December 8, 2022
If you’re a woman, you might be wondering, “Can I enroll in the MDiv, too?” Well, yes, you can! As a woman, you are free to participate in all that the MDiv General Studies track has to offer, which we will discuss a bit further (the only degree program that is not available for women at Westminster is the MDiv Pastoral Fellows track). We’ll cover the value of a Westminster MDiv from a female perspective, popular career paths for women after the MDiv, as well as other benefits of the program for women.
The most invaluable benefit of Westminster’s Master of Divinity is that it will impart to you a level of biblical literacy that is unrivaled by its competitors. The church is in desperate need of women who are well versed in the Word of God and able to apply it in the context of their family, their church, and all they meet. While the MDiv is traditionally intended for men who are preparing for ordained pastoral ministry, it is designed to make students into biblical specialists and equally beneficial for those who seek personal edification or training for other applications.
The idea that such in-depth theological education is only reserved for men (and more specifically, men preparing to be pastors) is gravely mistaken. Truly, there is never an occasion in which having too much theological education is possible, and there is no such thing as knowing the Bible too well.
There is a rich tradition of mothers throughout church history who prepared the way for the extensive theological impact of their sons. And behind some of the greatest theological minds are godly mothers who planted the seeds of faith in their children, virtuous and encouraging wives who navigated life’s challenges alongside their husbands, and female friends and sisters who stood as Christlike examples. Without such women, Westminster Seminary may never have existed, not to mention the countless other organizations focused on bringing the Gospel forth in a dark world that have been impacted, started, or aided by godly women.
J. Gresham Machen, our founder, speaks about an occasion in which his mother was instrumental in his theological development and the preservation of his faith.
“My mother spoke to me in those dark hours when the lamp burned dim, when I thought that faith was gone and shipwreck had been made of my soul. ‘Christ,’ she used to say, ‘keeps firmer hold on us than we keep on him.’ My mother’s word meant...that salvation by faith does not mean that we are saved because we keep ourselves at every moment in an ideally perfect attitude of confidence in Christ. No, we are saved because having once been united to Christ by faith, we are his forever.”
This impartation of biblical truth and godly influence is a tradition that stems far into history before that of Machen and his mother. In fact, it is also true of Augustine of Hippo. His mother, Monica, raised her son in the faith. When he abandoned the faith for Manichaeism, a form of dualistic paganism, she prayed consistently that he would return to the faith of his youth, the faith that she had raised him in. Ultimately, her prayers were answered and Augustine returned to Christian faith and became one of the great theologians of all of Church history. On his mother’s grave stone the following words were recorded.
“Here the most virtuous mother of a young man set her ashes, a second light to your merits, Augustine. As a priest, serving the heavenly laws of peace, you taught the people entrusted to you with your character. A glory greater than the praise of your accomplishments crowns you both – Mother of the Virtues, more fortunate because of her offspring.”
Though the value of a biblically faithful motherhood cannot be overstated, there is also a clear biblical impetus for receiving rich training and being able to faithfully instruct those in one’s sphere of influence generally. Paul, in Titus 2:3-5, lays out this concept in exhorting older women to instruct younger women in the faith. He encourages them to teach the young women to love their husbands and their children, to be sensible, pure, kind, and otherwise model what it means to be Christian so that the Word is not maligned.
The church is desperate for biblically informed mothers, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, counselors, wives, and friends with knowledge, advice, and discernment that can only come from knowing God’s Word thoroughly. Proper training in how to interpret and apply the Word of God is thus vital to the call of every Christian, and women bear a particular role in reaching others with this truth. Westminster’s MDiv will thus prepare you to meet these needs and have a greater impact on your family and community for the faith than would have otherwise been possible without formal training.
The value we discussed above can be translated into a litany of practical career paths.
A Westminster MDiv is a great way to bolster your training for a career in education. Though teaching in secular public schools would require further education leading to a teaching certificate/license, most private Christian schools do not require government certification. This means that a Westminster MDiv would more than qualify you to teach at a Christian elementary or high school.
Some female students seek out the MDiv because it is the most robust of our graduate degree programs, and, as such, is well suited for students who desire to continue their studies to the postgraduate level. The MDiv prepares students very well for the rigor of advanced degree programs like the ThM and the PhD, either here at Westminster or at other institutions of theological education. If you are a woman who desires a future in theological academia, the MDiv is a great way to get an academically rigorous and confessionally reformed education en route to a PhD. This would be a necessary step for women who desire a career in theological higher education either as a professor or independent academic researcher.
While the role of pastor is reserved for men, there is certainly still room for women in the gospel ministry of foreign missions. Westminster’s comprehensive theological curriculum will be a significant asset for any women who desire to promote the gospel in a global context.
Yet another application is that of an author or professional writer. There is a need for theological writing from the female perspective, and with a MDiv you will be able to bring robust reformed theological content to a broader audience. This might come in the form of blogging, either for an organization or for personal use, in writing whole books, or contributing to theological research.
Another option available to female MDiv alumni is biblical counseling, either in a church based counselor role or in an independent biblical counseling center. All students in the Westminster MDiv receive training in biblical counseling as it is a non-negotiable theological distinctive of Westminster Theological Seminary. Though the MAC is a more focused course of study that specializes in biblical counseling, the MDiv will give you many of the skills needed to be a competent biblical counselor with a deep ability to mine Scripture thanks to additional areas of training, like the original biblical languages. Additionally, being in the MDiv General program will give you flexibility in electives to take several counseling classes that are not available in the male-only MDiv Pastoral Fellows track.
Campus ministry is another parachurch arena in which theologically educated women can make a great generational impact. College aged young women would greatly benefit from exposure to seasoned women who have been educated in the theological richness of the reformed tradition.
Parachurch ministries also greatly benefit from women with a MDiv education. These range from adoption agencies like Compassion International, to local crisis pregnancy centers around the world, and many other organizations which require the ability to bring biblical truth to challenging circumstances and various niches.
The Westminster MDiv is ideal for women who want to be trained for service in the church and for the kingdom of God. It will equip you for several areas of Christian service as well as prepare you for a number of potential career options. One thing to remember is that, while the role of pastor is reserved for men, female MDiv alumni have all the same career options available to them as men outside that of ordained pastoral ministry.
