Help Needed Choosing Masters Religious / Theology / Bible Degree - I HAVE NO CLUE!!!!

Discussion in 'Education, Teaching and related degrees' started by FutureBibleProf, Jan 27, 2016.

  1. FutureBibleProf

    FutureBibleProf New Member

    I will start by saying that my ultimate educational goal is to be able to teach at a Biblical Seminary, be it in the US, Canada, South Africa, England, India ... wherever God leads me.

    The above said, I am having a very, very hard time deciding on which masters degree program to enroll in as I cannot seem to find out which degrees are most respected in academic circles.

    I was accepted into an RA (no ATS) M.Div program but have no desire to ever be a pastor, so I don't think an M.Div makes all that much sense for me.

    I was also accepted into an RA/ATS accredited M.A. program which I think makes a lot of sense but they have a strange requirement that I must pass a language test in German or French and I am clueless in both languages and have no desire to learn either one as I don't think either has anything to do with my educational goals or chosen career path.

    Of the above two options I tend to lean towards enrolling in the M.A. as I can earn the degree faster and spend less and because it's ATS accredited as opposed to only RA accredited ... and I imagine if I cram real hard I can pass a language test, at least I hope so ... BUT ... am I underestimating just how difficult a language test will be and am I overestimating the importance of an ATS accredited degree as RA accreditation is considered the gold standard anyways?

    The other option and one that definitely appeals to me is simply earning either a M.A.T.S, M.R.E. or M.A.R. ... but ... I have no idea how these degrees are viewed by seminarys in regards to offers of employment.

    What I mean is, even though the M.R.E. is 60 credits as opposed to a mere 30 credit M.A., isn't the M.A. looked upon more favorably by seminarys looking for profs than an M.R.E.?

    Basically I need to know what the reputation and overall perception of the following degrees are from seminarys looking to hire new profs:

    M.A. : I'm assuming this is best in academia

    M.Div: I'm assuming this is 2nd best in academia

    M.A.T.S.: I have no idea how this degree is viewed in academia

    M.A.R.: I have no idea how this degree is viewed in academia

    M.R.E.: I have no idea how this degree is viewed in academia

    In summary, I want to one day be a seminary prof and I can enroll in and earn either an M.A., M.A.T.S., M.R.E., M.A.R. or M.Div and want to choose the one that will be best received by seminarys looking to hire a new prof. The M.A. is both RA and ATS accredited while all the others are ONLY RA accredited, however the MA is the cheapest but has a language requirement I'm not sure I can pass. The M.A.T.S. would be the easiest and fastest degree to complete for me I believe and I'd rather therefore earn that than the M.R.E. or M.A.R. UNLESS the M.R.E. or M.A.R. would be better received by seminarys looking to hire ...

  2. jmcl

    jmcl New Member

    If you want to teach in a seminary, the minimum academic requirement is a Master of Theology (ThM). The ThM is a post-MDiv or equivalent degree. The MDiv is typically a 90 credit hour program that is traditionally designed for pastoral work, though most are now more academically inclined. An academic track MDiv has language requirements of Hebrew and Greek. Moreover, all ATS ThM programs have a Greek and Hebrew requirement. There is simply no way around the language requirement if you are aiming for seminary professorship. It is also highly unlikely that an MAR, MA, MTS, or MRE will provide the academic qualifications that a seminary is looking from its professors. These programs are primarily designed for the layman or as a stepping off point for additional academic study. ATS is the often the preferred accreditation for seminaries.

    If you are determined to be a seminary professor, go to the best seminary or divinity program you can and get a PhD. While one may argue to the contrary, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, Chicago, and Yale are recognized as the best academic programs. If you want an idea of what credentials are required for seminary professors, I would recommend going to any seminary website and looking up the faculty. I think you will readily find that most have PhDs from top tier programs. Consequently, if being a seminary professor is truly your goal, you will recognize what you will have to do. There are no shortcuts.

    Hope that helps.
  3. jmcl

    jmcl New Member

    Sorry, one other point. You do not need to get an MDiv. You can go the more traditional MA to PhD in theology. The MDiv to ThM route is often for those who want to want to move from the pastoral to academic arena. Those who intend to do more pastoral work often go for the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) after the MDiv.

    The academic routes within theology and ministry are unlike any other discipline.
  4. FutureBibleProf

    FutureBibleProf New Member


    Thanks for your reply.

    I do see that many faculty at various seminaries have BA-MA-PhD credentials with no MDiv to speak of.

    However, I guess I'm just curious as to why the MA is considered better than the M.A.R. or M.R.E. or even M.A.T.S. when all three of those programs contain more credit hours than an M.A.?

    An M.A. degree seems to generally contain 30 credits while an M.A.T.S. is 36 credits and both the M.A.R and M.R.E. contain 60 credits.

    It just seems strange to me that 90% of profs have an M.A. and maybe only 5% or so seem to have an M.A.R. or M.R.E. when those programs contain twice the credits.

    Am I missing something? Are M.A.R. and M.R.E. degrees not considered academic degrees?

    Thanks :)
  5. jmcl

    jmcl New Member

    No, it is just that most are going straight to the PhD. Like I indicated, MAR is more general in nature, targeting the layperson. MRE are for those looking specifically to go into religious education (i.e. administrators at a Christian school or director of a church education program). MATS is a suitable precursor to a PhD provided it has languages as part of the program, but it is also commonly used as a terminal degree for someone simply interested in the field of study. The MDiv is a practitioner's degree typically required to be a minister/pastor in most denominations. As a point of comparison, it is akin to a JD that lawyers need to practice law.

    I know it is confusing, but theology/ministry/religious studies has so many aspects to it--be it academic, pastoral, or ministry.
  6. jmcl

    jmcl New Member

    One program that has been discussed considerably here is South African Theological Seminary. It offers a Master of Theology (equivalent to an MA) and a PhD program. Provided you successfully get the MTh, you would qualify for their PhD. It is comparatively low cost with no foreign language requirements. It may meet your needs and interests. I have seriously considered it in the past. Good luck!

    South African Theological Seminary | Bible College | Study
  7. FutureBibleProf

    FutureBibleProf New Member


    Thanks for all your time, help and advice, I truly appreciate it!
  8. TimSigSys

    TimSigSys New Member

    I believe either one would be good. Like any institutions a Master's is the absolute minimum with the intention that more schooling is on the way. Northwest University has a strong Master in Ministry program. I know it is not exactly what you are looking for but it does pave the way to seminary or a Theology degree. I know the Master in Ministry program at Northwest is theology heavy, and they offer a top education. Here is a link to their page you can check them out if you want.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 15, 2016
  9. TimSigSys

    TimSigSys New Member

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