge of related fields. You will also be required to acquire a research language that is relevant to your area of research (most often Latin, German, Dutch, or French.) All of this will inevitably also benefit any future pastoral or teaching ministry. The skills you gain in the program will also certainly carry over to any future doctoral research.

Benefits of the Master of Theology

The ThM has been used to suit several diverse purposes. The program was intentionally crafted to serve as a stop gap between graduate master’s programs and post-graduate doctoral research programs. However, some students have utilized it to serve other ends to great effect.

Preparation for Doctoral Research

The stated purpose of the ThM has been to prepare for future post-graduate education. While some students seek to pursue a full doctoral education immediately upon graduating from their graduate degree, there are many reasons why pursuing a ThM first can be a good idea. Doctoral programs are notoriously competitive, and some students may have a GPA in their master’s program that isn’t as strong as other applicants. Students like this can undertake the ThM in order to bolster their future PhD applications by proving they are up to the task of post-graduate research programs.

Additionally, some European doctoral programs don’t include any course work. There are definite benefits to that philosophy of post-graduate education, but one drawback is that students are exposed only to their own narrow topic at the post-graduate level. The result is that they may be the world’s foremost expert in their topic but have a graduate level education in everything else. To avoid this, some students choose the ThM for its post-graduate course work before attending a research-only PhD.

Continuing Education

The ThM also serves a number of students who are currently in some kind of pastoral or professional ministry looking back on their seminary education fondly and want to ‘scratch’ that academic ‘itch’ again. For them, the ThM is a perfect option to take their education further and deeper than their seminary education without committing to a longer, more competitive doctoral program. In this way, the ThM is a perfect opportunity to benefit your ministry by staying theologically sharp. Because there is no such thing as going too deep in theology and it is impossible to know God and his Word too well, studying theology at the post-graduate level can only help your ministry.

Terminal Degree

Finally, some students can use the ThM as a terminal qualifying degree. Most professional academic positions in U.S. or European higher education require a doctorate to qualify. However, if you are planning on teaching at the college or seminary level overseas or in less developed areas, the ThM might be enough to qualify. The ThM is also a good option for those who might want to teach at a private Christian high school.

Difference Between ThM and Other Degrees

If you’re comparing degrees, there are a few things to consider depending on your goals.

ThM vs. PhD

The ThM and the PhD are very similar courses of study. In fact, they share almost all of their courses. The only difference between the coursework components of the ThM and the PhD are how many courses are required. Any post-graduate level course can be slotted into the ThM or the PhD. However, the ThM only requires 6-8 courses whereas the PhD requires 10 courses. The PhD then has a research component of a full dissertation of roughly 100,000 words. When it comes to the ThM’s research component, you have two options. The first option is a 50,000-word advised thesis. The second option is two additional courses with 30-35 page major papers. Thus, the ThM is a shorter, less involved process than the PhD.

Master of Theology vs. Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS)

Judging by their titles alone, the Master of Theology and the Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies sound very similar. However, they are drastically different programs. The MATS is a graduate level program that doesn’t require Greek and Hebrew. The ThM is an advanced degree that requires a previous master’s degree that is equivalent to the MDiv or MAR as a prerequisite. In this way, the MATS would not qualify as a prerequisite for the ThM.


The ThM is a degree program optimally designed for those who want an academic career in Christian higher education. It serves those who would like additional theological and research preparation before undertaking a doctoral program and may thus serve as a stepping stone to further postgraduate study.

If this degree program interests you, we encourage you to learn more about the program. Want to discuss the details in more depth with a live person? Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students that are able to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, and examine scholarship opportunities. Connect with them here, or apply now.

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