If you want to learn more about the MDiv program as a whole you can find more details here. Additionally, our admissions team is ready to help you decide which program is the best fit for you. They are happy to answer your questions and even connect you with current female students who can give first hand input on their time at Westminster. Connect with our admissions team here.
December 8, 2022
To undertake the study of the original languages of Scripture is a matter of utmost importance. Indeed, developing a facility in the original languages skillfully positions one to be an adept exegete. At Westminster Theological Seminary, we understand this to be central to the study of theology as well as to our mission to train specialists in the Bible. The languages of Greek and Hebrew are central to virtually everything that we do in our principal master's programs. In this article we’ll consider the importance of Greek and Hebrew for exegesis. We will also offer insight into the Greek and Hebrew courses offered at Westminster, as well as the study of those languages as prerequisite and thus important for further coursework. Finally, we’ll cover the role of Biblical languages in ministry.
It is certainly true that, due to the diligent work of faithful Bible translators, there is no shortage of accurate English Bible translations. However, during the translation process, several decisions about the grammar, syntax, and thus meaning of the text are made with each translated passage. These decisions are based upon the translator’s interpretation of that particular text. So, in that sense, every translation is also an interpretation.
This means that all exegesis that is done without reference to the original languages carries with it the unstated interpretations of its translators. Because of this, Westminster is resolute in its conviction that exegesis must be conducted with recourse to the original languages, for this will ensure that any deductions from Scripture are ultimately derived from the text of the Word of God itself.
The original authors of the text of Scripture conveyed their Divinely-inspired ideas by using the grammar and vocabulary of Greek and Hebrew. This indicates that the linguistic structures of these ancient languages and the common terms used by their speakers ought to factor into the exegete’s consideration of the text. Indeed, these factors influence the way in which the Divinely-inspired authors made their precise theological points. The flow of their logic is not always easily discernable when translated into another language that doesn’t communicate ideas in the same way. Likewise, the original authors also used popular phrases and figures of speech that pervaded their culture or were appropriated from other texts of Scripture.
Take for instance if I were to use the phrase “I’m all ears.” Taken out of context and translated into another language, the connotation of this phrase would lose its meaning. In the context of English, however, this colloquialism means, “you have my attention” or “I am listening.” In the same way, in order to fully understand the meaning of such phrases, we need to read the text in context and in the language it was written. The only way to do this is to devote the time and energy to learn Greek and Hebrew.
Students in the MDiv and MAR are required to pass 3 courses of Greek and 3 courses of Hebrew. Greek and Hebrew 1 typically focus on vocabulary and grammar, which is the structure of the language itself and how it operates. In Greek and Hebrew 2 you will delve deeper into grammar and begin to cover syntax, which is the way that words combine to make sentences and convey ideas. You will also begin translating short passages of Scripture while building your vocabulary. Greek and Hebrew 3 focus on exegetical method and discourse analysis. This is where you will learn to interpret the text, discern its logical flow, and discover and identify main points and supporting points. In these courses you will begin to develop the language and exegetical skills that you will rely on in all subsequent coursework at Westminster.
At many seminaries, the original languages are offered as a mere requirement that you need to fulfill by the end of your education, if they are even required at all. At Westminster, Greek and Hebrew classes are required at the outset of the MDiv and MAR coursework because these languages are logical prerequisites for completing advanced theological, biblical, apologetic, and hermeneutical coursework. We don’t have any courses called “Greek Exegesis” or “Hebrew Exegesis” because every one of our New and Old Testament courses are Greek and Hebrew Exegesis courses. More than that, Greek and Hebrew are prerequisites for our systematic theology and apologetics classes as well because our method of theology is rooted in Scripture.
The exegetical method that is taught at WTS is not meant to stay locked in an ivory tower of academia. When you graduate from Westminster, we hope that you will take the language skills that you’ve learned and employ them in your ministry, particularly as you prepare your sermons and minister to your flock. Using discourse analysis, you will be able to discern the main point of the text on which you are preaching. Once you’ve found the original author’s main point and their supporting points, it should become clear what the main and supporting points of your sermon should be. In this way, the original languages are indispensable for ministry.
Our Founder, J. Gresham Machen, highlighted the importance of the biblical languages for ministry this way…
“We may sometimes be tempted to wish that the Holy Spirit had given us the Word of God in a language better suited to our particular race, in a language that we could easily understand; but in his mysterious wisdom he gave it to us in Hebrew and in Greek. Hence, if we want to know the Scriptures, to the study of Greek and Hebrew we must go… If, then, the students of our seminary can read the Bible not merely in translations, but as it was given by the Holy Spirit to the church, then they are prepared to deal intelligently with the question what the Bible means.”
The task of learning Greek and Hebrew is an arduous one. Indeed, it is not easy, but it is worth it. At Westminster the language skills you acquire will serve as a tool that you can deploy to more deeply access the truth of Scripture in a way that is otherwise impossible. We require the original languages because exegeting Scripture from a translation is like kissing your bride through the veil. If you want access to the Bible in its original languages and learn a sound exegetical method to interpret the original Greek and Hebrew text, we encourage you to apply to a master’s program now.
December 8, 2022
Christ should be central to all preaching exactly because he is central to all of Scripture (Rom 1:1–4; Gal 3:1–9; 1 Pet 1:10–12). A sermon’s doctrine, application, organization, and delivery must rest upon the proclamation and explication of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). What a great calamity it would be if we crafted beautiful sermons, but remained “foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).
At Westminster, we strive in our preaching to begin “with Moses and all the Prophets” (Luke 24:27), interpreting all of Scripture in relation to our Lord’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. This christocentric approach to preaching does not ignore linguistic features, historical backgrounds, or any other exegetically relevant information. Rather, this approach places that information within the context of the redemptive work of God in history, which climaxes in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
December 8, 2022
Ministry is never done in a vacuum. Understanding where the church has been in the past is vital to understanding where it is in the present. Thus, every pastor, teacher, or counselor for the church must have knowledge of the heritage passed down from generation to generation. This is not to say that the creeds and confessions of men are as authoritative as Scripture. Yet it is short-sighted and against biblical wisdom to neglect the great advances and tragedies the church has experienced through the ages. Christ’s presence with his people, guiding them in truth, did not begin yesterday.
