Value of a TRACS/ABHE degree

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by cesmith78, Jul 6, 2014.

  1. cesmith78

    cesmith78 Member

    I've been thinking of transferring to Luther Rice University. What would be the advantages of having a Nationally accredited degree over an unaccredited one besides Federal Aid and entry into grad schools? I want to be in ministry but would like an accredited degree to help me get a secular job if a church one isn't forthcoming.
  2. JWC

    JWC New Member

    That all depends on the degree. What secular job would a theology degree qualify you for, would be the first question to address, I would think.
  3. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Employers often require or prefer candidates with college degrees. The exact type of degree or accreditation will matter in some cases, but not in others. Some jobs only require an "accredited degree". A religious degree from TRACS or ABHE has legitimate national accreditation, and should therefore qualify as a general-purpose "accredited degree" for job-hunting purposes.

    Obviously a TRACS/ABHE degree won't help in all situations. If a job posting specifies a "regionally accredited degree", or something secular like an "accounting degree" or "computer science degree", then a nationally accredited religious degree is probably not going to work.

    But some jobs only require a plain-vanilla "accredited degree". In such cases, a TRACS or ABHE degree would qualify, while an unaccredited degree would not.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 7, 2014
  4. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    C78, there are several components to your query.

    First, in general terms, if your motivation is genuine (i.e., based on a call from God to serve) your desire to "be in ministry" is commendable. Such a desire should motivate one to pursue a legitimately accredited degree, even if your sole purpose for the degree is to serve in ministry. Of all professions/callings, Christian ministry warrants legitimate credentials. If knowledge/learning/insight are the goal, all of those can be obtained via personal reading/study/research. If one is going to use a credential called an academic degree, imho, it should be legitimately accredited. That is, accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. The higher the level of degree, the more important this becomes. Why? Because in a culture often driven by titles, credentials, etc., if such are going to be used in one's public life, integrity mandates legitimacy. Otherwise, simply learn from personal study.

    Second, a nationally accredited degree is indeed a legitimately accredited degree. There is a vast difference between the nationally accredited and unaccredited degree. The latter ranging anywhere from a degree mill in perhaps the majority of cases to a very few substantive schools with minimal utility, typically confined to a small venue. However, even with a nationally accredited degree there are limitations in terms of utility, recognition, etc.

    Third, regional accreditation (or its foreign equivalent) is basically the gold standard for an academic degree.
  5. trustbuddy

    trustbuddy New Member

    If you get a M.Div from Luther Rice (or any other NA schools), this will still allow open up doors for you to become a institutional chaplain (e.g., hospital, hospice, prison). I do believe you also can become a military chaplain as well with a NA degree.
  6. Garp

    Garp Active Member

    A Nationally Accredited degree is a degree accredited by an agency that is recognized by the US Department of Education and/or CHEA. As has been noted, there may be a few more limitations with a Nationally Accredited degree in terms of employment but as far as I know in general the Federal Government and many other state agencies accept them as well of course as various private businesses. Regional Accreditation is the gold standard (may not be any higher quality or more rigorous but it has the most utility).

    There is another component to your questions that deserves consideration. You seem to want it in a ministry field. In ministry (if you are talking about ordination or other church work), accreditation can almost be a secondary consideration to where the degree came from. No that is NOT implying a degree mill will work but it is implying that the United Methodist Church may have issues with a degree from Southern Baptist Seminary. A fundamentalist Baptist Church will likely have issues if the degree came from a Catholic University or liberal Seminary and on it goes. So, check with your faith group. The second issue in this area is that you may find some people with concerns when you show up for a secular job with a religious degree (as opposed to other type of degree). The assumption may be that you are prepared only for one thing (not diverse) or will be there to minister to co workers. Sounds dumb and it is dumb but anecdotally I have heard that complaint (where people had to sell the employer). Not necessarily a big deal.

    In short, I would analyze my overall goal (primary and secondary) and ensure the degree fits before spending time and money.

    Luther Rice Seminary has been around awhile and has produced some well known graduates.
  7. scottae316

    scottae316 New Member

    As others have said, it depends on your goals. If you are seeking ministry or ordination in a mainline protestant church, you may have problems with TRACS or ABHE degrees. Most mainline denominations I am aware of require degrees from ATS schools. Also, if you wish to pursue an academic career, then ATS is usually the standard.

