Pastoral Degrees

During your pastor search you may encounter a variety of different pastoral degrees as you review resume's. What do they all mean? What's the difference?

Here's a list of the most common degrees.

  • Associate of Arts (A.A.) - This is a two year degree. Some bible colleges offer this degree for people who want to get an overview of the bible and theology. This is not typically considered a pastoral degree.
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) - This is a four year degree, but requires fewer courses than the Bachelor of Arts degree (see below).
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) - This is the standard four year college degree. Many bible colleges and Christian colleges offer some type of ministry B.A. degree. Some even offer courses in Greek and Hebrew, the languages the Bible was originally written in. There are a lot of people pastoring churches that only have a bachelor's degree. However, the B.A. is generally not considered to be a among the primary pastoral degrees.
  • Master of Divinity (M.Div.) - This degree is specifically designed for people entering the ministry. It is the most common of all pastoral degrees. It is a three year graduate degree and requires either the B.A. or B.S. degree prior to entrance into the program. Most seminaries offer the M.Div. This pastoral degree provides an overview of the bible and theology. It also focuses on developing a person's ability to shepherd a local church.
  • Master of Theology (Th.M.) - The Th.M. is a four year graduate degree and requires a bachelor's degree before entering the program. Many seminaries offer the Th.M. as a one year extension on the M.Div. degree. However, at least one seminary I know offers only the Th.M. This pastoral degree usually includes all the classes required of an M.Div. student. But it also adds a full year of classes designed to further strengthen the student's ability to interpret the bible. It is usually more academic in nature than the M.Div. and is required if a minister desires to get into a ministry Ph.D. program.
  • Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) - This is the terminal pastoral degree for pastors and other ministers. That means it is the highest degree offered in the field. A person must possess either a Master of Divinity or Master of Theology degree to enter most Doctor of Ministry programs. It is typically a four-year program. What is unique about the D.Min. is that the pastor does not leave his ministry to work on his degree. In fact, the church itself becomes the pastor-student's laboratory for his work. Classes are held on campus either once or twice a year for one or two weeks at a time. The rest of the course work is done at home.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) - This degree is the highest degree anyone can earn. It is usually reserved for those who want to be professors or researchers at colleges or graduate schools.
  • Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) - This pastoral degree is basically the same as a Doctor of Philosophy. It seems like some seminaries just preferred to use the word "theology" in the degree title! However, most seminaries now use the Doctor of Philosophy title for their highest pastoral degree.

This list shows the incredible variety of pastoral degrees available. Your task is to determine your preferred level of education and your minimum level. That decision alone will help you shrink the pile of pastor resume's you are going through.

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