Since this is the case, a mere survey of church history will not suffice in training future church leaders. Our understanding of church history must be thorough. Idolizing those who came before us is not beneficial to training for pastoral ministry; we must highlight the strengths and weaknesses of our heritage. Prideful hindsight must also be challenged when studying church history—many sacrificed more than will ever be asked of us. It is through the faith and witness of our church fathers that we shall continue to follow the patterns of sound words and guard the good deposit handed to us.
December 8, 2022
In-depth study of systematic theology demands in-depth exegesis of Scripture. Systematic theology is not the study of abstract principles, it is the study of a Person revealed in his Word. Systematic theology is not a survey of historical theology. It is not the art of integrating the Bible with a philosophical paradigm. Even though systematic theology focuses on specific topics, the understanding of those topics must be rooted in the unfolding self-witness of Scripture. This topical presentation of the history of special revelation in its overall unity finds its binding center and consummation in the redemption purposed, accomplished, and applied by the triune God in Christ.
Subjects such as sin, salvation, and the Trinity must first be perceived in the light of Scripture, and secondarily in light of our creeds and confessions. Although biblical theology and systematic theology are distinct disciplines, they can never be separated, and thus they must mutually condition each other. The church progresses in systematic theology only when she is increasingly reformed according to Scripture.
December 8, 2022
How do we interpret the account of David and Goliath? Is it only information about the history of Israel? Is it just a picture of how God was gracious to David? Is it merely meant to stir up bravery for the underdog in us all? No. It is first and foremost a historical demonstration of a shepherd-king who delivers a deathblow to a worldly champion threatening the people of God, a mortal wound promised in Genesis 3:15 and now blossoming in this picture of David. This story points to Christ—the true shepherd-king—who delivers the final deathblow to the prince of this world. It is Christ who disarms the rulers and authorities of this age (Col 2). It is Christ to whom David looked forward (Acts 2:31). And it is only by faith in Christ that David did these things (Heb 11:33). The account of David and Goliath bears witness to Jesus Christ.
The Bible does not gradually become a Christian document from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Bible is not two different plans for two different peoples of God (i.e., Jews and Christians). The Bible is not a reimagined myth dreamed up around the life of Christ. Redemptive-historical hermeneutics recognizes that the Bible throughout is Christian Scripture. All of Scripture, whether it is in the Old or New Testament, not only points to but also reveals and applies Jesus Christ. Just as the full tree is present in the acorn, so also is the gospel present in the Old Testament in embryonic form. Without this assumption, our understanding of any text in any part of the canon will be, at root, a misunderstanding (2 Cor 2:14). The following pages demonstrate this method of biblical interpretation rooted in rigorous exegesis.
December 8, 2022
Scripture knows man better than man knows himself. The Word of God speaks to every form of human sin and suffering. It accurately reveals our true problem: guilt before a holy God. And it accurately reveals the only solution: faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No secular theory crafted by man—whether by Freud, or Skinner, or Frankl, or anyone else—has the piercing, diagnostic insight of Jesus Christ. Christ and his Word alone can pierce the depths of the human psyche. No matter how simple or complex the situation, confidence that we truly move toward people with wisdom comes only when we move toward them with Scripture and the gospel.
Biblical counseling is not the application of a step-by-step formula aimed at behavior modification, or a positive reinforcement model hoping to boost self-esteem. Biblical counseling is the application of a Person to the details of someone’s life. It is based on a relationship aimed at heart modification, in humility and esteem toward God. This relationship offers true sanity—that which dwells in Christ alone. The following pages demonstrate our unique approach to counseling.
December 8, 2022
Apologetics is not the foundation for Scripture; Scripture is the foundation for apologetics. A true apologetic is one that is built upon a philosophy according to Christ, rather than human tradition. Any defense of the Christian faith that is built upon Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Kant, or any other philosopher is not a Christian apologetic. The power to convict us of our sin and give true understanding resides in the gospel alone. Therefore, no matter how articulately unbelief is presented, thorough knowledge of God’s Word is the best preparation to demonstrate the deceitfulness of human wisdom.
Covenantal apologetics is not a formula that is merely rehearsed when someone questions the truth of God’s existence. A covenantal apologetic brings the manifold wisdom of God to the many ways people suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It seeks to display how our suppression of the truth always reveals itself in both our words and deeds. Covenantal apologetics presents true wisdom—which is rooted in Christ. The following pages demonstrate Westminster’s unique approach to apologetics.
December 8, 2022
Westminster’s Doctor of Ministry program offers ministry professionals a doctoral level education to sharpen not just their ministry comprehension and competence but also their convictions and character in order that they might be prepared to transmit the Gospel in a wide range of ministry contexts. As such, it is the highest professional degree offered by Westminster. In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at the skills that students will gain in the program, how it differs from the PhD, the structure of the program, tuition costs, and the benefits of the program.
The DMin is designed to sharpen and strengthen students for ministry in five disciplines:
Each of these skills are fostered through a foundational course taught by our expert faculty, allowing for focused study in these vital areas.
Though the DMin is a professional degree with particular emphasis on ministry practice, the unique nature of Westminster’s integrated curriculum views a robust knowledge and expression of various theological disciplines as an essential foundation for proper orthopraxy. The DMin curriculum engenders this integration of doctrine and application, the above skills will be integrated with further coursework to produce reflective ministry practitioners in both theory and in practice. The learning experience for DMin students also involves producing a doctoral level project that demonstrates a unique contribution to the understanding of the practice of ministry.
While both the DMin and the PhD are doctoral degrees, the PhD focuses exclusively on advanced academic research whereas the DMin focuses on competence in the practice of ministry. In this way, the DMin is a professional doctoral degree that is more comparable to other professional doctorates like those awarded in medicine (M.D.) or in law (J.D.). The nature of the DMin as a professional degree is such that, as stated above, character and conviction are a main focus of the program, not just academic competence and intellectual comprehension. However, as a doctoral degree, DMin students are expected to pursue the highest standard of expertise in ministry reflection and practice. In this sense, the DMin is meant to be every bit as academically rigorous as the PhD, but focused on the areas of practical application as well as doctrine.