    If your faith group allows TRACS and/or ABHE then certainly go for it. There are many excellent schools with accreditation from these national accreditors. As to unaccredited schools, there are only a handful that are useful and these are associated with very small denominations or certain regions of the country for larger denomination and may be more difficult to obtain ordination.. If cost is a major issue, and you do not need a M.Div but a Masters of Ministry, Masters of Theology, Master of Pastoral Studies, BA in Bible and Theology there are 4 DETC accredited schools that may work for you. Also at present Global University which is owned by the Assemblies of God still maintains DETC as well as regional accreditation. Liberty Baptist Seminary, part of Liberty University is regionally accredited and affordable. Hope this helps, my M.Div is from an ATS accredited school.
  8. cesmith78

    cesmith78 Member

    I don't think a TRACS/ABHE degree would be good for a chaplain position. Most of the ones I've seen want an MDiv from an ATS accredited school.
  9. Jason9934

    Jason9934 Member

    I know that you can work as a VA chaplain with a nationally accredited degree. My understanding is government ran entities do not differentiate between regionally and nationally accredited degrees (generally speaking). Strangely enough regionally accredited degrees are almost always the gold standard, but some chaplain positions will only accept candidates with degrees from ATS accredited schools. On a side note; my Denomination (Church of the Nazarene) requires only an accredited degree as long as all of the required classes are included.
  10. Jason9934

    Jason9934 Member

    One more thing.... Many ABHE schools also hold a regional accreditation. So if one wants to begin at an ABHE only accredited school, and finish at a ABHE and regionally accredited school it can easily be done. I transferred from Hobe Sound Bible College to Lancaster Bible College seamlessly.
  11. andreojoe

    andreojoe member

    People who are aware of its outcome go for it and gets an outcome.
  12. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Please, for the good of society, don't get an unaccredited degree and try to use it for secular employment.

    It's true. Some unaccredited programs are "legitimate" and are doing their best to offer a quality program. But that is generally not apparent to hiring managers and HR people. If I check out your school and in the "accreditation" section of their website there is a lengthy rant about how accreditation is a voluntary procedure (generally followed with a paragraph or two about the separation of church and state) it raises questions. It raises very serious questions. Did you get that degree because you wanted to serve in the ministry or because you wanted a degree for $500? I have no way of knowing.

    For my company, nationally accredited is accredited and acceptable for employment (with the exceptions of accounting and engineering. We require accounting degrees to be AACSB or for you to have your CPA).

    But if you want a degree for ministry, I would think your first stop would be your denomination/church. Do they have an affiliated seminary? Can you attend another seminary and still serve the denomination? If you're non-denominational, maybe check out some job postings for churches and see what they are looking for.

    I would not want my degree to hold me back (as is very likely the case for an unaccredited degree) from getting a chaplaincy job either, just in case a pulpit is hard to come by.
  13. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    A rare appearance from... me!

    No wonder I dropped off of these forums. People seem to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Still, it’s good for entertainment. I love all of the “What should I do with my life?” threads that seem to be popping up these days.

    But, since I’m sitting out 8” of snow at the moment, I’ll grant y’all an audience to tell you that everyone has missed the mark: the key to being a chaplain is clinical pastoral education. If you’ve got that, you qualify for a chaplaincy. (We’re talking, of course, about paid positions. Volunteer positions come with a lot more leeway.)

    That doesn’t mean you’ll get a chaplaincy job, however. Luther Rice may be credible (even I spoke well of them in their unaccredited days), but if your competition has his or her degree from an RA/ATS seminary, guess who’s going to get the gig.

    In other words, RA/ATS is the Rolls Royce. RA by itself is the Cadillac, and TRACS is a Chevy. (Unaccredited, of course, is a Yugo.) It will get you from here to there, but if you’re a hospital, prison, military officer, or other entity looking to hire a chaplain, which would you hire?

    Now, if you want to know more about being a chaplain, I’ve just uploaded the prison ministry chapter from my book Street Smarts: A Survival Guide to Personal Evangelism and the Law (Baker Book House, 1994) to my old web site. It will be up for only one week, then I take it down again. And you do not get a free set of steak knives.

    Here’s the URL:

    Yeah, I love all of you, too. :silly:
  14. Jason9934

    Jason9934 Member

    Running around like chickens with our heads cut off? I believe the initial post was about the value of a Tracs/ABHE degree, but thank you for swooping in from on high and saving us.
  15. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Dr. Levicoff makes a very valid point. What is the value of a TRACS/ABHE degree? We've discussed this ad nauseum.

