What Can I Do with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies?
December 8, 2022
Westminster’s Master of Arts in Theological Studies program is unique among Reformed seminaries for several reasons. There are no other MA programs of this length that maintain a rich, deep, and accessible format as the Westminster MATS. Because of the combination of rigor and flexibility, MATS graduates develop a robust theological foundation to serve in a broad range of ministry and professional positions. Below is an overview of skills that you will acquire in the program, the job options that may be available to you, and distinctions between the MATS and other programs at Westminster.
Skills of MATS Graduates
Our MA in Theological Studies program is built to ground students’ theology in the Scriptures. This strong biblical foundation will allow you to serve boldly in your church and in non-professional ministry as you apply the truths of the Bible no matter your context. If you enroll in this program, you will develop an:
Increased knowledge and understanding of the Bible
Grasp the unfolding of God’s redemption in history from Genesis to Revelation through a deep study of Scripture
Increased knowledge and understanding of Christ
You can expect to know, understand, and love more deeply the person and work of Christ which is the culmination of God’s redemption.
Increased knowledge and understanding of the triune God
You will learn of the properties of the Triune God. You will also see how the Spirit has been active in the church, leading it in truth throughout the ages of history. This program will teach you about the nuances of God’s interaction and relation with his creation generally and with his people specifically.
This content will not remain mere academic head knowledge, however. You will be given the principles with which to take this rich theological information and relate it to the people you encounter in ministry, using confidence, gentleness, and respect. Since this program is designed with flexibility in mind, you will also be given tools to help you to apply this content in whatever field of ministry the Lord leads you.
Vocational Ministry Options with a MATS degree
The MATS program is designed to equip Christian leaders both within and outside of the church. MATS students and graduates serve in a wide variety of positions.
Diaconal or elder positions in your church
The program would suit you extremely well if you are seeking to serve in diaconal or elder positions in your church, as you will gain a theological foundation to both broaden and deepen your ministry.
Church ministry positions
The above also applies to various church ministry positions short of ordained pastoral roles.
Students have used their training in the MATS program to bolster their missionary work in cross-cultural and international contexts. While those seeking to engage in full-time ordained vocational missions would be best equipped and prepared by the MDiv, the MATS would be a great option if you are interested in conducting short-term missions or working for missions agencies.
Supplement a previous Christian education
The MATS can also provide a Reformed supplement to a previous Christian education. Specifically, pastors who have recently been exposed to Reformed Theology or who did not have Reformed teaching in their past theological training may benefit from the program.
There are some denominations that do not require a full MDiv for pastoral ministry. Additionally, sometimes life’s circumstances prevent students from endeavoring into lengthy schooling. While Westminster recommends the MDiv for those planning to enter full-time pastoral ministry, the MATS can serve as a quality alternative if the MDiv is not a realistic undertaking for you, or if your ministry context does not require it.
Non-Vocational Ministry Options with a MATS Degree
MATS alumni serve in a variety of non-vocational ministry positions. While the MATS is suitable for equipping those actively engaged in church ministry, the MATS can prepare you to apply the Gospel outside of a formal church setting as well.
Administrative Positions in a Variety of Organizations
Some graduates apply a biblical perspective to their work in the administration of non-profit organizations, NGOs, missionary agencies, campus ministries, and other parachurch or non-governmental organizations.
Personal Business or Medical Positions
Others utilize the biblical leadership principles acquired from the MATS in their secular business or medical jobs to serve with greater humility, excellence, and deeper insight on how to navigate complicated discussions concerning faith.
Governmental Positions and Law Enforcement
Alumni have benefited from our program as they serve in governmental jobs, law enforcement, and other fields.
Teachers at Christian Schools
A Westminster MATS can also equip you if you are seeking to teach in primary and/or secondary education, allowing you to instruct elementary and high school level theological classes at Christian schools. While our curriculum is of obvious benefit to students, observing our expert faculty may also impact prospective teachers seeking to cultivate their own skill sets in the classroom.
Aside from the benefits of equipping yourself to bring biblical truth to the workplace, personal edification is another benefit of pursuing theological training in the MATS program. Many students have remarked that the MATS program changed the way that they approach their marriages, families, and friendships by allowing them to engage others with the truth of the Gospel in a deeper and more profound way. Bruce Wissinger, a current student in the MATS, put it this way,
- “I decided to pursue a degree in theological studies because I have 14 year old twins right now and an 11 year old that we adopted from Ethiopia. They’ve been in Christian school all their lives, and I always get bombarded with questions that I just could not answer. So now I’ve been equipped with the tools that I need to be able to answer questions that typical teenagers will come and ask.”
While you are shaped by growing in your knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, the impact is likely to have exponential effects on your circle of influence across the course of your lifetime.
What is the Difference Between the MATS vs. MAR and MDiv?
There are a few notable differences when comparing our Master’s of Divinity (MDiv) and Master’s of Arts in Religion (MAR) vs. our Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS). Much of this boils down to program format and course requirements.
The MATS degree is only available in a fully online format and is Westminster’s shortest degree (though short certainly doesn’t mean insubstantial). Our online Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies takes between 1.5 to 3 years to complete.
Our MDiv and MAR are offered in both online and on-campus formats, with a typical completion length of 2-4 years for the MAR, and 3 to 8 years for the MDiv.
The MATS consists of 36 credits of rigorous graduate-level theological coursework, while the MAR requires 74 credits, and the MDiv requires 111 (our heaviest credit load).
Biblical Language Requirements
Distinct from Westminster’s MDiv and MAR, the biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew are not required in the MATS. Though the degree program is a shorter experience than the MDiv, the individual courses are no less substantial. You can expect a deep, challenging educational experience, rather than surface level courses that do not stretch your intellect and your heart.
The MDiv, on the other hand, is designed to prepare students for full-time, ordained, vocational ministry. As such, it is a much larger, longer, and more robust program. The MAR is similar in its demands, though it is aimed at preparing students for further academic study (think pathway to PhD). Comparatively, the MDiv and MAR carry the drawback of being much less flexible than the MATS.
Westminster MATS students enjoy flexibility as they study, and many often enroll while maintaining full or part-time employment at their jobs, whereas MDiv students may more commonly opt to focus on seminary full-time due to the demands of coursework.
On average, MATS students spend 10-15 hours per course on classes and homework combined each week. The MDiv and the MAR both recommend spending 3 hours of reading and studying for every hour spent in the classroom. So MAR and MDiv students will spend 8-16 hours per course on classes and homework combined each week.
Prepare for Your Personal Ministry at Westminster
The MATS is a program optimally designed for those who are seeking to pursue training for non-vocational ministry and receive a sound theological foundation. It offers many applications in and outside of church walls, and is a great way to learn as you actively serve your home church and community.
Though the degree program is itself a shorter experience than the MDiv, all of the courses offer a clear view of Westminster’s distinctives. As such, students should expect an enriching experience that delves into God’s Word, packaged in a way that is suitable for those with relatively limited time, yet a hunger to grow in a structured learning environment centered around biblical fidelity.
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