The DMin consists of eight modular courses over 4-5 years and is available on campus only. The eight courses are made up of three foundational courses that are focused on biblical theology, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and covenantal apologetics respectively. The remaining five courses are the foundational courses mentioned above that focus on the skills of preaching, leadership, pastoral care and counseling, evangelism and missions, and Christian public witness. All of the coursework bears an emphasis on the practical application of Westminster’s theological distinctives.
Courses are offered in a cohort based, modular format and take place over the span of one week each. This means that the eight courses of the DMin only require eight weeks of residential study on campus. The modules are designed to accommodate the schedules of those who are active in ministry by being offered over the summer in July and August and over the winter in January. Students will typically be required to complete an assignment before attending the module, as well as after the module.
When it comes to the total tuition costs of the program, the true-cost price is $34,000. However, this number can be greatly remediated through scholarships. Students can expect up to a 20% baseline scholarship that will reduce their out-of-pocket tuition responsibility by $6,800. If a student has a ministry partner (such as their church) providing up to $6,800, Westminster’s Ministry Partnership Match will match that financial support. This will reduce your out-of-pocket tuition responsibility by another $13,600. With these scholarships and matching programs a student’s total out-of-pocket tuition responsibility would be $13,600. This can be further reduced if ministry partner payments exceed the $6,800 that is matched by Westminster.
The DMin is a flexible program that is designed to meet the needs of busy ministry practitioners who have responsibilities to their congregations. It allows ministry professionals to deepen their theological reflection and gives them the opportunity to sharpen their ministry skills through strengthening the relationship between doctrine and their unique practice of ministry alongside other men of God. Ministry can be a lonely career and this time of fellowship with other pastors and vocational ministers can be a significant source of personal and spiritual revitalization. It will also help further equip ministers to defend the Christian faith in a way that is in accordance with the Word of God. It will also help students apply the Scriptures in real-world situations personally and in their particular ministry setting. Students will also focus on the principles of godly biblical leadership in order to shepherd and serve the church effectively and with humility.
John Muhlfield, a DMin alumnus, described his experience in the DMin this way…
“Class discussions with seasoned fellow laborers were tremendously stimulating and encouraging, and while challenging, the applied research project stretched me in healthy and lasting ways. I thank the Lord for the blessing the program was in my life and would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Rich Penix, a current DMin student, expressed his perspective on the program as follows…
“The shepherding disposition of the faculty combined with the camaraderie of fellow pastors affords a unique experience that sharpens and refines pastors in their ministry of God’s Word. My experience in the program has created lifelong friendships with fellow pastors, as well as needful improvement in my ability to rightly understand and live God’s truth before God’s people.”
Westminster’s DMin program offers the highest professional degree available for ministers. It focuses on the practical application of doctrine for ministry and develops the ministry competencies, character, and conviction of pastors, ministers, and church leaders. It does this all while delving into Westminster’s theological distinctives, which provide a coherent framework for understanding the Word of God.
Want to learn more? 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 that may benefit you. Contact a counselor here.
December 8, 2022
Westminster’s PhD program offers the highest level of theological education available anywhere in the world, tailored to those who are seeking a career in vocational theological education, or teaching at the university or seminary level. As one of the only Reformed theological institutions in the United States that offers a PhD, there are few programs like Westminster’s doctoral program. In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at what makes the program so unique, namely, the skills that you will gain and the structure and benefits of the program.
The PhD is designed to create students who are the world’s foremost expert in their particular topic of research. You will demonstrate an ability to produce scholarly academic work that constitutes a unique contribution to your field of study. You will also be forced to engage with primary source material in their original languages. This requires you to demonstrate familiarity with two research languages (typically Latin, German, Dutch, and/or French).
This program is also committed to creating future professors who have the skills necessary to teach the next generation of pastors and professors. To do this the Westminster PhD exposes our post-graduate students to advanced degree coursework in key theological disciplines. As a theological educator, you will need to be able to field diverse questions and think on your feet. This program will prepare you to do just that. We endeavor not to produce mere theological researchers, but truly well-rounded theological educators as well.
The PhD consists of two phases. The first is the coursework phase. This phase consists of 10 courses, 4 core courses specific to your discipline, 3 directed reading courses, and 3 elective courses.
Once you have completed your coursework, you will then move on to your comprehensive exams and your dissertation proposal. The comprehensive exams consist of a written exam and an oral exam. They are comprehensive in that anything that appeared in your course work or that is relevant to your field is fair game for the exam. If you pass your comprehensive exams and your dissertation proposal is accepted, you become a PhD candidate and begin the second phase of your doctoral program, the research phase.
Once you become a candidate you will have an advisor assigned to you that will oversee and advise your dissertation research. Your dissertation must consist of a unique contribution to the knowledge of the subject. It must be worthy of peer reviewed publication and will be assessed by your primary advisor, a secondary WTS faculty reviewer, and a reviewer external to Westminster. Once submitted you will have an oral defense of your dissertation before your primary and secondary WTS reviewers. Once passed, you will then be conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
The PhD is an extremely competitive program with only a handful of accepted candidates each year. It also the most rigorous of all of Westminster’s degree offerings. As such, it is not for the faint of heart. With that said, there are a number of benefits that come with the PhD.
The dissertation process will give you the tools necessary for a career of academic writing. You will sit under the guidance of one of our expert faculty members and receive personal instruction from some of the world’s foremost experts in theology. Your writing will be guided and critiqued before you submit your dissertation to the review process in which your work will be further dissected for improvement. This process provides indispensable guidance that will shape your academic writing for years to come.
The PhD also prepares you for a career as a theological educator. While independent researchers have their role, Westminster aims to empower those who would seek a role as educators who focus as much attention in the classroom as they do in their personal study. You will be prepared to shape the minds of the future pastors and educators of God’s church by being exposed to the highest level of theological coursework available. The courses tend to be small seminars with lots of discussion. This format allows you to direct the conversation which will all the more prepare you for a future career in the classroom.
