Several factors affect the time to complete a master’s program. Some of these are:
- Full-time or part-time
- Transferable credits from an undergraduate degree
- How many credit hours you take each semester
- Are there summer sessions to expedite completion?
- Number of credit hours required for graduation
- Is an internship, thesis, or independent research required?
Each of the above can determine how long it takes you to finish a master’s program. However, the average is two years. Computer science, Education, Engineering, and Nursing (MSN) can take one to two years. MBAs are typically two years, as is a Master of Health Administration (MHA).
A Master of Divinity usually takes more time as there are more credit hours needed. Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, consists of 80.5 credit hours that require as few as three years for full-time students. Similarly, Liberty University‘s online program has 75 credit hours, which, according to the school, can be completed in two years. Students have flexible 8-week courses with no set class schedules. You may also receive credit for ministry experience, a degree from an unaccredited program, and personal study in a related discipline.
Unfortunately, those wishing for a speedy completion will be disappointed. As stated above, there are two-year programs; however, the typical M.Div. requires three years. The Master of Divinity at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary has 96 credits with a projected average completion time of three years. Students attend classes fall, spring, and summer for the Junior and Middler year; during the Senior year, there are classes in the fall and spring only. The school does allow a maximum transfer of 60 credits into the graduate program.
Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, offers a Master of Divinity that matches Faith Baptist with 96 credits. You may take online classes or attend one of four campuses in Wilmore, Orlando, Memphis, or Tulsa. Applicants might be able to reduce the required hours as the school accepts up to 18 credits. If you have an undergraduate major or minor in religion from an accredited college or university, you may submit a transcript for consideration.
The unanswered question is: Why are there so many credit hours in a Master of Divinity? In contrast, a Master of Education (M.Ed.) at the University of San Diego is only 30 credits! A student could complete this online ten-course program in as few as 20 months. On the higher side is the M.Ed. in School Counseling at the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) with 48-semester credit hours.
Perhaps one reason for the higher than average required credits in divinity programs is the diversity of subjects. For example, the M.Div. at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine has 90 credits spread across seven areas of study:
- Biblical Studies
- Moral Theology
- Liturgy and Spirituality
- Capstone Practicum in Ministry
St. Joseph’s offers an Accelerated Track for individuals with a Master’s degree in Theology or Ministry. Those who qualify for this second graduate degree need only 72 credits for graduation.
Another possible reason for the longer time to complete the M.Div. is to ensure that graduates have the knowledge and skills to conduct prayer, offer spiritual guidance, become a Church leader, counselor the distressed, and encourage others to maintain their faith in God. In this endeavor, the programs include courses in Christology, morals, Christian Ethics. Leadership, Evangelism, and Preaching. Most programs also include hours devoted to understanding Hebrew and Greek. The former being one of the original languages of the Old Testament. Hebrew is essential to read the Bible before being translated into Greek. Consequently, students spend hours of study on the analysis and interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. Graduates will have the confidence to explain the meanings of these ancient sacred texts.
Because an M.Div. and other theology programs have more than the average number of credit hours, it affirms religion’s gravity as a vocation. Most schools refer to it not as a vocation or profession – but a calling. In addition to one’s college transcripts and letters of recommendation, admission departments might request an autobiographical or spiritual essay. The essay outlines your reasons why you believe that spreading the word of God is your calling. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary requires applicants to submit a Spiritual Autobiography of up to 3,000 words. This project needs to address your conversion, understanding of the gospel, and your call to ministry.