    If you want to enter the ministry there are considerations:

    1. Are you affiliated with a denomination? If so, you need to follow your denomination's guidelines. You could have an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School. If your denomination doesn't accept HDS M.Divs for ordination candidates, you're sunk.

    2. Not affiliated with a denomination? There are a whole bunch of reasons why an unaffiliated congregation would hire you. Accreditation of your degree is likely to be secondary.

    3. Want to work as a chaplain? As noted, you're not likely to get a chaplaincy job if you don't have CPE (unless you want to be a "volunteer chaplain" and give away the good word, and your time, for free). Want to be a military chaplain? Well, you require ecclesiastical endorsement from a denomination listed here in which case, refer back to item #1.

    If you don't want to enter the ministry, then you are at the mercy of secular employers (or maybe a religious non-profit). There is no rule that says I, as a private employer, need to accept a TRACS/ABHE degree. I might. But it would depend upon what position you were applying for. Want to be an accountant? Not gonna happen unless you also happen to have an AASCB accredited CPA qualifying degree (at my company). Want to work in marketing? If you have the relevant skills, sure. Because marketing jobs at my company simply require a bachelors degree in any field.

    Religious non-profits? They are many. They are diverse. And they are typically independent of one another. If the executive director of Non-profit A once got pantsed by a Luther Rice graduate, then you might be in trouble. Here, you are dealing with the same managerial biases you are going to find with any other degree.

    TRACS/ABHE colleges are accredited. And unless a job specifically required an RA degree, you have a shot at the job.

    But if you want a job that works in the secular world, don't get a religious degree. You wouldn't earn a degree in economics to try to enter the ministry, why would you earn a ministry oriented degree to try to enter the secular workforce? If you want to work in ministry. Go for it. Give it a shot. You can always add a secular credential. But getting a B.A. in Christian Economics isn't going to enable you to play both fields simultaneously.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2015
  16. novadar

    novadar Member

    Pretty sure Steve was referring to the entire DI board. There have been several threads in the last few days were folks posit on a seemingly wide range of degree choices and what to do with their lives.
  17. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    I have no desire to be a chaplain, but out of curiosity, are unaccredited degrees accepted as long as they have ecclesiastical endorsement?
  18. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    My gut response to this was "heck no!" But I decided to check a little bit. My findings are a bit confusing.

    If we look at the requirements for a Navy chaplain, it specifies that you need a degree from a qualified institution.

    Whenever I see words like "qualified" or "approved" I feel like they were used intentionally over the word "accredited." Maybe the wording was designed to allow for waivers for foreign trained clergy.

    At the same time, having been a Navy personnelman, I know the military is always on the lookout for enlisted personnel trying to add bogus degrees to their records (and trying to prevent people from becoming officers through perceived "life hacks").

    So, is it possible that someone has an unaccredited US based degree, gets ecclesiastical endorsement and then gets commissioned as a chaplain? I don't know, but I'm inclined to say "maybe, in a hypothetical world."

    I went looking at current chaplains. I found a few Orthodox rabbis who went to schools accredited by Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools, but trying to prove a negative (I.e. That there are no chaplains with unaccredited degrees) is likely a losing battle.

    I'm still inclined to say that even if it is possible in some world, where the paperwork falls just right, it is still highly improbable. But I don't know how the credentials are evaluated for incoming chaplains and what waivers are available for chaplain candidates.

    the answer seems obvious, but I just don't have enough background or accessible information to give you a definitive answer. If someone feels like pouring through military regulations, I'm sure it would be interesting to know.
  19. trustbuddy

    trustbuddy New Member

    Writing as an Army chaplain and as a hospital chaplain (currently board certified by Association of Professional Chaplains), it is possible to become a chaplain with an unaccredited degree. For the military, you need to get 3+ "wash letters" from other US accredited institutions. I had a buddy who earned his M.Div from S. Korea, and was able to join the US Army chaplaincy through getting 3 wash letters from accredited seminaries here.
    As for the hospital chaplaincy, the most important part is CPE, and CPE does not necessary look at where you got your theological training from, as long as it is theological training. When a chaplain who has finished 4 or more units of CPE wants to become board certified, then the accreditation becomes an issue, but again having a wash letter(s) allows the degree to be recognized by the board certifying organization.
  20. Pugbelly2

    Pugbelly2 Member

    Interesting. Thank you trustbuddy and neuhaus.

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