Westminster’s PhD program offers the highest theological education available to anyone anywhere in the world. It prepares those who would serve God’s kingdom through teaching in the classroom and through research and writing. It is a competitive, robust, and rigorous program that has produced some of the world’s foremost experts in theology.
Want to learn more? 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. Contact a counselor here.
December 8, 2022
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
December 8, 2022
Since 1929 Westminster Theological Seminary’s MDiv program has existed to train specialists in the Bible. The MDiv has facilitated this task for over 90 years with very little deviation from its core theological distinctives. No matter what your ministerial prospects are, Westminster’s MDiv will prepare you as it is one of the most robust and rigorous theological master’s programs in the world. It also serves as an unparalleled springboard into post-graduate theological education. What follows is an overview of the particular skills that the program fosters as well as some of the various ministry opportunities that would be available to you as a graduate. The differences between the MDiv and other master’s programs as well as the distinctions between the MDiv concentrations will also be covered.
The MDiv program is built to foster an expertise in the key areas of theological study. Your studies will focus on the Old and New Testament, systematic theology, church history, apologetics, and pastoral theology. As a student in this program you will be equipped to translate and understand Greek and Hebrew, which serve as prerequisites for all subsequent coursework. This ensures that you will have the skills required to exegete the Scriptures in their original languages. You will also develop familiarity with the system of doctrine found in the Westminster Standards. The end result will be the development of the skills necessary to understand and apply these truths to the particular context of your area of ministry. Most importantly, love for God and his people will be fostered, that you might grow as a faithful shepherd of God’s church.
Ministering in a broken and fallen world requires Spirit motivated care and Christ-centered theological insight. No matter what form your ministry takes, the MDiv will provide you with the tools necessary to minister the glorious Gospel of God’s Son to those who suffer the harsh realities of a sin-stained world.
The Westminster MDiv program was started with the goal of training men for pastoral ministry. In that sense, the MDiv is most suitable for those who desire to become pastors. Westminster’s MDiv will thus equip you with the knowledge and preparation needed to undergo the ordination process and other ecclesiastical requirements for ministry in most Reformed and Presbyterian church denominations.
The MDiv’s required Biblical Counseling courses will equip you for potential ministry at a parachurch Christian counseling center or as part of a counseling staff at a local church.
The MDiv has historically seen many graduates pursue missions, with graduates serving all over the globe. Whether you are seeking to be sent to a foreign land to promote the Gospel or desire to be trained by Westminster to minister in your homeland, the MDiv is the best program for preparing for full-time missions.
Our alumni serve in ordained campus ministries such as Reformed University Fellowship, as well as parachurch campus ministries like Cru, InterVarsity, and YoungLife.
Westminster graduates may also pursue the field of Christian education either at the university level after post-graduate education, or at the primary and secondary level directly after their MDiv.
The MDiv is also a great option for those who are desiring to engage in military chaplaincy.
The MDiv has two distinct tracts to choose from: the Pastoral Fellows and the General Ministry track. The General Ministries track can be taken in both on-campus and online formats, whereas the Pastoral Fellows is only available on campus. While the Pastoral Fellows program and General Ministry track possess much of the same coursework, the key difference is that the Pastoral Fellows coursework is completed over the course of three years, culminating in a one year pastoral residency. Additionally, the Pastoral Fellows requires four preaching courses with up to 18 opportunities to preach in class whereas the General Ministry track is more flexible, allowing for eight electives compared to the Pastoral Fellows, which requires two. Additionally, the Pastoral Fellows track is reserved only for men. Women are encouraged to enroll in the General Ministry program.
The MDiv program serves as a remarkable stepping stone towards post-graduate doctoral programs. In order to pursue a PhD at Westminster or elsewhere, students are typically required to have undergone a theological master’s program with 74 credits or higher and with three semesters of Greek and Hebrew. Yet many theological master’s programs do not meet those requirements. Additionally, the profound rigor of the MDiv program prepares students for their advanced study exceptionally well. While Westminster offers its own advantageous PhD opportunities, many WTS MDiv students have gone on to PhD programs at renowned seminaries and universities with many of our alumni teaching across the globe.
When directly comparing the MDiv vs MAR programs, the MAR and the MDiv share much of the same coursework but the MAR is focused on positioning students for post-graduate theological education. Thus, it is a more streamlined degree program with an academic focus. The primary difference between them is that while they share the same theological, biblical, and historical coursework, the MAR forgoes the Pastoral Theology coursework of the MDiv. In this way, the MAR is as preparatory for post-graduate advanced degree coursework as the MDiv, but provides that preparation in a more affordable and expeditious manner. Both of these programs can be distinguished from the MATS, which serves to equip students who are seeking part-time or non-vocational ministry, in that their credit requirements are more demanding, and therefore are able to provide deeper insight into certain topics due to their comparative length.
The MDiv has been designed to prepare pastors and other leaders in full-time vocational ministry for nearly a century. Prepared for a lifetime of faithful ministry, our alumni exegete and communicate the Word of God in a number of ministerial contexts as experts in the Bible. Though the program is rigorous, robust, and challenging, there is no better theological education for full-time ministry. You should prepare to be stretched spiritually and intellectually. The task of vocational ministry is a difficult one, and as such so ought to be the preparation for said ministry. If you are keen to undertake such theological studies and would like to hear more about the MDiv Pastoral Fellows or the MDiv General Ministry Track we encourage you reach out to our Admissions team and to apply now.
December 8, 2022
Westminster offers the Theological Studies Certificates (TSC) program to serve those who desire some level of formal theological education but are not ready or willing to commit to a full degree program. This article provides an overview of the skills that are developed in the TSC program, the type of student that would benefit most from the TSC program, the difference between the TSC and the Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS), and what transitioning from the TSC into the MATS program might look like if you want to use your TSC credits towards a full degree.
The Theological Studies Certificates program is designed to instill a basic knowledge of Scripture, Reformed theology, biblical theology, and redemptive history in its graduates. Westminster offers three distinct and independent certificates that can also build upon each other to count towards a full MATS degree:
Each certificate track distills the instruction of our renowned faculty into an accessible learning opportunity for those looking to become acquainted with theological topics at a deeper level, without requiring the deeper commitments of a full degree.
