What Can I Do with a Master of Arts in Religion?
August 25, 2023
Westminster’s Master of Arts in Religion program is tailored toward future postgraduate theological education in PhD programs or advanced degree programs like the ThM, making it a good first step towards a career teaching at the seminary or university level. The MAR does this by providing the rigorous studies of the MDiv program in a quicker, and therefore more financially accessible manner.
This article will lay out the skills you will acquire in the MAR program, the benefits of the MAR compared to other degree programs, the ministry opportunities available to you as an MAR alumnus, as well as the differences between the MAR and the MATS degree programs.
Skills of MAR Graduates
The MAR program fosters skills that are required for advanced theological study. As with Westminster’s Master’s of Divinity (MDiv), competency in the original biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew is foundational to our curriculum. Both languages are prerequisites for nearly all future coursework as they are vital in developing the ability to exegete Scripture. Together, these skills will undergird the entirety of your education in the MAR. You will also learn the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards and become increasingly familiar with the key theological disciplines of biblical studies, systematic theology, church history, and apologetics. All of this is with the intention of developing a deeper love for God, his Word, and his church.
Benefits of the Master of Arts in Religion
The MAR provides a flexible and streamlined experience while retaining all of the rigor of Westminster’s MDiv program. In fact, the MAR features nearly all the same courses found in the MDiv program, and as an MAR student you will be sitting shoulder to shoulder with MDiv students in the same classes. The difference between the programs lies only in which and how many courses are required to complete the program.
Faster than a MDiv
The MAR consists of 74 credits completed over the course of 2-3 years in either online or residential format. There are also options to undertake the course in various modes. Online students are allowed to take residential courses and vice versa, with a few stipulations. Adding yet more flexibility is the fact that 25 of the 74 credits are fully elective, meaning nearly any of Westminster’s residential course offerings can be integrated into your program of study, including many PhD/ThM course offerings. This level of flexibility will allow you to begin to narrow your focus of study towards a more specific topic. This will be very important as you prepare for advanced thesis or dissertation work in the future.
An additional benefit of the MAR is that, due to the lower credit requirement, the program can be completed more quickly and is thus less costly to complete than the Westminster MDiv program. So if your intention is to go on to postgraduate theological education, you will save time and money by undertaking the MAR without sacrificing the academic rigor that will ultimately prepare you for doctoral research.
The MAR requires a “summative evaluation” at the end of your study in the program. The intention behind this requirement is that the student is provided the opportunity to integrate and apply the entirety of what they have learned in the program. The summative evaluation can take the form of a comprehensive exam, an integrative thesis, or a capstone project. Any of these three will be valuable for your future work or ministry, but the integrative thesis is especially helpful for those who are planning on applying for doctoral programs since many doctoral application committees like to see that an applicant is capable of sustained academic research.
Ministry Opportunities with an MAR
While the main intention of the MAR is to prepare students for further postgraduate academic study, the skills that are cultivated in the MAR will certainly benefit any future ministry that you might undertake. The MAR is more than adequate to prepare you for nearly any part-time ministry. While the MDiv is always recommended for any full-time vocational ministry, there are some ordaining bodies that will accept an MAR as preparatory for ordination to full-time pastoral ministry.
Difference Between MAR and Other Degrees
If you’re comparing degrees, there are a few things to consider depending on your goals.
MAR vs. Master’s of Divinity (MDiv)
Westminster’s MAR and MDiv are most often compared and contrasted due to their heavily overlapping features. The coursework of the MDiv is carefully calibrated to build upon itself in a logical sequence. Since the MAR is a streamlined version that you, as a student, are largely in control of, the flexibility of the program means that this carefully calibrated sequence will be interrupted to some extent. You will never find yourself in a class that you are unprepared for, but you cannot take every class that every department requires of the MDiv. So if you are desiring a holistic theological education that is built to competently equip you in all of the key disciplines of theology, the MDiv may be a better choice. If you are desiring a faster approach where you can focus more narrowly on a particular discipline or topic, the MAR could be right for you.
MAR vs. Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS)
Both the MAR and the Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) can be used to prepare you for non-vocational ministry. The main distinction between the MAR and the MATS is that the MAR requires Greek and Hebrew while the MATS does not. The MAR’s 74 credits compared to the MATS’s 36 also makes the MAR a much more robust program, which carries a program length and cost difference as well. Additionally, the MAR is available in residential and online formats, while the MATS is only available online. Finally, the MATS is a terminal degree, meaning it will not qualify you for application to postgraduate degree programs, whereas the MAR is intentionally designed as a springboard to future doctoral study. If you are in the midst of a MATS and decide to switch to pursue a MAR, you are able to do so though.
The MAR is a degree program optimally designed for those who want to teach at a seminary or university level. It prepares students for the doctoral research programs that are needed for such a career, and in that sense may serve as a stepping stone degree that bears all of the academic rigor that a master’s program at Westminster can provide. However, the MAR does so in a shorter, more affordable, and more flexible format than an MDiv. Though not as comprehensive as the MDiv, nor as accessible as the MATS, the MAR excels at equipping the future academics of the church for the path of becoming some of the world’s foremost experts of theology.
If this degree program interests you, we encourage you to learn more about the program. Still have questions? 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. Get in touch with them here, or apply now to begin the conversation.
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