This article appears in the Stories edition of the Calvin Seminary Forum
When it comes to theological education, you have several options. Many wonder what the difference is between Bible colleges, theological seminaries, and divinity schools. This quick overview is designed to explain some key differences between these educational institutions, all capable of producing fruit in God’s kingdom.
Differences Between Divinity School vs. Seminary
Divinity schools tend to be part of a university campus, like a medical school or business school, while seminaries are separate institutions. The mission of a theological seminary is focused on learning that nurtures ministry, while a divinity school would fall under the mission of a larger institution that focuses on learning in many fields.
Seminaries tend to be affiliated with a specific religion and/or denomination, while divinity schools tend to focus on Christianity as a whole or religion in general.
Teaching at Calvin is informed by Reformed theology, particularly that of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, with which we are affiliated. Many students pursuing vocations in the CRCNA choose Calvin Theological Seminary as a place to learn from perspectives and scholars within the denomination. However, we welcome students of all Christian affiliations and backgrounds.
If you’re curious on how a Reformed perspective influences learning, consider how the concepts of sovereignty, covenant, and kingdom form a distinctively Reformed “accent” in the denomination’s understanding of Christian theology.
Types of Theology Degrees
Seminaries and divinity schools offer a similar range of degrees, which can range from certificates to master’s degrees, to doctoral programs. Calvin Theological Seminary offers a variety of degrees and programs, including:
- Certificate in Christian Leadership
- Master of Divinity (MDiv)
- Master of Arts in Christian Leadership
- Master of Arts in Bible and Theology
- Master of Theological Studies (MTS)
- Master of Theology (ThM)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
A degree from a theological seminary—shaping your mind and heart to the ways of God—can open a world of opportunities within traditional ministry. But it also can enhance your work in business, STEM, the arts, and more. The world belongs to God, and understanding theology more fully can enhance every area of our lives. Here are just some of the roles held by Christian leaders with a seminary degree:
- Youth pastor or youth director
- Worship pastor or worship director
- Ministry pastor or ministry director
- Parachurch ministry leader
- Denominational ministry leader
- Nonprofit leader
- School administrator
- Other (reflecting the priesthood of believers by following Christ in all fields)
Through all of the seminary’s programs, you will learn from expert faculty, experience the school’s commitment to whole-person formation for ministry and, above all, cultivate a deep reverence for the beauty and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Divinity school requirements may differ from seminary requirements. Calvin requirements vary by degree and program.
Some of Calvin Theological Seminary’s most popular degrees include the Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Arts in Christian Leadership (MA) programs. For these programs, typically we require a bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) from an accredited institution and a grade point average of 2.67 (B-) or higher. Due to special circumstances, an applicant without a bachelor's degree may be considered, as is allowed by the Association of Theological Schools.
A strong liberal arts education provides an excellent foundation for graduate level theological education. A liberal arts education shapes well-rounded, intellectually and culturally astute graduates. Therefore, it is recommended that a candidate’s baccalaureate preparation consist of courses in the liberal arts, including English, philosophy, history, literature, social science and natural science.
Difference Between Seminary vs. Bible College
The main difference between seminary and Bible college is that seminary involves graduate study, while Bible colleges tend to be undergraduate universities. Bible colleges can offer a variety of degrees, but they usually incorporate theological and/or ministry training at an undergraduate level. Seminaries offer theological and/or ministry education at a graduate and post-graduate level.
Do You Need a Degree to Go to Seminary?
Most seminaries require an undergraduate degree, but that degree does not necessarily have to come from a Bible college. Undergraduate degrees can be in any field and do not have to be related to religion or ministry. Due to special circumstances, an applicant without a bachelor's degree may be considered by Calvin Theological Seminary, as is allowed by the Association of Theological Schools.
Divinity School vs. Seminary vs. Bible College: Which Is Right for Me?
Attending one of these types of theological schools does not automatically exclude going to another. For example, someone might get their undergraduate degree from a Bible college, continue their education at a divinity school, and then finish a graduate degree at seminary. To decide which institution is right for you at this time, consider which best fits your situation.
Attending a Bible College or Bible Institute
Bible colleges are designed for post-high school, undergraduate studies and often focus on bachelor’s and associate’s degrees.
Similar to Bible colleges, Bible institutes offer training and certificate programs that can equip laypeople for ministry, often at any step of their educational journey.
Attending Theological Seminary
Theological seminaries are usually graduate-level institutions offering master’s and/or doctoral degrees. As in the case of Calvin Theological Seminary, these schools may also offer certificate programs. Theological seminaries can be very focused in their mission and advanced education in ministry. If affiliated with a specific denomination, they can also be a trusted source for education in that denomination’s theology and practice.
Calvin Theological Seminary shares its campus and denominational affiliation with Calvin University. A number of our students obtained undergraduate degrees from the university. However, Calvin Theological Seminary and Calvin University remain separate institutions, thus making our institution a theological seminary, rather than a divinity school within a larger university system.
Attending Divinity School
Traditionally, a divinity school operates similarly to a theological seminary in offering graduate degrees within the fields of theology and religious studies. Divinity schools are distinct from theological seminaries in that they usually exist as a school within a larger university.
Learn More About Seminary
If you believe a theological seminary is the best fit for you and your ministry calling, we would be honored to welcome you at Calvin Theological Seminary. Learn more by requesting information today.