These certificates only require 9 credits to complete, and are taught in a fully online format by our world-class faculty. These certificates supply students with a logical, organized, and cohesive understanding of theology, Scripture, and church history that is difficult to attain through independent study (so say goodbye to endlessly Googling questions and hunting for doctrinally sound YouTube videos).
You will be given a taste of some of the best theological education in the world and you will develop an understanding of how to apply God’s unchanging word to a changing world. Whatever your context might be, the TSC will be a benefit to your and your ministry.
Those who cannot (or don’t want to) commit to a full master’s
The TSC is ideal for students who desire some formal theological education but, for whatever reason(s), might not be interested in or able to commit to a full master’s program.
While there are certainly a number of resources available for people who are interested in pursuing greater theological understanding, doing so in an unguided way can be challenging at best and theologically dangerous at worst. In this way, the TSC is a great alternative to self-study because your course of study will be guided by some of the world's foremost experts in theology.
If you are considering a full degree program at Westminster, the TSC allows you to get a taste for the seminary, its theological distinctives, and its student experience in a low-stakes manner. And if you decide to enroll in an MATS later, you can also use your TSC credits towards that degree (more on this below).
Parents and non-ministry-related career professionals
Whether you are seeking theological development to better lead your family in the faith, to engage your friends or coworkers in sharing the Gospel, or to support your church ministry as a lay-leader, the TSC will bolster your ability to apply God’s Word to the situation at hand. *Note that for extensive non-vocational ministry, we always advise a full theological program like the MATS or MAC when it is possible for a student to undertake more extensive studies, but for those engaging in ministry in a non-official capacity, the TSC is more than adequate.
Continuing education and those new to Reformed theology
Additionally, the TSC can be a great form of continuing education for those who might already be in a ministry career. Even if you have already done a full master’s program, it may help keep your theological skills sharp without having to commit to a full course of study. The TSC can also serve as continuing education for those ministry professionals who may have only recently become exposed to Reformed theology.
Both the TSC and the MATS seek to provide formal education for those who want to engage in non-ordained ministry. Neither program requires the original biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew as part of its course material. The difference is that the MATS is a full course of study that culminates in an accredited master’s degree. The MATS takes 1.5-3 years to complete as opposed to just one year for the TSC. In terms of credits, the MATS degree requires 36, whereas each Theological Studies Certificate only requires 9 credits to complete.
Westminster’s certificate courses can be transferred into its MATS program. In fact, if you complete all three certificates, in order to convert your coursework into an MATS you would only need to complete 3 more elective courses and finish a summative evaluation which would consist of either a comprehensive exam, an integrative paper, or a capstone project. However, there are no scholarships available for the TSC while there are for the MATS, so if you are planning to transition to the MATS, you may want to consider making that transition sooner than later.
If you are seeking the benefit of a structured, formal, theological education without the heavier commitment of a full theological degree program, the Theological Studies Certificates are perfect for you. With no obligation to complete all three, you can choose which certificate most interests you, complete multiple, or press on to pursue a MATS down the road. In the TSC you will improve your preparedness for ministry, learn to more effectively shepherd your family from the truth of God’s Word, and grow in your love and faithfulness to the Lord. If this sounds like something you desire, we encourage you to learn more about the program and to apply now.
December 8, 2022
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
December 8, 2022
When entertaining the idea of seminary education, one of the questions that looms the largest in a prospective student’s mind tends to be, “How am I going to pay for this?” We understand that costs can seem prohibitive and that “sticker shock” is a real thing. We also know that nearly everyone has these concerns. Ultimately, finances will be a concern no matter where you decide to go for your theological education. So making your decision on the basis of finances rather than on the content of the education you will be receiving can be reductive.
With that said, knowing that financial barriers are very real, we strive to provide ways to soften the potential financial burden created by tuition costs, and work with you to make sure that the cost of your seminary education is as low as possible. In this article we will take a closer look at these efforts by examining the biblical basis for fundraising, the residential program costs, the online program costs, and a breakdown of tuition and financial aid for each program.
As we will elaborate upon later, an important tool in our arsenal for remediating the financial barriers to seminary education is fundraising. Westminster will come alongside you as you raise funds for tuition. In our modern context, the idea of raising funds may seem off-putting, but it is a concept that is deeply rooted in Scripture. All throughout the history of redemption, the proclamation of the Gospel has been empowered through financial partnerships.
In Numbers 18:23-24 we see that the tribe of Levi was not given an inheritance because they were dedicated to the service of the Lord. Rather, the rest of the tribes supported them with financial tithes. Their ministry was funded by the people of Israel financially partnering alongside them. Likewise, in the New Testament, Paul often makes note of his financial partners and is not shy about requesting financial assistance from his Gospel partners. In Romans 15:24 Paul asks the church in Rome to assist him on his way to Spain. He is asking for financial assistance to ensure that the Gospel is able to be preached in Spain.
To be successful in seminary, and further, in ministry, you need partnership. Partners who will come alongside you both in prayer and financially are vital. And, like the people of Israel supporting the Levites and the church in Rome supporting Paul, your supporters will be investing in the kingdom of God going forth through you.
The overall cost of your education depends upon on the modality through which you will be undertaking your education. Residential education and online education have different costs associated with them and different hurdles that you will have to clear.
Residential students need to plan for the cost of tuition ($1,025 per credit hour), as well as the costs associated with relocating to the Northeastern region of the United States. The cost of moving, finding housing, and finding work are also key factors. The cost of living in the Philadelphia area is also significantly higher than regions like the South or the Midwest and should be accounted for in your calculations.
Westminster’s online programs have fewer financial obstacles to overcome and also have a lower tuition rate ($650 per credit hour). You don’t have to worry about any of the costs associated with relocating to the Northeast and you can typically count on maintaining your current employment. Additionally, you won’t need to worry about money spent on commuting to campus, or the cost of maintaining a source of transportation (personal vehicle, ride share service, etc.). However, as you will see below, there are less scholarship options available when compared to Westminster’s residential programs.
