This post will explore some of the differences between the two captioned degrees. Examining the words – divinity, and theology, by definition, the former refers to the state of being divine, of having God-like morals, or the attributes of God. Theology is the study of religion, including analysis of the Old and New Testament, the Hebrew Bible, or the Quran.
Curriculum credit hours
Colleges, universities, and seminaries are free to set their coursework for both of the captioned degrees. Therefore, at some institutions, you will encounter an overlap In the subject matter. One significant difference is that the Master of Divinity typically has more credit hours. The divinity degree averages between 70 and 85 credit hours. The increased hours are why more students opt for a master’s program in theological studies, theology, Christian leadership, or related discipline. Compare this to the average graduate degree of 32 to 36 hours.
For example, the M.Div. at Grand Canyon University (GCU) is 82 credit hours, whereas the Master of Arts in Christian Leadership and M.A. in Christian Ministry is 38 credits. The M.A. in Theological Studies at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary is 36 credit hours. This degree has an average completion time of one year, according to Faith’s website. You would shave two to three years off of an M.Div. degree by earning your degree in one year online or residential. The more credit hours, the more time it takes to complete, and the higher cost as the tuition is charged per credit. According to these examples, the M.Div. at GCU is $365 per credit or total tuition of $29,930. In contrast, the M.A. at the same per-credit figure equals $13,870 in total. A difference of $16,060!
Statistically, enrollment is declining in M.Div. programs. A May 2018 article in Religion News Service stated that the number of students enrolled in Master of Arts programs would exceed those applying for a M.Div. degree by 2021. This statement came from The Association of Theological Schools, the main accrediting body for seminaries in the U.S. and Canada.
Your career aspiration may determine whether to choose a graduate degree in theological studies/theology or divinity. Generally, the MDiv is the minimum requirement for pastoral ordination or a secular (non-religious) career in family counseling or related fields. Job postings at online sites, such as Indeed, for chaplains in hospice and medical facilities list graduate degrees in theology, divinity, or religious education in the requirements. Many positions for worship pastors across the country take applicants with a bachelor’s degree.
Individuals who want to become an Imam or chaplain in the Muslim Faith may prefer the MDiv. The Islamic Seminary of America offers this degree with the choice of Religious Leadership or Islamic Chaplaincy. The primary role of imams is to care for the congregants at an Islamic center or mosque. Whereas the chaplain works with Muslims and non-Muslims – coming in contact with the secular community. Examples are prisons, hospitals, and learning institutions. The Leadership concentration has a course in Islamic Law; the Chaplaincy includes studying pastoral care and counseling.
Individuals of the Judaic Faith can select the MDiv at the Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. Talbot, part of Biola University, has most of the Feinberg Center classes in Brooklyn, New York. Students complete three six-week summer session at the La Mirada campus during the three and half years of full-time study. Instead of a different degree of MDiv versus M.A., the Talbot program has concentrations in:
- Pastoral Care and Counseling
- Pastoral and General Ministries
- Spiritual Formation
- Missions and Intercultural Studies
- Evangelism and Discipleship
Graduates of any of the above specializations will have the knowledge and skills to work in Messianic Jewish leadership, teaching, worship, counseling, ministry, and administration.
Another difference that affects the curriculum and your career is that the MDiv is a professional degree. The term refers to those graduate degrees whose education allows you to apply it to a specific job. Law, medicine, architecture, and social work (M.S.W.) are examples of professional degrees. In contrast, the master’s degree in theological studies takes an academic approach to examine and interpret the bible and theological doctrines. The courses in this particular discipline may include Church History, History of Christianity, different interpretations of God’s word. Some programs incorporate ministry into the curriculum, which provides sufficient training to qualify for employment in pastoral work.
The online MDiv – Theology at Liberty University combines leadership, ministry, and bible studies into its coursework. Liberty is one example of the overlap in divinity and theology programs mentioned in the second paragraph. And the credit hours of 75 align more with the MDiv than a Master of Arts in Theology or Theological Studies.