When it comes to tuition and financial aid, the figures vary based upon the program in which you are seeking to enroll. With that in mind we will go program by program and explain the costs and the ways in which we have sought to remediate those costs.
The residential MDiv and MAR have a tuition cost of $1,025 per credit hour. The entire 111 credits of the MDiv would thus account for $113,775 total or $28,444 per year over 4 years. The 74 credits of the MAR would account for $75,850 total. The MDiv Pastoral Fellows program has a higher tuition rate of $1,500 per credit hour which accounts for $166,500 or $41,625 per year.
Now these may be some pretty scary numbers if you are wondering how to afford seminary. However, with scholarships, you won’t even need to pay a fraction of this. Each student is offered two scholarships. The first scholarship is merit-based, starts at 50%, and can scale up to 90%. Since the average student’s tuition is roughly $28K per year, you can expect to absorb no more than $14k per year in tuition costs.
There is another scholarship opportunity to further alleviate the financial burden of the residential program, too— a dollar for dollar matching scholarship in which Westminster will match any funds you raise from financial partners down to $0. So, if you have $14k in tuition per year and raise $7k in yearly financial support, Westminster will match that $7k and you will pay nothing in tuition.
Online MDiv/MAR and MAC/MATS
Our online programs are all billed at $650 per credit hour. This means that the MDiv, at 111 credits, is $72,150 total or $18,035 per year for 4 years. The MAR, at 74 credits, is $48,100 total. The MAC, at 63 credits, is $40,950 total. The MATS, at 36 credits, is $23,400 total.
While significantly cheaper than our residential offerings, there are less scholarships available to alleviate the full financial burden. The scholarship available for our online offerings is currently a dollar for dollar matching scholarship of $650 per term ($1,950 per year). The stipulations for this scholarship is that you must be enrolled in at least two courses and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
The tuition costs of the ThM are billed on a per course basis rather than a per credit basis. Each ThM course is $3,900 dollars. The ThM Requires 6-8 courses to fulfill. Therefore, the ThM is roughly $23,400-$31,200 total. The ThM also has a dollar for dollar matching scholarship in which Westminster will match up to 20% of the overall tuition cost.
The PhD is also billed on a per course basis like the ThM. The cost of each PhD course is $4,800 per course. The PhD requires 10 courses to fulfill and tuition is thus $48,000 total. Scholarships for the PhD are very limited and are entirely merit based. Every PhD applicant is automatically considered for scholarship. The scholarships account for full funding and cover all tuition costs as well as fees.
When it comes to the tuition costs at Westminster, you have the same objective that we do. We want you to get scholarships and we want to partner with you to develop a network that will support you in your theological education and come alongside you into your Gospel ministry after seminary.
If you have more questions about tuition and financial aid, we encourage you to reach out to one of our admissions counselors. Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students who are available to understand and address your specific financial burdens and obstacles. They would also be more than happy to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, or any other logistical issues that you might have. Feel free to reach out to them here.
December 8, 2022
Theological education can be a major expense. Choosing to attend seminary is a decision that comes with significant financial implications that should not be considered carelessly. While balancing work and study can be very difficult, having a form of income while studying can be a great way to soften the financial load of your tuition costs. Because of this, many students are interested in the question of how feasible it is to maintain their employment while undergoing the rigorous theological education found in Westminster’s degree programs. In this article that question will be answered by taking a closer look at the options available for online students as well as for residential students.
The options for maintaining employment are typically significantly more plentiful for online students than for residential students. This is because the nature of our online programs is much more flexible than their residential counterparts. For instance, since lecture content is available in an on-demand format, you can expect fewer scheduling conflicts than if you needed to be mindful of set times required for attending lectures on campus. This allows you to structure your schedule more conveniently as you adjust your study schedule to your working hours.
The online program is also built to fit just about any work schedule at nearly any pace from the start. Worried about an important life event or work responsibility dictating when you can start the program? Our trimester system allows you more options to begin the program in accordance with your life schedule.
Wondering about the ideal pace for completing a program? If you are planning to continue working full-time, you can set up your study schedule to meet your needs by allocating time for lectures, reading, and homework during mornings, nights, or on weekends. If you are able to operate on a part-time work schedule, you can also maximize your course load per term to complete the program more quickly. Or, if you are content to work at a slower pace, you have the freedom to take fewer courses per term and extend your program finish date. Either option is viable, depending on your goals. Whichever route you take, our online support team is ready to help you through our programs in a way that makes the most sense for you and your particular situation.
As mentioned above, there are fewer options for maintaining employment in the residential program than in the online program. This is especially true if you are relocating to the area. However, it is not uncommon for residential students to work while they complete their degree.
Finding a Job in the Area
Many students, upon moving to Philadelphia, will find some form of part-time work. We typically don’t advise full-time students to work more than 20 hours per week. However, if you would prefer to drop below full-time status in order to work more hours, you are free to balance your schedule that way. The drawback to this course of action is that part-time students are not eligible for Westminster scholarships (though you can seek additional external scholarship support). Another option that some students pursue is working on campus. There are a limited number of on-campus jobs, but this can be a suitable option for some students.
In a post-Covid world, many jobs are now available in a remote work environment, allowing employees to experience increased levels of lifestyle and scheduling flexibility. In light of this, it might be worth discussing with your current (or potential) employer about pursuing your employment in a work from home modality.
Another benefit of the proliferation of remote jobs is that you can broaden your job search beyond the limitations of jobs in Philadelphia, expanding your options for securing primary or supplementary income.
This pursuit should be weighed carefully though, particularly if you are thinking about enrolling in online studies. In this case, factors like screen fatigue can make studying in front of a computer challenging if your job already requires you to work in front of a screen for long periods of time. While this situation can be managed through taking frequent breaks to allow your eyes to rest, as well as other stress-reducing techniques like going for light walks and stretching, it is important to consider what circumstances will allow you to thrive overall.
With that being said, Westminster is aware of the difficulty that comes with balancing work and study. And though balancing the two can be challenging, it is certainly not impossible. MDiv alumnus and current ThM student Brian Selby describes balancing his work and study schedule this way:
Joel Richards, a recent graduate, worked full-time while studying and had this to say about Westminster’s willingness to accommodate him.
Knowing that balancing work and study can be very difficult, WTS offers two scholarships for all students with the hope that no residential student will have to work if they don’t want to during their studies. The scholarships consist of one merit based scholarship that starts at 50% of tuition cost and can scale up to 90%. The other scholarship is a dollar for dollar matching scholarship that can cover the rest of your tuition down to $0 if you raise enough funds. You can find more information on our scholarships here.
Working while studying at Westminster is a great way to ease the financial load of seminary, but it can come with some drawbacks. In light of this, our programs are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate your needs, and there are several ways that you can organize your schedule to make sure that financial obstacles don’t keep you from pursuing the theological education that you might desire.
Still have questions? Our admissions team is ready to hear and discuss your specific situation and evaluate your best options for financial security while at seminary. They are also more than happy to discuss our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, and examine scholarship opportunities, in order to help you decide whether Westminster is right for you. Connect with our team here.
December 8, 2022
Online education often carries a reputation of neglect– needs that feel forgotten, coursework that slips through the cracks, or impersonal classes where students simply feel like a number. Our aim at Westminster is to eliminate these common concerns by offering personalized support, pliable online programs, and opportunities for community, all designed with the unique needs of fully online students in mind. So whether you work a full-time job, are parenting kids, have entered retirement, are re-entering academic pursuits after a long time away from school, or have found yourself in an uncharted season of life, we strive to make our courses manageable, organized, and engaging.
In light of this, we’ve repackaged Westminster’s renown curriculum into a fully online format that is designed to be accessible wherever you are, allowing you to stay rooted in your community as you pursue rich theological training. You will receive lecture content from our world-class faculty and have access to our highly qualified online instructors, a majority of whom are also seasoned pastors. This dedicated team of online instructors offers a more intimate learning experience as they relay and explain lecture content, and are available to provide subject matter expertise in response to your questions.
Since the logistical details of each course are designed by professional course developers with input from full-time Westminster faculty, our online instructors are dedicated to engaging with you and provide substantive feedback in a timely manner. This also means that each course is supported by a dedicated support team and is designed for your ease of use as a student. So no matter what course you enroll in, you will know just what to expect regarding format. This translates to a better experience since you can focus on the task of learning without wasting time navigating various different course structures.
Our online courses are not just video lectures, discussion boards, reading, and papers, though. Apart from engaging with other classmates (more below), you’ll also have the ongoing opportunity to connect with our friendly Dean of Online Students, Jerry McFarland, for personal pastoral care, prayer support, and counsel through any stress or spiritual needs. Jerry also hosts several live “coffee houses” over Zoom each month to foster fellowship and care for one another. This provides students with a chance to talk through different topics in a casual environment oriented around socializing together and applying the Word of God. Should you encounter any academic or administrative concerns, our steadfast student support team is also always just an email away.
Curtis Patrick, a student in the online program, described his experience this way:
“I live almost 3,000 miles away from campus, so Westminster Online is a dream come true for me! Not only do I get to take courses with the level of depth and rigor that WTS is renowned for, I am also connected to brothers and sisters in Christ from around the globe. Course small groups give me the opportunity to meet other aspiring pastors, counselors, and theologians as we pray and study together. Virtual coffee houses are the perfect venue for me to engage with students and alumni outside of the classroom. I would highly recommend WTS Online to anyone who desires a flexible, high-quality seminary education with a vibrant community of students, faculty, and staff.”
Lisa Huck, a student in Australia, described her experience this way:
“My experience to date has been a glimpse of Heaven — brothers and sisters around the world joining to worship, confess, learn, and care for one another, with sincere love, in covenant community.
Precept upon precept, together we’re learning to watch our lives and doctrine closely and to persevere in them both. And with the comfort with which we’re comforted, we’re able to comfort others. What joy!...
With just a few clicks, I’m there in the classroom with godly and endearing faculty, exchanging ideas in a small group from across the globe, grounded in a weekly chapel service, casually connecting with new friends and old at Coffeehouse, being inspired at a CCEF conference... My life has never been this relationally full and multi-faceted with so many iron-sharpening iron friendships.”
We classify the workload of each course as either light, moderate, or heavy. A light course might look like 0-70 pages of reading per week with 0-3 hours of assignments per week and 0-30 mins of lecture content per week. A moderate course might look like 40-90 pages of reading per week with 3-6 hours of assignments per week and 1-2 hours of lecture content per week. A heavy course might be 100-150 pages of reading per week, 6-8 hours of assignments per week, and 2-3 hours of lecture content per week. Of course, all of these timelines will vary from student to student.
Students in each course are divided into small groups that are organized by time zone to ensure that you can engage with each other as easily as possible. You will have pre-recorded lecture content that you watch each week and your online instructor will provide you with discussion prompts to talk over as a small group. Your small groups will be accessible on Workplace, where you will find a time to meet as a group. Most groups meet via Zoom, but some groups have been geographically close enough to meet in person. No matter the format of your meeting, you will typically submit your discussion question answers to your online instructor for feedback. There are also coursewide forums and chats on Workplace of which you can take advantage.
Additionally there are monthly “Coffee Houses” with Jerry McFarland, the Dean of Online Students where you are encouraged to meet with Jerry, additional faculty, as well as your fellow classmates. We also occasionally attend conferences with special student and alumni events and host regional meetups across the US in places like Nashville with additional locations hopefully coming soon.
Our online format offers many advantages to those wishing to remain rooted where they are while they study. A few key benefits include:
The online student experience at Westminster is one that is carefully crafted to overcome the typical pitfalls of online education. Our goal is that in entering an online class at Westminster you feel that you are entering an active community of brothers and sisters around the globe that are desiring to grow in their knowledge and understanding of Christ and his Word. You will have a dedicated student support team ready and eager to assist you, expert faculty willing to serve you, and likeminded classmates learning alongside you. You will be welcomed into the Westminster family and receive an unparalleled theological education. If you think that online education might be the right choice for you, or have questions about what it might look to enroll as an online student with us, we encourage you to learn more about our online student experience and to apply to one of our online programs.
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